Bob Knight’s imprint on college basketball is undeniable.
Of course you know all about the wins and the success of former assistants from Mike Krzyzewski to Chris Beard.
But Knight regularly remarked that his team managers had the toughest job of anyone in his IU program — players and coaches included.
They typically worked the longest hours, all behind the scenes, for no glory, save for the occasional rave review from the big boss.
During one such moment, at his team’s 1994 senior night festivities, Knight referred to the managers as the “guts of everything we do.” He added that “there just isn’t any bigger part of Indiana basketball than our managers.”
In an era where division one college basketball staffs were a fraction of what they are today, the team managers did a little bit of everything. Jobs that might be done now by a graduate assistant, director of operations, or video coordinator were for the most part all done by the managers.
Of course any manager worth his weight is and was an expert at rebounding practice shots too. You name it, they were doing it.
It was a different era of college basketball then, and in many ways, that 1994 senior day speech marked the end of an era in Bloomington.
Indiana would never win another Big Ten title or reach another NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 under Knight after 1994, and a more than three year old home court winning streak would be snapped the following season.
IU basketball from 1995 to 2000 under Knight was unremarkable. It was better known for transfers, Neil Reed and his eventual firing than any great accomplishments on the court.
But what if I told you that Knight’s legacy from those final six years in Bloomington is only just now emerging?
It’s a story that is about as unlikely as his return to Bloomington — which by coincidence is only happening now too.
And it all goes back to the guts of the program.
Dusty May grew up playing high school basketball in the shadow of Bloomington at nearby Eastern Greene High School.
He knew he wanted to be a coach, and he didn’t have to look very far to find a good one to learn from.
But May needed a break to garner one of IU’s highly sought after manager positions in 1996. As it turned out, mowing team doctor Larry Rink’s lawn would be the first of many breaks for May. That connection was enough to get him into the IU program.
A year ahead of May, Joe Pasternack left New Orleans for Bloomington on a mission.
Also a former high school basketball player, Pasternack knew that he wanted to be a coach, and he knew that there was only one person that he wanted to learn from.
“I chose Indiana strictly to be a basketball coach and to go learn from Coach Knight,” Pasternack told The Daily Hoosier. “I went to IU to be a manager under Coach Knight.”
The captain of Knight’s second team at Army was a 6-foot-2 forward named Dan Schrage.
Dan Schrage raised his family in Atlanta, but as it turned out, he passed on his affection for Knight to his son Mike, who left home for Bloomington with visions of becoming a walk-on for his father’s coach.
Mike Schrage didn’t realize that he was arriving in Bloomington in 1994 at the end of an era. And he probably could not have imagined at the time that when walk-on turned into manager, it marked the beginning, not the end, of his coaching journey.
He realizes it now.
Schrage told the Indy Star in 2016 that “If I hadn’t done that (gone to IU and became a manager), I wouldn’t have been in coaching,” he said.
Pasternack tells a similar story.
“The only reason I got a job is because of Coach Knight.”
Three former high school basketball players caught a break and learned from one of the best.
May, Pasternack and Schrage were all managers together in Bloomington under Knight for the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons.
And as he was known to do, Knight helped all three land a job out of college.
But that was only the beginning of the story.
Fast forward 20 years, and now those three former IU managers?
All three, Division One college basketball head coaches.
Pasternack was hired at UC Santa Barbara in 2017, May at Florida Atlantic in 2018, and Schrage at Elon in April.
How rare is it for a manager to end up as a Division One head coach?
“I don’t know of any former managers from anywhere that are head coaches anywhere right now,” Pasternack said.
Except for these three of course, all managers under Coach Knight — and all at the same time.
In a profession almost exclusively made up of former players and assistant coaches, how is that even possible?
“When you’re a manager under Coach Knight, it was the best three credit hour class I took at Indiana,” Pasternack said.
“It was the most amazing experience of learning how to be successful in life. The culture, the self-discipline you had to have on a daily basis. The hours were insane, but it was definitely worth it.”
May echoed those sentiments in a radio interview earlier this week with our broadcast media partner Indiana Sports Beat.
“It’s just a testament to the foundation that Coach Knight laid with basketball and how you operate, and preparation and work ethic and all of the intangibles,” May said. “You learn so much that you can be successful in almost any walk of life.”
The trio was preceded by former IU manager turned NBA head coach and now successful league executive Lawrence Frank.
And like Frank, all of those lessons learned at IU are leading to success for the former managers as college head coaches.
In his first season at Florida Atlantic, May led the Owls to their first winning season since 2011.
In his first two years at the helm of the UCSB program, Pasternack has a 45-19 record and the best winning percentage in school history.
As for Schrage, he caught his first break with his father’s former Army teammate, yep, Mike Krzyzewski. He spent nine seasons at Duke before also spending time at Stanford, Butler and Ohio State. No one will be surprised to see him succeed at Elon like his fellow managers turned head coaches.
The story gets even more bizarre if you keep peeling back the layers.
Like how Pasternack landed an assistant coaching job with Sean Miller at Arizona in 2011 after Archie Miller left the staff to take the head coaching job at Dayton.
And how Pasternack’s current system at UCSB is somewhat of a hybrid of some of Knight’s motion offense principles and Miller’s pack-line defense.
But it all started in Bloomington in the late ’90’s, when three guys were grinding away — at the guts of everything that Knight wanted to be done.
“It changed my life. It was the only reason I am a basketball coach today because of that experience,” Pasternack said.
For those three IU managers cutting their teeth together under a legend, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.
But it was all guts, and no glory.
That is, until now.
Note: A book has been written about the stories of former IU basketball managers under Knight. You can find that on Amazon here.
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