Thursday, February 28, 2013

An Ode to Ricky Reno

"Wasssss goinnnnn onn? How y'all doin?" If you have ever been in the basketball locker room past 9 PM on a weeknight, you have no doubt been greeted like that by Ricky Reno. Ricky is the head of the maintenance staff at the gym, but he is so much more than that. He is part mascot, part trash talker, and always entertaining. Ricky hails from Detroit and has a really deep accent that is tough to understand on a good day, but when Ricky gets excited and talks fast, you just have to listen in for key words then try to piece every thing together into something comprehensible.

I was not going to post on Ricky for a little while, but I just had to do this one today after what he wore to the game last night. He usually comes in the locker room a few hours before every game to ask the guys if they are ready and make his presence felt. He's about 5'10" and quite rotund, and when he walks into a room you can't miss him, and that was especially the case yesterday. So he comes into the locker room with a cap on that has Black and White stars all over then he had the matching jacket to go with it. He was parading around in this outlandish outfit saying, "I'm big pimpin y'all. Big pimpin in the building." It was priceless and I snapped a photo for y'all.

In addition to his pre-game pep talks, Ricky also trash talks quite a bit. For example, last year after John Jenkins declared for the draft, myself, John, Rod Odom, and another manager Rob Cross were in the locker room with Ricky when he decided to tell Rod what his expectations were for next season. It sounded something like this,

"Now, Rod, you know big daddy goin to that NBA now. You gonna need to step up when daddy is gone, you need to be da new daddy Rod. John he gone, it's you now Rod. Needa be scorin some buckets next year, no more bullshittin now Rod. You needa step up, be da man, be dat big man now that daddy's gone. He ain't here no more Rod, you still here. John he gone. He makin money, he gone, he not comin back. Need big things from you Rod. Big things. Real big things. Be out there workin hard cause yous da man, you got that Rod? Yous da man." Rick rambled on like that for another five or so minutes repeating that same refrain in some form or another over and over.

Then there was the time when we cleaned out the locker room after the season. It tends to get messy over the course of the year but we were trying to clean it up a little before the summer and we showed Rick the cleaned locker room, he got one glance at it and said, "my Gawd", before nearly collapsing out of shock.

The last thing Ricky does is he's always in the locker room into the wee hours of the morning. He watches quite a wide variety of television shows late night ranging from Numbers to whatever they air on BET at 2:30 AM. Occasionally he stays up for the entire show, but more often than not he doses off into a light sleep with a heavy snore. He awakes easily so when his sleep is disturbed, it's back to the familiar refrain, "Was goin on?" before dosing off yet again until tomorrow.

If you ever get a chance, introduce yourself to Rick at one of our games. He's one of the best guys you'll ever meet.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Evolution of My Relationship with Coach Stallings (and My Jump Shot)

The first year I was a manager, I was a part-time manager. I did video editing, recruiting mailouts, and labeled envelopes up in the basketball office, but I was not at practice every day and the job was not an everyday thing. By the end of the year, all of the players at least knew who I was if they didn't necessarily know me personally and the assistants did for the most part as well, I just wasn't sure if Coach Stallings knew me.

We had only three true interactions during my freshman year. The first was when I almost bumped into him in my first week in the office and realized "o shit, that's the head coach". The second was when I borrowed a key from our head manager to let Kentucky shootaround the night before our game with them, and I needed to give the key back but couldn't get a hold of Sam, our head manager. Since the game was on ESPN and a huge matchup, students camped out for the game the night before and Coach Stallings bought all the students pizza the day of the game. Not knowing what to do with the key, I just gave it to him and said, "Coach, can you give this to Sam Ferry?" and he looked at me then said "ok". That was the first time we really spoke. The third time was when he asked me to rebound for a guy so he could speak to one of the assistants.

The lack of recognition was no fault of Coach's. We never really needed to interact. I was around a good amount and Sam said I could be there so he knew I was in someway affiliated with the program, but we didn't establish a real solid repoire. As a sophomore, I became a full time manager, and at one of the first team workouts we had, one of the assistants introduced me to coach, told him my name was Dan, we shook hands. It was nice. There were a few other moments during the year when I thought he said my name, but he was actually referring to one of our coaches, either Dan Cage or Dan Muller. There were eight managers and I was new, so again the level of trust and familiarity wasn't there, but then came the watershed moment my junior year.

It was opening night vs Oregon at home. Everyone was excited for the game, we had a chance to be special and energy was high. About 40 or so minutes before the game, I was walking into the locker room and Coach was walking out. It was just the two of us, I didn't know what to say so I just said, "Coach". Then he looked at me, made eye contact, nodded and said "Dan". It was such a beautiful, simple moment of bonding. I rushed to our head manager Will Hulings to tell him the news and we had a mini celebration that lasted about 30 seconds. Throughout the year he continued to use my name on a pretty frequent basis, we chatted a few times, but nothing major. Same goes for the beginning of senior year, but then it all changed on December 20th.

There was all of that worry about whether the world was going to end on December 21st, so I tweeted some #EndOfTheWorldConfessions. One of them was about the first time Coach said my name, and Coach isn't on Twitter so I didn't think he would see the tweets. Well after the team got back on the 26th, the next day Coach Stallings asked our head manager Rob (@robcross924) where I was (I was on a cruise with my family) and Rob said I was on a cruise and that I'd be back tomorrow. So coach told Rob that he heard about my tweet discussing the watershed moment that was our interaction before the Oregon game and told him that when I got back he was going to call me by name frequently just to screw with my head, and boy did he ever.

So my first practice with the team was December 30th (we had a game the 29th), and this conversation between Rob and Coach was unbeknownst to me. I was rebounding for the guys before practice when all of a sudden I hear this voice that sounds just like Coach Stallings', but this voice said "Hey Dan Marks, come here". I was thinking 'full name usage? Woah, what is going on', the voice did belong to Coach Stallings and I go over and he says, "Do you have any Nike shoes (I was wearing New Balance)"? I said "Yeah, I do coach, do you want me to get them?" He replied yes and as I started walking away said, "How was your vacation? I hear you went on a cruise". I was flabbergasted, so many thoughts were running through my mind, all I could say was "yeah I had a good time" before going to get my shoes.

I thought that interaction was going to be the conversation for the day, but then something inexplicable happened. I used to shoot jump shots holding the ball on the opposite side of my head, it was a funky looking shot but went in a decent amount, but then a friend of mine who is a basketball trainer, Drew Hanlen, told me to try changing the shot. So I did. During a break in practice, I was shooting jump shots and Coach shouts "Dan, when did you learn to shoot on the right side of your body?" I told him I had just changed recently and he complimented my form, then he asked me to get on the 1-2 (how we teach the guys to prepare for a shot). At this point I felt completely and totally mind fucked, I had no clue what was going on, my nerves were super high. I took a shot and missed then he said to take another. Another miss. Then later he asked me to take a free throw. A third miss. I was devastated, it was my time to shine, Coach's eyes were solely upon me and I wilted under the pressure.

Then after the guys went upstairs to lift weights, I was in the gym and Coach Richardson, our shooting guru, came over to teach me how to shoot free throws. Any time Coach Rich tinkers with your free throws, you know you've made it. Every guy who has played here has had their free throw go under the microscope of Coach Rich. Analyzed thoroughly then adjusted, and now it was my turn. The torch had been passed, and my whirlwind of a day came to a conclusion.

The next day was New Year's Eve and Coach always gives the team a speech about safety on that day, so in the middle of giving the speech, he goes, "Where's Dan?" I raised my hand, and he said "I don't need to worry about you tonight do I, you'll be in the gym working on your shot right?" I said "yeah coach sure". This whole calling me by name thing in the middle of practice or a speech was really freaking me out. I just didn't get it, but it was the start of a truly great bond.

We now crack jokes (he's made quite a few at my expense recently actually), exchange pleasantries, and talk about the success of the manager intramural team. I even introduced him to my parents, and he put down his Diet Dr Pepper (his favorite drink) to shake their hand and told them he wished he could have gone on the nice vacation we went on. Solid impressions were made all around, and now I am no longer surprised when he uses my name, it's become second nature. As my time with the program winds down, I become appreciative of the late blooming relationship myself and CKS have developed, to the point where I would describe it even as chummy at times. I can't wait to see what surprise he has in store for me on senior night, especially since I'm the only senior left in the program. We've had two managers jump ship and John Jenkins leave for the NBA, but I've soldiered on and made it to this point so I'm expecting big things Coach, including blog readership.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


For those of you who have been attending Vandy games over the past year or watching them on TV, you may have noticed someone mopping the floor each game with unrivaled passion. That person is me. When someone takes a spill, I am there to clean up the mess. And I'm there fast. My reaction time has surely garnered the attention of fans and NBA scouts alike. One time, when we were playing Kentucky, Ryan Harrow fell under our basket in the second half. My primal instincts told me to gun it to the spot, and that's what I did. The problem was that I was so fast with the mop Coach Stallings yelled at me for being there before giving Harrow a chance to get up. I wasn't too upset about it because I knew I was doing the right thing. Nothing will get in the way of me and a wet spot.

Now, many people have asked me over the last year (mainly my mom) why I mop. People say it is the lowest job on the totem pole, ask if I'm training to be a janitor, and ask why we got rid of the 10 year old kids who used to mop during timeouts. Well last year, after a couple of players had slipped and the ballboys were doing an unsatisfactory job so one of our assistants told our head manager Will Hulings that we needed to take over mopping duties. Then Coach Fred released a bombshell, he said, "the person mopping can wear a polo, he doesn't need to wear a suit". I was instantly sold, and that's really the only reason I volunteered. I despise suits. There are so many parts to a suit: you have the undershirt, the dress shirt, the jacket, tie, belt, and pants. Not only is it overwhelmingly to put all that together in a manner that looks remotely organized, but I sweat heavily in a suit. I value personal comfort over most things, so the switch to the polo was a natural move for me. Also, it is a pain in the ass to use the bathroom in a suit, it takes me like five minutes to readjust everything satisfactorily. A real nuisance.

While the ability to wear a polo was the primary reason I took the job, the second reason I took the job was because of the opportunity I would have to wipe up the sweat of future pros. I wasn't just mopping up anybody's sweat, I was mopping up Anthony Davis and Bradley Beal's sweat. That is multi-million dollar sweat, and I mopped it up. Not many people could handle sweat that valuable, but I'm one of the few that can. This year, many players have even guided me as to where the wetspots are. For example, Nerlens Noel pointed me to a wetspot then thanked me this year. The networking opportunities are limitless.

The third reason I took the job is for the glory. When I mop a wetspot in the middle of play, I tend to get on camera. I sometimes get obscured by the big guys around me, but the mop always shines. The ESPN facetime has been a big bonus. Managers never get recognized, but I'm bucking that trend.

There is also deep fan appreciation for the job I do. In the aforementioned Kentucky game, the gym was really humid and the floor was soaking wet all the time. I got a great workout in, I was all over, probably burned at least 300 cals during the game (all the sorority girls in the stands were jealous of the workout). Then, early in the second half Willie Cauley-Stein went all slip and slide in the game. He slid from the three point line to near halfcourt and he was drenched. It was like a 10 foot long sweat mat, and it took a good 2 minutes to fully mop. I was there busting my tail, all alone at first then with some assistance from another manager, Nick Souder. I was mopping at full force, throwing everything I had onto the wet spot but it was a really tough one, and it took a while. The sweat just wouldn't absorb, but then slowly they started clapping. It was a few students at first, then the whole student section. A full blown standing O and the sweat just started to disappear. They willed it away, and then after I was done I had to wave to them and tip my cap in appreciation. It was arguably the loudest cheer of the night to that point. It later got overshadowed when the team went on a huge run, but that moment was immortalized in history.

And that ladies and gentlemen, is why I mop. I have taken a job meant for pre-teen boys and girls and made it into my niche with the program. There have even been rumblings they might hoist my mop into the rafter on senior night next week. Stay posted for that.

Monday, February 25, 2013


Hey guys,

I want to take this post to introduce myself and this blog. My name is Daniel Marks and I am a senior at Vanderbilt University, and one of the managers for the men's basketball team here at Vandy. As my managerial career winds down over the next few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about all of the memories I've had due to this job and the things I've gotten to do, and figured I'd share some of them with the world.

I will try to post a few times a week on here, and will be posting on any topic that has to do with my time as a manager. Some could be superlative posts, personal player or manager profiles, about road trips, travelling, favorite venues, pretty much anything and everything is fair game. I'd love to hear from you all and welcome you to comment as you see fit. I've gotten the chance to do some pretty special things these last four years and hope you enjoy the stories I have to share.

Daniel Marks