Sideline Slants

Student basketball equipment managers and comedian Rodney Dangerfield have a lot in common? they never get any respect.

Equipment managers are the designated runners for the coaching staff. They do the grunt work. Sometimes they are the brunt of practical jokes.

To some degree, being an equipment manager makes about as much sense as officiating.

Some equipment managers have very little athletic ability. Others are pretty good athletes, just not good enough to make a varsity team. In fact, I?ve known a manager who could beat most varsity players in a game of ?Horse.?

They do what they do because they love the game.

What would happen if a manager actually got a chance to play in a game?

Sound like a fairy tale? Sound like a good storyline for Hollywood?

If so, Hollywood is a little late because a manager actually played in a college game this year.

It?s not unusual to hear stories about short-handed teams needing a manager or two for practice so there are enough players to play full court.

Boston University took that a step further this season.

The Terriers were down to seven scholarship players and a walk-on because of injuries and academic problems. Coach Dennis Wolff needed an extra body on the roster for a trip to Hartford and Vermont, so he made sophomore manager Tim Kelley eligible. Wolff hoped he wouldn?t have to use Kelley in the two games as he waited for the injured players to get healthy.

Against Vermont, Wolff lost a player who fouled out and another who got hurt. That left him with six players, counting Kelley.

When another player fouled out in the first overtime, Wolff turned to Kelley, who never played high school basketball above the junior varsity level.

?I called him over and said, ?Tim, don?t take this the wrong way, but if somebody throws you the ball, throw it right back to him,?? Wolff said.

In a Hollywood script, Kelley would have made the winning basket at the buzzer.

This wasn?t Hollywood, and Kelley wasn?t a hero, except to managers everywhere who like to dream the dream. In fairness, Kelley didn?t do all that badly. He played the entire second overtime and committed a turnover as the Terriers erased a five-point deficit with 2:28 left only to lose 86-85 on a free throw with two seconds left.

This gives a whole new meaning to a coach who says: ?Our team is very talented. I?m pleased with our depth.? At the very least, maybe a coach could say, ?We may have lost the game, but my manager can beat your manager!?

* * *

A headline in the Topeka Capital-Journal caught my eye: ?Scot girls to see no more mercy.?

The 30-point running-clock rule in Kansas high school basketball came to an abrupt end in late January. As an official and fan, I had mixed feelings about the rule. You can bet that at least one team was sorry to see it go.

The inexperienced Highland Park girls team lost their first 13 games by an average of 39 points. Included were losses of 62, 51, 48 and 44 points.

Scots coach Vicki Vossler said ?What I?m afraid of is that teams now will try to beat us by 60 or 70 points. I?m real concerned about that.

?We try to do everything we can to build kids? self-esteem and worry about what happens when we degrade them. Granted, I realize that this is competition and that we are competing against another team, but I think that some of the coaches need to back off a little bit, take a look at the big picture, and not look so much at their win-and-loss columns.?

There will be a certain number of lopsided games every season. However, coaches can take steps to keep from running up the score and embarrassing an opponent?such as dropping the press, playing zone and playing the non-starters.

So who needs mercy anyway?

We all do.

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