For TBT General Managers, offseason is where the hard work begins


By: Josh Brown | @josh_brown31

The grind never stops for a TBT GM

The life of a TBT GM is far from easy. From managing relationships with players, to raising funds, to recruiting support, it's a 24/7/365 job that begins as soon as the previous year ends. Put that on top of the fact that only one GM ultimately sees their hard work pay off (AKA: Matt Morrison), and it takes a certain type of individual to continue the pursuit of $2 million every single year. We caught up with a couple of TBT mainstays to discuss how they're preparing for TBT 2019, some of the challenges of putting a team together, and what advice they have for up-and-coming GMs.  

What are you doing during the offseason to build your team for the upcoming summer?

Jerame McNeal (Louisiana United): "During the TBT offseason, I generally tend to keep up with my current players' seasons as well as other players I am looking to recruit. Building a great base with general life conversation helps as well because it gives me a chance to gauge the personality of that player, which in the long run tells you what type of player you may get on the court as well."

Michael Baez (Matadors): "The offseason is a good time for our coaching staff to reflect and discuss how our team performed, how guys responded to each other and staff, as well as keep up with how they are currently performing in their respected leagues."

Garrett Martz (Fort Wayne Champs): "I keep a close eye on the current roster to see where they are playing and who they are playing never know where a new recruit can come from. I also follow most of the guys on social media. I make a mental note on what other professional players they are friends with and seem to interact with... because it's much easier to convince a new player to join if they already know/get along with other guys on the squad."

Keith Kelley (Team Arkansas): "I'm developing more and more relationships with even better pro athletes to establish a Monstar-like team for TBT 2019."



Do you have a set plan for the offseason?

Jerame McNeal (Louisiana United): "In the beginning, I used to send recruiting messages and pray for the best. But now, my set plan is to set a time period for establishing a connection, a time period for finding the right style of players, the correct time period for raising funds for the team, etc..."

Michael Baez (Matadors): "Having been apart of TBT for a few years now, we have a core group of guys who understand what we are trying to build. Our guys are high character guys, so they either let us know they want to be a part of it again or we make it clear they are welcome back. Sometimes it doesn’t work out due to guys' summer schedules, nagging injuries that need to be tended to, or sometimes guys just need some R&R. However, [after] competing a few years now, we have been able to put together a pool of players that we can contact when these things come up."

Garrett Martz (Fort Wayne Champs): "I make a decision on what I think we need to improve...and list guys I think fit that role. I then keep track of them during the season to see where they are playing [and] how they are doing.  I'll eventually send out a feeler to them... usually in January or so to gauge interest."

Keith Kelley (Team Arkansas): "I am sure to follow guys that are playing overseas and to establish a consistent connection with them - staying in touch every few weeks helps create that connection that's needed for successful team stuff; team event fundraisers, etc..."


What are the different stages of team building for you?

Jerame McNeal (Louisiana United): "In regards to the different stages of team building, yes, different months do produce different results. September-January, from my experience, is the feeling out time where a player will ask general questions and they'll generally give the answer of 'well right now I'm focusing on my season so I really can't give you an answer right now.' February-April is usually the time where players start to inch closer to, if not give a full commitment."

Michael Baez (Matadors): "Almost immediately after the last game, players/coaches [at Texas Tech] are in contact with us discussing what we did well, how effective our offense was, how our defense performed, what we were missing, how they (players) could have helped, etc... Then our staff reaches out to the guys that were unable to participate to gauge interest for the next year, especially if the player has a skill set that we lacked. The group of guys that have participated thus far have done great buying into doing what's best for the team. As the season draws near, it is difficult to get guys to commit because some of them are...gearing up for a deep playoff run so we try to not bother them too much. That is why it's best to get a commitment as soon as TBT ends and check on guys throughout their seasons."

Garrett Martz (Fort Wayne Champs): "I usually check in a time or two depending on how well I know the player during the early months and throw out a feeler about their plans in regards to TBT. I really don't try to get hard commitments until February... because I realize that in many cases the players themselves won't know what they are doing in the summer. It all depends on overseas offers, NBA Summer League, and where they finished the season. April is definitely when it starts to ramp up as far as trying to get firm(ish) commitments from at least a majority of the roster. You at least need to know they want to play and are open to play, schedule permitting."

Keith Kelley (Team Arkansas): "September-December is creating a rough draft of alumni players: around 15-18 guys. Some guys will fall off the face of the earth, so it's good to have back-ups in mind. March is the when it gets serious. I gotta have guys locked in so I can start creating hype videos for fans, and also gotta make sure nobody who is going to back out uses any of our free player slots."


What is the most challenging part of the offseason?

Jerame McNeal (Louisiana United): "The most challenging part of the offseason for myself is the recruiting...because I have no professional basketball experience and I literally must start from scratch when pitching to the players that I'd like to acquire on why they should play for my team. It's kind of tough when you have a small track record in the game of basketball."

Michael Baez (Matadors): "For coaches and staff it’s waiting a year to play another game. For players it’s the same, however, their focus shifts back to their careers overseas and getting ready for their upcoming season."

Garrett Martz (Fort Wayne Champs): "The unknown. Will the player you really want decide to play in the Dominican after you added them to the roster? Will some of your guys be on NBA Summer League rosters that may conflict with the opening weekend of TBT? Will one of your players' wives have a baby a week early and have to cancel last second after you already booked them a flight? All of these things have happened to me in past TBT's."

Keith Kelley (Team Arkansas): "Raising the funds and finding the time to network and build relationships with the same guys has been the [biggest] problem thus far. Also, connecting and staying connected with some guys who have been willing to play in the past has been a challenge too. It's tough to stay connected with pro athletes who have a large platform on a consistent basis."


Have you found that players are generally willing to commit early in the offseason or do they make you sweat it out?

Jerame McNeal (Louisiana United): "I believe it depends on the type of player you are recruiting and the type of personality they have. Some are willing to commit immediately while others will make you wait it out. But, in my case, most players that I go for tend to have me on edge and wondering if they will commit or not."

Michael Baez (Matadors): "Yes, players tend to commit earlier rather than later. We’ve found that the guys who drag out a commitment tend to know they are unable to play, however, may not know the best way to say no or have too many stars that have to align for them to be able to participate. Either way, we thank them for their time and keep up with them and completely understand that the offseason for them is a very important time for them to be at home, spend time with family, nurse injuries, and have some time to take a break from basketball."

Garrett Martz (Fort Wayne Champs): "It's definitely a mix. I would say your core group - usually guys who have played in past TBT's - will commit early (schedule permitting), but the new prospects usually are a last minute addition. I usually have some of the returning players reach out to guys they know to help convince them. I also want to have a certain level of trust with any new additions. I need to know they are going to show up unless something out of their control comes up. I don't expect anyone to turn down a month in China to play in TBT. But, I also don't want to pay for a flight and have someone go into ghost mode. That is the primary reason I only go with guys who (a) I know personally or (b) have played with guys on the roster and won't want to let them down."

Keith Kelley (Team Arkansas): "Players make me sweat it out a lot - even mere days away from the actual games. You never know what will come up: family emergencies, Summer League, agent having second-thoughts about playing etc..."


Has going through this process a couple of times made it easier for you?

Jerame McNeal (Louisiana United): "Yes, going through this process has made it much easier for me! I tend to learn and incorporate new strategies with recruiting each and every summer which makes those moments of waiting and sweating nearly non-existent now."

Michael Baez (Matadors): "Yes and no. It is easier knowing what to expect in the team building process and preparing for the obstacles of getting guys to training camp and to the game, however, this is a very unique tournament in the sense that teams are only getting better and better. It is very hard swallowing a loss - especially a close loss. Going through the losing process of this tournament has not gotten easier, and the only way for that to change is to win it."

Garrett Martz (Fort Wayne Champs): "It's still stressful. Hustling for [support]... trying to find sponsors to help pay for travel. It's not easy. Especially in our case where we don't have a built-in support system like the college alumni teams. We don't have alumni who are going to help pay for travel or an athletic department who is going to send out tweets/email blasts to get [support]. You are kind of a one-man operation and have to really depend on friends/family."

Keith Kelley (Team Arkansas): "It has. This process is all about who you know. Now that I've led my team to first in the country in support the last two years, players know that I'm committed 110% to this team and they'll go out and get their buddies who might be just as good to hoop with us. The fact that I've been through the whole process multiple times now is a benefit."


What is your advice for other GM's?

Jerame McNeal (Louisiana United): "My advice to other GM's would be to establish a brand/style that you would like to have within your team and go after those type of players that fit the style/system that you would like to establish with the team. Patience is also important. Although the application period is not as long as we would like to think it is, as well as the offseason, it will breeze by awfully fast, so it's good to set goals within the time limits of the offseason."

Michael Baez (Matadors): "If you’re not building your team as soon as your tournament loss, someone else is!"

Garrett Martz (Fort Wayne Champs): "You are kind of a one-man operation and have to really depend on friends/family for support. You have to be willing to be a pest for [support]. I laugh when people think you can make a post or two on Facebook and will magically get 500 [supporters]. If you aren't willing to send every single person you know a personal text or Facebook message asking them to [support], then you probably aren't going to have a shot. You also better know how travel is going to be paid for. I would guess it costs $4,000 - $6,000 to pay for airfare and hotels for a team. Are the players paying? The best way to make sure a player is going to commit and not show up is assuming they are figuring out travel. These are pro players playing for free in their summer downtime - that's why I always make sure travel is covered for all the guys."

Keith Kelley (Team Arkansas): "Don't wait [until] the last minute. Even though TBT is a summer basketball event, it's a year-round process with no days off. The day we lost in the second round, I started planning [for] TBT 2019. Strategic planning, whether it's...raising money or building social media or locking in guys 110%; it never ends, seriously."



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