Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Williams basketball bench a great place for coaches to get their start

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The term "Cradle of Coaches" has been bestowed on Miami (Ohio) University for having turned out coaches like Paul Brown, Ara Parseghian, Bo Schembeckler to Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams.

The Williams College basketball program has not reached Miami's heights. But if you are looking to bestow the moniker "Cradle of Coaches" on a small school, you need not look any farther than the school in Williamstown.

"One, the program has had great success, starting with Al Shaw and Curt Tong, and certainly with Harry Sheehy, elevated it to a high level. That's one, people want people who are around winning," Dave Paulsen said. "I think Williams is, no place is perfect, but Williams is about as close as you can get in terms of blending academic excellence and athletic excellence."

Paulsen should know. The head coach at George Mason played for Sheehy at Williams, coached under Sheehy, then took over the program and won an NCAA Division III national title.

But what is interesting is that since Paulsen arrived on the Williams campus to coach in 2001, he, along with successors Mike Maker and Kevin App, have had 18 assistant coaches leave Williamstown. Fifteen of them are currently employed as coaches, five of them are head men. That's not including Pat Duquette, who also played for Sheehy at Williams but never coached there.

Shaun Morris is one of those former assistant coaches. Morris worked for Maker in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. He was part of a staff that went to a pair of Final Fours and got to a national championship game in 2010. He is currently an assistant coach on Baker Dunleavy's staff at Division-I Quinnipiac.

"Williams is a national-level job," Morris said. "It might be Division III, but you're going to recruit kids from all over the country. The expectations and the tradition attracts people. So when you're doing something like that, you learn how to prepare yourself for the next step."

Morris is one of a handful of former Eph assistants at the D-I level. Dane Fischer and Aaron Kelly both worked for Paulsen at Williams and work for him at George Mason. Pete Hutchins is at Dartmouth.

App replaced Maker at Williams. Josh Loeffler, who coached for Paulsen, is the head coach at Johns Hopkins while ex-Paulsen aide Dale Wellman is the head coach at Nebraska Wesleyan. Pat Doherty, a former Maker assistant, is the head coach at Haverford after spending time at D-I Lafayette.

And the list also includes prep school coaches Woody Kampmann and Kyle Koncz.

"There's a lot less help and a lot less support with certain positions," said Morris. "You're breaking down film, you're doing scheduling, you're doing certain aspects of it that you learn to really take with you when you get to another level."

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One of the roles Williams assistants have during their tenure is one of them is also the junior varsity coach.

Aaron Kelly was the JV coach when he worked for Paulsen in 2007-08. The Williams junior varsity is made up of some basketball players from the end of the bench who don't play, along with athletes from other sports who use basketball as a way to stay in shape.

The same could not be said for the teams that come into Lasell Gym. For example, when Salisbury School visits Williams on Monday afternoon, Division I player-to-be Bryce Daley of Pittsfield will be playing against the Eph JV squad.

Kelly remembers one guy who came into town with his South Kent prep school team.

"I knew he was a good player. I knew he was a Division I recruit," Kelly said, recalling Isaiah Thomas. "I did not know he would be an NBA All-Star."

Thomas went from Tacoma, Wash., to Connecticut, where he re-classified and graduated in 2008.

"You saw a little bit of" what Thomas became, Kelly said. "I remember they had some other players who were Division I players.

"As the game went on, the ball found his hands more and you got the feeling that the kid was going to be something."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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