Probably like most of you that will read this there is rarely a day that goes by that I feel like I have a “real job”. I truly am honored, excited, and fortunate to serve Towson University so when Rob asked me to contribute I figured I’d share my journey to get here. I grew up a hockey player in Medford Massachusetts which is about 5 miles from Boston ( I have also carried Red Sox and Patriot pride wherever I have moved to) and fell in love with basketball in the 6th grade and have been hooked ever since. I was fortunate enough to play collegiately in my hometown for Tufts University and while most of my teammates were spending their summers working internships in the business law or medical fields I worked about 8 weeks of basketball camps every summer
When my career ended and like most guys I realized I wasn’t going to dethrone John Stockton in the NBA I needed the find a job. My mother got me a job at EF an International educational company in Boston, I lasted four days and on the fifth day I retired, bought a lottery ticket and won $429 dollars ( true story I swear). Once that money ran out I needed to figure out what was next. Fortunately for me my old man has always preached to me that doing something you were passionate about was the most important thing!
I got into coaching as a volunteer assistant at my alma mater, Tufts (well not entirely a volunteer- I made $300 dollars which was our recruiting budget back in 1993) . In addition to coaching I became a substitute teacher, a bartender and an official for high school soccer and basketball . After my first year Bob Sheldon the legendary coach of Tufts hired me as a grad assistant and I was able to add fitness center supervisor and equipment room responsibilities to my above mentioned tasks.
After 3 years at Tufts and earning a Master’s degree I was fortunate that I was hired as an assistant at Stonehill College by Dave Deciantis (for a little trivia the guy I shared an office with was Ed Cooley who has done a remarkable job at Providence). The job at Stonehill only paid 6k and I had a 40 mile commute each way so I got my real estate license and unsuccessfully tried to peddle real estate for the year.
You need some good fortune in this profession and I received some the spring of ’96 when Curry College and athletic director Pam Samuelson took a chance on me and hired me as their first full time basketball coach (I’ll forever owe Pam). I was 26 years old and Curry was my lab and also the place where I met my wife Kristen who was working in admissions
After 2 years at Curry I knew I wanted to chase my dream of becoming a Division One Head Basketball Coach and felt I needed to get on staff somewhere for that to happen. During all this time I had always continued to work basketball camps in the summer and also had perfected a scaled down version of Crazy George and his ball handling drills and tricks and had the chance to perform for about 50 camps in the New England region. Little did I know that this form of networking would serve me well in later years
That summer I lectured at The Northeastern University Basketball Camp led by the late Coach Rudy Keeling and he was looking for someone to work with his perimeter players. One thing led to another and I was hired in that fall at Northeastern. I’ll also tell you I took about a $20k pay cut to get on staff but knew I had to do it.
From that point on I had a few stops on the way
2 years at Northeastern
3 years at William and Mary
2 years at College of Charleston
3 years at URI
2 years at Providence
1 year at Pitt
Wow! Honestly my wife is a SAINT! As most of you know or will know soon enough this is a great game but at times a bad business. Moving is usually necessary but not EASY for family but it is part of one’s journey!
I’ve also realized through these moves how fortunate I was to be hired by some very good basketball coaches and even better people – Rudy Keeling, Rick Boyages, Tom Herrion, Jim Baron, Keno Davis and Jamie Dixon
The other things I realized along the way is that: 1. You don’t know as much as you think you know 2. Every task is important 3. There are super coaches assistants and support staff people at every level and they all have something you can take from to improve yourself 4. Lastly I learned that when you win everyone gains!
For me the “Big Break ” was getting hired at Pitt. Most people don’t realize this but Coach Dixon is the winningest coach in the history of the Big East – that’s a pretty big deal. So like I said when you win everyone gains and in my year at Pitt we were fortunate to win 29 games and earn a Big East regular season title and a one seed in the NCAA tourney. Moreover for me the journey led me to accept the Head job here at Towson University where I have served The Tigers the last 6 years and hope to serve for many more
As I reflect on my journey and goals I realize that hard work, friends and good fortune play a big part in this profession and there is also no one clear path to the next destination. I’m always fascinated to hear how guys have ended up from one spot to another on their journey .
The last thing I’ll briefly leave you with (I’ve rambled too long as is) is that sports is humbling and that you have to build and work at it everyday. In 2011 I was on a staff that won 29 games, in 2012 I led a program that lost 31 times and in 2013 helped that same program win 18 games. How that happened we will save for the next post if Coach Lanier asks for it……….
One time basketball puddle jumper and current 6 year Towson Tiger
Pat Skerry has turned Towson into a winner, posting three 20-win seasons in 6 years in addition to the 18-win season in 2012-13 which was one the all time great turn-arounds in College Basketball History. It also landed coach Skerry the 2013 Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year Award. Coach Skerry is also noted for his campaign to raise Awareness about Autism. Additionally, since this article is written by Coach Skerry in his words we would also like to encourage readers to go back and re-read it with a Boston Accent.