HARMELING: Saluting the unsung

IF YOU'VE EVER been to game at Beasley Coliseum, you may have noticed a few guys behind the bench donning WSU polos and slacks. But I'm willing to bet that nobody outside of the team has any clue as to how important these guys are. They're "just" managers, but I can assure you they pour in as much time to the program during the season as the players do..

In fact, they spend quite a bit of their time year 'round assisting the players with just about anything. My first taste of their selflessness came within minutes of arriving on campus for summer school as a freshman.

As soon as my father shifted the old, white Oldsmobile Silhouette into park (talk about arriving in style), in front of Scott-Coman, one of the managers opened the door for my mom and then proceeded to help my family unload my belongings into my dorm room.

That act of kindness barely scratches the surface when it comes to things they do for the team.

AT PRACTICE, THE managers are always ready to wipe sweat off the floor, grab the players drinks, help out in drills, film the practice, etc.

And don't think for one second that big ol' Aron Baynes hasn't knocked a few of the them over as they try to offer resistance with a pad for the big-men drills.

Off the court, managers are on call nearly 24/7.

At any time, if one of the players wants to shoot but needs a rebounder, I guarantee they are one call away to any of the managers from getting a rebounder within 10 minutes.

ONE OF THE managers over the past few years, Charlie Hawkins, made the regrettable mistake of having his truck on campus. Why a mistake? Manager + owning a truck = full time mover.

Most players move several times from one apartment to the next over the course of their career. And once lease time comes around, Charlie is always on everyone's speed dial. And not only does he lend the truck, he also help moves any and everything that you need a hand with.

Managers are also responsible for video exchange with other schools, putting all practice and game film on DVD's, and making sure the players have the gear they need for practice.

The morning after a game, players can walk into the office and have all of their individual clips from each possession on a zip drive, compliments of the managers.

WANT MORE evidence? Put yourself in the shoes of Mike Simonson or Ben Cartmell. You've just finished helping out for 3 hours at a practice. You're tired. You've got homework. It's 7 p.m. and it's been 6 hours since lunch. But guess what?

You don't get to go home yet. Because it's laundry time. And although you want to get it started right away, the players, for some reason, like to sit around and rehash stories from the day in their practice gear. Not sure why, but that's always how it pans out.

So tack on another 30 minutes before you can even start washing it, not to mention drying and placing it in the player's laundry locker for the next day. Sounds like fun, right?

ALTHOUGH THEY DESERVE to get paid their weight in gold, managers get literally nothing financially. "Thank You's" are few and far in between.

So for what it's worth, thank you to all the managers -- Charlie Hawkins, Mike Simonson, John Kearns, Neil Stover, Matt Melka, Blake Jones, Casey Tucker, Chase Johnson, and especially Ben Cartmell. It it wasn't for you, I don't know what I would have done.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daven Harmeling was a mainstay on the Washington State basketball team – and a fixture on the Pac-10 All-Academic team – during the most successful three-year stretch in Cougar history. Part of Dick Bennett's stellar recruiting class of 2004, this Grand Junction, Colo., product completed his eligibility last season and now is in Vancouver, Wash., running clinics for Dan Dickau Basketball and working as a substitute teacher. He is writing a regular column for Cougfan.com this season.

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