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Delaware lifer Stan Waterman has big plans at DSU

09/09/2021, 12:00pm EDT
By Jerome Taylor

Jerome Taylor (@ThatGuy_Rome)

After spending 30 years as the head coach of Delaware’s Sanford School, Stan Waterman is embarking on a new challenge in the First State: leading Delaware State University’s men’s basketball team. 

For as long as Waterman can remember, he has been around basketball. Specifically, basketball in Delaware. 

Stan Waterman was named Delaware State's 17th men's basketball head coach earlier this summer. (Photo courtesy DSU Athletics)

Before Waterman became the head coach at DSU, was an assistant coach for USA basketball, or led the Sanford School to 10 state championships — even before he was a point guard at the University of Delaware — Waterman was a kid growing up in Delaware doing his best Nate Archibald impressions on the east side of Wilmington. 

“I think [Nate] ‘Tiny’ Archibald was always a favorite, number one because of the nickname, and I was a smaller guy playing, so I always idolized the smaller guys,” Waterman said. “I patterned my game after those guys... And I think that was a natural extension into seeing the game almost like a quarterback on the football team. And I think that's where the coaching stuff comes in.”

Waterman grew up watching the great Celtics teams that “Tiny” Archibald was a part of with his father and then would go to local courts to play with his two older brothers. Between watching Archibald and playing with older players, Waterman learned to play as one of the shortest players on the court at a young age. Waterman would play at neighborhood parks like Kirkwood Street Park and even venture out to west Wilmington to play at Haynes Park.  

And as race-integration bussing laws (school bussing laws that transported kids across school district lines that intended to create a more integrated learning experience) started coming to Delaware, Waterman began playing all over the state.  

“I was in middle school, and so kids from the city were bused out to the suburbs…back then, it was either if you lived on the east side, it was Howard High School. If you lived on the west side, it was Wilmington High School,” Waterman said. “Desegregation sort of spread the talent from the city, and guys ended up going to a lot of different high schools and, in my mind, kind of changed the landscape for high school basketball.”

For Waterman, once he got to Howard Career Center High School, he was doubted at first because of his height, standing well short of six feet tall. His head coach even suggested he find somewhere else. 

But to Waterman, his 5-foot-8 frame gave him an advantage; he only had to learn how to be a point guard. Waterman was successful at Howard and earned a scholarship to the University of Delaware, and he was still one of the shortest players on the court. But after spending time in the film room with coach Steve Steinwedel towards the end of his collegiate career, the coaching bug bit him. 

“As a point guard… you're sort of the coach on the floor, usually calling out the plays and the sets. And so you are responsible for not only getting yourself shots but getting other people open. You've got to know every position on the floor.” Waterman said. “If you're going to be calling out plays and calling out sets, you've got to understand what kind of defense you're attacking.

“When I got to the University of Delaware and came off the bench, I was really looking at the game from a different perspective, seeing it from a coach's angle, and then you start to understand relationships and how to motivate and you start to think like a coach. And that's kind of where the whole coaching philosophy probably started for me.”

As Waterman’s playing days were winding down and he wasn't getting a great deal of playing time, but he wanted to stay around the game, so he became a coach. He took things from all of the mentors he had on the court over his basketball life: Steinwedel, Ron Rainey, who recruited him to UD; Joseph Hussey, the former Howard head coach; and even Ed Johnson, who ran his local YMCA as a middle schooler. 

“Every high school player dreams of playing at the collegiate level, and every collegiate player is thinking about a chance at playing professionally,” he said. “But you get to your senior year, and you're not seeing the floor a whole lot, but you want to stay involved in the game.

“Coaching became a way that I knew that I could stay involved in the game… It was almost a natural progression for me,” Waterman continued. “I just tried to borrow what really worked well and tried to stay away from the things that did not appear to be all that effective.”

After graduating, Waterman got a job as an assistant coach at the Sanford School, took on the head coaching duties in 1990, and held the position for the next 30 years. Waterman won his first state championship as a first-year head coach and his tenth and final championship in his last season at Sanford, bringing his high school coaching career full-circle.

During Waterman’s time at Sanford, he made such an impression on so many players that recently, his former players started bringing their sons to Waterman so that he could coach them as well. Waterman became a staple at Sanford, and so did his family; his daughter attended the Hockessin school since she was three years old. 

Stan Waterman left such a legacy at the Sanford School, they named the court after him. (Photo courtesy Sanford School)

Waterman was content at Sanford, so when it came to making a change, one appealing thing about heading to DSU was staying in state. Waterman believes the proximity to his home was one of the things that appealed most to him. 

“I’m a big family guy and staying close to home; I think that was one of the reasons this opportunity was appealing to me… to be a Division one head coach and not have to uproot my family,” Waterman said. “I think the opportunity to be here in the state of Delaware, where you're in a region where I think I can get to Philly, New York, Baltimore, Virginia,  D.C., and New Jersey all within a couple of hours and still be back home and maybe sleep in my own bed on the weekends. That kind of thing made it appealing to me.”

Waterman was officially named the head coach on June 4 after an interview process that was primarily virtual and included 90+ prospects. After accepting the job, he added Shahid Perkins to his staff, following Waterman from Sanford, as well as another Delawarean in Wilmington U's Vernon DuPree. Waterman also added former La Salle assistant Horace “Pappy” Owens, who has been a longtime fixture in the Philadelphia basketball scene both collegiately and at the high school level, as an assistant coach.

As Waterman steps up to become the Hornets’ 17th head coach, he understands there is a great responsibility in being a coach at an HBCU, especially as more high-profile people around the nation have become more aware and proactive in their promotion of HBCUs and their role in society and sports.

Waterman wants his team to reflect the current mission of DSU set forth by the university president, Dr. Tony Allen, to be the most diverse HBCU in the country.

And to attract prospects to DSU, Waterman must work to create a winning aura. Which hasn’t been easy at Delaware State University.

The Hornets are coming off a year where they went 3-16 and have gone 28-116 over the last five years. But, Waterman thinks that after he establishes himself and the team shows themselves in the community, there’s a chance to turn it around. 

“We haven't been successful in terms of wins and losses, so folks have become a bit disinterested,” Waterman said. “And if we have some success and get involved in the community and… change the culture and have people be proud to represent the University of Delaware State. Then that will translate into success in terms of wins and losses and certainly a higher profile for the university.” 

Going into this season, Waterman will inherit most of last year’s team. But eventually, this team will be full of Waterman’s hand-picked players as he establishes himself as a recruiter. Like most coaches, Waterman will be looking for “high character” players. But he has made it a priority to make sure the Hornets roster has more players from Delaware on it. Currently, there are just three players from the First State on the roster, and Waterman wants to change that.

“There aren't many kids that people can identify and say that's a Delaware kid,” Waterman said. “For whatever reason, [DSU] hasn't been able to attract or get the best players from the state to stay home. I'm hoping to be able to do that, to be able to attract the best players from the state of Delaware to stay home and represent our state university.

“I'd love to see Delaware State University... be a true state university and have the entire state get behind us and support us, (that’s) something that I'm looking for and trying to create.”

Waterman was selected to serve as an assistant coach for USA Basketball at the 2019 USA Nike Hoop Summit. (Photo courtesy USA Basketball)

In the immediate future, Waterman wants to update the scheduling process for his team. As many small or mid-major schools sign up to play national powerhouses, Waterman wants to make sure his school is competitive early in the season to build confidence as the new era of DSU begins. 

“A lot of times you have big games where you're going out to these places, and you play in some of the high-powered teams across the country, and you know, you're going to take a beating, but you're getting the check. And I'm not interested in doing that right now,” Waterman said. “We want to be challenged but not overwhelmed. And again, place the kids in a position where they can have some success, that they'll feel good about what they're doing and other people will want to be a part of what we're doing.”

Waterman has accomplished plenty in his basketball life, state championships, gold medals, and becoming a state hall of fame member. At Delaware State University, he has the chance to help put Delaware basketball on the map at the national level.

There’s no one more equipped for the job.

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