By: Damon Markiewicz
Springfield College is the Birthplace of Basketball, so it’s only fitting that the College has a strong partnership with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s a connection that dates all the way back to 1968, and the opening of the original Hall of Fame on the Springfield College campus. During the past five-plus decades, the Hall of Fame has evolved into one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and the shrine remains a short distance from Alden Street.
Over the years, the College and the Hall of Fame have teamed up to provide Springfield College students with an opportunity to gain educational learning experiences you can only get at the College. Students have taken advantage of these moments and turned them into life-changing professional careers. These examples were once again on display at the 2024 Spalding Hoophall Classic at Blake Arena. This annual five-day event during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend showcases the top high school basketball players and teams in the country. It has become a celebration of basketball that has benefited many of the College’s student-leaders.
“What has transpired from a Springfield College and Hall of Fame relationship is, events like the Spalding Hoophall Classic have become a laboratory for students,” explained Greg Procino ’05, G’07, vice president of external events and partnerships for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “Each year, we get more interest from different academic departments on campus, and it highlights the fact that this is more than just basketball. When you factor in the Sport Management students’ experience with event planning and management, the Communications/Sport Journalism students covering the event, the Athletic Counseling students getting involved this year, the partnership just continues to grow stronger.”
It's the instant connections that Springfield College students can make with Hall of Fame staff at events like Hoophall that separates the College from other institutions.
“I think what we’ve been able to see is that it’s not a classroom exercise, it’s real-life work experience,” explained Procino. “Events like Hoophall, everyone is right in the weeds of something that is a real-life experience. I think that’s what makes this partnership valuable, and in turn, that has led to the Hall of Fame finding expanded opportunities for students after the event.”
Procino speaks from experience, after all, it was the opportunities presented to him as part of Hoophall when he was a student that have led him to a successful career with the Hall of Fame. Starting his first year as a Sport Management major in 2001, Procino started volunteering at the Hoophall Classic, which led to expanded roles and increased networking opportunities as the years went on.
“My first internship was working with the Hall of Fame at the Hoophall event, and it was an opportunity Springfield College presented to me. I went from volunteer, to intern, to part-time staff, to full-time staff, and here we are today,” explained Procino.
As the Hoophall Classic has become a staple event on the campus for the last 22 years, the chances for current students to gain real-world experiences has only increased. For more than 15 years, Sport Management students have played an important part in the event planning and execution of the Hoophall Classic. Students are presented with opportunities to grow their leadership skills in an environment that is supported by individuals who have been in their shoes.
For alumnus Jeremy Therrien ’21, it was the opportunity to work so closely with Hall of Fame staff during his time as a student-leader for the 2020 Hoophall Classic that led to his current job with the Hall of Fame. Therrien is now the supervisor of marketing partnerships for the Hall of Fame after starting as sponsorship fulfillment coordinator for a year.
“This was my sixth Hoophall, and it all started with me being a volunteer my first year on campus,” explained Therrien. “I was fortunate my sophomore year to go right into a supervisor role, which taught me that there is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes, more-so than just the games you see on the court. My experiences as a sophomore led to me being ready for a head supervisor position my junior year.”
It was during the 2020 Hoophall Classic that Therrien utilized his responsibilities as head supervisor, to be a part of some extensive planning as one of the most iconic NBA players of all-time, LeBron James, was going to visit campus to watch his son Bronny play.
“I worked closely with Springfield College Director of Conferences and Special Events Kathy Smith and Assistant Director Jennifer Tempone McManus, G’12, that year. I was very fortunate to be a part of those big moments during the event because it helped me gain the trust of the Hall of Fame staff,” explained Therrien.
Similar to Therrien, McManus also utilized her time as a student to work her way into opportunities with the Hall of Fame following graduation.
“I was part of the Athletic Administration master’s program and working with Kathy (Smith) in special events on campus when I first met Greg (Procino) and the Hall of Fame staff,” explained McManus. “I was able to experience the Hoophall as a student, as a staff member, and now with the Hall of Fame, so it’s been a great opportunity.”
Her connections made over time led to McManus securing her current employment with the Hall of Fame as senior director of events and professional relations.
“I certainly don’t get to where I am at without working with Kathy (Smith) and having a chance to work with the Hall of Fame during my time as a student and staff member at Springfield College,” added McManus. “As part of my current job, we are welcoming more than 50 teams to Springfield College, planning their itineraries, and playing host to multiple national media outlets. I continue to be fortunate to work with a great team at the Hall of Fame and at Springfield College.”
Joining McManus’ team at this year’s Hoophall Classic was Brendan Tassy ’20, G’23, who has settled into his current job of manager of event operations for the Hall of Fame. Tassy worked as manager of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame museum starting in 2020, before working his way up to his current expanded role.
“As teams would come over for visits during Hoophall, I would work with staff to organize those visits,” explained Tassy. “It was great to join Jen’s (McManus) staff and assist the team with anything that needed to be done to make sure teams are enjoying their stay. I have been going to Hoophall since I was kid, so to be a part of it now is exciting. I have witnessed it from a fan’s perspective, and that can help now being a part of the team that leads it on campus.”
Joining Tassy on the Hall of Fame staff is another recent Springfield College graduate, Aymen Tayoubi-Idrissi ’23, who is in his first year as coordinator of events and partnerships. Tayoubi-Idrissi started at the Hall of Fame as an intern in the development office, before expanding his responsibilities after graduation.
“The first Hoophall I worked as a student, I was a team liaison,” described Tayoubi-Idrissi. “I interned with the Hall of Fame my senior year in their development office. As I was graduating, I was offered the full-time role. The lessons you learn in the Springfield College Sport Management proram about networking, I have used all of those skills. My experiences at Springfield taught me how to create the relationship, but also maintain that relationship.”
The power of the Springfield College alumni network has proven to be strong. When you combine the power of alumni connecting, while they take advantage of the career opportunities, you end up with a staff that is well represented by the triangle.
“That’s what has happened here is, we’ve been able to hire some recent SC grads because we’ve had opportunities infront of them, where they’ve been able to work with us and impress,” explained Procino. “They have taken the initiative and shown the work ethic. We are proud that the Hall of Fame and Springfield College have had such a positive impact on so many students, and we look forward to that continuing in the future.”