NABC Next Generation is an interview series with assistant coaches and support staff from across the country, highlighting their career experiences and future goals. Today's feature is Catholic University assistant David Kaplan.
Why did you become a coach?
“I began coaching youth basketball when I was in high school because I had a few coaches who were not very good, and I didn’t want other kids to have the negative experience I had. When I began coaching high school basketball, I knew I wanted to make coaching a profession. The game of basketball has allowed me to meet some of my best friends, and some of my favorite childhood memories involved basketball, so I wanted to help provide those same positive experiences to the younger generations. As corny as it sounds, I think being a coach was my calling in life.”
What experiences – both professional and personal – have shaped your career the most?
“My playing career was cut short prematurely – not due to injury, but due to not being very good. Getting cut helped me realize that if I wanted to continue to be around the high school and college game, I better either become a referee or a coach.”
“I flew from Washington, D.C. to Lubbock, Texas to work Tubby Smith’s camp at Texas Tech about four years ago, and just being around a head coach who absolutely loved being a coach and helping campers have a wonderful time was refreshing. After the camp ended, I stayed at his home and shadowed his coaching staff doing mail-outs and general offseason tasks, and I became more motivated than ever to become a college basketball coach.”
Who have been the biggest mentors in your career, and what have you learned from them?
“Andy Gray was the first head coach I served under at Gar-Field Senior High School. He is the gold standard as far as getting the most out of his players and running a successful program. Tubby Smith is a fellow High Point graduate and has been a friend and mentor. He is fair, honest and runs the cleanest programs in the country. His name is synonymous with integrity and I’d be lucky to work for him one day. Josh Schertz of Lincoln Memorial University is one of the most successful DII head coaches of all time. I was a student at High Point when he was the associate head coach, and he was a relentless recruiter who was constantly on the road recruiting and building a network. Red Jenkins was a legendary high school coach who taught with my late grandmother at WT Woodson High School. He's another coach who I've leaned on for advice over the years. Steve Howes and Paul DeStefano are the head coach and associate head coach, respectively, at Catholic University. I try to soak up as much basketball knowledge as possible from them both.”
Aside from winning games, what are your personal career goals?
“I want to recruit student-athletes who are all-conference and all-American caliber basketball players. At the same time, I want to help develop young men who will be successful long after their basketball careers are over.”
“Individually, I'd like to eventually become a director of basketball operations at a low-to-mid major NCAA Division I program, and maybe one day get promoted to an assistant coach. Kevin Eastman gave me the advice of not applying for just any coaching position at the college level, but to only apply for the ones where the head coach shares the same vision and morals as I have, and where I could see myself retiring one day. When my college coaching days are over, I'd like to return to my high school and win a state championship with student-athletes that are well-rounded young men. I’d also like to use my platform as a coach to raise awareness and inclusion of the special needs population, and hopefully find a cure for Alzheimer’s one day.”
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
“Getting to see the growth of the young men that I've coached and recruited over the years. Many have taken their games to new heights, and most if not all of who've graduated are doing great financially. Having former players reach out and reminisce about the fun times we shared never gets old. I love winning, and if you don't win you're typically going to be out of a job. But the day-to-day interactions and lifelong friendships with the student-athletes and fellow coaches are what keep me energized to continue coaching.”
What does it take for a coaching staff to work well together?
“You must have trust in one another. That doesn’t happen overnight. Going through battles together strengthens your staff, and being the biggest proponent of each other is a must. It can be tough when everyone on the coaching staff is at a different stage of their life, but if you don’t have egos and share the same goals, the staff should be fine. You must have thick skin and not take things personally. When you are in the heat of the battle, you might say things or have things said to you that are not ideal, but you cannot take things personally.”
What’s one thing most people don’t know about the coaching profession?
“It’s not always lucrative. The coaches who are full time often wear multiple hats at their schools. And the coaches who make hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars started off making pennies on the dollar, and they had to pay their dues. Coaching will test your patience and take you on a rollercoaster of emotions.”
“It’s one of the most rewarding professions. You impact the lives of countless young men and their families, and help mold them to become husbands and fathers. You set them up to be successful when they start a family of their own.”