Zach Pauley has been around basketball for a long time. He started playing in fourth grade and always had fun. By the time he was a freshman, he felt it was a lot for him to do, but he wanted to be with the team and his friends.
So, since the team needed a student manager, he gave it a try. And it’s been a good fit.
“It’s been a fun learning experience,” he said.
He learned the ropes from Jacob Roth, doing what he was told with a lot of trial and error thrown in.
The summer after his sophomore year, he thought he’d give the game another shot.
“I was pretty shaky,” he said.
So he stayed with the manager job.
Pauley’s tasks include running the scoreboard at practice, getting tape and ice for ankles and other injuries, playing on the scout team, shagging basketballs and keeping track of equipment.
He also helps film games and calls the scores to the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal Star.
“It took until this year to settle in,” he said.
The biggest error he could think of was filming a JV game when part of the footage disappeared.
During his first two years in the role, he watched Roth and let him take the lead. Then it was his turn.
He keeps a positive attitude with the players, encouraging them and offering support no matter what.
“If the manager is angry, then everyone is,” he said. “Maintaining calm is very important.”
Pauley has a good relationship with the team’s four coaches.
“They’re fun to mess with, and they keep me in line, too,” he said.
One of his favorite jobs is keeping track of Coach Tony Muller’s stool. Someone got it for Muller several years ago, and he sits on it during timeouts. Pauley brings the seat to the court at the timeout and holds it until Muller is seated.
“I love to be responsible for that,” he said.
When the timeout is over, Pauley swoops in to return the stool to its spot behind the bench.
Before games, Pauley makes sure the statisticians have clipboards and paper and brings the whiteboard and stool to the bench. He has lists to track for away games – everything from the whiteboard to water bottles to the medical kit to the radio the team listens to in the locker room.
“My sophomore year, I forgot it one game,” he said with a laugh.
He puts everything in two baskets with the towels for the players.
Pauley listed a couple superstitions – wearing the same jacket for home games, giving high fives and handshakes to the players in the locker room and helping the players stay calm.
Pauley described himself as OCD about setting up the towels and water bottles for the players. Everything goes in the same order, and he “can’t be sloppy,” he said.
He said he would like to work a game at Pinnacle Bank Arena, which could happen if Milford wins its first-round game at state this year.
He said he’s leaving the position in good hands with Jacob Wulf and Nick Beel poised to step in. Pauley said the new managers should have fun but not get overly focused on what they do.
“Do it for the team,” he said.
Pauley, who will graduate in May, hasn’t decided what he wants to do for post-secondary education. He’s thinking about becoming an athletic trainer but would also consider coaching.
“I always thought I’d be on the sideline,” he said.
As his time as manager draws to a close, Pauley said he will miss the time with his friends and the leadership role he’s grown into.
“We’ve had a great team through four years,” he said. “I will miss the adrenaline. I won’t miss film.”