Andrew McGlynn (above) is going into his second year with La Salle, in his second stint at the school. (Photo courtesy La Salle Athletics)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
(Ed. Note: While head coaches get the headlines and assistant coaches do the bulk of the recruiting work, there’s more to a Division I basketball coaching staff. The Director of Basketball Operations, also known as the “DOBO,” is the main man behind the scenes, with tasks ranging from scheduling practices to coordinating travel and class schedules… and more. We spoke with all six of the city’s DOBOs to find out more about these key pieces to the local hoops programs, and get some inside dirt on the City 6. What you see below is a transcript of our conversations, edited for readability.)
Andrew McGlynn has experienced quite a bit in his first decade in college basketball, from the lows of struggling through a nearly-winless season through teams that have qualified for various postseason tournaments, working for several head coaches all before turning 30. Now in his second stint at La Salle, where he served as video coordinator during the 2014-15 season before spending two years at NJIT, McGlynn is helping new Explorers head coach Ashley Howard make the transition from Villanova assistant to the La Salle boss. Here is his story...
CoBL: You’re headed into your second year as DOBO at La Salle, but with a new head coach in Ashley Howard, new coaches. What’s this offseason been like for you?
AM: It’s been a change, but kind of a healthy change. I don’t want it to sound bad [how it was before], but it’s a breath of fresh air. Just because everything’s so new and different, if that makes sense.
CoBL: Sure. What’s the most obvious difference from the get-go?
AM: Just the excitement, the enthusiasm behind everything we do. We’re trying to change the culture, per se.
CoBL: You were at the press conference when Ashley Howard was introduced as head coach, in April. As that transition was going on, did you have a sense that you were going to be kept on staff? What was that period like for you?
AM: It was very uncertain. Because I knew Ashley, but he didn’t really know me. I coached his brother [Ky Howard] at NJIT, so I knew him through that, but we never had a personal relationship. So his big thing was he didn’t know me well enough to just be like, ‘I’m keeping you.’ So I figured he would be bringing someone from Villanova, bringing someone from the Villanova family over, so initially I didn’t think there was much of a chance for me to stay on. But I just stayed, he gave me a two-week, trial-type basis and just tried to do everything I could to fulfill anything he needed done, like I would do with anyone, same guy or new guy. Just went through that, he had interviews going on, he was interviewing different guys, and then he decided that he appreciated what I was doing and just thought he could trust me and just wants to keep trying to build from there, and that’s how it happened.
CoBL: So how long was that? When did he say to you that the gig was yours?
AM: It was probably about a month after [he got the job], probably close to a month after.
CoBL: Now you’ve had a few months to be working with him, what have you learned about Ashley Howard?
AM: He’s a go-getter. He knows what he wants and he goes after it. He’s very driven and he’s not an ego-based guy, he’s more of a ‘just get it done, I want everyone to celebrate, the whole family to be part of anything we do collectively.' He’s not a ‘me’ guy and he has a great enthusiasm, he really relates well to the kids, and that’s why it’s such a great recruiter, it seems like, because of that aspect.
CoBL: Obviously there’s been no more successful program in college basketball the last few years than the one he came from. Are there any operations things from Villanova that he’s spoken to you about bringing over? Anything he was able to directly help you with?
AM: I wouldn’t say directly, like ‘hey, this is what our ops guy did,’ but just learning like, he’s trying to change everything over here. So it’s more big-picture-type things, like this is what we did, I’m sure we’ll have a sit-down, just me picking his brain, and asking ‘what did Mike [Nardi] do here, what did George [Halcovage] used to do,’ and try to get a feel. He’s of course putting me in a direction to learn more and to understand how those programs run better, but it hasn’t been a direct, like ‘hey this is what so-and-so did here, you should try that,’ but I’m waiting for when we get back into it and the guys get back to really learn more stuff like that from him.
CoBL: I want to get into how you got into being a DOBO, but first, where are you from? How did you get into basketball?
AM: I grew up in Cranford, New Jersey, which is like North-Central jersey. Went to Saint Peter’s Prep High School in Jersey City, right down the street from St. Anthony’s. Just grew up playing all sports, every season was doing something and just always was good at basketball growing up. I didn’t grow until late, so I played up until high school, and stopped my junior and senior year, I didn’t hit my growth spurt until after senior year. I could have made the team and all that but I wasn’t going to play much, when I was like 5-foot-5 at the time.
So I stopped playing but I worked with their football team, I played golf in high school as well, so I was always around sports and basketball was one that I really understood and really loved and was about. So nothing specifically got me into basketball, I just grew up playing basketball because of my older brother and my dad, my grandfather and all but no direct link to ‘this is why I chose basketball,’ but my knowledge of the game and how I loved playing it growing up, I was planning on three different teams growing up, so it was a big part of my life in terms of that.
CoBL: You went to Towson for undergrad. Did basketball help draw you to Towson?
AM: I knew I wanted to get into sports, so a big thing was finding a place that had a sport management degree, that was the first aspect. I didn’t know specifically that I was going to work with the basketball team, but I was there my first year, I chose Towson because they have a good sports management program; I was actually between St. Joe’s and Towson, but St. Joe’s didn’t have that specific degree. So I went over to Towson, didn’t work with the basketball team my first year, was actually trying to make the golf team as a walk-on there. Then a buddy of mine was working with the team our freshman year, and was like next year, come work with us, and I started working with Coach Kennedy and started working Hoop Group camps from that and it just took off from there.
CoBL: Your senior year [2011-12] was kind of an infamous season, Pat Skerry’s first year, last year in the old facility, the team goes 1-31. What was that year like?
AM: That was tough. We just had such a young team, it wasn’t guys that Skerry had recruited, obviously, it was another thing where you’re trying to build a culture but you didn’t really have much to back it up. We were starting two freshmen guards, Chris Walden and Dion Jones, and they just weren’t CAA starters at the time, Dion went on to have a good career at Monmouth...that was the experience level. We were in games, we hung with VCU that year, and they went deep into the tournament, so you always thought you were going to get it, and that experience factor, at the end of games, really just took a toll. It was brutal, but...
CoBL: What do you learn from something like that?
AM: How much experience matters is definitely one. That it is a brand-new situation so it’s not expected to be that bad, I was pretty much on the end of the worst thing in college basketball that you can really be, at that level. You don’t usually see it at that level, you see it sometimes with the MEAC or the SWAC schools, you might have a team that looks like that, but you don’t usually expect to see that at the Colonial Athletic level. So it opens your eyes, and you realize how difficult it is, because we were really level with these teams at times but it’s the little things that matter and having the right guys.
CoBL: Is it the kind of thing that makes you questioning signing up for a career in this, or is it the opposite, like, if this is as bad as it gets, I can see myself doing this?
AM: Yeah I was just hooked, I just loved being around it. Yeah it was tough being in the middle of it, but we had good people around us, we had a great staff. And then I was still doing Hoop Group stuff, so I had that side of basketball...and at that point, i was looking to see where my future was going to take me. I know a lot of people would probably be like ‘wow, this is a terrible situation, why would I want to get into this,’ but for me it was almost like a motivator, I’m excited, hopefully one day I get a similar opportunity and see what I can do with it.
CoBL: Then you went on for two seasons at Detroit Mercy for two seasons, what was that experience like?
AM: It was really good. I got fortunate enough to land a graduate assistant spot with Coach [Ray] McCallum up there, and it was very interesting. Our first year, about a month or two that I’m there, we had two assistants get let go because there was a scandal with our AD and all that stuff; one was the whistleblower, one was the suspect and they both got let go. So I got thrown in right away as a 21, 22-year-old graduate assistant doing scouting reports, on-court stuff, so it was great experience for me that first year at Detroit, and we actually had a really good team with Ray McCallum Jr., Nick Minnerath, who’s had a very successful career overseas, Doug Anderson, who won the dunk contest that year, so we had a very talented team. For me to be almost in a legit assistant coaching role at that level with those players, in the gym with them every day; the Horizon was great back then, with Valpo, it still is, but I feel like the competition level was very high.
CoBL: Since then, you’ve been at La Salle, NJIT and then La Salle again. Did you have an eye on coming back East?
AM: No...I love the East, but I was still in the mode of, and still am, I’m working my way up the ladder in this profession, so I’m open to going anywhere. A lot of my connections and pretty much everyone I know are back East, but if I need to go somewhere else to better myself and to get me up the ladder quicker, if it’s the right opportunity, I’m not set on staying over here, so that’s been my mindset with it.
CoBL: You’ve made your way up the ladder, from manager to graduate assistant, video coordinator and now director of basketball operations. It’s a path that’s certainly not uncommon, and you can go either into coaching or administration; is there a path you’re leaning towards?
AM: Definitely staying in the coaching aspect, is definitely my ultimate goal. That’s where I’m hoping to go and hopefully things work out and I feel like I have a strong base of connections and people that I’ve worked for that trust me and can hopefully get me up to the next peg of the ladder.
CoBL: What do you like about operations, and what’s the thorn in your side?
AM: I think operations is great for a lot of reasons. The biggest reason that a lot of people, if they don’t get the opportunity to be an ops person and get thrown right into an assistant spot, is you learn everything about the program, which is something that every head coach needs to do. Being able to see how every side of things work, from donors to scheduling to travel to class schedule to gym schedule to community service, to everything. It’s all pretty much on you and the head coach, so being able to work hand-in-hand with (John Giannini), with Ash, with Jim Engles, with Brian Kennedy, being able to see that really gives me a solid backing for hopefully one day I can be a head coach and have all this experience already, you know how you want things run because you get to do all that, as opposed to if you’re an assistant, you’re doing scouting reports, working with players, you’re oblivious to what goes on behind the scenes.
CoBL: Now that you’re in your second year as DOBO at La Salle, do you feel like you know how the system there works?
AM: Yeah, I’m definitely comfortable with it, and especially being here a few years ago helped me, I was very familiar to an extent with it coming in my first year. But now being around, even though things are different, Ash is trying to change so much, it’s more learning what his tendencies and wants are, more than trying to figure out our athletic department because that’s been similar from when I was here as video coordinator, it’s a lot of the same people that were here back then that there are now. It was an easy transition for me.
CoBL: You said there really isn’t anything Ashley has specifically brought over to you; is there anything you’ve had to say to him, this is how we do it at La Salle?
AM: *Laughs* Not that he liked. Like ‘sorry, Ash, but volleyball has our court, and women’s basketball, so we can’t (practice) now.’ No, not really. Nothing that I can think of specifically. There’s definitely been some things, but nothing blatant or obvious yet.
CoBL: So what are your next few weeks looking like? Where are you at in your preseason preparation?
AM: Just getting all travel stuff set, getting all the guys’ class schedules together and getting prepared for when they get back in two weeks. So we’re just ready to get off and go and we’re going to give them the first week to get settled into classes and then get right into workouts. Just making sure all paperwork for those guys are set and making sure that our schedule coincides with the other sports that need to use the gym, and everyone else is all on the same page and we’re ready to rock and roll.