SoCon basketball players return as coaches

SoCon basketball players return as coaches

February 20th, 2013 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

UTC assistant coach Casey Long looks up at the crowd during a game at McKenzie Arena.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

Ex SoCon Stars On The Sidelines

Davidson: Matt McKillop, 2006 Assistant Coach

Elon: Monty Sanders, 2009 Dir. Basketball Operations

Furman: Darryl Evans, 2011 Dir. Basketball Operations

UNCG: Kevin Oleksiak, 2008 Dir. Basketball Operations

WCU: Anquell McCollom, 1996 Assistant Coach

Eric Wilson, 2008 Assistant Coach

Brigham Waginger, 2010 Assistant Coach

Wofford: Cameron Rundles, 2011 Assistant Coach

UTC: Casey Long, 2007 Assistant Coach

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball coach John Shulman developed scouting reports for the likes of Kevin Oleksiak, Cameron Rundles, Darryl Evans and Brigham Waginger.

Those former Southern Conference basketball players have traded in their school uniforms for game-day suits from Macy's, Joseph A. Bank and the Men's Warehouse.

Seven SoCon schools have at least one former player now on the coaching staff. Most of them played under their current bosses.

Some went right into the business of basketball -- as an assistant coach or director of basketball operations -- such as Evans at Furman. Some played professional basketball overseas, like Rundles of Wofford. UTC's Casey Long spent years after his graduation in the business world before returning to basketball.

"When you go to coach at the place you played, you know what the expectations are -- you know what the head coach wants -- and that makes it an easy transition," said Long, who is in his first year as a college assistant. "When you coach at your alma mater, you know what's expected on and off the court and you can teach the kids exactly that."

There are some common bonds for the young coaches who played at their respective schools. The first is that each loves his school. The second is that they love the game.

"They were smart players, but if you're an intelligent basketball player, it would be a lot smarter to not go into coaching," Shulman said. "All those guys are very bright guys and could make a lot of money and have a lot less stress in their lives."

But coaching is a calling.

"Either you've got the coaching bug or you don't," Shulman said. "This is not glamorous getting out of a bus at 3 a.m. or to be in a dark gym or to get annihilated by the fans sitting behind you. It's not a glamorous profession. Either you love it or you don't.

"I assume all those guys have the bug and love it."

Waginger is one of three former Western Carolina players who are helping Larry Hunter. Anquell McCollom did not play for Hunter, but Waginger and Eric Wilson did learn Hunter's system and operation as players. McCollom has a grasp of the university system after returning to Cullowhee, N.C., to work in the admissions office.

"Once I got done playing, the closest thing I could do was coaching," said Waginger, who interned as a teacher in Jackson County (N.C.) during his final college year. "I wanted to be a teacher, so why not be a teacher and a coach?"

Except for UNC Greensboro coach Wes Miller, all of the head coaches who have former players on their staffs are 40 or older, which creates a generational gap between the head coach and players.

The young coaches can play a role of a filter, a translator, a go-between, to help the head coach's message penetrate the "Beats by Dre" headphones most players wear. The young coaches also understand the daily demands of being a student-athlete in the current social era.

"I'm a 24-year-old coach that can relate like Waginger and all the guys," Rundles said. "I played for Coach [Mike] Young. I was a student here at Wofford. I had to feel out college for myself.

"To have a guy that's young and played and knows what's going on would have really helped me."

Now he's helping other Wofford players.