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MARSHALL BASKETBALL: D’Antoni settles into job with Thundering Herd

By Derek Redd, Marshall beat writer

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — New Marshall men’s basketball coach Dan D’Antoni, during his three-decade tenure as head basketball coach at Socastee High in Myrtle Beach, S.C., had a slogan for his squad: “Organized Chaos.”

He wants to revive that concept with his Thundering Herd.

Eschewing patterned offenses and defenses, D’Antoni said Thursday he plans to employ a read-and-react strategy on both sides of the court. He hopes it will lead to an NCAA title, a lofty goal, but one he said will be Marshall’s every season.

“You want to go write that I’m loopy and crazy, go write it, that’s fine,” he said. “But we’re going to go try to win the NCAA. Every time we line up, we want to win that last game. If we get in the tournament and win that last game, we’ll win the championship.”

Winning postseason championships ­— be it Conference USA, the NIT or the NCAA — will mean a boost in D’Antoni’s paycheck, according to his contract, furnished by Marshall to the Daily Mail. D’Antoni, in his first stint as a college head coach at age 66, will make a base annual salary of $200,000 over the next five seasons. He’ll also receive $70,000 for television and radio appearances and $30,000 for fundraising appearances on behalf of the Big Green Scholarship Foundation.

The contract also lists several incentives. He’ll earn $10,000 if named conference coach of the year and $20,000 if named NCAA coach of the year. He’ll earn $10,000 if Marshall finishes in the top 25 of either the final coaches or media poll. A regular season conference title nets him $20,000, as would a conference tournament title.

D’Antoni would get $5,000 if Marshall makes the NIT and $20,000 if the Herd wins it. An NCAA tournament berth would be worth $40,000 and winning the title would earn him $50,000. If D’Antoni leaves for another head coaching job any earlier than 15 months left on his deal, Marshall gets $200,000. If Marshall fires D’Antoni without cause any earlier than the last 12 months of his contract, it owes him $200,000. If he’s fired within the last 12 months, he’ll receive a pro-rated portion of his current annual salary.

Both Marshall’s offense and defense will call for smart, multifaceted players to succeed, D’Antoni said. Offensively, all players on the floor will have to watch the defense’s movements and react accordingly.

“It’s a fast-paced game,” he said. “It creates different scenarios from the defense and you take advantage of it. And if you’ve got smart players who have skills, you can be pretty daggone good.

“The player I’m looking for is a smart player that has skills — especially shooting skills and a little ball handling skills — who love basketball and want to play hard and want to listen and want to be coached,” he continued. “If we can get those five ingredients, then we’ll put a good team on that floor.”

His defensive philosophy also is based on capitalizing on opponent’s mistakes. It’s also a defense where D’Antoni never wants the opposition to know what’s coming.

“When I was coaching high school there were two things I’d tell them: one, I don’t want them to know whether we’re playing a zone or man, and I don’t want them to run a play the entire game,” he said. “If we go into halftime, and they practice for a year trying to run this patterned offense and they can’t run it, we’ve done our job. If they’re in that offense, we’re doing something wrong.

“We’re going to make it chaotic and force them into a chaotic game,” he added. “We’re going to try to take advantage of the mistakes they make.”

The staff that will help him teach those philosophies is a mixture of familiar and new faces. Mark Cline remains from former coach Tom Herrion’s staff. D’Antoni feels he and Cline mesh well and that Cline will be a good representative entering recruits’ homes around the region.

D’Antoni said Cline will be joined by another veteran, Scott Rigot, who has stops as an assistant coach at South Carolina, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Hawaii, Kentucky and Duquesne. The first four teams each made the NCAA tournament when he coached there and Duquesne made the NIT.

“(Former South Carolina head coach) George Felton and (Texas Tech coach) Tubby Smith, who I respect as coaches, went to bat for him heavily,” D’Antoni said. “He was in Europe last year and Asia the year before that. He has ties where I want to establish a recruiting base. And he had the perfect portfolio.”

First-time coach Chris Duhon, who just finished a nine-year NBA career, rounds out the staff. D’Antoni coached Duhon, a former Duke standout, with the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers when he served on younger brother Mike’s staffs for both teams. He knew then Duhon could make the transition to the coaching ranks.

“When we would sit on the bench, he would tell me what’s going on and I could tell he knew,” D’Antoni said. “He had all the ingredients of reading the floor. He had the persona to be a coach.”

As he’s settled into his new job, D’Antoni said the reception he’s received is the one he expected. He sees many who want to feel the excitement for basketball that Marshall fans experienced in year’s past, and he wants to do his part in bringing it back.

“What I want to do is begin the fire in young people and re-establish it in people my age,” he said. “I hope that people my age get up out of their seats and support this team with the passion they had when I was here. I think they can. If they need somebody their age to talk them into it, I’m here.”

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.


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