Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Rob Cross: The Hardest Working (and Best) Man in Showbusiness

Everyone in this program has a passion for Vanderbilt Basketball, but nobody is more passionate about it than our head manager Rob Cross. During my freshman year, I was so impressed with Rob's ridiculous work ethic and desire for perfection, I wrote this story on him titled "Meet the Next Brad Stevens" based on Rob's ambitions to be a college head coach and I am confident after two more years working alongside Rob that my prediction will come true as the characteristics I describe in that story have only intensified over the last two years.

As mentioned above, Rob is more passionate about this program than anybody else and that is evidenced by the sheer amount of time he puts into it. Rob never misses a practice or team workout, no matter the circumstances. One time this year he was incredibly sick and had shivers but still showed up to practice, despite being in a hoodie sweatshirt and beanie hat. At one point, Coach turned to Rob and said, "Are you sick?" and Rob said "Yeah I am Coach" and Coach said, "I was sick last week too, but you didn't see me wearing that ridiculous cap". With his self-confidence shattered momentarily, Rob removed the cap for the last few minutes of practice.

That incident is just one of many examples of Rob putting the program before himself. Other prominent examples include sleeping in the basketball offices so he can wake up early in the morning and get right to work, making sure all of his classes end by 12:30 so he can be at the gym at least 2 hours before practice every day, and responding to the needs of the coaches and players faster than Jimmy John's can deliver a sandwich. If a coach or player needs something, Rob will respond no matter what he is doing at the time (just ask his ex-girlfriend, she always said Rob was dating basketball and cheating on it when he spent time with her, which is pretty funny... and accurate).  My mom compares him to former New York City mayor Ed Koch. People always used to say Ed Koch (who never married) was "married to New York" and my mom says "Rob is married to Memorial. It's his true love" and I wouldn't argue.

He will skip class, not go out, or even not eat, if he has an opportunity to better the program. For example, one of our other managers Nick Souder and I went to an NBA game in Memphis back in December. Classes were over and we had only a morning practice, but Rob wouldn't come with us. Coach Rich needed some film clips done by practice the next day and Rob wouldn't go to the game because he hadn't done them. He ended up missing a great night as the GM of the Grizzlies, Chris Wallace, ended up putting us up in a Memphis hotel for the night after we met with him for awhile at the game, but Rob did what he felt he had to do.

Based on his penchant for getting things done, Rob occasionally loses sight of his bigger goals for the job. Any time a new task comes up, he wants to get it done so some of the tasks that don't have a "deadline" or goals he has get put to the side. Those include keeping the locker room clean (it is the messiest environment I've ever seen), weekly managerial meetings (they had a good run but faded toward the end of the year), or my favorite, learning how to delegate or say no to something (I'm not sure this will ever happen).

He believes that ensuring the coaches are prepared and our players have what they need is the most important thing he can be doing at anytime, he is completely selfless in that regard. The coaches know they can ask him to do anything and he won't hesitate to do it. He essentially served as head manager this year in addition to being co-video coordinator with Dan Cage. He is maniacal about this program and there are no amount of words I could use to describe just how much he cares and puts into it.

Not only does he do whatever is asked, but Rob is also always asking questions about he can do better. He realizes that being on the inside of a major program is an incredible learning opportunity and takes the chance to pick the brains of the coaches, players managers, strength coaches, administrators, anyone who is associated with the program. He wants to gain every insight or advantage he can because he knows one day it will come in handy when he is running his own program (and he will be at some point).

However, while Rob cares a lot about the success of the program, he cares even more about the people in it. If anyone has a problem, whether it be on the court with our players or off it with the players and managers, he is there to help. He listens to everybody and is never condescending in the way he treats others. He wants to be everybody's friend and wants people to feel like they can come to him with anything, and people certainly feel that way about him. 

He is one of the best friends I've ever had and one of the best people I've ever known. Vanderbilt is beyond lucky to have him and wherever he ends up, he will do an unbelievable job. Knowing and working with Rob for three years has made me a better person and I'll miss the frequent late night conversations we have at the gym or in the dorms next year, though I will get a lot more sleep without him around, so I guess there is one positive about it.

Me and Rob at Disney World in November

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