Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
It was the first day of school all over again for Frantz Massenat.
The nervous, excited energy. The heat bouncing off the pavement, hustle and bustle all around, the mixture of college students and business professionals, locals and tourists, the unofficial cavalcade of a weekday morning in West Philly. And a sparkling new Drexel ID, except this one no longer says “student.”
Thirteen years after the Trenton native first stepped foot onto the University City campus as a freshmen, he’s returning to the school and program he left his mark all over, this time as the Dragons’ newest assistant coach.
Frantz Massenat (above) established himself as one of the best point guards in Drexel history from 2010-14. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
“I was excited, I was happy, I had an office, which was crazy,” Massenat said by phone on Sunday, a week after he was introduced in his new role. “I think the feeling will be a little bit different, maybe better, when the kids get back this week. I get to go through it again.”
Massenat hadn’t planned on calling it a playing career before this offseason. The 6-foot-3 point guard had enjoyed a strong nine seasons overseas, playing in the top leagues in Germany, Spain and France, some of the best non-NBA hoops in the world. Though he never won a league title or had the opportunity to play in EuroLeague, the top international club competition, he had quite a few teams play in the secondary (but still high-level) EuroCup, his role always a significant one.
It was earlier in the 2023 offseason that Zach Spiker first brought up the idea of coaching to Massenat, a spot having opened on the Dragons’ staff when Justin Jennings left for the head coaching job at D-II Edinboro.
“At first I was like ‘I’ve got a couple more years to play, you know?’” Massenat recalled. “He was like, ‘I just want you to think about it, that’s all.’”
As the summer progressed, Massenat received some offers to play overseas, but they weren’t at the level or in the same type of role that he was used to. There’s always a fresh influx of young, high-level talent in the overseas market, and the 31-year-old was starting to hit the backside of his career. Facing the idea of going overseas for another nine-month stretch to take a contract he wasn’t thrilled about, Spiker’s idea suddenly didn’t seem like such a bad one.
If it had been another school, somewhere not so close to his Trenton home, not his alma mater, he likely would have headed abroad for at least one more season. But this was Drexel. Spiker approached Massenat again, and the answer had changed.
“I think if you were to ask me two years ago, I would say no,” Massenat said, “but he asked me at the right time, you know?”
In his four years at Drexel, Massenat established himself as one of the best players in the program’s history. He’s seventh all-time in scoring (1,646 points), fourth in assists and fifth in assists per game, tied for most games played, all alone at the top in games started, his name in the lineup for all 128 games of his collegiate career. He was the floor general during the Dragons’ second most successful run, after the three straight NCAA Tournaments from 1994-96; the 2011-12 team which won 29 games likely should have been included on Selection Sunday as well.
Massenat (above) played under Bruiser Flint for all four seasons. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Now he joins a program that’s in a position to get back atop the CAA, which it won during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season. Spiker’s group went 17-15 (10-8 CAA) a year ago, the program’s most regular-season league wins since that 2011-12 group, having brought the program back from its six-win nadir in 2015-16, the last season of Bruiser Flint’s 15-year tenure.
Massenat’s acceptance of his new role was the result of eight years of relationship-building by Spiker, who took over from Flint two years after Massenat had departed. The two grabbed lunch that first summer, got to know one another, kept in touch regularly since. Massenat credited Spiker for helping him stay connected to the program — phone calls with the team during the season, Zoom chats with players who needed a pep talk, stops by campus in the summer for more lunches, meetings, conversations.
“I’ve been talking to these guys since they’ve been there, I’ve been going up to school since they got there, me and Spiker’s relationship has been good since he’s got there,” Massenat said. “I think he’s done a really good job with rebuilding the program, and the kids and the image of [the program], he’s done a really good job of that, it helps that they’ve been winning games and he’s made it to the tournament as well.
“I think he’s done a great job of trying to bridge the gap between the old players and the new players, the old faces and the new faces. He has a lot on his plate besides just coaching the kids that are right in front of him. And I think he’s done a great job of it.”
Massenat said his biggest value at first will be X’s and O’s, mentioning that Spiker’s already been picking his brain on the hoops side of things. He has a pretty good idea of who’s on the team, having met most of the players when they come in for summer workouts, the Dragons often taking the court right after Massenat’s finished up his individual sessions.
He’s taken special notice of sophomore point guard Justin Moore, the Archbishop Wood product who’s in line to be a four-year starter like Massenat was, in line to take a major step up into his second collegiate season the exact way his new coach did a decade or so back.
Justin Moore (above) is heading into his second year as Drexel's starting point guard. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“I see it in his work ethic,” Massenat said. “Going into my sophomore year I made a change mentally that I just always wanted to be in the gym. I’ve been in there, I don’t think there’s been a time when he hasn’t been up there when I’ve been up there. Even this week at campus he’s been in the gym all week long. To me that’s already a sign that he’s taken steps that I’d taken when I was going into my big sophomore year.”
There’s still a lot for Massenat to adjust to, of course. The recruiting world will be a new one to him, though his affable personality and big smile should make that task a good bit easier. He said he’s had countless conversations with Flint, with Temple assistant (and former Drexel assistant) Bobby Jordan, with former Drexel standout Phil Goss and more. Since taking the job, he’s been talking a lot with assistant Will Chavis, the Philly native and former Texas Tech guard who also enjoyed a long career overseas.
The message has been the same — be yourself, be a sponge, continue to work.
“It’s a lot to learn, I’ve been learning since last week,” Massenat said. “And (Spiker’s) been really patient, which has been really good. I don’t know if I’d go to other schools and they’d be as patient [...] here they want me to be good, who they think I can be.”
Two extra thoughts — there were two major changes to Drexel since Massenat played, and he shared his thoughts on both, but I didn’t have anywhere to put them in the story.
On the Daskalakis Athletic Center’s upgrades, including a brand-new video board, new seats, arena decorations, and more: “Oh my gosh. The first thing is, there’s air conditioning in the gym, which is amazing, which is amazing. The way it looks is crazy, the screens are crazy, the music while working out, a lot of things have changed that I like. I wish they had it when I was there, but the stadium looks great. Now it’s time to pack it out like when I was there.”
On Drexel joining the Big 5: “To me, it’s cool, I wish we were always in it, we would have had a great time playing in it when I was in school as well. I think it’s really good for Drexel to play in it, we’ve always kind of been counted out of that, so to step in with an experienced team, I think it’s the right time. It’s exciting.”