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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

MARCH MADNE$$: On a hectic day in Hanover, men’s basketball secures victories on and off the court

Dartmouth defeats Harvard 76-69 in their final contest of the season behind Dusan Neskovic’s 21 points.

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It was an atypical evening in Leede Arena. As the visiting Harvard University Crimson traveled to Hanover, the press table was unusually stuffed with reporters from across the country. More pictures were taken, more questions were asked. 

In the background of the Dartmouth men’s basketball team’s historic vote to join their local labor union on Tuesday, there was a basketball game to be played.  

The Big Green began quickly, matching Harvard shot for shot as Jackson Munro ’26 recorded double figures before the break, where the Crimson led 41-38. 

Early in the second half, it appeared that there would be no happy ending for Dartmouth on this historic day, as Harvard opened up a 56-46 lead with 15 minutes to play. Big Green head coach David McLaughlin called a timeout to refocus his group.  

“We told them it was going to come down to finishing plays,” McLaughlin said. “We had to keep attacking. The ball has to go in the paint.”

Out of the timeout, the Big Green went on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to one. Dartmouth took a lead they would never relinquish with a hook from Brandon Mitchell-Day ’26 with 6:12 remaining. 

“Coming into today, we knew it was going to come down to who wanted it more,” Mitchell-Day said. “We wanted to close this one out for our seniors.”

The dagger came late pushing the lead to seven, with a 1:11 corner three from Romeo Myrthil ’25 putting away Dartmouth’s second conference victory of the season, with the final score reading 76-69.

Dusan Neskovic ’24, the team’s leading scorer this season, tallied 21 points in his final contest in Leede Arena. 

“We had a mindset of winning this game together,” Neskovic said. “[I’m] just extremely proud of my guys.”

After the buzzer sounded, there was the realization that this would be the last contest for the Class of 2024. Minutes later, the largest media crowd of the season squeezed into the media lounge to talk about the item on everyone’s minds, the vote to unionize. 

Players spoke consistently about how Tuesday’s vote represented the togetherness of the team. Munro spoke on how important this vote was to almost everyone on the team. 13 out of the 15 players on the roster voted to join the union. 

“It was symbolic of something that almost our whole team wanted,” Munro said. “I think what we’re doing is historic. It’s definitely a cause I really support. However, basketball will always be the number one priority.”

McLaughlin said his focus was on the game.

“It’s their views. My focus was to concentrate on tonight,” McLaughlin said. “They have to finish strong academically, that’s what my focus has been.”

Robert McRae III ’24 reinforced the team’s focus on basketball. 

“Tonight’s win showed that the guys care for each other,” McRae said. “[The unionization effort] hasn’t necessarily been a distraction, but it’s been a distracting factor.”

Jaren Johnson ’24, Munro and McRae spoke on the difficulty of balancing an Ivy League course load with hours of practice every day and trying to piece together part-time jobs. 

“We work our butts off on the court and in the classroom,” Johnson said. “I don’t think people really understand the gravity of that. I’ve had two, three internships every summer, and I don’t have any extra money like a bunch of the [collegiate athletes] around the country.”

“I think the NCAA has a stranglehold on all the players,” Munro said. “Their system is pretty outdated. I think it’s time for some change.”

“I think it’s unfair to ask a student athlete to have to work a job on the side on top of everything else,” McRae said. 

In the hours leading up to the game, the team received criticism for their record this season and were accused of wanting to “practice less” despite their last-place finish in the Ivy League, according to a reporter onsite. 

“If anyone believes that there is a single Division I athlete who wants to practice less, I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but they’re a fool,” McRae said in response.

“We video every practice,” McLaughlin added. “If anyone wants to watch a video, they can see how hard they work.” 

Cade Haskins ’25, the team’s representative throughout the unionization process, did not dress for the game because he was sidelined with an injury but commented on the importance of today’s vote. 

“We all saw the effects [of unionization] for the dining workers, and then you start asking, ‘Why aren’t we employees?’” Haskins said. “I guess you could say we went 2–0 on the day.”

In the spring of 2022, Dartmouth Dining employees voted unanimously to join the SEIU, the same labor union that the basketball team is attempting to join. After this union was announced, wages for workers within the union increased by 50%. 

In the aftermath of one of the most hectic days in the history of Dartmouth men’s basketball, questions remain about the direction of the program and McLaughlin’s future with the team. 

McLaughlin has gone seven seasons at Dartmouth without a winning record in the Ivy League. Dartmouth finished the season with a 2–12 record in Ivy League play and a 6–21 record overall. 

When asked two weeks ago about whether or not McLaughlin was concerned about returning for a ninth season, he spoke on the expectations of the program. 

“People at the Division I level want to win,” McLaughlin said. “It’s always going to be on your mind at some point.”