For TBT GM's, offseason is when the hard work takes place


By: Gabe Maturo

Being a TBT GM is a year-round job

We're months away from summer 2021, but prep is already well underway for next year’s tournament. Even though TBT only lasts a couple weeks, GM's are working year-round to prepare their team as best they can.

For some GMs, this means recruiting new players, developing new on-court strategies, and continuing to build on the relationships they have with their current team. It is also a crucial time to build a team’s brand, increase social following, and build up a fundraising network.

We talked to five GM's to see what they’ve been doing now that the offseason is in full swing.

Armored Athlete - AJ Mahar

AJ Mahar has been the GM of Armored Athlete since 2015. In TBT 2020, he led them to the second round of the tournament where they fell to Overseas Elite.

Mahar has proved to be a top-tier GM, leading the team to 12 all-time wins, the fifth most in TBT history.

Mahar on what it’s like being a GM in the offseason

“Being a GM in the offseason is a grind. It’s not just a grind come May, June, or July, it’s a year-round grind. It’s a grind that I love. I love the game so much and the connections that come with it. I love trying to put the right pieces together and gain relationships from the experience. It’s a busy offseason. You’re busy, you’re staying afloat with everything that’s going on.

A lot of the year-round process that comes with being a GM in TBT starts with grooming the pieces we already have and talking to guys that have reached out to me asking to be a part of what we have. We have guys contacting us who either want to switch teams or who are new to TBT that want to join our team.

I usually do more recruiting, but I can’t do a lot as far as traveling because of COVID-19, so I’ve just been connecting with guys as much as possible. I have been networking with people that are involved with the Armored Athlete Family.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with our inner circle to see where we need to go moving forward. We’ve been watching film and talking about set plays that would work well with certain players. I maintain relationships with all of the players and the agents that I know. I have been making phone calls and text messages to stay in contact and continue recruiting.”

 Mahar on his offseason objectives

“My first objective was securing the proper assistant coach for this team, which I have already accomplished. Having the right staff to mesh with the players we have is critical to being successful. My second goal is that I have a list of players that I have targeted because they would be amazing fits for our team.

I first want to get them [the recruits] interested in TBT. Then, I want to tell them about Armored Athlete and get them interested in playing for us. I know what our coaching staff is going to look like so it’s really just finding the proper pieces to fit the puzzle.

Last year gave us a good core to build off of. My biggest goal this offseason is to build off of that and get the right pieces to fit in with our guys moving forward. I’m figuring out which guys from a personality standpoint would fit in with the guys that we have coming back. I find the guys that match with Armored Athlete on the court and off the court. I want to be really prepared and put the pieces together to take us to the next-level.”

Mahar on the offseason and what he looks forward to the most

“The TBT offseason for us is a step-by-step process and I get excited for each step. 1) I look forward to seeing where TBT 2021 is going to be played. 2) I think about what my roster is going to look like. 3) I watch the selection show to see who we’re going to play. 4) Everybody comes together for the first time on the court in our first practice. It’s great to see everybody together and it's so rewarding knowing you got all the pieces together. 5) The last step and the best feeling is seeing everyone come out on the court for our first game. It’s all about the process.”



Joey Gruden - Red Scare

Joey Gruden put together the Red Scare, a Dayton alumni squad, in 2019. He's made an immediate impact, leading them to the third round in 2019 and Semifinals last summer.

Gruden on his offseason activities

“For me, after the tournament, I like to make sure everyone gets home safe. I then help players with their film and anything that they might need. Right now it’s still kind of early, but I’m keeping track of the guys that have played for us and looking at potential guys to join us.”

My first step is to recruit a team. Obviously I have guys who will be interested again. So, constructing the team is very exciting. I have been recruiting and getting a pool of players that I want to play for us. As it gets closer to the tournament, I am finalizing my team and getting them ready for the first practice. 

When guys are done with their pro seasons, I enjoy training with them and getting the team ready for the tournament. Then when the TBT schedule comes out, I’m going to be scouting and seeing who we are going to play.”

Gruden’s offseason goals

“The number one goal this offseason is that I want to get a few bigger-name Dayton guys. Now that we’ve established ourselves in TBT more, I have a better pitch to get older Dayton alumni. I want to stick with our core and add a few more guys to give us more depth and talent to help us make the finals.

Every year I make it a goal to improve and increase our following. I try to improve our social media pages. I try to raise more money each year. Then I put a better team together that can win more games than the previous year. Improving in every aspect each year is my main goal.”

Gruden on what it’s like to be a TBT GM

“Being a GM is fun actually. It gives me a chance to connect with my teammates and see how they’ve been doing. I enjoy communicating and checking in on the guys.

It’s a great way to stay in touch with everyone. It’s my first real head coaching job. I take it seriously. I want to succeed. I stay involved as much as I can year-round. I try to stay on top of it all and make sure we have the best team because teams in TBT are getting better and better every year. I am proving to myself and other people that I can coach.”



Billy Clapper - Sideline Cancer

Billy Clapper has been Sideline Cancer’s GM since the inaugural tournament in 2014. Year after year, he continues to showcase his abilities as a GM on and off the court.

In TBT 2020, Sideline Cancer picked up a handful of impressive victories on their way to a runner-up finish in the tournament. Off the court, Clapper plays a key role in spreading awareness to pancreatic cancer through multiple events and fundraisers.

Clapper on the year-round process of being a GM

“Number one is our players and being there for them. We do a lot of supporting for our team members and players. I would say that on average, I talk to one person from our team every day.

Number two is developing future relationships for players that we are recruiting. Our ability to recruit guys right now is at an all-time high. We are ultimately trying to build relationships right now. We have a couple guys that we have done video calls with and that we are actively recruiting.

Number three is development. We are designing t-shirts, hosting golf tournaments, improving the website, growing our twitter. Our Sideline Cancer Instagram and Twitter have continued to improve year after year.

The year-round process of being a GM is sort of like being a farmer, there’s always something little you can do. You are going to keep looking for new people to help you in the future and support the people you have now. We want to build on and grow our relationships. We are continuing to look at ways to increase awareness. It’s a part of my life day-in and day-out.”

Clapper on what it’s like to be a GM in the TBT offseason

“It’s something that you always have to be ready for. We are always talking about it. We have this team and we run with it. One of the things about being a general manager is you do a lot of work behind the scenes. Ultimately, there’s a little bit every day. We’re always thinking about the next step. We’ve got a lot of things in the works for our future.

It’s not a job, I genuinely care about the Griffith family, I care about Charlie Parker, I care about my coaching staff, I care about my players. These relationships are real and that’s what makes us so good.”

Clapper’s goals heading into TBT 2021:

“Win TBT. That is the only objective now. There’s a lot that goes into it, but for it to come through, we have to win the whole thing. There is so much that we can do for the foundation and the community by winning TBT. We want to identify two to three players that can help give us the chance to win and play well with the guys that we have now.

If you had asked me to make a list of a hundred things that we could accomplish in TBT, we have accomplished everything on that list except winning TBT. I want to win a championship for the foundation, the fans and supporters, and for the players. It takes special guys to play for our team. We want someone who is going to play for something bigger than themselves. We will continue to put our best foot forward and do everything we can to support our players. We plan to be a team that can make a run for the championship. The goal now is to win.”

TBT Northeast Basketball Tournament


Kevin Belby - Boeheim’s Army

Kevin Belby is the GM for Boeheim’s Army, a team with high expectations and a reputation for being one of TBT’s best. Belby continues to bring in talented Syracuse alumni year after year, helping them become a force in the tournament. 

In TBT 2020, Belby and Boeheim’s Army made it to the Quarterfinals where they lost to Sideline Cancer. 

Belby on what he’s been doing in the offseason:

“For me, being a GM in the offseason is maintaining relationships with our current players and building relationships with new guys that are going to join us in the upcoming season. We are also starting to think about our team moving forward and reflect on this past summer. I’m starting to think about what our roster is going to look like for years to come and what we need to accomplish success.

We are supporting the Syracuse community and the Jim and Juli Boeheim foundation. We are continuing to distribute content to our fans and build our brand. Our team and our brand has built the biggest fanbase and the largest social following. It’s continuing to build that name and support the Syracuse team and the community throughout the whole year, not just during TBT.

We view ourselves as a fan’s team. That’s what TBT is all about. Making our fans a part of the winning. We believe in that mission and that goal and our fans are very much a part of our team. So in the offseason, we engage with our fans as much as possible with charity events and meet-and-greets and all sorts of events to keep our fans involved and engaged.”

Belby provided his top priorities for the offseason:

“The number one thing that I want to accomplish this offseason is to go into our next tournament with not just our best team yet, but the best team in TBT. We’re trying to build a team with talent, chemistry, and the right pieces to win the $2 million.

I love the game. It’s all anticipation for the tournament. There are a lot of necessary steps along the way to preparing for TBT and competing at the highest level.

I stay in close contact with the Syracuse program and the Boeheim family. We're talking and planning on how to get better and how to improve as a team."

Belby’s favorite part of the TBT offseason: 

“I think it’s exciting to see our guys have success overseas. Part of the reason why they enjoy playing is because TBT gets them in great mental and physical condition to play in their fall season. So I love to see them putting up big numbers and doing well in their careers overseas.

We’re excited for 2021 to put together our best team and get out there and compete.”



Mike LaTulip - House of ‘Paign

In his TBT debut this past year, Mike LaTulip’s House of ‘Paign picked up impressive wins over War Tampa and Carmen’s Crew, the 2019 TBT Champions. The Illinois alumni team is looking like a force in TBT for years to come.

LaTulip on being a GM in the offseason

“To be honest, the work never stops. Even a couple days after we returned from Columbus, we started looking ahead to 2021 and reflected on what happened in the last tournament. You have to be able to stay on top of guys and fill in holes accordingly.

From a schematics standpoint, you’re watching games like the NBA Finals to see what you can take from other coaches to implement in our gameplan. It takes 10 months to a year to make sure everything with our team is running smoothly. The work really never stops.

There’s stress that goes along with being a GM. You really want to make sure that you are putting your team in the best place for 2021. It’s a mixture of reflecting back on the previous year and seeing what you can take from it heading into the next tournament.”

LaTulip on how being a TBT GM is a year-round process:

“There’s a lot that goes into the year-round process of being a GM. At the end of the day, you want to be in a situation where all of your ducks are in a row and you’re not worrying about anything when you get to the tournament in 2021.

You have to be active year-round. It’s not just a ‘Hey I’m gonna reach out to you 4 months before and act genuine’ kind of thing. You stay engaged with your team because you care about them and they’re people you’ve grown close to. I’m always keeping in contact with my players and everybody because we care about each other.”

LaTulip shared his offseason objectives:

“The roster is the main objective. It’s how soon you can figure out what it’s going to look like. We’re also working on merchandise and figuring out the potential regional sites. Being able to prioritize things and realize what matters is important.

For us, it’s the roster and logistics. There’s the basketball portion of it too where you are watching film and talking with your coaching staff all the time. I started talking to them as early as a week after TBT. The recurring theme in all of this is that it really doesn’t ever stop.

Our biggest goal is staying consistent and understanding what gave us success last year and building on it. We want to remain consistent as we continue to bring a team back to this tournament. I’m making sure to get my work done early and be as prepared as possible for the TBT tournament process.”