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Interview with Brian Donoher

January 28, 2004 Columns No Comments

An Interview with Wright State Assistant Brian Donoher

by Bill Kintner

They talk about Brian’s playing days, his legendary father, the Wright State Raiders and his new life in Dayton.

It all started with a voicemail I left for Coach Donoher. A few days latter he called back and we set up a time for the interview. I arrived a few minutes early, and waited in his office for him to arrive. I saw photos of his family and his playing days at University of Dayton. There was a big stack of VCR tapes in the corner, some books on a shelf and a calendar on the wall with a bunch of notes on it. It pretty much looked like the office of a busy guy. A guy involved in recruiting a top 40 recruiting class.

He arrived and apologized for being a few minutes late. After we talked a little bit about the program we jumped into the interview. He was very easygoing, open and even appreciative in answering the questions I tossed his way. In this interview you will find a well-grounded man who is now getting an opportunity to practice his trade in his hometown.

Brian Donoher is the son of the legendary University of Dayton Coach Don Donoher. He had a front row seat and later an active roll as a player in one of the storied programs of the Mid-west.

Bill Kintner: How did you become a coach at Wright State? Did you seek out the job or did it find you?

Brian Donoher: I sought it out. A friend of mine, Monte Mathis who worked with Paul at Ohio State and I were talking. He helped me get the ball rolling with Paul. This is my hometown and my wife is from here. Our parents are getting a little older. We thought the Wright State job would be a good opportunity. You don’t get the opportunity very often to coach in your hometown. We felt this was a good situation for me professionally. Paul and I hooked up and I am very grateful that he hired me.

Kintner: Did you know him before you were interested in this position?

Donoher: I knew him a little from recruiting where you see a lot of coaches out on the recruiting trail. So I knew what a great guy he was and what a great job he did. I was out of coaching for two years and living in Columbus. It was during those two years that Ohio State made their Final Four run and I was able to watch them play a lot. I really respected how they ran their program.

Kintner: Was it hard being out of coaching?

Donoher: Yeah, but I chose to do it. But it was exciting to do something different. I got married during that time. It did give me the feeling that I could get a job outside of basketball doing anything. Hopefully next time someone will have to tell me to leave before I tell myself to leave.

Kintner: Was that part of the agreement with your wife that you would get back into coaching?

Donoher: We talked about during our engagement period. At that time she lived in Columbus and had a great job. Financially it was a great move. She didn’t care either way what I did. So it has been good for us.

Kintner: What coaching duties are you responsible for?

Donoher: Coach Biancardi has the duties broken up with Coach Greer handling a lot of the scouting. Coach Huckleby and myself do some scouting. But our primary responsibility is the recruiting. You kind of do it all. We are all involved in all coaching areas. We meet a lot to discuss what we are going to do. We all give our input but ultimately Coach Biancardi has to make the call.

Kintner: When you are recruiting what are you looking for?

Donoher: Sometimes you just see a kid once, so you can’t get caught up in how many points he scores. He might have just had a bad night shooting, which all players do from time to time. You can’t just come back and say “he is a bad shooter because he was 5 for 15 that night.” You have to watch and see the whole thing. I like to get there during warm ups to see him shoot. You try to watch the little things like passing. You watch his attitude; you want to see if he is sulking. Sometimes you do take a chance with a kid who has an attitude and you hope you can change that. You want to see if he is a kid who shoots a lot. You can always pull the reins of a kid who shoots too much. But you can’t help a kid who doesn’t shoot a lot. You’ve got to watch and see their personality. You want to see if they talk, if he is a leader and if he does the little things. That is what is going to take him over the edge from being an average player to being a good player?

Kintner: How does the recruiting process start? Does it start with recruiting services, calls from high school coaches or camps?

Donoher: Everything, all the above! Sometimes you are at a camp and you just see a kid. The kid just intrigues you so you start making calls and doing the ground work on him. I am on the Internet every day. That is something I learned from Coach Biancardi. Before I check my e-mail I am checking the web to see what’s going on in recruiting. You can get a lot of information but following up is the key.

Kintner: What web sites do you keep an eye on?

Donoher: The web sites are the ones that we subscribe to with the scouting services, you know, I am responsible for Ohio and Indiana and Coach Huckaby for Ohio and Michigan. You know that is our base of where we are trying to look. Obviously Prepspotlight, Indiana Basketball News, and then there’s links off of HoopScoop, JucoJunction — just keeping abreast of knowledge.

Kintner: How good are they? Are some more accurate than others or do you find them all about the same?

Donoher: You can trust those people and a guy like John Stovall does a great job. He’s at a million games. Sometimes John might see a player differently than we might see a player. Everybody’s got their different evaluations, you know, if it was the same then everyone would have the same type of teams. You respect, you follow, and you look at John – you still got the names and everything – he might just have a kid higher rated than you might have them or lower rated or sometimes you guys might feel the same way.

Kintner: Do you look for trends, like if everyone’s saying the same things about a guy it is probably right?

Donoher: Most certainly, because you still have to do the background stuff. Because sometimes you are watching a kid play and you aren’t getting the off the court stuff and everything, which parlays into a lot of factors in how a kid might develop.

Kintner: Go back to your start as a player. Was there any doubt, with your dad as the famous University of Dayton coach that you were not going to play at Dayton?

Donoher: Yeah, he had asked me when I was a sophomore in high school where I wanted to go to school. I liked Miami; I thought that league would maybe fit me more and it would give me more of an opportunity to play, and I explored those options. Miami ended up taking another kid instead of me so I didn’t have as many options. You know that was where I wanted to go and my dad really wanted me to go to Dayton for reasons for him and a special situation. And I made that decision. I was very fortunate that I got to do that for a couple of years because just being around him each and every day was big.

Kintner: Tell me what it was like growing up in a Donoher household with basketball, basketball, basketball, and Dayton, Dayton, Dayton.

Donoher: It was a great experience. You know when you are younger you just take it for granted. But Dayton went to the final eight and then next year lost to Villanova. So I was around two really good teams. Then throwing the Olympics into that whole thing and it was special. I was a very fortunate kid to be around so many great people at such a young age.

Kintner: What was your household like?

Donoher: My mom she was a typical mom. She carted me around wherever I had to go. My dad was around but he would get home later. There weren’t a lot of dinners around the table. My bother and sister were 10 and 4 years older than me. So I was around alone a lot in high school. There was definitely a lot of pressure on my dad. He put a lot of pressure on himself. Just like almost every coach. As you know there is a lot of pressure over there at Dayton. You are under the microscope a lot. The expectations were a little unrealistic. But we were able to get through it and I had a great childhood.

Kintner: What did you learn from your father in terms of basketball or about life?

Donoher: He was very fundamental and I think just being around him, that rubbed off on me. His philosophies were very fundamental. Things like footwork, the preparation for the shot and the small things that can make an offense work. He was of very high moral character, He tried to do things the right way…….all the time. It is a great way to look at things. In this business there are so many rules and you can tweak things here and there, but you have to try to stay in line because it is not worth it to kids to step over the line and break a rule.

Kintner: Describe what happened when you father left the University of Dayton?

Donoher: It affected me quite a bit because I was still at UD as a player and it was after my sophomore season. I was probably looking at getting 15 or 20 minutes of playing time a game during my senior year. That was above any expectations I had going into it. That was just from knowing the system and knowing what his expectations were. It blew up in my face, but it made me a better person now. I just had to change. To that point everything in life had gone how I wanted it. And at that point I had to make some decisions. You know, nobody wants to get fired and my dad has to live with that each and every day. He’s a coach and he wants to coach. So anytime someone takes that away from you, you just have to adapt. As for me, I tried to stay at UD. Coach O’Brien was very good to me. I stayed with the team, but after a couple weeks of practice it just wasn’t in my best interest or the program’s best interest for me to stay. So I made the decision to leave the team and I had to live with that. UD ended up having a great year that year, going to the NCAA Tournament. It was hard to watch but I was happy for those guys because I knew all the hard work and everything that they put into it. I ended up going to Wittenburg and I had a great experience. I got to play that year with a great group of guys, teammates that I really enjoyed being around. I got a lot of experience that helped me get into coaching.

Kintner: As you watch University of Dayton’s program how do you think it is doing?

Donoher: They are unbelievable. I think Coach Purnell did a great job. I think it is all about having some players. I think they have done a good job. They have left quite a few good players there for Coach Gregory. I think they are in a good position to compete. But I think at a school like Dayton they won’t be great every year. I think next year they will have to scale back just a little bit because they graduate 4 kids. They have a great recruiting class coming in but they have to give that time. They should be competitive. But they shouldn’t expect to be World-beaters each and every year.

Kintner: What were your impressions of Wright State before you became a coach:

Donoher: I used to play in a summer league and Wright State guys always played. There were UD guys, high school players and Wright State guys. Every night you could count on former Wright State coach Jim Brown there watching the games. I knew some of the older guys who played at Wright State like Mike Zimmerman and Bob Schaefer. So I certainly knew of Wright State. . I really never came out here too much.. It was a really, really good Division II program. Then they went Division I and Dayton played them. We all knew each other. We all respected each other. I don’t think there was any animosity. It was a great thing. I even spent some time with the WBL pro-team that played here at the Nutter Center. I’ve known the people out here, I had been around the area and to see it just take off was great. It is just a great place and it will only get bigger and better.

Kintner: What is the difference between a Wright State and an Akron?

Donoher: Here the thing I liked about Wright State is the non-football aspect. I love college football, it is the best thing going on Saturday. But at the mid-level, it really drains the budget. At a MAC school it really limits what you can do. That is what I like about Wright State, here you are the top dog. There are some extra things budget-wise you can do here that you can’t do at a MAC school. Like the training facility they are going to build us. That is going to be unbelievable. That would never happen at a MAC school because economically it would not be feasible. I do think you are recruiting the same kids. Wright State is growing to more of a school that houses a lot of the kids, from a commuter school, whereas Akron is more a commuter school.

Kintner: Will your father come out to some games this year?

Donoher: He is a scout for the NBA Cavaliers so he goes to a lot of college games. He gas been out to a practice. When he is in town I am sure he will try to make a game. He travels 4 days a week so I don’t know how a Wright State will work for him. I am sure he will be out if for no other reason that we have a couple of guys he has to watch. I mean Seth Doliboa is definitely on the radar screen for the NBA.

Kintner: Is there anything about Wright State that surprised you after you got here?

Donoher: I think the campus is unbelievable, it shocked me how nice it was. If we can get a kid on campus we can impress him with our facilities and our campus.

Kintner: What are you selling to recruits when you are recruiting?

Donoher: We are selling the staff and the kids we have in the program. That is our biggest selling point. The facility is unbelievable. To walk a kid into the Nutter Center is very impressive. Then it would be what they are looking for academically and socially. You have to tie it all in. How Coach Biancardi does things and how he relates to kids is also a big selling point. He does a great job with that when we get kids in here.

Kintner: Thank you for your time!

Donoher: All right I’ll see you around.


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