Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
UNIVERSITY CITY — B.J. Dunne is a D-III guy.
Gettysburg’s men’s basketball coach played his college ball at Bates College. Then he was an assistant at Babson and Emerson. His first head coaching gig was at Vassar College, and he’s been at the helm of the Bullets’ program since 2018.
It's not always a path that leads to coaching a group of professionals ... let alone with a big chunk of change on the line.
But four years ago, Dunne had the chance to coach for Armored Athlete in The Basketball Tournament — the $1 million dollar summer single-elimination hoops tournament that just completed its 10th year with a championship in Philadelphia on Thursday.
In between running his Gettysburg program, Dunne has continued to coach the group of pros (now under the name Friday Beers) as an assistant for the last three summers.
“At the end of the day, we all speak the same language,” Dunne said. “I think there's like a stigma at different levels you may not know as much or you may not be as talented a player if you're at Division III, but it's the same game, same roles, same concepts and I think for me, it's just been great as a Division III guy to be able to work with pros and that type of experience.”
"I think it shows no matter where you are and if you get the right opportunity, you can make something happen with it.”
Gettysburg men's basketball coach B.J. Dunne coaches Friday Beers during The Basketball Tournament semifinals on Wednesday at the Daskalakis Athletic Center. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
One of Dunne’s friends in coaching, Mount St. Mary’s men’s basketball coach Dan Englestad, is close with Friday Beers GM AJ Mahar and previously coached the team. When the team’s current head coach Adam Ross wasn’t available due to conflict four years ago, Dunne was tabbed to guide the squad. He stayed with the group as an assistant in 2021, 2022 and now 2023.
The event is played on ESPN and features a ton of talented professionals and former Division I stars. Each member of the team gets part of the $1 million prize, including the coaches.
This year’s Friday Beers team made its deepest run, reaching the semifinals at Drexel’s Daskalakis Athletic Center on Wednesday before falling to Bleed Green 68-65 on a miracle shot.
Dunne ran practices, organized game plans, put together scouting reports and made pre-game adjustments for the group.
“Our staff has a lot of synergy,” Dunne said. “(Ross) has been a successful high school coach. He's got two really successful head coaches on his bench in myself and (East Carolina associate head coach) Raphael Chilleous and he's really allowing us to just coach this thing, and that's been a lot of fun for me.
“Every practice has been my voice and I'm able to organize that and run it. All the installs I've been able to come up with, game plans and how I think we should play on both sides of the ball and how I think we should guard stuff. While it might be a little different that I'm sitting and not maybe coaching the game flow, I've had my hand in everything that I've been doing at Gettysburg as a head coach. Still the same anxiety too. That doesn't change.”
Friday Beers was a fan favorite in the second semifinal on Wednesday, helped by Dunne’s supporting section. He had a number of people come up to him before the game, including a contingent of former and current Gettysburg players who could be heard throughout the game.
“That’s the reason why we’re here is to see him,” Phoenixville and Gettysburg alum Avery Close said. “It’s sick. This is a big stage filled with international professionals, D1 guys. To see a D-III guy here is awesome.”
Dunne said he enjoys the collaborative process of getting the chance to coach the professionals. Players like Gabe York and Dee Bost have played a lot of high-level basketball and take in information a lot more quickly than players at the college level.
“I think it’s made me a better coach because it’s helped me become a more effective communicator with bullet-sized information, bite-sized information to give these guys throughout the game or shoot-arounds or scouts,” Dunne said.
The relationships have continued on past TBT for Dunne. There are check-ins on birthdays and Father’s Days. He follows his players' careers and they keep an eye on the Gettysburg program as well.
“I think that's been the coolest thing about this is building those relationships through the game just like you did with your team at Gettysburg, to be able to have guys that are successful and overseas and you care about has been a lot of fun,” Dunne said.