Muhamadou Kaba is the new head coach at Delaware Valley University. (Photo courtesy East Stroudsburg Athletics)
Kevin Callahan (@CP_KCallahan)
As if coaching basketball isn’t challenging enough, Muhamadou Kaba dares to be more than a coach.
Kaba, who was named the head coach of Delaware Valley University on Monday, strives to use the round ball to unify.
“I enjoy just helping people," Kaba said a few hours after becoming a head coach for the first time. “I think that’s part of my upbringing, and my family, and my parents, and just watching them do things. So, that’s always been a passion of mine.
“And being able to coach basketball and still make an impact, I just enjoy doing that. It’s two things that I enjoy doing and being able to do it in one.”
These aren’t just words from Kaba. While an assistant the last four years at his alma mater East Stroudsburg University, Kaba served on the diversity and inclusion committee and was recently the university's inaugural guest speaker in its "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in College Athletics: A Call to Action" series.
“I did feel honored, they could’ve went so many different places with that,” he said about being the speaker. “To be chosen was an honor and just meant that they thought highly of me. I just wanted to tell my story and I do believe that athletes and sports can be a vehicle to bringing people together and that was the message I was really trying to get across based on my experience.”
Kaba seamlessly sparks conversations on the need for inclusion because, again, his words aren’t just words. He is the son of immigrants from Gambia, which is Africa's smallest country on the mainland.
“Yeah, a small country, and they fought their way through to give themselves and their kids and opportunity and I’m grateful for that,” said Kaba, a college basketball head coach at 28 years old.
Kaba replaces Mark Seidenburg, who resigned after the 2020-21 season to take the head job at Wilson College.
DelVal’s Director of Athletics Dave Duda, a former head coach at Widener and DelVal as well as an assistant under Phil Martelli at Saint Joseph’s, said he “was humbled by the interest in this position.”
“The committee compiled a set of characteristics for the leadership of the men's basketball program and Coach Kaba checked every box," said Duda, who knows Kaba up close since his son David is a guard at East Stroudsburg after starring at Methacton. "He will be a major presence on the local recruiting scene, within our department, and among our campus community. I look forward to helping him pursue all his lofty goals for the program."
On the court, Kaba quickly aims to return the Aggies to the Middle Atlantic Conference Freedom Division playoffs. After last season’s condensed schedule, DelVal (5-5 overall, and 3-3 in league play) defeated Widener in the MAC Freedom – Commonwealth Crossover Challenge to end the season.
“It’s more about what winning looks like," Kaba said about the experience he brings from East Stroudsburg, where he was part of the Warriors’ staff that earned two NCAA Division II tournament appearances, including the program's first Atlantic Region title.
“There’s a process to it, there’s a work out that you have to bring every day there’s a mentality and so being able to play under that and also to see the work behind the scenes,” he continued. “I’ll be able to put that all together and that’s the perspective I’m looking to bring because I’m not too far from my playing career, so I know what it looks like to be a student athlete and I’ll be able to coach and guide those players.
“I think I’ll be able to bring that perspective on winning and what it will take to do that on a consistent level.”
Kaba (above, right) coached under Wilson, whom he played for at East Stroudsburg, for the last four seasons. (Photo courtesy East Stroudsburg Athletics)
After the 2017-18 season, he was named Under Armour National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) "30-Under-30," a national list that hails rising young coaches in men's college basketball. Kaba was one of six Division II coaches to be recognized.
“I think that’s a strength of mine, I don’t approach it like I’m trying to be an older coach, so I know I can relate to them and try to be honest with them about where I’m coming from,” he said, “and they seem to respect that a lot and I think that has help me in recruiting and coaching guys who are closer to my age.”
Kaba, who played at East Orange High School in New Jersey, was an eighth-grade math teacher at the East Orange STEM Academy during the 2015-16 year.
“I’ve always wanted to be a coach," said Kaba, who also was ESU’s recruiting coordinator, academic liaison to the academic coordinator, and travel coordinator after first joining the ESU coaching staff as a graduate assistant in 2016-17. “Going into college, my thinking was I can teach and coach and being a college coach wasn’t something I thought of, I didn’t know college coaching was truly a full-time profession.
“The opportunity came and that I could still teach and make an impact around basketball, and do it full time, so why not jump into college coaching and give that a shot.
“I’ve been fortunate there’s no other word to describe it.”
Kaba, a 2015 graduate of East Stroudsburg, was a guard who played in 113 games for the Warriors. He played on three straight DII tournament teams (2012-14) and four PSAC Final Four teams for coach Jeff Wilson, who called Kaba “a Warrior for life.”
“I’m extremely happy for the opportunity that Coach Kaba has to lead his program at Delaware Valley University,” Wilson said. “Over the past five years, he has done an outstanding job in all aspects of the program and leaves our program in a better place.
“I look forward to following and being involved in his coaching career. I know that he will do a tremendous job in his new role as head coach.”
Delaware Valley, a private university in Doylestown, has been a launching pad to higher-level jobs in recent years, as before Seidenberg left for Wilson, Casey Stitzel went to Millersville.
Kaba might be on a fast track to keep rising on the college coaching level, but he is focusing on his current players, immediately trying to unify the team.
“I’ve tried to call each and every one of them individually, just to confirm that,” he said about the returning players, “I’m working with the university to keep track of who is coming back.”
And those players thinking of leaving, they should give Kaba a listen, as he certainly will listen to them.
“I learned so much from our players, as Marc Rodriguez [a graduate of Father Judge] from East Stroudsburg was saying, ‘sometimes you can’t pay people back, but you can always pay it forward.’
“And that’s what I’m doing with coaching, just giving people those opportunities."