HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — As word spread that Dan D’Antoni, not Mike D’Antoni, was being named basketball coach at Marshall University, the criticisms were quick and numerous.
He’s too old.
He can’t communicate with today’s college players.
He’s never been a college head coach.
Those were some of the more popular jabs being taken at D’Antoni through social media. D’Antoni was quick to address those as he was introduced Friday afternoon.
“I am not 67. I’m 66 years old. I do have a lot of energy,” he said.
In fact, Marshall athletics director Mike Hamrick spent four days in Los Angeles with the D’Antoni brothers observing them during film sessions, practices and games. Hamrick was impressed, maybe even a little surprised by older brother Dan.
“The more I watched this guy work with the young players and sat in on the film sessions and meetings and I saw the energy that this person had, I said ‘Wow, we’ve got something here. We’ve got two great potential coaches,’” said Hamrick.
D’Antoni has worked on his brother Mike’s staffs in Phoenix, New York and Los Angeles and all along the way he has worked with younger players trying to find their place in the NBA. That’s why D’Antoni laughs at the idea he won’t be able to relate to today’s college basketball players.
“I cannot relate because of my age with young people? That one really mystifies me. When I went to the NBA they said ‘You can’t relate to the older veterans here so we’re going to put you with the younger players and let you develop them.’”
“(Recruits) can call David Lee, Leandro Barbosa, or Boris Diaw or Raja Bell and they can tell them how I helped them in their careers,” D’Antoni said. “I’ve always worked well with young people and young people seem to respond to me. I’ve got their best interests at heart and we’re going to push this program forward.”
D’Antoni spent three decades working with high school basketball players in South Carolina and young players at the professional level but only spent a season as an assistant with Marshall in 1970. But he insists basketball is the same game at any level.
“I think you try to keep them from putting the ball in that basket and you put the ball in your basket and if you do that will work at all three levels I’ve been at,” he joked.
D’Antoni declined comment on what his coaching staff may look like but promised to bring in assistants well versed in the college game to help his transition.
“I’ll give you everything that I know. I’ve been fortunate to be around some great coaches, here in West Virginia, in South Carolina and in the NBA.”
Too old? No experience? D ‘Antoni doesn’t buy it.
“I’ve been very lucky to have worked with some of the best players in the world. I do speak their language. They do respond to me.”