Sports, Basketball, Men's Basketball

“This Is The Real Deal”: BC Student Managers Reflect on Hosting NCAA Tournament East Regional

As a manager for Boston College men’s basketball over the past three seasons, Patrick Blaesser said he dreamed of working for his team in the NCAA Tournament. 

“In your wildest dreams, you’re working with the team, you’re kind of like, ‘Oh, we can make it to whatever,’” Blaesser, CSOM ’24, said. 

But with the Eagles’ 15-year March Madness drought extending into his senior year, Blaesser never got that opportunity.

Instead, he settled for working alongside the defending national champions, Connecticut.  

With BC as its host, the NCAA Tournament’s East Regional returned to Boston’s TD Garden for the first time since 2018, giving BC student managers Blaesser and Matthew Malley an opportunity to take the national stage.

(Sourabh Gokarn / Heights Editor)

It’s a destination Malley had his eyes set on four years ago when BC’s earned its bid to host in the fall of 2020. 

“It was years away, but it was definitely something that I was kind of like, ‘Ooh, if I ever got the chance to work that and the schedule is aligned and whatnot, I would definitely be interested in it,’” Malley, MCAS ’24, said. 

The Sweet Sixteen was held on March 28, with the Elite Eight following two days later, but work for the two managers’ began well before TD Garden raised its curtains.

“Our job was for every time a team came in to have practice, or shootaround, or whatever it was—we had to make sure the locker rooms were stocked,” Blaesser said. 

While their responsibilities at BC concerned only their own team, working the East Regional expanded the scope of their job to four teams—No. 5-seed San Diego State, No. 3-seed Illinois, No. 1-seed UConn, and No. 2-seed Iowa State. 

“Let’s swap out the towels, put the new towels on, check the basketballs, make sure they’re at the correct inflation rate—and go again,” Malley said. “Where you’re usually focused on your one team, you’re now kind of taking a step back and seeing all four teams.”

The real fun, however, came when the games finally tipped off. 

“The game days were obviously the coolest part,” Blaesser said. “Just being on the floor, like wiping up [UConn star] Donovan Clingan’s sweat, is kind of like, ‘Wow, this is cool.’”

According to a TD Garden press release, the games were projected to produce approximately $25 million for the local economy. For Blaesser and Malley, the tournament’s national spotlight also produced memorable moments like nearly getting run over on the sidelines by UConn head coach Dan Hurley and receiving unexpected recognition from Larry David.  

“It’s an opportunity to have interactions with a lot of different people that you might not necessarily have just game-to-game, regular season in college basketball,” Malley said. 

Blaesser, a lifelong college basketball fan, said he especially cherished the opportunity to witness the game in person and on one of basketball’s grandest stages.

“Obviously, your whole life you’ve been watching it from the TV camera—it’s a completely different view from the floor,” Blaesser said. “It’s just cool. You get out there, and you’re like, ‘Holy crap, this is the real deal.’”

As the UConn tidal wave crashed over Illinois in the Elite Eight, the festivities were just getting started. Seas of fans decked out in white and blue roared as the East Regional champion Huskies celebrated their second straight Final Four appearance by cutting down the nets—a scene both managers said was among the weekend’s highlights. 

“It was a cool moment—just all these people now are focused on an event that you were there for,” Malley said.

The scene was a fitting end to a weekend that was as unexpected as it was surreal, according to Blaesser.

“I figured we would just be in the stands, just like watching from a suite or something,” Blaesser said. “But I never thought I would be doing this part of it.”

April 4, 2024