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Welcome to episode three 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 at 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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Get ready to go behind the scenes with us as we talk with Dwayne Killings, UAlbany Athletic Director Mark Benson, & Deputy AD Vic Cegles about the process that led to Dwayne’s hiring as the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at the University at Albany.
What We Discuss with Mark Benson, Vic Cegles, & Dwayne Killings
- How did they come up with the initial list of candidates for the Head Coaching position at UAlbany?
- Identifying the type of person and coach they were looking for
- Looking for leadership and high energy candidates
- Defining what leadership means in regards to the UAlbany Head Coaching position
- Interviewing 6 candidates in the first round via zoom
- Designing the interview and crafting the questions
- Doing research on each candidate to prepare for their interview and why that is so critical to making a good decision
- Creating a “conversational” interview
- Asking candidates why they are interested in the job
- Why a candidate doing research on the University creates a positive impression
- Why Dwayne thought that UAlbany would be a perfect fit for him and his family
- Setting up conversations with the University President and major program donors for the final two candidates
- The challenge of conducting interviews via zoom rather than in person
- The final interview and just getting down to casual conversation about the job and the program
- Dwayne’s desire to know where the program stood relative to the rest of the conference and what resources would be available to the program if he took the job
- How a coach can push the athletic department to be better
- Why representing the basketball program to the University and the community is so important for a Head Basketball Coach
- The teamwork required between the Head Coach and athletic administration to build a great program
- Acting quickly on the decision before things start leaking out
- Offering Dwayne the job and letting the other candidates know they did not get the job
- Designing the press conference that welcome Dwayne and his family to UAlbany
- How they will judge the success of the program after year one
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THANKS, DWAYNE KILLINGS
If you enjoyed this episode with Dwayne Killings let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out on Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly NBA episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“MENTALITY” PART 3 WITH DWAYNE KILLINGS – UALBANY ATHLETIC DIRECTOR MARK BENSON & DEPUTY AD VIC CEGLES ON HIRING DWAYNE KILLINGS – EPISODE 465
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here without my co-host Jason Sunkle this morning, but I am pleased to be joined by the head coach at the University at Albany, Dwayne Killings, the athletic director, Mark Benson, and the deputy athletic director, Vic Cegles. Welcome gentlemen, glad to have you guys on board.
We are anxious to dig into the process of hiring a new basketball coach at the division one level. Mark, Vic, Dwayne. Welcome.
Mark Benson: [00:00:29] Thanks, Mike, appreciate having us on. Thanks a lot. Good to be here.
Mike Klinzing: [00:00:34] Absolutely. We are excited to have you guys on Mark. I’m gonna start with you and. Just let’s begin the process.
When it is time to hire a new basketball coach as the athletic director. What is the first step of the process? Is it a search firm? Is it a let’s brainstorm, a list? Is it reach out to contacts that you have at other universities? How do you go about putting together that initial [00:01:00] list of names that you want to consider reaching out to?
Mark Benson: [00:01:02] Yeah, that’s a good question. There’s a lot of things you have to sort of go on your checklist and then deciding on a search firm or not is certainly one of the early decisions. You need to make. And you know, given the, the fact that we’re in a pandemic our, our budgets are taking pretty heavy hits here at U Albany and across the country.
We early on made the decision that we weren’t in a position to use a search firm. And so for us, the first step, really first step was talking about what type of person do we want to hire as our head coach? What’s the profile? What are we looking for from a basketball perspective? What are we looking for for a community perspective?
What type of person are we looking for? So we, we gathered our internal folks that was led our search committee Carrie Wider, senior women’s administrator and Travis Wilson. One of our associate ADs. I asked everyone to sort of list characteristics that they were looking for on, at next head basketball coach.
We did it separately. Then we got together. And we compare notes and it [00:02:00] was not, not surprising. We’re all pretty much on the same page. So that was the, the first steps and then same thing with our president. And I want to make sure we’re on board of our campus leadership. I, I thought we were with this price we weren’t, but that went through that exercise as well.
And then we had a few external folks that we wanted to include in the search process later on towards the end and kind of gathered the same information from each of them in terms of. You know, who are we looking for? What are we looking for? What do we want to be? And really about fit what’s, what’s the best fit for us.
So that was the early, early part of it. From there we got together and we started doing research. I’ve been very fortunate the past several years to be part of a group called top connects. Which is a group of athletic directors across the country that do professional development for basketball coaches, assistant basketball coaches at all levels, all over the country.
And I think we’re in our third or fourth year. So it’s given me an opportunity to meet a number of really quality coaches across the country. Get a feel for the different types of [00:03:00] people that are out there, different types of style. And so we, we started with that list and we started all putting it together from scratch.
Mike Klinzing: [00:03:07] What’s the first thing, what’s the number one thing that was on your list, your own personal list, as you started to put that together, just for you, what was the most important thing or things that you were going to look for?
Mark Benson: [00:03:17] We wanted somebody who’s a strong leader. Somebody who’s got a positive, upbeat attitude and personality.
Somebody that’s going to take the, obviously the competitive pieces is very important. We’re here. We need to win games and championships with somebody who is going to look at our student athletes and help develop them academically, help develop them as people and prepare them for life beyond the University of Albany and for beyond the days when they’re playing basketball. So for me there, there’s a long list. You’re looking for, I’m looking for the perfect person, right. And in every phase, but those were the things I think that mattered most to me. And I think Dk’s on the call here. [00:04:00] He can add to that, but I think we were pretty much on the same page in terms of what we were looking for.
Mike Klinzing: [00:04:04] Vic, how about you?
Vic Cegles: [00:04:07] You know, we wanted somebody that wanted to be a Leader to our are our basketball players. To the rest of our staff, to our other coaches on staff you know basketball is one of the more high-profile sports at each institution. So we want somebody that’s going to represent our entire institution to be a leader within our own staff.
So leadership was key and then high energy. I mean, these guys they’re in our offices. I energy coming in the morning, barely got my first sip of coffee. You know, DK is in first and all the guys are in fist pumping. I’m like, Whoa, these guys either. But it’s great. It’s great to have, I love it.
Kinda get the, get to go on. So yeah, I think we found that in DK.
Mike Klinzing: [00:04:50] What is the vision? When you say leadership, what does that mean in each of your minds? Mark and Vic? What is it that you’re looking for when you say we want a leader? What does that look [00:05:00] like day to day in your mind for somebody who’s going to head up your basketball program.
Mark Benson: [00:05:03] You know that you want somebody, who’s got a plan for success, the competitive piece.
Yeah, academics somebody who’s going to represent our university very well. You know, men’s basketball, it’s got the largest stage, the largest platform, biggest microphone, if you will on, on our campus. And it’s important that we find a leader that’s going to embrace that piece of the job and be a true spokesperson, not just for the basketball program, but for athletic program for our university.
So you know, that, that, that is very important. Somebody that’s going to set an example within our department with our coaches, with our administration everyone’s always paying attention to who’s. Who’s at the all staff meetings, who’s coming to the lacrosse games. Who’s coming to the football games, who’s attending the meetings and it’s important that we’re all bought in and being a good department spokesperson and leader.
So that was important then of course with our [00:06:00] players, just developing them. In our department, we talk about great leaders, great champions and great things. And, and, and the great leaders thesis is to help. We want our student athletes to be leaders on their team leaders in their classroom, on campus, and then just prepare them for life beyond.
And so, so that piece is really important to me.
Mike Klinzing: [00:06:18] Vic, what about you?
Vic Cegles: [00:06:20] Yeah, I think when it comes to leadership, it’s pushing people to be better. Whether it’s a student athlete or, or support staff. So DK has these visions, he comes in and saying, Hey, we got to do this.
We’ve got to get done. And being pushed to get stuff done is, It shows leadership and we’re going to do whatever we can to get things done here. You know, but being able to bring the best out of each one of his players, I think is key and you gotta push them and you gotta make sure that they’re on top of the game and they’re being pushed every day.
So. That’s what I think leadership is.
Mike Klinzing: [00:06:55] Mark. How many people were on the initial list after you do that? First round of research? How [00:07:00] many names do you bring into the conference room to talk about initially after you reach out to your contacts and you kind of do some internal discussion?
Mark Benson: [00:07:08] Well we did a lot of research, so you know, I think like most people you’re with these.
Positioned, you kind of want to have an idea of certainly the type of person that you’re answering it. Should you have a change for whatever reason and then Alyssa people that you might specifically that you’re interested in. So we had everybody kind of go do their own research, compile their own list and then bring them back together.
So I would say probably. No, that initial list. And I don’t think you can help me. It’s been a while. It was probably with a ton of interest. So there’s, there’s the incoming interest. And then there’s, what’s that?
Mike Klinzing: [00:07:42] Yeah, the incoming interest, right? It doesn’t necessarily always equate to what you guys are coming up with internally. I’m sure.
Mark Benson: [00:07:48] Yeah. I mean, just kind of working, there’s nothing like a men’s basketball coaching search in terms of. The speed of it, the, the, the number of people who reach out also, and everybody in the world has your cell phone and your [00:08:00] email, and knows where you, where you’ll get coffee and those kinds of things.
So we wanted to be really focused. So we, we had a good idea of the type of person. We had a good idea of the actual people that we were interested. And then it was more about seeing would they have interest in us. So I would say when we really got to start having the conversation, talking about who do we want to.
So do we want to interview how do we want to do it? You know, the last year, plus with the pandemic, like many people, I think we’re all zoom fatigued at some level, but the reality is the zoom is a great tool to get to know somebody. And so you have a decision, do you have to really, really wide net because you can through technology or do you use that technology to really hone in on a smaller group of people?
Because we’ve done. A lot of the homework already we’re prepared. So when it came down to it, we probably had about 12 to 15 names that we were really, really interested in talking to as a group. And then when we actually got to that it’s hard to say what counts [00:09:00] as an interview. There’s a millions of conversations like that with people from other ads, other coaches, possible candidates, agents interested people that just wanted to share input.
But when it got down to it, we actually decided just to interview six, about six people, I think was six to eight that we did initial six with the zoom interview.
Mike Klinzing: [00:09:21] So when you’re putting that together, In terms of the interview, you decide, okay, we’re going to do this on zoom initially. What is the process for.
Putting together how the interview is going to flow. In other words, the questions, the types of things you’re asking, what you’re looking for. How do you guys sit down as an athletic department and put that interview process together? Do you have something that’s standard across? Let’s say all of the different programs that you’re looking for, and obviously there’s some specific basketball questions, but is there a process that you guys go through as an athletic department so that your interviews are.
I don’t know if standard is the right word, but is there a process in place no matter who you’re [00:10:00] interviewing that you go through?
Mark Benson: [00:10:00] Yeah, there’s definitely a process in place. It was a state institution where we’re obligated to do that. So I don’t think the questions are the same from time to time.
And I’ll let Vic in a second pick this up, but you know, I know Vic did this, I did this as well. I reached out to a number of former players just to early on to get their, their impressions of our program, of our job, the type of person. They hope we might attract as our head coach. And one of our former players is a, is a head on her, but he’s in the legal sector.
And I just said, Hey, I would love some, some different questions that you would ask when you’re trying to hire a lawyer or a partner to see if it might match up with what we’re doing. And then Vic did a really good job of putting some questions together. So you have to standard. The interview questions, so basketball, but I’ll kind of share some of his thoughts when he was dabbing that piece of it.
Vic Cegles: [00:10:53] Yeah. You know, your, your standard basketball question is what, what is your staff going to look like? What [00:11:00] style play are you going to have? You know, but then you really get into the weeds on stuff how are you gonna make our basketball players better off the court? You know, give us some ideas there.
And you know, I thought one of the other questions was, tell us one thing about yourself, that’s on your resume. And then that kind of Oprah, we kind of that opens up a whole broad. You know, crazy conversation. I found out that Dwayne likes to bike around on a bike. I had no idea who would’ve thought
Mike Klinzing: [00:11:32] You ready for the tour de France, man.
There you go. Yeah.
Vic Cegles: [00:11:35] At first I was a motorcycle that is like, nah, it’s just a bike. So you go, so that’s something you get to learn, but yeah, you get a mix of just general standard questions and then you kind of throw in some of these questions that make you think a little bit.
Mike Klinzing: [00:11:51] I think when you get an opportunity to interview, it’s always interesting to me having been on interviews and having sit in on interviews and being part of interview [00:12:00] committees, how just the design of the interview, how it can bring out more of the person’s personality or less, depending upon the types of questions and just the way it’s set up.
How many people, I guess, on the zoom, how many on the initial zoom call, how many people did you guys have in on that initial zoom interview?
Mark Benson: [00:12:20] On our side. So the there’s four of us on the initial zoom. And you’re right. The way you design questions, I like questions that are, open-ended give people a chance to.
To dig a little deeper into, to the question. Talk a little bit more. And you know, before the questions with technology, I mean, we did a ton of research. I listened to your show. I picked up some things about DK that I didn’t know. I we’d seen some interviews that he had done with the big East. We’ve seen some footage that the different schools he’s been added.
He he’s been a part of, so. With technology and meet digital media, you can get a feel [00:13:00] for people. What they’re like, what they look like in game, how do they interact with their players? How are they in front of the media? So that, that part of it helps you get very prepared before the questions.
And I think when it works well it becomes really conversational and not just a here’s tell me the style of play of basketball. We’re going to be uptempo the fan. Great. Now it become when it’s conversational you’re on the right track with somebody.
Mike Klinzing: [00:13:24] And what are some of the things that you’re asking in that initial interview in terms of trying to get a feel for whether or not.
Dwayne or any other candidate is going to be a good fit specifically for UAlbany, is there, is there a question, a series of questions that are designed to figure out whether or not okay, this person may be a great basketball coach. They may be the right person for a job, but they may not be, or they may be the right person for this job.
So is there something specific to your university that [00:14:00] was important as you were guys were going through the process?
Mark Benson: [00:14:02] Yeah, I think when you’re going into it, if you make, if you’re a, make it to the first round of an interview, I think the reality is if the school, in our case we’ve done a lot, we did a lot of homework.
We felt very comfortable with our initial group of folks. And so. We already think we are. I thought DK could do the job right before we even had the interview. We thought he would be a good fit based on all the research that we’ve done. And then you use those questions to actually see if in reality it is a good set and you’ll fit, changes that you all buddy, it, it might be.
One thing we’re looking for now. And when, when DK wins those a final four and blows it up, we might be looking for something else at that time. And I think every school is the same way. So style of, from a basketball perspective, we were really interested in where are we gonna look?
Like, how are we going to play? What type of guys are we to recruit to your system? What kind of. Academic profile. Are you, are you looking for in players? So [00:15:00] that, that part of it we, we had a certain interest in a certain style of play that we hoped that we could transition into with DK.
So from a basketball perspective, that was, that was important to us. Vic, you want to add anything from your end? You probably have a list of questions he’s in front of his laptop. So he’s probably got the actual list of questions right in front of him.
Vic Cegles: [00:15:19] You know, I gotta have my notes up. No, I mean, again, the first question we ask is why are you interested in the University at Albany men’s basketball coach, coach position?
And how does your background experience qualify you for this position? So it’s very generic question. But again, like, like Mark said, with the people that you have a mind, you already think they’re a good fit and then you just have to really dig in and, and, and see if they’re the right fit. You know, there’s many coaches that are a good fit, but are they the right fit?
So, like Mark alluded to earlier, I, when we had our lists, we start doing some research, simple Google [00:16:00] searches. You know, I put in Dwayne Killings in episode 388 shows up on, on who pads here. So, and I got a 45 minute commute to work. So I threw that soccer on, was listening to it. And I sent it to Mark Mike, Hey, you gotta listen to this.
So when you start doing some research it’s you start finding things videos behind the scenes of, of coaching and all that stuff. So technology has really helped us really hone in on who we wanted
Mike Klinzing: [00:16:29] Dwayne, on the other side of it. Go ahead, Mark. And then
Mark Benson: [00:16:31] I’m going to ask Dwayne some.
Yeah, no, I was just going to add the episodes. We’ve talked about how much homework we’ve done. But it’s pretty, pretty easily pretty apparent who, which Candidate has done their, their homework. And for those that have done it, it’s great. And it helps the process. And it’s pretty quick to identify those that have not really done their homework.
And that helps you sort of get that back to the fit piece of it, who is serious, who is, would be a really terrific head coach here. And so, you [00:17:00] know, we have. For the most part, our pool was our pool is excellent. DK Rose to the top from a very strong pool. But yeah, some are more prepared than others. So
Mike Klinzing: [00:17:09] Dwayne, that was actually exactly where I was going with.
My next question is how do you. Then as someone who is looking for that head coaching position and you target in and you say, Hey, I want to be at U Albany. How do you go about preparing yourself for that interview? Obviously over the course of time, you’ve prepared as someone who’s wanting to be a head coach you’ve prepared in a generic way.
For being a head coach in terms of putting together a portfolio of things, and you have an idea, all the stuff that you’ve learned at all the different places that you’ve been, but once you target in and zero in on one particular job, how do you make sure that you’re prepared to demonstrate that you’re going to be the right fit for that particular university?
In this case UAlbany.
Dwayne Killings: [00:17:53] Well, I would say when it all started, I didn’t anticipate it happening on zoom. Right. You’d think of becoming a head coach and what the [00:18:00] interview’s going to look like. You don’t think it’s going to be in the middle of a pandemic. So that was a little different, but I think I did the same thing that Vic and Mark did in HR to do some research about who they are as people a little research about their professional careers, and we’d already had crossed paths.
We already had relationships with really helped. So then it’s about, is it a good fit? So for me, when the interview started. Although they’re interviewing me, I’m watching Mark and Vic to see their body language because I want to make sure they work well with each other. Because when I get on campus that this has to become a team and we have to be aligned and Vick and I are joined at the hip.
And then obviously Mark is the leader at the top, but you know, our support, administrators that, so what does that partnership going to look like? And what are some of the issues of the university level? Do some research COVID has disrupted some things at the state level and it’s taken some funding.
So how does the basketball program help that what are the things in the community and how does the basketball program help those and [00:19:00] address those things. And then looking at the team what can we do better from a recruiting perspective and style play perspective to try to win our league.
So I’m doing my research and then thinking, okay, how I want to run my program, my vision, does it connect and does it fit and right away, The people have committed, become teammates with the check that box. I thought my vision really connected. I thought it was a really good fit for my family from a city perspective, because while I was doing my piece, my wife is looking into Albany, has it worked for my kids and my wife.
So at that point I walked in, when the zoom screen opened up, I was really confident that this is the job for me. So now I have to articulate that. And over time, they put me through the ringer, but over time it felt like it was the right move. And I think when it was time to say they were going to offer me the job, it was really easy for me to say yes.
And it was really easy for them to offer it because the fit was, it was clear, it was a perfect fit.
Mike Klinzing: [00:19:54] All right. So after that initial zoom, Walk me through the rest of the process, Mark of, okay, so you [00:20:00] get the initial six people on zoom. What’s the next round of interviews look like how many people make it to that second cut.
And just, just walk us through what the rest of the process looks like until you eventually get to that decision where you’re going to offer DK the job.
Mark Benson: [00:20:13] Yeah. So we got through the six and actually we were really happy with the pool and at one point we were surviving maybe. Yeah, we’ll add another two person or two into the mix.
But then as we started thinking about it, I said, Hey, we’ve got some really quality people that were highly interested in it that are highly interested in us. What are we doing? We just need to, other jobs are open and we need to, we need to accelerate this. So. You know, talking to our president was key.
I wanted him to be involved in the process. And you talk about you bring two people, like to detail’s point normally, would you bring them here? But the zoom two or three people to the president, two or three people to, we had a group of four donors board members that we wanted to meet the finalist separately from us to get their feedback and their [00:21:00] input.
And so ultimately we decided in partnership with our president, we would bring, we would bring two finalists to him and to the committee. So I think we went from like, I think we held a Tuesday, Wednesday of the following week. And doctor, I went to Dr. Rodriguez on a Friday. I said, Hey, I got a big favor to ask of you.
I know you’re a busy guy. Is there any way we can accelerate this and get you in front of these two candidates over the weekend? And he was terrific. I mean, he’s, he said, well, you have to explain it to my wife, Rosie, why Mike give up my Saturday night. But he did. And we had explained that same conversation with some of our external folks like, Hey, we, could you, could you give us your, your weekend?
What they all gladly did. So the next step was to get. DK in front of the president. One-on-one we were not part of that conversation. And then in front of our group of donors separately.
Mike Klinzing: [00:21:53] So Dwayne, what are those conversations look like?
Dwayne Killings: [00:21:56] The president, it was just natural. Talking about who I was as a person who I [00:22:00] would be as a leader, you know what I thought about the university and the basketball program and the opportunity.
And then he talk about his vision. And then I think, again, as he’s talking. You know, some of my vision starts to become to life because he’s talking about the work he does in Puerto Rico and how important kids are to them and how important community is to them. And he actually worked in Milwaukee.
So. To Mark’s point it became a conversation. It wasn’t really an interview, which is, which is really cool. When you pivoted to the donors you don’t really know, I had never been in that situation. And when I actually talked to other head coaches that have been through it a lot of them talked about going to dinner with guys and that’s a different experience.
So it’s four people just pepper me with questions, but I was really impressed with the detail of questions they had about recruiting and about different experiences. And one guy literally was just. Looking at some articles, he was reading while we were on the zoom. And he was just asking me to follow up about what was this story about when I was at temple and that was six or seven years ago and that’s on [00:23:00] the flat.
So you gotta be able to answer that and think back really quickly to connect to that moment in your life. But it showed their passion for the program. It showed that their desire to get it right. And again, I’m a big body language person as time went on. I was like, this is going really well.
Because you could just feel it like the questions and the energy and the feedback and the smiles and the responses. So I’d never really felt intimidated. Cause again, I think, well, who I am and what I represent, the experiences, I have it related to what the opportunity was all about. And as time went on you follow up with some text messages or emails saying, thank you, the responses you get back, you start feeling like you got a legitimate chance to get the job.
It’s just. Once you’re done those next hours that go by, it feels like days are going by you’re waiting and you know, you get a phone call. I heard this, I heard that I heard Phil Jackson is going to take the job. You know, it’s just crazy. You know, you hear all this crazy stuff along the way, which is agonizing, but it makes you feel like this is a job you really, really want because your [00:24:00] heart’s in it.
Mike Klinzing: [00:24:01] Vic, if this had happened a year ago, in other words, if you had been hiring a coach last year you know, last spring instead of this spring where the pandemic is just hitting and we’re all not quite as used to zoom and being able to interview and do the things that we’ve done video wise, how much more challenging do you think the process would have been a year ago to be able to sort of navigate the tech piece and be able to interview coaches compared to how it was now, where we’ve all had whatever a year.
Plus just getting used to looking at each other on screens and being able to interview what’s your thought on that?
Vic Cegles: [00:24:40] Yeah, it’s crazy. The silver lining that comes out of COVID, you know you know, Skype, we used to do Skype interviews and like, why don’t we do Skype interviews? There’s something on a screen.
You really don’t get to know anybody that way. That was all before COVID. But I think traditionally you would like to still get in front of people. I mean, I think that’s a great way for you to [00:25:00] to get to know somebody. So I would say to, to backtrack that if it was, this was the year before me and Mark made sh.
Shut down on a train down to New York city during the big East tournament and catch him in a, in a lobby, maybe catch a couple of other people that are there. A 10 is, is in Barclay. So we’re kind of lucky in that, that we could shoot down a New York city and have those resources. But I think that as time and zoom became normal that was the direction we had thought about.
We talked about going down to New York City. And then you start having conversations like, well, we’re in a bubble in our hotel. We can’t get out. So now we’re like, all right, we’ll, let’s do the zoom thing. So definitely made it easier that everybody at practice for a year to, to learn how to do it.
But again, it’s, it’s getting to, I still like the face to face and getting to know somebody, but zoom definitely. It definitely helped that process.
Mark Benson: [00:25:54] Mike, That’s a great question because a year ago people were probably trying to figure out [00:26:00] the angle of their camera and background and, and yeah.
So certainly you’d have to give somebody a little break a year ago. But I would say that, that, that like DK translated so well on zoom and others. Like, so if you can come across via zoom, And really show your personality, really talk about what’s important to you from a basketball perspective or whatever job you might be.
It might be interviewing for a pharmaceutical job somewhere. If you can come across and translate via zoom. W we know when we see you in person that it’s, it’s going to be, it’s going to be really good. And so that, that was one kind of cool thing about zoom is just to see, and if you think about it coaches DK is going to be in front of a camera a lot, and that’s how he’s going to be perceived as via our local sports TV stations.
And so it’s kind of just a big extension of that, but you’re right. A year ago. We’re just trying to figure out how to log on is very interesting.
Mike Klinzing: [00:26:58] All right. So you get [00:27:00] down to the final decision. What is who’s in the room when the final decision is made, that you’re going to offer Dwayne the job, and then once you make that decision, how do you reach out to him?
What is that conversation like from your guys’ perspective?
Mark Benson: [00:27:17] Yeah. So good question. We had the Saturday, the one-on-one with the president and our donors. And then I know Vic and I scheduled time with DK on I think it was Sunday and we probably spent three hours together on a zoom, just like really getting into the weeds on you know, Hey, you talked about the type of guys you’re going to bring on your staff.
Who are you? Who are you thinking about? And I remember deacons, Hey, can I, can I get control of the zoom as well? Let you do it. And you know, he brought up the one slide of some of the, some of the guys that he was thinking about. And I remember thinking, I liked this. I liked this thought process.
I like you, you can’t hold any, you never know things are going to [00:28:00] work out. It was a group of people that he might be interested that might be interested in coming here, but it wasn’t like, wow. I kind of like this type of person or kind of like that type of person. But we really spent three hours, I think it was Sunday evening, just, just talking and, and to Vic’s point, normally that might’ve happened at a hotel room or.
Madison square garden where you can sit down together, but it certainly didn’t feel like we were separated by, I don’t know how many miles it is from Albany to Milwaukee. I know you can’t work, walk there quickly, but it did not. It did not feel like a thousand miles at all. It was a very good productive conversation.
So that was the three of us there. And No, I think that would have been, would’ve been 10 days, 12 days. I don’t, I don’t know where we were in the process at that point.
Vic Cegles: [00:28:48] Yeah. And that one was like, DK put the suit away, throw some sweats on, like, let’s just get casual. Let’s just talk. Let’s just have our [00:29:00] conversation, but doing the three of us.
So it wasn’t like a formal interview. It was like, all right, tell me why. Tell me what happened at Uconn tell us what, what happened here. So it was really we dove in and had some, some serious, some serious conversations. Cause you know, this was, this was the last step.
Mike Klinzing: [00:29:16] Dwayne, what were some of the questions you had?
What questions did you have for Mark and Vic at that point?
Dwayne Killings: [00:29:22] Yeah, I think it was about diving deeper into like, where’s the program at reflected through the league. You know, what are some issues from their vantage point about. The players in the program and what’s the health of it what’s the academic situation like, and you know, you’re going from our cat.
That’s one of the highest resource programs in the country to Albany. So like, how do we, how do we make all this work? Cause I, I understood where I was going, but I want to hit the ground running. So when you talk about your vision, it’s like, how do you have to change it and twist it a little bit to make it fit where you’re going?
And it was great that they were so transparent. [00:30:00] Now all of a sudden I’m started thinking, well, this really happens. I need to get these three or four things ready to go. As soon as we hit the ground. And again, it made you feel really confident about the partnership and the alignment, because we’ve had those same conversations, either in the office or going to get something to eat about the program.
So it’s just a continuation of what we did on zoom. And it felt like we had already been working together when we got on that last call for, for two or three hours, because. The comfort level. And I think there was already trust that was being built. And that’s how this thing’s going to work. You know, whether you’re talking about recruiting or my staff or working with Vic and Mark, it’s all going to be based off of trust.
And you know, it’s been blind trust since we got here, it’s been a great fit and we’ve had great success so far as we’re building the program out as we’re transitioning.
Mark Benson: [00:30:47] Mike, can I add too? Do you take, kind of stole the words, alignment and fit and talking about resources? It’s important to know what you’re going into what’s the situation is.
And Vic talked earlier about [00:31:00] like, we like it when coaches push us to be better. Everyone, everybody wants to get better. Every wants to have accountability. It goes both ways. And, and, and the other word I would use is partnership is really important. And, and it goes with alignment. So if we can’t do exactly this ABC that you want to do, how can we work together to get there?
Right. How do we work to get resources? How do we. How do we work to get people involved to help us do this? Let’s continue to try to get better, but let’s, let’s do it together. And throughout this process, it was, it was very much, it just became clear with every conversation that, that we were, I think all aligns philosophically whether it’s basketball life.
Academics. And I w I will say one of the things that was really impressive about DK is some of with what we’re all going through in the world with social injustice has his leadership back to what we talked about earlier, man, he’s he stepped out with the other assistant coaches in the big East and for [00:32:00] coaches for action.
And, and I was, I was really, really impressed. With his leadership you know, getting the other schools and assistants together, sort of selling this through to the big East presidents and athletic directors. I talked to a number of people that were part of that process and, and some that already knew DK and some that, that was their first sort of introduction to him.
And, and, and just, that was a, that was a very, very impressive and important piece of, I think we’re where we ended up.
Mike Klinzing: [00:32:31] I think one of the things that is probably even more important today than it’s ever been. When you start talking about coaching, is those things, those pieces of off the floor of developing your players, not just as basketball players, but also developing them as people, and then having sort of a vision of what you, how you fit into.
The greater university environment and the greater campus environment, it seems like. And I’m [00:33:00] guessing, and this is just me as an outsider. I would think that probably over time, let’s say over the last 20 to 25 years, that the importance of those. Things outside of directly, the basketball program have become more important in the hiring of a coach where you see, I guess the word that keeps coming back to me is you have a coach that kind of has their little Fife them, and they’re in their own little bubble of, Hey, I’m running the basketball program and I’m not necessarily a part of the bigger university.
I think that’s becoming more and more and more rare. You now have a situation where coaches in any program are. Part of the bigger piece of the university, do you see, is that a trend, something that you’ve seen over the course of your time in college athletics or, or am I maybe misstating how it was in the past?
Mark Benson: [00:33:47] No, I don’t. I don’t think you’re mistaken at all. And I think you’re probably some other sports would fall into that same, same category. I think you have the days of just, just being a basketball coach, just recruiting the best players, just coming up with best [00:34:00] game plan to just win. You know, winning is important, the right players support, but there’s so much more to have that men’s basketball.
So highly visible on our campuses. It’s so highly visible in the, in the community. And then when you were to places that you need to generate resources to continue to get better and you have to like engage people and let people into it whether they’re on campus, working in administration, whether they’re.
Community members, alumni, former players. There’s so many components that go into building a successful, healthy basketball program that start with the basketball, but they’ll outwards and you have to really be focused on that. You have to pay attention to that. And you’ve got to put together a staff and in a team.
Whether it’s your assistance or your administration that can help you navigate that, especially for DK the first time coach, I think that’s what we need to do. We need to work together to help them navigate some of this and help him get where we all want to be.
Mike Klinzing: [00:34:56] Vic. Is that going to be part of your day-to-day role is to kind of help.
[00:35:00] To make sure that things are working the way that they’re supposed to, and that the relationship between Dwayne and the athletic department and the athletic department and the student body and the, and the basketball program is your role in that sort of liaison, making sure that things are going smoothly.
So everyone’s working together on the same page. Yeah, absolutely.
Vic Cegles: [00:35:18] Yeah. I mean, these guys were redoing their offices right now. So they’re over here in the administrative conference room working. But they’re in my office. Hey, let’s do this. Let’s get out. You know, we have a lacrosse game this weekend.
Let’s get out and hand out ice cream to students. So We they, they want to be on the community, which is great, and we’re going to help them wherever we can. Like we talked about, we have all the resources that we normally have. We have one marketing person. We have 18 sports. So we have to work harder well, you know make sure that we are taken care of what do we need to done, but to get done, but we also need to make sure we’re.
We’re doing our day to day stuff. So it’s, there’s a balance there, but we’re, we’re gonna, [00:36:00] we’re going to get going and we’re excited about it.
Mark Benson: [00:36:02] So, Hey Mike, so he’s just forgotten one important duty to help DK is really smart thing that you take as you got the mentality t-shirts and we got them out around campus and he knew that he knew he knew Vic was a baseball player, Rutgers.
So he thought, well, if anybody in the department, maybe the fro t-shirt further, farther than the basketball. Those are the students. That that would be an important part of his, his day to day. But So it’s
Mike Klinzing: [00:36:25] A t-shirt cannon. Wasn’t in the budget?
Mark Benson: [00:36:29] the repair shop.
Dwayne Killings: [00:36:34] Vic’s got a stronger arm than the t-shirt guns. So we’ll use them. I will say this fueled on gasoline juice has more energy than anybody I’ve seen. So
Mark Benson: [00:36:47] When his arm wears out Travis Wilson, who was also the search committee actually was a baseball picture of you all, but he had, he will tell you. He’s got the strongest fan and then the department. So we’ve got a backup plan.
Mike Klinzing: [00:36:59] You guys are ready [00:37:00] for an athletic department to capitalize on or something to really throw the gauntlet down and get after it.
All right. So when, when you offer Dwayne the job and he accepts, how do you, how do you let the other candidate know. That they were not your choice. And then once to let that other candidate know, what’s the next stage. And I talked to Dwayne a lot about this, that just the press conference that you guys put together and the welcome that you had for him and his family, to the university.
I went back and watched it kind of in my own prep for interviewing Duane and getting ready for this. And it’s just, you couldn’t help, but come away. Impressed by what you guys were able to put together in terms of welcoming him and his family to the university. So I guess the first part is how do you let the other candidate know that, Hey, we’re going in a different direction.
And then once you know, you’ve settled on Dwayne and he’s accepted the job, how do you get that prepared to introduce him to the community at UAlbany?
Mark Benson: [00:37:56] Yeah. So the best part is offering DK the job except in [00:38:00] the worst part of the process is, is that follow-up piece. And. You know, we, we, I felt it was important that I personally reached out to the other person that we had on campus and have a conversation which is never easy for anybody.
They probably don’t want to talk to me at that point in time. And, but I felt it was important. That they hear from me. We actually did it FaceTime or zoom because I just wanted to you can’t be in person, but eyeball to eyeball and look at somebody and talk them through where, where we landed was, was really hard to do.
But I think really important to do. And then. I know Vic reached out to some of the others that we did not offer to. And he might’ve done that. Actually. I actually did that before he moved to two. I don’t know. I can’t remember the time.
Vic Cegles: [00:38:44] Yeah, I did right before I do it. You know, like the hardest thing man is, is stuff starts leaking.
And you know, we try to keep this, our search committee was four people. You had the president and then for donors. So we try to keep it as. [00:39:00] As tight as possible, but then people start making you know, guesses and it starts getting out and you’re like, Oh man, we gotta move quickly. We gotta start calling some people here.
So. Yeah, we try to knock it all out beforehand before we made the, made the offer, just so if it did get leaked, it was you know, they at least hear it from us before
Mike Klinzing: [00:39:20] it’s seen on Twitter and then the press conference. How do you guys, what’s the process? What’s the plan? How do you go about coming up with the ideas and thoughts of how you want to welcome Dwayne to the university?
Mark Benson: [00:39:32] Yeah. So I’ll, I’ll really turn this. I’ve been here six and a half years, I think takes the seventh coach head coach. I’ve hired here at university of Albany. And so everyone’s been a little bit different, but obviously with basketball, there’s a lot of, a lot of media attention around this higher. We, we felt it was important that there’s decay, but then there’s team fillings and we really wanted to embrace.
We wanted his family to feel comfortable coming in here and feeling like they’re welcoming and, [00:40:00] and part of it. And I think we were successful in that. And I re I looked back, I have four kids young kids when I got here, I had three new Yorker, but you know, when you’re moving your family this is a big decision, right?
Impacts a lot of people. And so I’ve always felt it’s very important that that’s a very important part of the process. And then Dick and his team Vick Laura Ram, Griff Hunter just put together a great, great presentation. The, the coverage we did from the airport to the hotel to everything was just really, really well done and credit to Vic and his team for putting that all together.
Mike Klinzing: [00:40:38] What did that process, what did that planning process look like? How do you come up with that plan?
Vic Cegles: [00:40:44] Yeah. So I, I Regardless of who we’re doing it. We wanted to make an a show. And so I had these conversations with our external team beforehand and said, Hey this isn’t going to be a big day for us.
It’s going to be a big day for, for team [00:41:00] killings. Like, let’s blow this thing up, let’s document this day. So what do we need? So it started with all right, they’re coming off the plane, let’s get some cheerleaders. Their cheerleaders were a little late. Dwayne’s airport is playing in a little early.
I’m texting them. I’ll come down. Don’t come down the escalator just yet. It’s funny. So you know, coming off the plane, we had a photographer there. We had a videographer there and get them off the plane. Take him, take him down. Took him right to campus. Do a little tour here and then brought them to the, to the hotel.
But the next day doing the production Laura is she’s awesome. She’s, she’s a beast. When it comes to production, we have one of the better ESPN productions here in the conference, but. She put the scene together. She had her own vision. Our marketing director had his own vision. Our sports information directors had had their vision.
So it all kind of came [00:42:00] together, but it was an unbelievable day. Our, our videographer. Literally worked through the night to put that video together. Cause that all happened within 12 hours for 24 hours. So it was it was, everybody stepped up and it was just, I was so proud of them after that day.
I got chills watching it the next day. I’m like, man, I can’t believe we just pulled that off. I mean, that was, that was really, really impressive and incredible and, and hats off to my team. Cause you know their, their vision helped and we all, we all, we all have to get on the same page and, and knock down part.
Mike Klinzing: [00:42:33] Yeah, it was so well done. I mean, I think as somebody, as an outsider who was watching it, I don’t think you could do anything except come away, impressed both with the university themselves and what you guys put together. And then obviously Dwayne made you look good too, man. So you know, you put all that, you put that whole thing together.
And I think it was a very impressive way to start. So we’re coming up on an hour, gentlemen, I want to ask you guys one final question and all three of you can probably answer this question and maybe I’m assuming [00:43:00] you’re all, hopefully gonna answer it in the same way, but maybe from a slightly different perspective.
And that is when you sit down and you think. A year from now. So one year after Wayne’s been hired, how are you going to judge whether or not your one has been a success? What are the criteria that you’re going to use to evaluate whether your one has been, what you envisioned that it would be? So maybe Mark, why don’t you take it first and then Vic, you take it second.
And Dwayne, we’ll wrap up with you.
Mark Benson: [00:43:28] Yeah. So being still in the pandemic, right. And it alters your, your perception on things, your expectations. So I will tell you, after month one, I already feel like we’ve may have had a success. I just love the way DK and his staff have engaged on campus. It gays, or our current players worked with them, getting them to buy into their vision.
It’s apparent you can see it. Worked from day one. So engage, start apartment our campus community. I mean, the guys [00:44:00] surprise us at a coffee group. I go to every Friday morning with his entire staff just to get out and meet people on campus. So that piece early on is, is, has been a. That’s huge. After a year, year one, we hopefully will.
We’re going to have a competitive season and we have put ourselves in a chance to win a championship and have our student athletes that are fully engaged competitively academically in the community. Want to see that happen? And then who knows what, what the, what the. Or SFU arena will look like in terms of what we’re allowed to have.
And in our sand base, based on New York state guidelines, it appears that things are opening up as we speak day by day. But if the pandemic thought was anything, it’s say stay nimble and be prepared to react. So hopefully the health and, and just engaging more people along this way in year one, I think, I think will be important.
Mike Klinzing: [00:44:57] Vic, what about from your perspective? [00:45:00]
Vic Cegles: [00:45:01] For me after a year, I think it’s going to be, how do people win, lose or draw? What is the energy around the program, you know? Are they excited to be here? Are they excited about the future? I think that’s a win. I think bringing in kids you know, you see some of the kids that, that joins already brought in and developing those kids and they grow into this program and our fan base grows around them and they really get to know them as, as as a student as a, as a player.
And again, who knows how many fans? I wish we could pack this thing every day, who knows what we’re going to do, but You know, as long as there’s some energy there and you’re already seeing it more. I mentioned it earlier. It’s been a month and the amount of energy around our program has been absolutely incredible.
Everybody’s excited. And we were hoping we knew me and Mark knew it was going to be exciting. But now everybody’s buying [00:46:00] in on it. And it’s really, really incredible to see. So after a year win, lose, or draw where you want to win more than we lose, but it’s having that, that energy around and our, our program.
Dwayne Killings: [00:46:13] Yeah, I think for me, I fell in love with the job. Because of the attention to detail and the care that I think the way I was received in my family was received when we got here that press conference was amazing. Like I had NBA head coaches, jock out Perry texted me saying that was high level. So because of that, I cared more about this opportunity than I probably did when I got on the plane.
Just because one they’re believing in me, but. They, they did it at such a high level. I couldn’t ask for more. And I say that to say that I think one of the ways I’m gonna evaluate the program is we need to make people care about us and to do that, we have to care about other people, whether they’re on campus or in the community.
That’s step one. And then when I look at the academic side of it I’m hope. The end of the semester, we’ve done a better job in the [00:47:00] classroom. That’s a win. Then I hope in the community. We’ve impacted the communities. When people say, Hey, when these guys arrived, they’ve done these four or five things that really impacted the capital region.
Then on campus. I just want to connect to the people on the other side of campus and support the other teams where people say, Hey, the program impacted people. Then on our team, I got to make our guys better as men and make them better as players. We do those things. We’ll be ready to compete. And if we’re ready to compete at the level I want to compete at, then we’re going to win games.
I think everybody will be happy with the results, but I think it’s just a month-by-month process. And I think this first month you’ve been terrific. Now we’ve got to move into,
Mark Benson: [00:47:38] Hey Mike, can I add one thing? Absolutely. You know some, sometimes I I’m a big believer in things happen for a reason.
Things are meant to be. And DK talked about, we’ve talked about connecting a lot, right? Whether students, current athletes, community, but he started connecting on his way in, I got a, we got a picture from him from the, from the airplane he was sliding on and [00:48:00] he’s got his Underarmour gear on him and he’s got his arm around the pilot.
And at first I wasn’t sure was he nervous about flying and what was happening? It turns out the pilot was a UAlbany alum and he’s bringing it up here to, to, to campus. And at that moment, I’m like, Hey man this. This is meant to be, but it was also like that’s how DK interacts with people. It’s very authentic and it’s very real.
And it started the minute you hit that plane and can’t wait to see what it looks like a year from now.
Mike Klinzing: [00:48:24] Absolutely. I can vouch for that. Just the fact that he and I have been able to connect on this project just from him jumping on and being a guest. And after Stan Johnson from Loyola Marymount introduced us.
This has been amazing, the connection that we’ve been able to build. So before we wrap up here, Mark, I want to give you an opportunity. How can people connect with. That you had Albany athletic department share how people can find out more about what you guys are doing. I know Dwayne has done that already on the first two parts of the series, but just how can people connect with the university.
And then after that, I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.
Mark Benson: [00:48:57] Yeah, I think the easiest way. And you’re talking to a [00:49:00] guy that’s not on Instagram and that’s not on the Facebook and it’s not on other social media, but you already sports.com is our hub to redesign website and they can get you the whole, our social media accounts, both for individual programs.
The university latest grace was an app you can download right off of that. That’s a terrific, real time up to date. Through your phone. And I think that’s the best way. And Vick is much more into the digital world than I am, and he could correct me where I was wrong or give a better option.
Vic Cegles: [00:49:31] No, you’re not a part of social media. You know Dwayne again is tasked us with, with growing our social media. So we’re going to put a campaign together with our staff this summer and put up. Game plan to get our social media is going. So, yeah. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. And then as Mark said, we would just launched this new app.
It’s great. So you can catch all your Danes on that app,
Mike Klinzing: [00:49:58] Gentlemen. I cannot. Thank you [00:50:00] enough for taking an hour of your time this morning to join us and kind of give us some insight into the process of what it’s like to hire a head basketball coach at the division one level.
So Mark Vick and Dwayne, obviously, thanks to all of you for taking that time and to everyone who’s out there in our audience, listening, we appreciate you sticking with us and we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.