Men’s Basketball: Youth movement

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October 23, 2008

11:31 PM

A young coaching staff has College of William and Mary Head Coach Tony Shaver excited — not worried — about the upcoming season.

“I think change can be a good thing sometimes,” Shaver said. “It’s been a much smoother transition than I think I could have dreamed of.”

With the youngest group of assistant coaches in the CAA, Shaver, 54, has a staff full of enthusiasm, something that’s not lost on him.

“I really like the energy of our staff right now,” Shaver said. “We’ve lost some experience, but it’s an energetic bunch out their right now.”

His newest assistants — Jamion Christian and Jonathan Holmes — are 26 and 28 years old, respectively. Shaver’s lone holdover, Ben Wilkins, is 30.

“When you get to be an old man like I am, you need youth on your staff to relate to the players,” Shaver said.

His former assistants, Dee Vick and Antwon Jackson, took positions elsewhere during the offseason. Vick is now the head coach at his alma mater, Hampden-Sydney College, while Jackson is now an assistant at the University of Massachusetts.

Shaver’s new staff — joined by first-year Director of Basketball Operations David Kontaxis Jr. — has met more often than Shaver and company did in 2007. It’s been a helpful operation, allowing the staff to bounce around ideas and learn from each other.

“Coach Shaver really gives us the freedom, as young guys, to talk it out,” Christian said. “Obviously, he’s the overseer of it all, but I think it’s worked out really well for us so far.”

Both Christian and Holmes bring unique coaching pedigrees to the staff. Christian, who played college basketball at Mount Saint Mary’s University for the legendary Jim Phelan — the third-winningest coach in NCAA Division I history — started at Division III Emory & Henry College before joining the staff of Bucknell
University. Meanwhile, Holmes, who played for his father in high school in Indiana and for Bill Guthridge and Matt Doherty at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, began coaching at Division II schools following his overseas basketball career.

“Although they bring different things to our staff, they’re very similar when you put them to work,” Shaver said. He noted their organization skills, tenacity on the recruiting trail and playing ability on the court as major assets.

Shaver also said he and Wilkins have taught more during practice this fall, especially when showing drills to Christian and Holmes.

“[People] always say, ‘The best way to know if you really know something is to teach it,’” Wilkins said. “For us, it’s again teaching how we’re going to coach a certain drill, so we have to go back and revisit exactly how we do things and [ask], ‘is that the right way?’”

Just a week into practice, it’s easy to see that Christian and Holmes have found the “right way” to approach each day as Shaver’s assistant coaches.

“Jonathan loves to use the term ‘It’s our job,’” Wilkins said. “With us three, there’s never going to be an excuse [like] ‘I’m tired.’ This is what we want to do. We’ve wanted to this all our lives.”

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