Raheem Mapp (above) has been part of Temple basketball almost continuously since 2006. (Photo courtesy Temple athletics)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
(Ed. Note: While head coaches get the headlines and assistant coaches do the bulk of the recruiting work, there’s more to a Division I basketball coaching staff. The Director of Basketball Operations, also known as the “DOBO,” is the main man behind the scenes, with tasks ranging from scheduling practices to coordinating travel and class schedules… and more. We spoke with all six of the city’s DOBOs to find out more about these key pieces to the local hoops programs, and get some inside dirt on the City 6. What you see below is a transcript of our conversations, edited for readability.)
Raheem Mapp is a Temple guy through and through. The Central High grad enrolled at the North Broad institution in 2005 and a year later became a manager for first-year head coach Fran Dunphy. He’s spent the dozen years since around the Owls’ men’s basketball team, going from manager to video coordinator (2010-15) and then operations, where he’s now entering his fourth season at his alma mater. Along the way, he's worked for the Phillies and the Sixers. Here's his story...
CoBL: This is now your fourth year of operations, more than a decade around the program, do you feel like you’re in the groove now?
RM: Yeah, for the most part, everything is similar in terms of how we plan, to get everything in good execution, but you know the great thing about college basketball, things change all the time, so that’s also part of the excitement of the gig. Being in my fourth year as the DOBO, just when I think I’ve got it all covered, something will come up that I haven’t experienced yet or a new challenge will present itself. It’s great to be here, I’m fortunate to be with Temple University, been working here for a long time now, since my sophomore year, that was Coach Dunphy’s first year, and I started as a manager there. My first year in college, I was still with the Phillies, as a clubhouse assistant with those guys, during the good years down there with that team. Just been fortunate to be around, been working with a great coach in Coach Dunphy and obviously Coach McKee as well, a guy I looked up to as a Philadelphia native and now being able to brush shoulders with him every day, Temple’s been great time, it’s been a good time. The job itself, it’s a lot, but we take it all in stride and for the most part just enjoy working with this team and the group of men that I have every day.
CoBL: You’re a Central High grad, Philly guy through and through. What drew you to Temple initially?
RM: Temple University has a great sport management program, so that was one thing I always knew when I wanted to go to college, that’s what I wanted to student, so that was a big thing. And just staying local, I actually have a twin sister who went to Spelman College in Atlanta, she got the Gates Millennium Scholarship, so she had a free ride to go wherever she wanted. I said that was a no-brainer, take that one, and I’ll stay home; my mother has some issues with her health, so some of the reason was to stay close to her, be able to check in on her, but with Temple having such great prestige and a great sports management program, Coach Chaney was here at that time, then Coach Dunphy came over, I thought I’d still have a good opportunity to pursue my goals with basketball once I got here.
CoBL: Was the plan always to become a basketball manager?
RM: Just to work with the team, I didn’t know what way or what form it was going to be. I knew I wanted to. That summer before my sophomore year in college, I was just like I’ve got to get back to it, I enjoyed being a regular student but I missed being around the game and being around the team, I missed the competitive spirit, I missed the opportunity to try to help be a part of something. I was a manager also for that senior year in high school where Central won the Public League championship for the first time in a long time; Scott Rodgers, went to Drexel, was on that team, Kenny St. George was on that team, he winded up playing at West Chester. A lot of talent on that team, winded up going undefeated in the Public League and that was the first year they let the Public League back in the PIAA, so we wound up losing ot I think Plymouth-Whitemarsh in the PIAAs that year on a buzzer-beater alley-oop, it was crazy. I just wanted to get back around the game and Coach Dunphy, man, he doesn’t really say no to anyone, so if you want to be part of this team and be around and make an impact, he’s all open to it. So I was fortunate enough that he was allowing me to do that, and at that time Jeff Wilson was the director of operations, the guy I ended up replacing as the DOBO three years back.
CoBL: So where does the love of basketball come from?
RM: Well, my grandfather, unbeknownst to a lot of people, my grandfather grew up playing in the Philly area, so he played with the John Chaneys of the world, he played with the Sonny Hill and Claude Gross’s, those guys who were big-time Philly staples. He grew up in South Philadelphia playing basketball with those guys, Charlie Mapp is what they called him, Charles Mapp, my grandfather. He’s the first one who introduced me to the game, instilled my love for the game; he was a point guard so I grew up always having that vision as I watched game with him. Growing up with the Anderson Monarchs [Basketball Club] with all the young talent that’s come through that group, I grew up playing sports there as well, so basketball was one of the games, soccer, baseball, I grew up playing everything. My love for the game just traveled and I became a student of the game, began watching film and studying the greats, obviously at that time Michael Jordan was my favorite guy, but Allen Iverson had a heck of a run here. Just knowing the history of the game through my grandfather, that enhanced my love of the game.
CoBL: Your sophomore year, Fran lets you become a manager. What stands out to you about that first season?
RM: That was Coach’s first year so just making the adjustment for him, being a part of that. Chris Clark, he helped everything, he became a friend of mine in college, so having him play on the team, it just made the transition much easier, and I always knew that whatever I was doing, i wanted to be great at it. So I was fortunate enough to be around those guys and also Dwayne Killings, who’s now an assistant coach at Marquette, he was also a part of our staff, he had just joined the staff that year as well.
Being around new people, that was where we started our push for that run of A-10 tournaments that we had, it was just a good time. It was good, being part of something new, a rebuilding type of situation if you want to call it that. Got a lot of good things done, I was able to travel with the team and just start to build my own vision and thoughts of what I wanted to do when it comes to basketball and the business of basketball, the industry of basketball...I don’t think we had a great wins and losses record that year [12-18] but it set the tone for what we wanted to do in the A-10.
CoBL: At what point in your managerial time there did you think to yourself ‘alright, I can see myself sticking around this program?’
RM: One thing I always knew was try to be great where you were, so I guess it became my senior year I ended up doing an internship in basketball operations with the Sixers… Ed Stefanski was GM at that time, Tony DiLeo, whose son TJ DiLeo played here, he wound up maybe coaching that year because Eddie Jordan was I think the head coach and he got removed that year, that was in the 2008-09 season. That’s when I knew how much I really, really wanted to stay in this game and then being at Temple was great because being the manager at first and then falling in love with the video side, as a junior and senior, that kind of led to down the line me being able to be the video coordinator, I’d done it when I was in school. When I graduated, I wanted to stay in basketball and then that position opened up once Dwayne Killings took a job...that opened that position up and Coach Dunphy had confidence in me because he’d seen me do video work as a regular student. He always says you don’t just have interviews, every day you’re around is an interview, so I put that to work early on and once the opportunity came, I ran with it. So Temple, staying in Philly, to be able to be around my family, be able to see them every day and still come to work at this university that I’ve graduated from and gotten two degrees from now, it’s an amazing thing.
CoBL: What’s it like being Fran Dunphy’s director of basketball operations? What’s the toughest part about being the Temple DOBO specifically?
RM: Actually, working for Coach is a blessing, because he’s almost even a better man than coach. One thing I love about him is he allows you to work, he allows you to get the job done and he has full confidence in you getting the job done. His expectations are great, but he allows you to go out there and get it done. Working for him is great, working for this staff is great, these guys have seen me grow, seen me mature as a man, as a worker, as a professional, so it’s a big family unit here I would say, and the staff has been around for a good part of it too with Coach [Shawn] Trice, Coach [Dave] Duke, obviously Chris [Clark] playing here and then Coach [Aaron] McKee being a Temple great, the family ties are there. Work isn’t work, we just get up every day and try to do the best we can when we get here. I enjoy my role and position and trying to make things easier for this staff, and easier for our guys. As a DOBO, it’s a lot of hats but I take full, full-fledged ownership in, this is the fifth-winningest program in the nation, so I don’t take that for granted. I want to set the bar, I want to make sure this program is going in the right direction in any way that I can. And doing that with these guys each year is different, you get a different team each year so that means the challenge each year is different. We want to win, we want to do things the right way, ew want these guys to have a good experience while they’re here, because in turn they become your best recruiters.
CoBL: What’s your trick of the trade, your best DOBO shortcut?
RM: The biggest thing, it’s not even so much a trick of the trade, but the better organized you are, the better you’ll be at this job. I know one thing, as a student, I was a pretty good student, but the biggest thing is organization. And staying young, these guys keep me youthful, so staying in tune with what’s going on in their world, that’s one thing that’s helped me along the way, I’m not too far removed from these guys but now I’m 31 years old, I’m getting married in two weeks so I’m kind of growing but I once was that fresh out of college 22-year-old, 23-year-old, who was basically going through some of the same things as these guys were going through. Being able to remain youthful, remain tuned into their world, what they’ve got going on, I think that’s one of the biggest things that’s helped me because I can relate to them, I can talk to them on a different level, I can connect with those guys with what they’ve got going on on and off the court, and that helps.
As the DOBO, you’ve got to be the guy in the know. You’ve got to know what’s going on campus, you’ve got to know what’s going on in the city, what’s going on with your team, in the professional world, you’ve got to be connected with everything. Just because you’ll be that go-to guy and Coach Dunphy has allowed me to be that guy for him, so at first I used to mess with him like man, anything that’s new they’re coming to me about it, but now I look forward to that, I take pride in that stuff because I’ve got to be the guy that’s connected and locked in with everything that’s happening, especially in the Philadelphia area?
CoBL: Does Dunphy have any travel quirks? Any good stories from the road?
RM: I don’t know. One of the best people you’ll ever meet is Coach Duke. He’s an awesome guy, he’s hilarious. He’s a guy that’s funny but doesn’t know that he’s funny. So he’s a good guy to be around. Coach Dunph is about his business. When we travel, it’s business trips, but he allows himself to be somewhat in the light of having good fun, he’s a funny guy as well, too. Coach has his ways about him that are very, very funny. But I would say just some travel stories, we’ve had some times where we’ve been on the road and things may go crazy -- like, my first trip my first year as the DOBO, that was the year we played North Carolina down at the Naval Academy to start the year off, down at the Veterans Classic. And the trip after that, we go to Puerto Rico. So we wound up doing okay there, but the day of the game we were in the final day, right before the game goes off, I get a note from our charter company that our plane isn’t going to be working, we’re not going to be able to get back to Philly on the plane that we came in.
So we’re traveling with probably close to 70 people or something like that, some elderly people, and the nose gear isn’t working. Mind you, this is my first airplane travel trip, so I got worked in right away. And I knew, if this was the hardest thing I had to do, I’ll be okay. We had to lay in, didn’t leave until the next day, but there were a lot of unknowns that came with it, but it’s okay, stuff like that happens when it comes to charter companies and planed having issues. For that to be my first trip, it was a great welcoming. And it served me better down the line because I had to have things in order, had to be organized, had to be communicating with our admins back in philly and I knew that that would set the tone of how I’ve got to be. Right off the bat, got plane issues and had to get all that stuff figured out.
CoBL: You weren’t DOBO during the Atlantic 10 years but you were around the program and on the staff. Now in this American Athletic Conference, every single game is a flight, there’s no short trips in that conference. Does that present any additional challenges as a DOBO in this league, or is a trip a trip?
RM: I mean, a trip is a trip. You’re going a little bit further, in the A-10 we could drive to a lot of places and you could get to a lot of them pretty quick with a lot of teams being on the East Coast. This league is pretty widespread with teams in the midwest and down south, but it presents more opportunities, I would say. Not too many challenges because you’re going to have your challenges in general, we fly during times when it’s holiday times or when the weather isn’t best, so that always presents a challenge, but we travel far out, so the great thing about being here at Temple, we’re able to charter to most of the places that we’ve got to go to, and that makes things a little bit easier, but then that always isn’t solidified in terms of being a perfect trip, as I talked about in Puerto Rico. I wouldn’t say things are harder, but I get to go to some different places...going to Wichita, Kansas last year, there’s no much out there. We had some good BBQ, had a pretty good game for the first 38 minutes, didn’t finish well, but it was a great atmosphere and that’s a place where I thought was awesome, you couldn’t really hear yourself talking next to each other, that’s how loud it was there.
CoBL: When you’ve got to plan a travel to a new team, new city, whatever, what’s your game plan? TripAdvisor?
RM: I’ll reach out to the DOBO there, I’m usually open with that. Because on the flip side, I’m open to all the DOBOs who need help when they come here. There’s usually a contact, whether it be the opposite DOBO or someone within the administration, I’ll reach out and they’ll tell me about the best hotels, best restaurants in the city, that type of stuff. If I’m fortunate enough, i can get out to a place before we go and check it out, that’s always an option to do that. Fortunately, I’ve been to a few of those places, obviously the new places that we were going to were Wichita, even back when we first got in the conference and we were going to Tulsa, I’ve never been to Tulsa, Oklahoma in my life.
Going there, you reach out to the DOBOs there but maybe someone in the industry that I know that’s played there or visited there as well. I’m always about the best, I want to stay at the best hotels, eat at the best restaurants, i want to give these guys an experience when we go, when we get there. Sometimes it’s not always time permitted, but if there’s somewhere historical to go to, an important place to be whether it’s history or modern-day history, I always want the guys to see that as well because it’s about basketball but you want to get these guys to places where it’ll have an impact on them, some things that they need to know has happened throughout history.
CoBL: You mentioned your few years as Phillies ballboy, so you’ve got some interests outside basketball. What else do you like to do when you get some downtime?
RM: First thing first is checking in with family, that’s the best thing. Once the season gets going, we’re moving from them a lot, so I’m a big-time family guy, when we get to the hotel on the road, connect with family. I watch film myself as well, try to stay in tune with what’s going on, so I do a lot of that, but if I do get some downtime I’ll try to work out at the gyms that we get to, and also I’m a big Netflix guy, so I’ll get a couple episodes of some good stuff in. I’ve got to stay tuned with what’s going on, sometimes that might be what our guys are watching and I want to be able to participate in it. I’m not really a game guy, in terms of on the road, playing games or anything like that.
CoBL: What’s currently on your Netflix? What are you trying to keep on?
RM: The biggest thing I’ve been watching is Last Chance U. It’s awesome. That’s a great show.I think I finished it already, but my fiancé, she’ll get some of those episodes in with me.Everybody watches Power, and there’s a really good show on the Oprah network called Love Is, it’s about two Hollywood power players who actually are married with each other, and it’s a show based on their marriage and how they came to know each other and grow to like each other.
CoBL: Where do you want to be in coaching? What would your dream job be?
RM: In the college ranks, I definitely want to be a head coach one day. I’ve been fortunate to work with Coach Dunphy, been around Coach Chaney a little bit and picked his brain a lot, and obviously with Aaron being on staff, about to be a head coach, I’ve seen how these guys approach everything. Even our assistant coaches here, they’re going to be good head coaches some day. I think just learning, being in the background, playing my role and studying and learning and waiting for that opportunity to come about, maybe be an assistant at the college level and working my way up to the head coach. But I have ambitions working in the NBA as well, I enjoyed my time with the Sixers working for them my senior year, doing draft preparation and scouting, everything that comes with that front office and building a championship team. I’m all for whatever opportunity comes first but I’m preparing myself to be great, no matter what it is.
One more story…
RM: February 4 last year, we all know what that date is, right? Super Bowl Sunday. So here’s my Eagles story, my Super Bowl story. We are scheduled to play Tulane last year on Super Bowl Sunday, in New Orleans. So it’s the beginning of the season, schedule comes out and we all joke about it, we’re all Eagles fans here, so we’re like ‘man, it sucks that we’re playing on Super Bowl Sunday, but what if the Eagles get there, that would be crazy.’ So fast-forward the story, it’s getting to December now, late in the playoffs for the Eagles. We chartered there so I had the timing down, but it was still up to be changed if we wanted it to. As the playoffs get there, I’m like coach, we’ve got a good shot at making this thing. If we make it, there’s no way we can be in the air during the Super Bowl, I’ve got to schedule somewhere to watch it. He laughs or whatever, like yeah Rah, let’s worry about us, we’ll figure it out.
Now comes two weeks, in January, Wentz goes down but Nick Foles is getting it done for us, wins the NFC Championship game and now we’re in the Super Bowl. So I go to coach and I’m like I’ve got one more opportunity to change this flight around, we can make this later, we can make it whenever. And he’s like, ‘eh,’ at that point he’s just worried about sfaety and getting home. Alright, boom. We play down there, obviously we want to win the game, but a little bit of the Eagles fan in me is upset that we’re going to be flying during the Super Bowl. We win the game down at Tulane and our charter company gets in contact with me and says you guys cna leave earlier than you wanted. So now I’m like, alright Coach we can maybe land in Philly in enough time to see the second half of the game.
We’re on the plane, everybody’s loaded, pilot comes to me and says, it looks like we can’t fly into Philly, we’re going to be delayed by a couple hours because people were taking their private jets in and out of Philly to the Super Bowl, so they shut down the air traffic a little bit. So we’re like ‘damn, we’re not going to be able to get home and see the game.’ So we said screw it, let’s fly into Delaware, take the hour bus ride and drive up to Philly. So we’re in the air the whole first half of the game, we’re trying to FaceTime with WiFi, checking ESPN, seeing play-by-play, and everybody’s on edge because we’re hoping the Eagles win the game.
We land, we get to Delaware, bus isn’t around yet, so now we’ve got more delayed time. Bus gets there, and we watch on our phones, drop our coaches off to get their cars; we get to campus, literally arrive on Temple’s campus for the last two minutes of the game. The bus driver is on Broad Street, turning into the Liacouras Center, and I said ‘bro, if you don’t get the bus out of here in the next two minutes, you’re not going to be able to move.’ Sure enough, he gets up the ramp, he’s turning to go North to miss some of that traffic of those kids, and all you hear is the whole city seemed like it was running out into the street. We win the Super Bowl, able to catch the last couple minutes on our phones back at the Liacouras Center, I’m walking out in that celebration...I’m walking home through that whole madness. I was able to not see the whole game, but I was able to be part of it, a Philadelphia Eagles fan taking it in with everybody that’s out on Broad Street. That was a heck of an experience...I’m hoping our conference doesn’t schedule us a game for Super Bowl Sunday this year.