Each of the five assistant coaches to preside during my four years at UAlbany have offended me uniquely.
Coach Knotts once told me to cut my growing dreadlocks because they looked “unprofessional.” When I finally I did decide to cut them, former assistant coach Friel offered his compliments, saying that, now, I looked “clean.”
Coach Iati once kicked me out of practice because he thought that I had cursed at him. I hadn’t. In fact, I’m known amongst my teammates for often sounding juvenile to avoid using foul language — I say things like “freak!” in exchange for its four-letter alternative.
On his first day, Coach Pelletier either did not hear my introduction and welcome of him to our team, or see my hand extended to be shaken; or, he ignored me.
But perhaps, of the five, former associate head coach, Chad O’Donnell caused me the most embarrassment.
Here’s that story:
My first day of official practice was a nor’easter of emotion: of course I was happy, and excited, but I was also terribly nervous. My hands were cold, and clammy.
I was anxious to get on the court, but afraid that I might not be good enough to match up against the likes of Mike Black, and D.J. Evans.
Thankfully, before I became an exploded mess of overthinking, it was time to head to the locker room, and get ready for practice.
Simon had left a pair of pristine, white, Nike Hyperdunks on the chair in front of my locker.
I put on my practice my uniform, team-mandated ankle braces, and took extra care in tying my sneakers, before making my way down to the court.
When practice started, then team captain, Blake Metcalf, took us through a series of stretching exercises.
And then we were ready to practice.
Coach Brown decided that it would be best for me to spend most of the day watching; getting used to the way things at the Division I level worked.
I was relieved at the thought of not having the opportunity to mess up on my first day.
As practice transitioned from half-court, to full-court drills, O’Donnell, invited me to stand beside him.
I sprinted over.
“Get in there,” he insisted.
Mike Black dribbled the ball down the floor, and directed his teammates to their positions. There was a momentary lull, as everyone tried to figure out where they should be.
For a reason that I’ve yet to realize, O’Donnell, pushed me onto the court. A second later, the ball was coming in my direction. Mike Black had passed to me, thinking that I was on his team. Confused, I let the ball sail passed me, out of bounds.
“What the hell are you doing?” Black screamed.
“Reece. What are you doing?” Coach Brown asked.
Speechless, I looked back at O’Donnell. I thought that he would tell Coach Brown about how he had pushed me onto the court. He didn’t say anything. Neither did he look confused. He didn’t shrug. He just looked back at me.
“I don’t know,” I offered, as I walked back to the sideline.
Coach Brown chuckled.
Former associate head coach, Chad O’Donnell would go on to resign from his position before the start of my senior season. He had recruited a number of players, and offended probably just as many, with “jokes” told in the locker room, like the following:
“Two llamas escaped from a zoo—a white one, and a black one. The black one was shot. But I have to wonder: was he ‘resisting arrest’?”
It’s not clear that “jokes” like that coerced O’Donnell into resignation.