Wilson manages all the off-court aspects of men’s basketball.
For Jeff Wilson, a perfect day is a quiet day. A quiet day means everything has gone according to plan for the men’s basketball team’s director of operations.
While coach Fran Dunphy’s staff and players try to win basketball games, Wilson handles nearly everything else associated with the team.
“There’s no typical day for me, there’s so many things that can happen in season and out of season and on game day,” Wilson said. “There are so many different aspects of this job that you can never have everything go as planned and you need to be thinking on your feet. I see this job as a facilitator so that athletes just have to worry about academics and basketball and not worry about ‘Is my meal card working? Where do I have to be?’”
“It’s the same thing with the coaches so they just need to worry about preparing for the next opponent and making our student athletes better,” he added.
Wilson does a little bit of everything when it comes to making sure everything associated with the team is running smoothly. Some of his duties include arranging the team’s travel plans and accommodations, managing equipment and acting as a liaison between the team and other aspects of the athletic department or the university.
He also manages the schedules of all the coaches and players to arrange practices, weight room sessions, study halls for players and the team’s public appearances.
His desire to be in the sports business stems from his father, who enjoyed watching and playing sports.
“Once I got to high school, it became clear that my future in sports wasn’t going to be as an athlete, but I always loved sports and always wanted to be involved in sports,” Wilson said.
The 2004 Temple alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in sports and recreation management got his start working in college athletics as a student interning within Temple’s and Syracuse’s athletic departments.
In his junior year, Wilson received an internship with the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers. Dunphy, who was the head coach of Penn at the time, showed up to a Sixers practice and met Wilson. The next year, Dunphy would accept his current job and take along Wilson as his director of operations.
“He introduced himself and he was a solid, quality guy and I thought if I hired him as an operations guy, I can’t go wrong. Sure enough, the next year I did and it all worked out,” Dunphy said. “He’s steady, he’s the same guy everyday, and he’s very intelligent. It’s kind of like Radar and Lt. Col. Blake from the old ‘M.A.S.H.’ show. I might say something, and he already thought about it.”
“It was just circumstances that I couldn’t have predicted that kind of led me to my alma mater,” Wilson said. “It was really thrilling and something I could only dream about at the time.”
Wilson is aided in his job by his team of student managers that he selects, many of who are sports and recreation management majors looking to follow in his footsteps. But soon they realize being a student manager involves working long hours on nights and weekends.
“Basically the managers are an extension of my job.[For them] problem solving is always going to come up,” Wilson said. “That mentality of being a hard worker and not caring about accolades and attention [is important]. It’s more about coming in and getting the job done.”
“I think the student managers and myself have this mentality of if everything is going right, then you won’t hear anything,” he added, “and if things go wrong, that’s where people will notice you.”
One of the more noticeable moments of Wilson’s career that tested his ability to think on his feet came in Dunphy’s inaugural year in the 2006-2007 season, where the team was preparing for its Feb. 17 matchup on the road against George Washington.
As he usually does with road games, Wilson made all the necessary travel and hotel arrangements for the team, which included booking a location as close to the arena as possible, being able to provide a buffet-style breakfast and providing space for team meetings. Tipoff for the game was at 2 p.m. and when it came time for the pregame meal, the hotel staff was “nowhere near prepared,” Wilson said.
“[The pregame meal is] not just any meal, so it’s pretty important to have it be perfect,” Wilson said.
With the players arriving and no food on the table, Wilson took matters into his own hands.
“I just went into the kitchen, grabbed some eggs and started making breakfast,” he said. “I don’t know if they were scared of me because I had been on them for 20 minutes, but they were just so overwhelmed, and they needed the help. They didn’t kick me out.”
Despite his best culinary efforts, the Owls would later lose to the Colonials, 84-72.
While he handles travel arrangements for the team on the road, Wilson takes on a different set of duties for games at the Liacouras Center. There, he handles ticket requests for the coaching staff, players, recruits and high school coaches.
Per NCAA rules, an athlete can have up to four passes per game, a high school coach may take one guest and recruits can have two guests at a game.
He also makes sure there’s an assistant coach visiting with the Owl Club before games and that players have T-shirts to give to the kids standing near the basket when starting lineups are announced.
After the tipoff, Wilson takes a seat courtside with Dunphy and the rest of the team. When the team wins an Atlantic Ten Conference Championship, Wilson earns a ring just as if any player or coach would.
What he does for the team may not exactly translate to wins and losses, but he does contribute a lot to the team.
“It’s really been a great experience being an alumnus and working here. Ever since I came to school here I’ve always been a big Temple basketball fan,” Wilson said. “In many ways it was a dream come true for coach Dunphy to get this job and ask me to come along with him.”
Brian Dzenis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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