Dwayne Anderson (above, middle) poses with Dylan Painter (left) and Tim Delaney at the state capitol this summer. (Photo courtesy Villanova 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.)
A key cog on Villanova’s Final Four team in 2008-09, Dwayne Anderson went on to a four-year professional career overseas before coming back to the States to join the coaching staff at Penn State, where the Silver Spring (Md.) native became Pat Chambers’ go-to man for recruiting the Maryland/DC region. This offseason, he took a step down the coaching ladder to come back to his alma mater, becoming Villanova’s DOBO under his old coach Jay Wright. Here’s his story...
CoBL: How does it feel to be back on the Main Line?
DA: It still feels surreal, like a dream that I’m just enjoying, being back on campus. For example, Coach [Mike] Nardi, who I played with, he had a wedding this past weekend, and after his ceremony, Lindsey and I went to Campus Corner for a date, because my brother and my mom was in town, they were babysitting, and we hadn’t had dates, because have two kids now, and we just went to Campus Corner and it brought back so many memories; after every game, we used to go to Campus Corner, there’s people who work there who still remember us. So it’s pretty cool, it’s great to be back.
CoBL: What’s different about the school? What’s the same?
DA: What’s different is it’s a lot of new things, like the Davis Center, it’s upgraded, rightfully so. The bridge [across Lancaster Avenue], that’s new to me. A lot of new dorms being built. The campus is growing and it’s amazing to see. What’s the same is the culture. Coach, when I was there, preached attitude, and coming back and being on this side of it as a coach and as a DOBO, it’s the same message as well.
CoBL: You graduated in 2009, had a very successful run at Villanova. What’s it been like for you then watching them hit the heights they have the last three seasons?
DA: For me to have had successful times as a player -- Elite 8, Final 4, Sweet 16, and to watch that over the years it just shows how much pride I took in it and how much the guys after me took pride, and you could see what happens when all the guys are thinking the same way.
CoBL: After Villanova, you played professionally for four years. Where did you play, and what was the experience like?
DA: My first two years, I played in Germany, with the same team, and it was like, I’m going out in the real world, this is going to be totally new, culture shock going to Germany but my transition wasn’t too bad because I had eight Americans on the team. Then I played in Italy, and then I played in Germany my last year, my last season, and it was just great to see the different cultures, how they coach over there, trying to learn a different language, and the fans are crazy as well about basketball so it was a wonderful experience for me.
CoBL: Had you always had coaching in the back of your mind?
DA: I always knew I wanted to coach or own a barbershop. And during my years at Villanova, Coach Wright and other coaches on the staff used to say to me ‘you’d make a great coach one day,’ and I always knew I wanted to do it. And here we are.
CoBL: Where does the barbershop idea come from?
DA: It’s just something that’s always been in my mind since I was young, going to the barbershop with my father and listening to a lot of the sports talk and a lot of the older guys gathering and having fun. I remember those times, going with my son. So another thing, coming back to Villanova, where I used to get my haircut, I now take my son. So it’s just crazy. Every day, it’s something that just stands out, it’s like wow, this is crazy to me.
CoBL: Where’s the barbershop?
DA: Gentleman’s Quarters, in Ardmore. Kelvin Kelly, he’s one of the best barbers in Philadelphia. And we picked up right where we left off, he does an amazing job, and he cuts my son, my wife loves his haircut.
CoBL: Do you have a name for what your barbershop would be?
DA: *Laughs* No, I do not.
CoBL: Do you know how to cut hair?
DA: I would just run it. But it’s probably one of those things that I’ll never do.
CoBL: As your fourth season as a professional is coming to a close, were you thinking that was going to be your last year? How did the Penn State opportunity come about?
DA: Coach Chambers was the associate head coach at Villanova when I played, we left the same year, he went to become the head coach at Boston University, and we just stayed in contact. He reached out to me while I was playing overseas and he told me he had a position opening up, I think it like video coordinator on his staff, and I said no disrespect, but you’re going to have a lot of people who would die to have that job, and that’s not necessarily the pay cut I wanted to take at that time in my career. Then he called me back and said he had an assistant coach spot, and I said that’s a little better, and I went to visit the place and fell in love with his passion and what they were trying to build at Penn State.
CoBL: So what were those five years like? What were the highlights, and what did you learn?
DA: The highlights were the amazing people around, I’m still in contact with some business owners there, some friends that became family to Lindsay and my two boys, and just the relationships, man. Like Josh reeves, watching him grow up, we’re still in contact, he’s probably one of the biggest memories I have there, he’s just a special kid that’s grown up to be a great young man, I think he’s going to do great things this year. And then just the staff, Coach [Keith] Urgo, I learned so much from that guy, we stay in touch. Just a great time and great people.
CoBL: They had you out recruiting, especially in the Maryland/DC area, where you’re from. What was the experience like out on the road? Did you enjoy the recruiting aspect?
DA: I’m not a fan of being away from my family, and the hotels, but I really enjoyed recruiting, learning how to recruit, building relationships, that’s what I enjoyed.
CoBL: Did you draw from your own recruiting experience? Like, this is how I was recruited, this is how I’d want to do it, or is it different with these kids?
DA: It’s different with these kids, it’s different with each individual, but I took some things from during my recruiting process, too. There’s a lot of successful coaches that played and did not play, but I think that’s what I bring to the table is a little different because I played and was successful, so I tell parents I’ve been there, done that. Whatever your son’s about to do, I’ve done that. So that’s what I bring to the table.
CoBL: So how did the Villanova gig come about?
DA: I’m not sure. I think Coach Wright and Coach Chambers spoke, I’m not sure how it went, who called who, and then two weeks later, I think right after the national championship, Coach [Wright] gave me a call, and we just talked, we just talked about how this move would affect my family, if it did not, if it would not be beneficial and it would hurt my family -- because my wife works as well, I have two kids in daycare, so that would have been an adjustment -- so just listening to coach speak about that was very impressive to me, wanted to make sure your family’s okay with the move.
CoBL: In terms of the hierarchy, assistant coach to DOBO is a step down. What was it ultimately about the position that was appealing to you that you said you’d want to make that move?
DA: It being Villanova, my wife graduated from Villanova and then coming to work for Villanova, this university, and then to learn as much possible from Coach Wright, Coach Neptune, Coach [Halcovage] and Coach Nardi. I knew it was just a perfect fit.
CoBL: I mean, you named your six-month-old son Nova. You had to think you were coming back at some point, right? And your other son, Dash, who’s two-and-a-half, that’s a pretty cool name too.
DA: *laughs* I get that question a lot. So, Dash, I was actually visiting one of my best friends, who was the best man at my wedding, he’s also a trainer...there was a kid that he used to work out, his nickname was Dash and I thought it was the coolest thing. All my brothers’ names, they all start with D and I thought that name was so cool. So it’s not from the Incredibles, we didn’t know he was going to be super-fast, I heard it one time and my wife was sold.
Now, Nova, I think we were sitting one summer and I was just joking with my wife, who was a diver at Villanova, she graduated in 2009 as well, and I said ‘what do you think about’ -- we were trying to come up with names, we had boys names and girls names, because we didn’t know -- and I was joking as far as Nova and she was like ‘I actually like it,’ and I was like ‘are you sure, are we putting too much pressure on him that he has to go to Villanova,’ or is it weird that they’ll be screaming ‘Nova Nation,’ is he going to go crazy?’ But we had this name planned out for a year. It had nothing to do with winning the national championship this year, which some people thought as well. But Villanova means so much to me, it means so much to my wife, this is where we first met, so the name has a much deeper meaning than the national championships. But that’s where everything, that’s how our family started and how we have Dash and Nova because we met at Villanova.
CoBL: What’s it been like since you’ve been back?
DA: It’s been amazing, a lot of work. And I can see why they’re so successful, you’re held accountable for every little thing; the detail of the organization is just, everything is first class.
CoBL: Who in particular have you been leaning on to help you through getting adjusted to the role?
DA: George and Nardi have been...even Neptune, and [director of program administration] Arlesha [Davidson], who doesn’t get as much credit as she should. She’s a workhorse, she’s a perfectionist. All of them have been, I’ve been taking a little bit from each and every one of them, because George has been in my position and Nardi also was a DOBO. They’re all right there on a daily basis to help me if I need anything. But Nardi and George, I spend most of my time with.
CoBL: You jumped right in as ops guy for the defending national champions. What’s the summer been like? What sort of extra things have you had to deal with?
DA: A lot of appearances. My first, I want to say week or two, we made an appearance at the Philadelphia Union, that was pretty cool. Then we went down and met with the governor, so it was a lot of appearances, just a lot of different things that you have to do when you’re very successful.
CoBL: What about dealing with Jay’s schedule? He’s got his own demands as well, he’s in commercials now, things like that. Is that something you have to manage as well or do you handle all of those things?
DA: Me and Arlesha, we discuss those things together. I’m moreso on like the basketball and practices and she’ll do more of the appearances, but we have to be on the same page as far as the schedule, so nothing is booked twice, or he’s not supposed to be in one place and he has an appearance.
CoBL: Did you make it out to the ESPYs?
DA: I did not make it out there, I stayed back. We had our freshmen on campus and our grad transfer, so I had to make sure they were taken care of back at home.
CoBL: When you watched those championship teams, last year’s group, were you thinking like, we could take them?
DA: The only time it ever really crosses my mind is when I read it on Twitter, so not really. And of course like, the classes, we all are extremely competitive so I never really get into that. But moreso, I just feel as if, I don’t know if I really talked about this before. So, I played behind Randy Foye, Allen Ray, Mike Nardi, Kyle Lowry, and what drove us was not only -- Coach Wright is an unbelievable mastermind at getting you to play hard and compete every single possession, and he also recruits these certain guys that fits this style, but for me, and my class and Dante Cunningham, it was alright, how do we play hard, but...the team that went to the Elite 8, we can’t live up to that. That’s what pushed me every single day, I was trying to play as hard as those guys, your Randy Foye’s, your Allen Ray’s, your Kyle Lowry’s. Every year, you’re trying to be better than the team that’s before you. I don’t know if that’s what these national championship teams did, but that was always in the back of my mind. So I’m curious if that’s what Josh Hart thought, Kris Jenkins, Ryan Arcidiacono...that’s something I think that helps with these national championships and culture, and Coach Wright, obviously.
CoBL: What’s it been like for you to watch those guys like Kyle Lowry, who’s now a big name in the NBA, max-contract guy, and Jay Wright, who’s gone from being the young, exciting coach in the Big East to a Hall-of-Fame lock, all of these teammates and coaches of yours who’ve risen up through the ranks in the last 10 years?
DA: It’s remarkable to witness and to be a part of. Just to watch, like I came in, I remember being on an official visit with Kyle and just how he embodies and how he plays and how he’s professional -- he golfs now, I could never imagine Kyle Lowry golfing. But every meeting, and in the meetings I’m in now, I just hear Coach, his little messages as far as we want to be the hardest-playing on the court but we want to carry ourselves a certain way off the court, and I think that’s something that we all learn from my time and we continue to develop as men, because Coach has set an amazing foundation of doing the right thing and playing the game a certain way. And I could go down a long list of guys who Coach Wright has touched, and his model of playing so hard was why I was the highest-paid professional overseas on the teams that I played on. And I think that’s why these guys are so successful, if you add Omari, Mikal, Josh, Darrun, and all these guys come back and train, big Daniel Ochefu, all these guys were here, Arch, all these guys were here working out this summer. Kyle Lowry, Reggie Redding. It’s cool to be a part of.
CoBL: There’s still that direct link from your guys to the current guys.
DA: Yes, yes. There’s a long list of all those guys who came back and were working out at Villanova, so the players, the current players get to see that. And I get to work some of these guys out, so that’s cool too. Kris Jenkins was back, Ochefu, it’s amazing. JayVaughn Pinkston. I have to sit down and actually write down all the names.
CoBL: You mentioned the attitude back then, that you wanted to be better than the guys who were before you. This year’s team, they’re following up a team that just won a national championship. So important is that mentality, is that something that you’ve about to the guys who will be seeing big expansion of their minutes? Is that something that they still feel?
DA: I think they want to prove that they’re good players, and they also, the mentality that they see our professionals and the guys that came before them, they get to witness it, how these guys work out, how they train, take care of their bodies, what they eat, and it’s something that you’re just accustomed to. And I wasn’t necessarily trying to be better than Randy Foye, but I saw how he approached every practice, how he became a man. So it got passed off to me and every year gets passed down.
CoBL: So now we’re in August, the season is quickly approaching. What are you focused on over the next few weeks?
DA: The next few weeks, the freshmen get back on campus, they have orientation, so make sure they know where they’re going. The following week, the entire team comes, then we have classes, practices, making sure everyone knows their schedule, the schedule is on point so that’s what I’m focused on the next few weeks, making sure I’m ahead of everything and overseeing everything.
CoBL: Do you feel like you’re ready?
DA: Man, Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final 4 and I love coaching, so I’m going to always prepare and...of course, I’m ready. I have Coach Wright in my corner, Mike Nardi, George, Neptune, Arlesha. It’s a team thing for us as well.