Australian Boomers team manager Junior Viranatuleo has departed Australia for the USA as he is set to begin his new role as Equipment Manager for the Utah Jazz.
After spending eight years as the Boomers’ National Team Manager and coming off an Olympic Bronze medal victory, Junior is excited to reconnect with Boomer Joe Ingles at the Jazz and begin to implement some of that now infamous Boomers’ culture into the NBA system.
“We want to filter what we do as Australians through to the NBA” Junior said.
Four hours north of Cairns is where Junior calls home however he’ll be replacing the Great Barrier Reef with the mountains of Colorado for the next chapter of his life. A dream of working with the NBA, now a reality.
“After seeing it all for the first time when travelling with the NBL teams, I thought it was amazing, but it would never be an option for me. It was always a dream, but it was an unexpected one.”
Although working in the NBL with the Adelaide 36ers and with the National team, Junior states that it was his two-week work experience alongside Patty Mills at the San Antonio Spurs that gave him a true insight into the nature of the NBA scene.
Swapping the responsibilities of managing team flights, hotel arrangements, day-to-day schedules and setting the locker room atmosphere, Junior’s new role will see him take care of the new Utah facility, training and game day movements in and around the stadium all while ensuring playing gear and equipment is in top shape and preparing for back-to-back games on the road.
“We set the scenery for the guys to come and work.”
“You never know what your day will look like, but you got to get out there and give it your best.”
As a team manager, Junior always comes well prepared, with his kit bag well stocked. Unusual player requests and rituals are common, but one from the new Boomer on the block, Matisse Thybulle lives in the front of his mind.
“He’s got crazy hops and he’s super quick but I would superglue his shoes after practice and games, air them out and have them fresh to go. That was the part of Matisse that we had, he trained and played in the same shoes, so for six weeks I was doing that.”
Using clamps- meant for use on a construction site- on shoes had Matisse in awe, claiming that he’d never seen that in the NBA.
“When I got to the Boomers, I’d ask some of the guys who I go to if I needed anything and the answer was always Junior. He’s always the person we’d go to if we needed to get in touch with somebody, get something done, need help. At first, I thought he was a team manager of sorts but then I realised that he’s this all-encompassing resource for all of us,” Matisse said.
Initially believing that his job offer from the Jazz was a prank, Junior is now well on his way to becoming another Australian name in the NBA and looks forward to reuniting with a few familiar faces not too far away.
“Jock’s in San Antonio, I’m going to Utah with Joey, Patty’s out in Brooklyn, we’ve got Matisse in Philly, Dante in Houston, Josh in Dallas, there’s a great number of boys there continuing what we have.”
Practically a part of the furniture in the national team, Junior can guarantee that he’s not going anywhere.
“The first part for me, whenever we have a national commitment for a major event, I’m there.”