Tyus Jones and the Howard Pulley Panthers (Minn.) played BABC (Mass.) in front a nationally-televised game Wednesday night. Jones, the five-star point guard, helped Howard Pulley earn a hard-fought win over the Boston-based AAU club. Throughout the night, ESPNU cameras scanned the crowd, landing on several Division I coaches in attendance. One of the coaches the cameras focused in on was Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. With the July live period coming to a close, this will be one of the last opportunities Izzo has to be present for one of Jones’ games.
Izzo is in a recruiting battle for Jones with six other schools, and while he is hoping to get a commitment from the Minnesota native for 2014, Kevin Pauga is back in the East Lansing offices, preparing for the season ahead. The non-conference schedule, hotels, transportation, even basketball camps … all part of the summer duties of the Michigan State Director of Basketball Operations.
“All the nitty-gritty things we need to do to get a head of the game come fall is how I spend my July,” Pauga told NBC Sports in a phone interview earlier this week. “It’s a never-ending process.”
To read through NBCSports.com’s series on July’s live recruiting period, click here.
While coaches are on the road, Pauga is getting a lot of the administrative work done as the basketball camps have been completed for the summer.
“July is a time when I hit the reset button,” Pauga added. “Camps closed last week. I’m in full 2013-2014 mode.”
For four years now, Pauga has served as the director of ops for Sparty. Before returning to his alma mater, Pauga has worked in the program in other capacities, starting as a student manager in 2000 and working as a video coordinator from 2004-2008. From his experiences, director of basketball operations is about being prepared months in advance to make sure the season runs smoothly.
“Everything related to ops is being a step ahead,” Pauga said. “You can say that about many different things, but you can’t be planning a schedule as you go through a season. You can’t be calling for a bus company three days before, whereas when you’re scouting you are one or two opponents ahead. Here, I’m already dealing with stuff for the Big Ten tournament next year.”
It’s not only travel and practice schedules, Pauga also has to work within his own athletic department. Pauga refers to himself as a liaison, working with the other teams that use the Breslin Center, which also hosts a number of other events.
Pauga is a veteran of basketball operations, but for Jesse Bopp, it’s an adjustment now two months on the job. He’s getting used to his new role at VCU, re-joining Shaka Smart’s staff after a three-year stint as the head coach of Vermont Academy. Last week he was in charge of the nearly 400 campers at the Shaka Smart Basketball Camp, while also conducting his usual basketball ops duties.
“That’s the nature of the beast,” Bopp told NBC Sports last Thursday. “This is what it’s all about, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Communication has been the biggest tool for the first-year director of operations with the VCU coaches on the road. Before the live period began, Smart spent much of late June and early July with USA Basketball’s Under-19 team as an assistant coach to Billy Donovan.
“I don’t think it’s different (in the office), besides the fact that you’re not seeing those guys face-to-face,” Bopp said. “One of the greatest things of our program is our communication level. Our communication with each other is extremely high.”
When the summer comes to an end, the focus will shift to the players on the roster, and getting back on the floor as a team. But before practice officially tips, Pauga and Bopp are still finalizing their respective practice schedules, along with the rest of traveling arrangements. Coaches are on the road for the next few days, attempting to fill out rosters for upcoming seasons. While coaches are wrapping up on the recruiting trail, directors of basketball operations are organizing all the behind-the-scene aspects.
Recruiting is clearly vital to a team’s success, but all the preparation put forth by each director of basketball operations make that six-month grind a bit easier.
“In my world, that’s a priority, making sure we are ahead of the game,” Pauga. “Fall is gonna come here real quick.”