“MENTALITY” PART 1 WITH DWAYNE KILLINGS – THE INSIDE STORY OF HIS FIRST SEASON AS THE HEAD COACH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALBANY – EPISODE 453

Website – https://ualbanysports.com/sports/mens-basketball

Email – killingsdwayne@gmail.com

Twitter – @CoachKillingsDK

Welcome to episode one of our Hoop Heads Podcast Series called “Mentality with Dwayne Killings – Season One at UAlbany” that will document Dwayne’s first year as the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at the University of Albany. 

We plan to record and release 2-4 episodes per month with Dwayne and/or players, coaches, administrators, media members, and others associated with the Great Danes Basketball Program to get an inside look at what being a first year head coach at the Division 1 level is all about.

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Our roster of shows is growing so don’t forget to check out all our other podcasts on the Hoop Heads Pod Network including Thrive with Trevor Huffman, Beyond the Ball, The CoachMays.com Podcast, Player’s Court, Bleachers & Boards, The Green Light, Courtside Culture and our team focused NBA Podcasts: Cavalier Central, Knuck if you Buck, The 305 Culture, #Lakers, Motor City Hoops, X’s and O’s: NBA Breakdown, Spanning the Spurs, LA Hoops, The Wizards Hoops Analyst, Lakers Fast Break & At The Buzzer. We’re looking for more NBA podcasters interested in hosting their own show centered on a particular team. Email us info@hoopheadspod.com if you’re interested in learning more and bringing your talent to our network.

Get ready to go behind the scenes with us as we talk with Dwayne Killings about his first few weeks as the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at the University of Albany.

What We Discuss with Dwayne Killings

  • His roots in the Northeast and why he felt the University of Albany would be a good fit for him
  • “UAlbany has given me an opportunity that I’ve always wanted and now it’s time to get to work and it’s time to make sure that our program represents the university and the community in the right way.”
  • Impacting the community and tackling social justice issues
  • Reaching out to Paul Hewitt and Frank Ross for their input on what to expect after taking the job
  • Why he put on a suit to talk with the players for the first time
  • Why he’s giving out “Mentality” T-shirts all around the campus
  • His social media plan for the team
  • The importance of taking care of yourself by working out and eating right despite the demands of the job
  • The conversations with his wife leading up to taking the job, and how they work together to make the transition smooth
  • His opening press conference
  • Why he hired Matt Griffin and Hamlet Tibbs as the first two coaches for his staff
  • Wishing he could help and hire more coaches and why saying no is so hard
  • The responsibility he feels as a young African-American Head Coach to blaze a path for those that come after him
  • Taking a chance on himself and the importance of the relationships he’s built in his career
  • Getting started with the recruiting process and identifying the key characteristics they are looking for in players
  • The need to learn the team before installing offensive and defensive systems
  • Developing common terminology throughout the program
  • How he helps his assistants feel ownership of the program
  • Why he values hard conversations, especially during coaches meetings in the conference room
  • How he divides the roles for his coaching staff
  • Next up is getting to know the campus and the people at UAlbany

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THANKS, DWAYNE KILLINGS

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Click here to thank Dwayne Killings on Twitter!

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And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly NBA episodes, drop us a line at mike@hoopheadspod.com.

TRANSCRIPT FOR “MENTALITY” PART 1 WITH DWAYNE KILLINGS – THE INSIDE STORY OF HIS FIRST SEASON AS THE HEAD COACH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALBANY – EPISODE 453

[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my co-host Jason Sunkle. And tonight we are tipping off a very special series of Hoop Heads Podcasts that are going to go on throughout the next year, because we are pleased to welcome back to the podcast. The head coach from the University of Albany, Dwayne killings, who is beginning his first season as a head coach at the division one level.

And we are going to plan to follow Dwayne throughout this entire year with a series of podcasts, talking about his experiences as a first time head coach at the division one level. Dwayne, welcome back to the Hoop Heads Pod.

Dwayne Killings: [00:00:41] Thanks, man. It’s great to be here. I’m excited to partner with you guys and hopefully just by seeing into our world and what we’re trying to do here at U Albany hopefully people will find great interest in our program and hopefully the story will connect to other people’s journeys.

And what I would love to do is anybody that [00:01:00] wants to be a part of what we’re doing or wants to hear about what we’re doing. Reach out to our staff. Reach out to me, hit me up on social media. Because we’re gonna do some fun stuff, but I love to kind of hear how people are receiving our program and what they think.

Mike Klinzing: [00:01:12] We are thrilled that you have been willing to kind of open your door, to allow us to see behind the scenes of what goes on inside of a division one program. And we’re going to hopefully get inside your mind too. And what’s going on as we get into the off season, the in season and all the things that go on; coaches meetings, and trips, and travel and dealing with alumni and parents and players, and we couldn’t be more excited that you are willing and able to be able to do this with us. So this is the first step on that journey. So let’s go back to the first moment where this job opens up and you decide that it’s a job that you want to pursue. Just give us an idea of how you became aware of the opening, why [00:02:00] you decided that it was something that would be a good fit for you and just how the process started.

Dwayne Killings: [00:02:05] Yeah. You know, somebody texts me when everything happened and just wrote Albany question mark, and I remember coaching in the America East when I was working for Pat Chambers at BU and when we came here to play Albany and we got here and I was so impressed with the excitement for the team.

I mean, there was the building had a nice buzz to it, people care. And I didn’t know that when we got here and then just something that you mark in your mind, and then over the years you watch Will Brown’s teams and he had really good teams. I mean, competitive. They were tough.

They were gritty. They won, obviously they got to the tournament. So when you’re looking at opportunities for me when I was thinking about trying to become a head coach, it was about fit, you know? So where did it fit for me? You know, obviously my career has taken me through the Northeast.

I spent three years at Marquette working for Steve . But what I knew and from a recruiting [00:03:00] perspective, and just a program perspective was working in the Northeast corridor. So it checked that box. It was in a community where people really cared about college basketball. Albany in the capital region, they’re crazed about college basketball, whether there’s an NCAA tournament game in town, they go to games, so that checked that box and then there was great alignment when I did some research between the president, President Rodriguez, Mark Benson, and the basketball program, because they wanted to make sure that they were connected to that program because I think they feel like it’s the heartbeat of the university.

So check that box. And then it was a really good fit for my family. You know, I got two kids, my wife’s from New York city. I think it’s a great place to raise a family. It’s close for my wife to get home for her where she grew up two hours away. We have family in Massachusetts. My parents are an hour and a half, so I thought it was a really good place for this moment in my life.

If I had a chance at leadership and then the more I dug into it, the more people said, like, [00:04:00] that’s where you should go. And I’ll tell you, when you get the job, you’re flying in and there’s all these things going through your mind. But I got on stage. And when I looked up like, and this is not like just a line, it’s the honest truth.

I was like, this is where I belong. And when I felt like that, It was so easy to articulate the vision and do all the things you have to do at a press conference. Cause you know, you belong there. It’s the faith, it gives you confidence. And I love the place. The place has embraced me.

It’s given me an opportunity that I’ve always wanted and now it’s time to get to work and it’s time to make sure that our program represents the university in the community in the right way.

Mike Klinzing: [00:04:42] When you stepped into the interview process, what were some of the questions that you felt were important that you needed to have answered to make sure that the job was the right one for you?

Dwayne Killings: [00:04:55] Really good question.  I wanted to know what the expectations were here [00:05:00] to make sure they fit and one of the things that Mark Benson, our athletic director here asked me, he was like, how are you gonna impact the community? And that matters to me. Like we get, we live great lives doing this.

And I learned this from Coach Dunphy. You know how important it is to give back and you gotta be authentic about it. I mean, you can’t just go do one event and leave. Like you gotta. You got to make that part of who you are and what you do, because you ask a lot of people to support your program, to come out, you got to give back there’s a lot of kids that need to see your players because it gives them hope.

And then also your program is a lot for a school. I mean, it gives, it helps brand that’s the institution, if you will. And I think you got to make sure you can guard that. So I thought when he said and when he asked me about those questions and we talked about the community, I thought that was a great alignment in our philosophies. And then we’re dealing with a crazy moment in the world when you’re trying to deal through the pandemic and all the social [00:06:00] injustice stuff. And when Mark started to dig into what we did for coaches for action. I thought it was such a well-rounded place because they cared about all the social issues.

They cared about kids. They cared about basketball. So instead of being questions, it became conversations. And once you got into conversations, I knew it was a really good fit for me and for the school.

Mike Klinzing: [00:06:22] Beyond the people who sat in on your interview, who’s the first person that you talk to outside of the interview process to start to get a feel for what the program was all about was the next stop to talk to the kids that were part of the program to talk to the coaching staff that was in place before.

Was it somebody in the community, somebody within the university who was the next conversation with once the interview process was over and you knew you were taking the job.

Dwayne Killings: [00:06:51] Yeah. I reached out to Paul Hewitt who did some really good work here when he was the head coach at Sienna.

I wanted to understand what was his experience [00:07:00] about who are the people that we should reach out to? And then I actually asked our athletic director, give me five people in our community that we need to talk to. And that was going to be really important that I reached out to him right away, obviously the players and the parents were really, really important.

And then I took a step back and actually took a thought and Frank Ross, who actually did a, one of these sessions with you guys he actually worked here for world Brown and Frank and I are really, really close. He’s like a big brother to me. So to get his perspective of a program was huge.

And he was part of my process. I was learning in the school as I was interviewing, but after I got the opportunity we talked again and I was like, well who do you need to talk to first? And tell me about the place. And you start to take your vision and now you’ve got to get to your plan, you know?

And I know we got to hit it and he really, really helped me with that. And it’s been just tremendous. And then along the [00:08:00] way you start hearing people, start giving you more dots to connect and more people to talk to. And that’s been great. And the best thing about it, there’s really, really high level people, really quality people that are associated with the university that really makes it home.

It’s easy to call it home because of that.

Mike Klinzing: [00:08:19] What is the first conversation like with the individual players? Do you meet with the team as a whole first. And then break off and have individual meetings with the returning players. How did you go about that process of introducing yourself to the returning players?

Dwayne Killings: [00:08:35] Yeah. So I asked a bunch of people what they did first and I’m like, I’m thinking like, okay, so what do you do? The just going with sweat pants, if you wear a suit like that, that’s part of it, you know? And, and I decided to put a suit on and I thought immediately when I walked into the room, the kids received me differently because of that.

And then I just talked to about [00:09:00] him, who I was we talked as a team walked in and introduced myself and we talked. Then the first thing I did is I asked him where we were as a program, where do they think we were in terms of where we fell in the league? How we were as a program in that moment, and then where do they want to go?

And they also, they wanted to win and America East championships. So I drew a big line. I said, okay, let’s list all the stuff that we need and all of the stuff that we’re not doing. That keeps us from our goal when America East championship and it was great. It took a little while to get them talk and you get an, a break and they really opened up.

And I think so many times in my career, there’s great people at schools, whether it’s in the athletic department or the faculty and staff that are doing great things for kids. But sometimes we forget to ask the kids what they need and what they’re going through. So it was a great exercise for me and it was something I actually just heard on a podcast from Urban Meyer.

And I loved it. And I wrote down in my book and you found open the book cup and you get to use it. [00:10:00] You got to make sure these things are right, but it went over. Great. So now I had. What the kids really want. Like what were the things that they thought were keeping them from having success? And then they started to get really honest, like what they weren’t doing.

So now it helped me. So now when I got back to my office that night and I stayed in really, really late, just writing out thoughts and notes. Because now they help give me a really clean plan of the things I need to address immediately because they’re the ones doing the work. They’re the ones wearing the uniform.

They’re the ones on campus. So what they need, we have to give them as much as we can and help guide them through that process. So that was really awesome that we could do that. And then I asked Mark to get me around the different leadership here at the university. We got on a zoom call.

And I introduced myself. And that was something that I thought was important because we had to make sure we’re in this together. And before I got here, I actually, and this is something that somebody told me a long time ago. Everybody [00:11:00] loves a t-shirt. And, and I remember working for coach Dunpy. I remember working for Pat Chambers and I got this from Pat the first day he got his job, his family, he had like 10 brothers and sisters.

They all walk into the press conference at Penn State and they got these t-shirts on. So again, I wrote that in my book, so I got my job and I spent some money and had t-shirts sent here with the word “mentality” and that’s kind of a root word for our program. And I had them sent here the day I got here and I’ve been giving them out ever since, because.

You know, it’s a chance to meet people. People gravitate towards the people, love a free t-shirt, but you get to introduce yourself, tell your story, people remember you because of that. And now I got to pull them back into our program, but we do it once or twice a week, we go down to the campus center.

We hand out t-shirts and introduce ourselves, but now people start to get to know us a little bit more. And actually our presidents in the note to saying like more and more people are talking about these t-shirts and they got to get a free one. So it’s been a small little marketing thing, but it’s a big thing as we introduce [00:12:00] ourselves to campus.

Mike Klinzing: [00:12:01] How many shirts have you given out so far?

Dwayne Killings: [00:12:04] We’ve given out probably 400 shirts out. I’m running out and I’m getting low on cash because of it.  You gotta help me out in that. Now you guys gotta give me some tips.

Mike Klinzing: [00:12:13] You gotta get a t-shirt budget going.

Dwayne Killings: [00:12:15] Yeah. I made my investment into the community right when I got here, so I need some help coming back.

Mike Klinzing: [00:12:21] Absolutely. All right. So what were one or two of the things that maybe you can share with us that the kids in the program said, Hey, these are some things that, that we need or things that we want are things that we’re doing well. What were some of the things that they shared with you?

Dwayne Killings: [00:12:35] Yeah, I mean, one of the first things they said is we want different sneakers, but I get it. You know, what I took from that they wanted to put themselves into the program a little bit more they want some self-expression.

So again, I said, okay, I get that. I get that. And then different sneakers,

Mike Klinzing: [00:12:55] like a different brand, or they wanted to be able to wear a one guy wears blue. One guy wears [00:13:00] purple.

Dwayne Killings: [00:13:01] Some honestly there’s some different Steph Curry’s they wanted some different ones, which is cool. You know, I thought that’s a thing and that’s important that the kids feel good and confident about who they are and how they look.

I talked about social media and obviously we had a social media plan when we got here, but I think they see other programs doing it. And I’m doing a really good job telling their story and that’s what the kids want. They want to be able to tell their story and they want to post things like this is what the work that we ask of them.

And that’s required to be good. It’s hard, but they want to enjoy it and they want to celebrate it. And I said, okay we’ll get to it. But now if we do it, we gotta be one of the best in our league at social media. Like we should be set if we’re going to do what we gotta do it the right way. And they’ve been really good.

We started to post stuff and they’ve been reposting it. I thought that was really important. You know, we also talked about communication. I told him that like my expectations that we communicate the right way and that’s everything from the [00:14:00] times that we’re practicing. If we’re text messaging, how we’re communicating back to each other I said, like to win our league, we have to do certain things, a certain kind of way.

And there’s going to be an expectation that comes with that. And they all were super receptive to it. And I told them I want them to be the most confident guys that they can be willing to walk in the gym. Cause they got to believe in themselves. They got to believe in what they’re doing.

They got to believe in our program. They got to believe in me and the rest of the coaches. Because that’s the mentality that we’re trying to create. And as we talked, I started to tell them more about what mentality meant for us and our program and why I use that word and why they see it on t-shirts and why they’ll see it brand around the offices and the arena, because.

Again, Will did a great job with the program. I just want to change the mentality for us and what we’re trying to do, and they got to embrace it. And also one of the things they asked right away was what are your plans for the team? And I said, nothing I said, we’re, we’re not going [00:15:00] to bring in any recruits.

We’re not going to do anything until we learn you. And it’s important for me that we spend time with each individual player. Got a chance to work with them on the court. Cause they got to get to know me and I got to get to know that. And then from there we start to build the future for our program. But that’s only fair for those guys.

Mike Klinzing: [00:15:20] So we talked a little bit before we jumped on about your mind kind of going a million miles an hour and wanting to do everything in a day and obviously that’s not possible. So when you look back at. Your first couple of weeks on the job, what’s something that you want to get done eventually, but that you’ve had to kind of put on the back burner because there’s other more pressing things that are calling for your attention.

If that question makes sense.

Dwayne Killings: [00:15:53] Yeah. That’s a hard one. I mean,  you get this opportunity and it wakes you up. You know, gets you out of the bed [00:16:00] really early, and then you run all day and all night. Cause you’re excited. You know, we get the practice and I said to somebody today, today’s practice, I felt like I was preparing for the game tomorrow morning, but you’re excited it’s your program, it’s your gym.

You got to keep and you want to do everything today. What has been great that the kids are receptive to it. I don’t know if there’s anything that said that we put on the back burner, but you’re trying to meet everybody tomorrow morning and you wanna, they’re gonna redo the offices. We put all the old stuff out in the hallway cause we want to get it done today.

We’re excited. And we also want to put our print on the program and also we want to make it an inviting space for our staff and for our players. You know, As you asked the question, I’m trying to think a little bit deeper. What I put on the bed the thing I have done, and this is this hasn’t been good.

And everybody Mike and sent me a note and he told me to make sure I take care of myself. And [00:17:00] because you know, you get in this routine as an assistant coach and you know, you go and you work and you meet in work out. I like to work out I think I eat pretty healthy. Well, since this, I haven’t slept well, and I haven’t been working out, but I think, I think it’s important. Like you see it,mit’s a great job and I love it. It’s a great life, but it can grind you down. You gotta take care of yourself and Michael’s like, you gotta find your sweet spot. Is it an afternoon. Is it in the morning do you, how do you do what you do?

But you got to take care of you because you’re the kind of engine for the program, you kind of help set the tone of what you’re going to do, and if you can’t do it, then the engine isn’t going to run. Right. So that’s some of the stuff that I think about, and I’m trying to find that spot.

And the more guys I talk to, they say the same thing. I mean it takes some, it can take a while and it can wear you down. So you gotta make sure you take care of yourself. And that’s what I’m probably trying to do. Cause I think you trying to do everything for the [00:18:00] program. You’re trying to get your staff hired, trying to get your family situated.

And it ends up just happening. Like the day just goes really, really fast and you look up and you haven’t worked out, you haven’t eaten, but I’ll do a better job with that. I have to, or to the players, I would to my family. So we got to do that.

Mike Klinzing: [00:18:16] So to go along with that, how do you make sure, what are the conversations like with your wife?

Because you have a young family and obviously your wife. Knows what goes on with you being an assistant coach and she’s seen and been around you and been around basketball programs. So what’s that conversation like when you’re making a decision to go to the university of Albany, and then just knowing that at least at the beginning, especially that you are going to be going a million miles an hour, how do you make sure that you create that balance?

Not only with your family, but as you said with yourself, just what are those conversations like between you and your wife?

Dwayne Killings: [00:18:54] Yeah, for me, when we were going through the interview process and the shoes especially in [00:19:00] the conversation where you kind of recap with your, your, your circle, I call it my cabinet and my, my crew, she’s hearing everything.

And then she’s like, well, who was that? Who said this? And you know, she’s trying to connect her with that. Now. I’m like, hold on. I got to get on another phone call, but, I think as she heard more about it, you heard how excited I was and she’d heard me say how great of a fit it was, started doing her own research.

And then she started being like, okay, we’re getting the job. You know, what’s the detail. When is he going to call? She was all in. And one of the best things my kids are young, so they’re still in school. So they’re going to be in Milwaukee until the end of June. So it gives me some runway to be here and it kind of focus on things here.

And we start the day off and I usually FaceTime, which is really good. And I try to get them again before bed. And then we text and send emails as we’re communicating all the things we have to do. But she gets it and you know, she, she, she understands, I got to get things to a certain point.

Then we got to get them here, you know? And then they, we got to create a home here in [00:20:00] Albany. And I think one of the things she’s consumed in is finding a house. So I kinda got the basketball office piece and she’s got the house piece. So she’s consumed in that part. And then we got to sell our house.

So she’s got a bunch of things she’s had to do there. So we’re putting tasks and then we huddle up. We take our time out. Yeah. You know, we get our game plan and we go out and we execute. So we got our thing going. It’s been pretty good. I’m really excited. My family is going to be out here in the next week, on Monday for about a week.

And we’ll try to find a house which is you gotta get that. You have to get that right. I mean, it’s gotta be really good for my family, for my kids, trying to find the right school district, try to find the right community for me and my wife. Find a home that’s inviting for our team. I’m hoping that we can get people on our campus in our community, around my family and I, and so we can do some cool events.

So I’m hoping we can find the right place that’s inviting enough to be able to do those things. And that’s key because home is everything, your home base it’s gotta be right. It’s gotta be right for everybody involved, but I’m excited to get them here and get around the people. And I say that Albany was a [00:21:00] great fit because they embraced my family and I, and the things that they did for our press conference, like anybody that hasn’t seen it. And I don’t say that just cause I they gave me the job here. This isn’t like a, let me praise them because they gave me like, the press conference was high level, man. They did a great job with that.

I mean, it was so detailed. There was a video in it, the presentation, it popped, I think our ad set, it got like over 600,000 impressions which is pretty impressive, especially for a program of our size. They do really good work here because they care, but they didn’t make it just about me.

They made it about my family and made it about the circle of people that have helped me, which is pretty cool.

Mike Klinzing: [00:21:43] Yeah, absolutely. I think when you have the support of the administration. We all know no matter what level you’re coaching at, if you have a supportive administration that understands and wants to be successful with whatever their program is, whether it’s basketball or it could be another sport or whatever it may [00:22:00] be.

But when they’re invested in it, they’re taking the time to put something together. Like they put together for you and the press conference that makes all the difference in the world. Because now you know that you have somebody behind you that. It’s now a team effort. It’s not just Wayne killings on his own, trying to rebuild this program.

You’ve got an entire team of people behind you. So to go along with that, how do you go ahead and put together a staff? What’s that process look like? How do you start reaching out to the people that you know, in the business? What do you do with guys that were a part of the staff previously, which.

Obviously, it can always be something that can get a little bit dicey when you start talking about guys guys, you don’t know. So just talk about putting together the staff, what that looks like.

Dwayne Killings: [00:22:47] You gotta get that right. And I talked to a lot of people about how they built their staff.

The first person that I hired was Matt Griffin, who was a kid that I coached, I shouldn’t say a kid anymore, but [00:23:00] he was a young man that I coached at Boston University. And I’ve watched him grow. And he was the head coach at Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia. His father was a head coach at Sienna, his brothers an assistant was a head coach at Sienna.

His brother’s the assistant at St. Joe’s in Philly. And I mean, he’s an amazing kid. He’s got great energy. He’s loyal, he’s positive. He’s a great teacher. Like he out of go in that gym and Philly and you have assistants from every school in the country Maryland, Marquette, Uconn, Temple, LaSalle, St. Joe’s you have Virginia Tech, you have like head coaches in the gym and Matt did an unbelievable job running his practices, preparing his team that’s stuff. That’s a lot of pressure for a young coach to have guys in your gym of that caliber, watching you do what you do, and everybody will walk away so impressed. And I said to him, if I get an opportunity, I want to hire you. And he was the first call I [00:24:00] made. And it was also because as we build this program, I want to make sure that we can give our guys opportunities.  I don’t know how many that, we can’t hire every kid when they graduate, they want to get into coaching, but we can help them.

And I think our program has access to strong relationships. And can help people get the doors that maybe they can’t get through. But I thought it was really important  to hire Matt because he was prepared, he was ready and he wanted the opportunity. But also I want to be able to say, as a head coach not only am I telling you, we can create opportunities, like there’s proof of what I’m saying.

And I think sometimes people say things and they don’t really mean like we’re doing it here at Albany. Then the second guy hired was Hamlet Tibbs. And he was an assistant at Vermont. He recruited some high-level guys in the program he’s impacted winning at Vermont in terms of their culture, what they do off the court, the players that they recruited and he and I had a relationship there we’re pretty close and when we talked about the opportunity [00:25:00] here, like Albany is home for him. So that meant a lot. I think that he’s hoping that he can help me be the head coach I want to be, but then also I can help him be the assistant coach he wants to be. So he took the opportunity and that was huge.

Cause you know, he’s kind of like our barometer, right? Like is this kid the right guy for our program? Because we’ve both recruited the kind of different talent pools over the last few years. So he’s been awesome to be here. He’s so positive. He’s great on campus. He’s great with the guys working them out helping them understand what we’re trying to do, trying to get the buy-in.

And then what I did was I said, now I want to get on campus and I want to be with these two guys. I want to be with our players and figure out what’s the next best thing for our program. From a personnel standpoint, I didn’t want to just hire everybody and show up. It was important that we gave guys opportunities to come on campus or meet with me and interview and talk about their [00:26:00] vision. I mean, there’s some guys really good coaches out here, high school coaches, guys that I’m close with in the business guys that just want an opportunity that I wanted to talk to. And I wanted to give them that opportunity. And then put me in a tough spot because I got to pick one guy to fill out the staff from an assistant perspective. And that’s really hard. I mean, telling people no is one of the harder things I’ve had to do. And I remember talking to Bruiser Flint, and he’s like, it’s going to be painful and it’s hard. Cause you know, like guys believe in you, they want to be a part of it and he kind of crushed them.

And that’s hard to do. I mean, that’s really hard because people gave me an opportunity. So I’m like, I want to help them, but I can’t help everybody. It doesn’t work that way. So that’s kinda how we’ve attacked the staff. And also I wanted to make sure Mark Benson, our AD, is a part of the process.

I want to tell them who I’m looking at and what I’m thinking about. Because it’s gotta be a partnership. We gotta do this together. There’s gotta be great alignment. You gotta be a team. So I wanted to help him be a part of that process as well.

Mike Klinzing: [00:26:57] How important it is to is it to [00:27:00] you as an African-American getting head division one job, to be able to sort of lead the way and be able to set yourself up as somebody who is going to Excel in the profession to pay the way. Maybe not necessarily, again, as you said, you can’t help every single person become a part of your staff, but we know with. What you’re trying to do with coaches for action and just the pride that you have in the person that you are, how does that sort of impact the way you think about what you’re doing day to day?

Dwayne Killings: [00:27:38] Yeah, so I said it at my press conference. I’ve had a dream to be a head basketball coach at a division one program and I’m living it. So. And I said that to our players and to my children. And it’s really important to me because I can tell anybody and this is not like a fake line.

This is real. [00:28:00] You can live your dream. It’s possible. I’m doing it, right? And I lived in and I got to this point a certain kind of way I kind of got through it differently than others. Cause I didn’t have the basketball career in terms of being a McDonald’s All American let’s say or going to a final four, I didn’t have that.

But I had a plan. I learned, I was really intentional. I built relationships. I listened and people have helped me along the way, help me grow, help me become a leader. And now I’m in this opportunity as a young black head coach. I mean, it’s a pretty cool moment for guys like me that are getting these opportunities.

For me at our program. There’s a lot of guys that want opportunities. I mean, Ben Johnson is a close friend. I’m so excited for him. He got his Kyle Neptune’s a close, close friend. I’m super excited for him as well. For all of us, we got to do this, right, because we got to make sure the next group of guys get their opportunity and it has to be the right person at the institution that’s making the hire, but. We represent a lot and [00:29:00] we got to get this right. So I carry that with me. Every time I walk in the gym, every time I walk into a meeting, like, that’s huge because if we do it right, the next guy’s going to get his opportunity. I love Mike Boyd. You know, he calls and checks on me.

Shaka Smart, shot me a text. I don’t really know. He just said, Hey, I’m here. I’m willing to help you. If you need me Jamion Christian, same thing. I don’t know. I’ve never really talked to him, but he calls me on a day. Hey, I want to talk to you, give you some ideas. That’s huge. That’s really impactful for me.

To know you got that kind of support, but it motivates me because I got to make sure this goes right for everybody involved. And also there’s a bunch of people and I’ve said it a bunch was a bunch of people that have helped me get to where I am and help me get this opportunity. I have to do it right for them because they put their word out there for me. They said they have my back. I carry that with me everywhere I go. And it’s not something that I’m just saying. It’s something that, again, it motivates me [00:30:00] every morning and that’s why it’s almost 11, o’clock Eastern. Like you guys are a part of it.

Like we did a zoom before, and that really helped me. And to be honest with you, Mark Benson listened to it. And as he prepared to interview me, so I owe it to you guys. Cause you guys are part of my journey. You’re part of the reason why I got this job. That’s why we’re on the zoom.

Mike Klinzing: [00:30:21] Well, I think you’re maybe overstating our importance in your journey, but we appreciate it.

And I understand what you’re saying. And I think,

Dwayne Killings: [00:30:29] Let me just say like, there’s a lot of different people that have impacted my life in a lot of ways and I don’t think people pay attention to that enough. Like you never know what could happen. I got really lucky to get to where I am. I took a chance on myself.

I got an internship. I had two choices to walk in there with a polo on or put on a suit. I got my opportunities. I put on a suit that day and doing the zoom helped me develop. It may maybe a really small thing, but it’s a big thing. And if our AD listened to it and you gravitate it to my story, and there was [00:31:00] parts of that story that I told that he brought up on my interview.

So you guys are a part of it. And I think sometimes we lose sight of how sometimes things just happen for a reason. You guys are part of it. And I’m bringing you through this part of our journey here at UAlbany, because it matters.

Mike Klinzing: [00:31:17] Well, I do think that that piece of it is a hundred percent true that you never know who along the way.

Is going to help you. You never know who along the way that you can help. And I think it’s something just about the way that you live your life and forget about basketball, coaching or podcasting or whatever it is that you do full time. I think it’s just who you are as a human being and the people that you touch as you go along the way.

And when you touch those people in the right way, and you have an impact on them, a lot of times you don’t even know. The impact that you’re having. And I think what you just said about about us and what we did before and having that conversation, [00:32:00] like I’m not an, I’m not envisioning our podcasts being a part of an interview process that might help somebody who’s on the podcast.

Eventually get a job. I’m not thinking about that in any way, shape or form. When I’m sitting here talking to the people that we’ve had on the show, and yet it happened. And I think that speaks to, again, just the type of impact that you can have and the type of impact that you want to have. And the thing that strikes me about you and just the way you answered that question about being an African-American head coach at the division one level is that you’re looking at this as a privilege that you’re one of the people that was chosen to sort of lead the way as opposed to looking at it as maybe a burden.

We’re all carrying this weight for. Everybody who comes behind me instead, you’re looking at it as man. It is an honor to be able to carry that with me so that I can make sure that I’m doing it right. So that the next group of guys behind me gets an opportunity. I think that’s got to be just, again, it adds a whole nother [00:33:00] level of, I guess, excitement for me, I’m excited for you, just because of the opportunity that you’re going to have to do that.

Not only for yourself, but what you may be able to open up for guys that are coming behind you.

Dwayne Killings: [00:33:10] Yeah, me too. And I’m glad, I’m excited that you’re excited. Because it means it means everything to me and there’s a bunch of people rooting for, for our program, which is awesome. I mean, you feel that I think now, like today I got to I got a text message from even an assistant in the Big East that I don’t know.

Great. And he just asked like, Hey, can you help me with my head coaching book? And can I ask you some questions? And I said, yeah, I was like, I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have any answers. For trying to figure it all out, but I was glad to help. I was glad that they have the conversation and that’s what it’s about.

And I think sometimes we don’t collaborate enough in our business. I think sometimes we don’t share enough. We don’t talk enough with each other. Like I get it, we got to recruit against each other. We got to compete and win games, but everybody has really [00:34:00] cool stories. We can help each other in our own way.

And you know, when you get into this process, it gets super competitive, but what’s meant to be, will be. You know, I went through this process against one of my close, close friends and we’d laugh about it at night. Cause it was like whoever the best man for the jobs is going to get it and what’s meant to be, will be.

And that was fine. And it didn’t hurt our relationship, not one bit. And I think it needs to be more of that.

Mike Klinzing: [00:34:28] Yeah, absolutely. I think that when you build those kinds of relationships, then you’re able to understand and you’re be able to compete and. At the end of the day, you can both walk away from that experience and look each other in the eye and know that, Hey, this wasn’t the right opportunity for you and your opportunity is going to come.

And I think it’s a credit to both of you guys that that’s the way that you handle it. And I want to go and I got, I got two things that I want to ask you about before we, before we wrap up. And the first one is from a recruiting standpoint, how do [00:35:00] you, how do you go about you get the job and you’ve got to start.

Identifying some players that you’re going to want to eventually hear, be able to recruit. So how do you do that? What does that process look like? As you’re starting to put together that list from one day, you’re not the head coach suddenly. Now you are, and you got to start putting this together. How does that work?

Dwayne Killings: [00:35:20] Yeah, you’re leaning on the same relationships that you use that. I use the Marquette, especially in the Northeast kids here. And I was shocked. Like you get inundated with text messages and phone calls about players, life people and you don’t know because there’s opportunity, I think.

And then also people want to help. So you got to scrub through that, then it’s different in the pandemic.  You can’t go into the gym. You gotta watch film. Ham has been awesome. Matt’s been awesome. You know, they brought guys to the table cause Matt was a high school coach and then Hamlett was recruiting some guys that could come potentially to our programs.

So we just sat through and just watch film. I mean, watch highlights, watch [00:36:00] synergy, watch edits and watch games. We just sat and were ironically living on campus. So we finished, we go back, get something to eat and we sit on the couch and watch more games when we talked about that was pretty cool.

But. One of the things we did is I said to the guys, okay, let’s, let’s come up with like 10 or 12 characteristics of the guys we want to coach. And we just put them on a piece of paper and we throw it up on the wall. And I said like, all right, when we’re talking about the guys that we’re thinking about recruiting, they got to fit those 10 or 12 words.

And if they don’t, now we’ve got to defend why we’re going to bring them into our program. And it really helped the conversation. It helped guide us. Towards one kid or another, or say like, I don’t know about this guy, but this guy could be really good. And I think it’s something that really helps me because now there’s a standard that we set for the guys who want to try to bring in, because like, there was an immediate instinct, like, Oh wow.

This guy wants to, this kid wants to come. Let’s take him. But what if he’s the wrong [00:37:00] kid? That’s not right for him. That’s not right for our program. So it was, we got to get a really good fit. So really they’re like fit words. You know, we got 10 or 12 words of the kind of guys that we want to coach here in our program.

And we got to find the guys that fit that, but then also there’s the need like, we have to upgrade certain things in our personnel from a, and when I say upgrade just, adding the right pieces to help us get to where we’re trying to go next season and beyond. Cause there’s, there’s some good players here that are still here that are coming back next year.

And then there’s an opportunity because their graduation or a couple of guys have decided to leave, to bring some guys in. So we want to create the best fit to create the best team. When I said to those guys that decide to come back this is all a puzzle the, the pieces all got to connect and be a really good fit.

And what we don’t want to do is bring guys in that don’t become the right fit. But then we have locker room problems cause our culture and that mentality we’re trying to [00:38:00] create is going to be key to our success in our growth.

Mike Klinzing: [00:38:03] All right. So if you can build the right culture, let me ask you a basketball question.

How do you, you obviously have an idea of the way that you want to play, but you also have to be mindful of sort of what your personnel. Is capable of doing so when you start formulating what your offensive, system’s going to look like, what your defensive system is going to look like, how set in stone is that at this point and how much of it is a work in progress based on what you see between now and next fall.

When you get into the workouts, you see who the recruits are that you’re going to be able to bring in. Where are you in terms of putting together the basketball. System that you’re going to play under.

Dwayne Killings: [00:38:50] Yeah. We have to get there and it’s a journey to get there. I think the most important thing right now for me, and especially when I had a chance to talk to some guys [00:39:00] that are head coaches is you have to adjust to what you have and you’ve got to make sure it goes, guys can be successful.

And then. You have your ultimate goal of how you want to play. You gotta slowly get there and if you can get that fast. Great. But right now, what I’m doing in these spring workouts with our staff is just learning our guys. Like I want them to play off their instincts and tell me who they are.

And then from there we’ll adjust, we’ll adjust as we build our roster, we’ll adjust. As we get to know our guys, and then that’s going to tell us what the best way to play as for our team. And then at that point, I think in July, we’ll start to install and build our defense. We’ll start to install and build our offense, give them the right habits and the right technique techniques.

And I think the big part of it too, is like all be on the same page about our communication. Like we all gotta be saying the same thing and that’s, that’s really hard when you bring. You know, a brand new staff together guys that have been in different places saying different things. So we’ve got to all be connected in that part.

[00:40:00] So I think there’s a learning process for your staff and there’s also a learning process for your team. And then we’ll take them through that journey. And then in the fall we’re really taken off. But I think the best part that I’m really excited about is when we get our team here in the summer, that’s where we got it.

You know, we’re going into it with an idea of when we come at it, we got to know exactly who we are to prepare for the fall.

Mike Klinzing: [00:40:20] Do you put together a team dictionary, a terminology that you share with coaches and players? Is that something that’s on the plan or how do you go about making sure you’re all speaking the same language?

Dwayne Killings: [00:40:28] Yes. So I guess it’s the first time I’ve ever said this, but by the time it comes out, we’ll be fine. We hired our operations director from Marquette and I mean, he’s a stud, he’s organized, detailed. He knows generally like what we want to do here, what I want to try to do here for the program.

So we have a terminology sheet and ironically during the year we kind of built it, played with it, and then he helped me create it for my interview process. I just kind of wanted to have some of that stuff. And [00:41:00] now he’s our director of operations he’ll be the point person for that stuff with our staff.

So we have it and. What I’m hoping to do is like you, you forget, like you’re lucky you go into a practice at Marquette and yell commando and everybody runs to their spot. We yell Alley, Alley, everybody runs to their spots. They know what they’re going to do. I get down in Albany. I yell Alley drill and everybody.

So I was looking around, I don’t know what you’re talking about. We got it. We got to make sure that everybody learns the drills and the habits and the techniques that we want to create. And these guys are bringing really good ideas. So then they’re teaching me some drills, Hey, you could do this job. I love it.

Let’s do it. Cause I want to make sure our staff has ownership in what we’re doing. I want them to own their space. Like I don’t want this to be a place where it’s just my voice. Or it’s just me doing a bunch of different things like, Oh, and everybody’s print to be all over the program.

Cause we got to do it together. We got to grow together, got to learn together. We got to push our team together.

Mike Klinzing: [00:41:59] Do you think that’s [00:42:00] going to be easy or hard to navigate? In other words, the delegation of this is your first time being the guy who’s the ultimate decision maker. So that’s a role that you’re stepping into that you haven’t had before.

And yet at the same time, you’re saying. I’ve got to also be able to allow my staff to be empowered, to be able to do things and make some decisions and have input. So how do you anticipate walking that line between I’m the ultimate decision maker versus I’m empowering my staff and my players to make decisions so that they have ownership in the program.

Dwayne Killings: [00:42:34] I think a couple of things, setting roles is going to be really important. I told these guys, like, I want to have hard conversations, especially in our conference room. I want to be challenged. And if you have conviction about something, let’s talk about it. But when we walk out of that conference room, you gotta be aligned together.

And you know, what I’m going to do with our staff is give everybody roles. And kind of lead roles on things like we’ll have an [00:43:00] offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, special teams got to kind of have to be responsible for different things that same person will run our player development program.

So at that point I’m hoping that that gives us a smooth and efficient workflow, but you know, there’s going to be moments where it’s choppy too, that happens in any program. And I think there’s a health in that, because everybody’s quiet to saying everything’s great. That can’t be, there’s no way you’re doing everything right.

I think sometimes like, yeah, you’re right. You know, we’re all kind of marching in order, and one guy goes off to the side that that might be the right direction to go to. Let’s figure that out. And if it is, let’s go, if we gotta make adjustments on defense, let’s talk about it. And if that’s the right thing to do, then we’ll do it because it’s what’s best for the guys.

For our team for when we compete. Cause again, like if you bring your ego into it, if I’m just acting like, Hey, I’m the head coach. And I finally get the whistle. I finally get the control. That’s not right, [00:44:00] because I’m not going to have all the answers. And like, Matt’s been a head coach before he went into the Palestra and won a Catholic league championship.

That’s big time, you know Hamlet he’s been in Vermont, he’s impacted winning. Like he’s held the clipboard with John Becker at Vermont in some big moments. So they bring all that with them. And the rest of the staff will do the same thing.

Mike Klinzing: [00:44:24] It’s such, I think a challenge, make sure that you’re doing both of those things, that you are putting your stamp on what you want it to do.

And you’re obviously setting the tone for the culture, right? From the very beginning. And yet at the same time, you want to make sure that everybody is getting on the bus with you and is sharing in your vision and is having input into that vision. And I would just imagine that as you go through, as you said at times, It may end up being xAPI.

And you’re going to talk it out with your assistants and talk it out with your wife. I’m sure at times, and talk it out with your mentors and talk it out with people that you respect and, and figure it out as you’re going [00:45:00] along. What’s been the most fun part. So let’s take it back to the joy of being a coach.

What’s been the most fun part of being the head coach at Albany for the last couple of weeks?

Dwayne Killings: [00:45:14] Just hanging out with the staff hanging out with the guys and. You know, it’s like with the staff your working  in the office at 10 o’clock at night, just having a good time you’re in our apartment working late at night, waking up with each other, you have this connotation back to college, to be honest, it’s just a bunch of guys in dorm rooms hanging out.

And then with the guys, the most fun part is they believe. And that’s an awesome feeling. Cause you don’t know, you walk down there. You have no idea when you come on your first one of these guys don’t believe in you. That would be hard. They believe like I’m getting text messages, I’m loving workouts, coach.

I love what you’re doing. That that feels [00:46:00] awesome. It’s a great thing. And it’s contagious and it’s like you wake up and you can’t wait to feel it again. So you’re excited about where the journey can go. And then like one of our players. Texted me the night, like coach, I feel like I’ve gotten so much better in this last week.

It’s been awesome. That’s terrific. I mean, that’s one of the best feelings that you could feel for me as a coach that you’re making a kid feel more confident in what he does, make him feel better about his talent and his growth. I mean, there’s nothing better in the world than that.

Mike Klinzing: [00:46:32] All right, let’s wrap up installment number one. What are you looking forward to over the next couple of weeks? What’s the next big task or the big moment that you’re looking forward to in the journey?

Dwayne Killings: [00:46:47] Getting to know the campus it’s harder because of COVID you don’t right. You don’t get a chance to meet the people, like the people make up the place.

And I met some really cool people, but it’s on zoom, [00:47:00] you know, I’m literally looking forward to meeting people face to face. And then connecting them to our program, alumni, looking forward to meeting former players. You know, I’m really excited about that. There’s been a couple of guys that have stopped by, which is really cool hearing their stories and then getting those guys in front of our team.

But I think it’s just more connecting to more people that are in the community, both in the capital region and in our campus community because I think that’s just such a cool part of college working at a college. Or universities, you only get around kids, you get around people. And they’re all trying to be part of inspiring young people to be better and more prepared to take over society is awesome.

So I look forward to that.

Mike Klinzing: [00:47:42] That’s good stuff. All right. That is installment. Number one, Dwayne, before we get out. We’re going to do this every time, but share how people can connect with you, connect with your program, give us your social, give us the Albany website, and then I’ll wrap things up and we’ll let people know what’s coming up next.

[00:48:00] Dwayne Killings: [00:48:00] So it’s funny, you asked me that question. I’m actually going to look it up. Cause I don’t know if our Instagram it’s UAlbany_MBB Now I need some help. We got to grow that account. Causethere’s not enough people on it.

Mike Klinzing: [00:48:16] All right. Hoop Heads.  Get out there and follow, get out there and follow UAlbany Men’s Basketball.

Dwayne Killings: [00:48:23] This is bad, I don’t know my own Instagram is terrible. It’s a detail is my Instagram. And then my Twitter. I got to look that up too. I don’t know.

Mike Klinzing: [00:48:36] @coachkillingsDK I think.

Dwayne Killings: [00:48:38] It’s coachkillingsDK is my Twitter handle and you know, email us, hit us up. We love to be able to answer any questions or collaborate or build any, any type of cool programs or, or ideas.

Cause you know, there’s an opportunity to grow. So the more we can grow the game and we can help each other grow the better

Mike Klinzing: [00:48:57] As we said off the top, the plan [00:49:00] is we are going to. Follow Dwayne and the University of Albany men’s basketball program for the next year. And we are going to jump in and out with him.

Every we’re going to try to do three times a month. So about every 10 days, we’re going to jump on and do an episode and just kind of follow. His first year as a men’s basketball head coach at the division one level, we think it’s going to be fascinating. We think it’s going to be educational. We think you’re going to learn a lot about what it takes to be successful as a college basketball coach.

And most importantly, we’re looking forward to deepening our relationship with Dwayne and learning more about what makes him tick and finding out all the ins and outs and the things that go on behind the curtain. Of a division one basketball program. So Dwayne, we are looking forward to that. We appreciate you tonight.

And we are going to really look forward to working with you throughout the next year to make this series here on the hoop heads pod, a [00:50:00] very, very special one. So we appreciate you being on with us tonight. Look forward to the next one and to everyone out there. Thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode.

Thanks.