Photo to the right includes Dustin Kerns, James Ware, Sam Scholl and Jesse Pruitt.
During Santa Clara's foreign tour to Canada Sept. 6-10, Bronco head coach Kerry Keating opted to take a seat further down the bench and let each of his three assistants take turns as the head coach for the final three games in Canada. The coaches order was determined by the way their own teams finished on the morning of Sept. 8 during the "Amazing Race: Bronco Style", a scavenger hunt through the streets of Vancouver where each assistant picked their team through a lottery. Video on the Amazing Race: Bronco Style.
Dustin Kerns coached the game at UBC on Sept. 8, James Ware took the Sept. 9 game at Fraser Valley and Sam Scholl took the Sept. 10 rematch at UBC. Kerns and Scholl are in their fifth season on Keating's staff and Ware is in his fourth.
"We took the trip to Vancouver because we wanted to get Marc Trasolini home and also wanted to use the extra time to improve and get better. Initially we added the game on Saturday to play the guys who didn't get a lot of minutes and after our first few practices in August, we then decided to balance the minutes throughout. After our first five practices were over, we realized the practices were the hard work and the games and the trip would be the reward. The guys really worked hard in those 10 practices before we left for Canada," said Keating, who was taking his first foreign tour as a college coach. "Every coach goes about the games on a foreign tour differently. Maybe you want to play guys to win and give them confidence or play your best guys to establish your line up. For us, it was about everybody playing so we all understood how important it was for everyone to contribute to win each and every game during the season in regards to attention to detail. Other than Marc's injury, and that was a blow, the trip went really really well."
"For me to be able to do that, let the assistants act as the head coach, and focus on the teaching and letting them coach, will hopefully help us this season because after the experience they will be better assistants and realize the pressure of being the head coach. It was a really good moment for all of us. You are only as good as your players and your team and your assistant coaches and I am fortunate to have good ones on all fronts. I am really excited we did it and happy to give them the opportunity to call themselves head coach for a game. I enjoyed being down at the end of the bench and walking up and down and talking to all our guys. I was good to be able to sit and talk to the players on the bench about what was going on, how they would react and how they would coach or play in different situations. I am glad we took advantage of it and I am glad we did this," added Keating, entering his fifth season at the Bronco helm. He led Santa Clara to a 24-14 record last year and the CIT title post-season.
Kerns was the head coach at University of British Columbia on Thurs., Sept. 9 with Keating sitting further down on the bench, leading the team to overtime. His starters were Kevin Foster, Karim York, Julian Clarke, Yannick Atanga and Phillip Bach. Click here for the game story.
Ware led the Bronco charge to an 87-84 overtime victory over the University of Fraser Valley with Raymond Cowels III hitting a buzzer-beater on Fri., Sept 9. Ware's team from the Amazing Race Thursday started: Nick Lamson, Niyi Harrison, Evan Roquemore, John McArthur and Denzel Johnson. Click here for the game story.
Scholl got his crack at being the head coach when Santa Clara played its fourth and final game of its foreign tour at the University of British Columbia Sat., Sept. 10 at 10 am and after falling in overtime on Thursday night, the Broncos rebounded to win 68-63 after the T-Birds started the game on a 15-0 run. Scholl's starters were his team from the Amazing Race challenge on Thursday were: Karim York, Jordan Akwenuke, Brandon Clark, Robert Garrett and Raymond Cowels III. York started for an injured Kyle Perricone. Click here for the game story.
Pruitt applauded Keating's idea and thought it was a fantastic idea. "Giving our assistants that opportunity was a big time gesture, something not many head coaches would do. The trip was designed to build camaraderie and put our players in real-game situations. Coach Keating took it a step further and made it a real learning experience for our staff also. This being the fourth year that we have all been together, Coach Keating has complete trust in his staff to be leaders and step up when he hired us. The first thing he said in my interview was 'I want guys on my staff who want to be head coaches someday.' "
Pruitt, who would like to be a head coach one day as well, felt all three assistants were extremely prepared and organized; and that their communication in the lockerroom was effective and efficient. "They did a masterful job managing the game and adjusting to FIBA rules," said Pruitt. "All three assistants had timeouts at the end of the game that we were able to use to our advantage. Despite having seven players who played their first college games, each coach's calm demeanor on the sideline kept our players loose and focused."
Pruitt said Coach Kerns gave his halftime points of emphasis and then opened it up to the team by simply asking, "What do you see?" Pruitt said that was powerful because he's telling the players "I don't know it all. I'm not on the floor, you may see or feel something on the floor that we can't see on the sideline. "
"The players respect the hard work our assistants put in day in and day out and really wanted to win these games for them," said Pruitt.
"Hopefully what will come out of it is those guys, as they continue to be assistant coaches and someday head coaches, will understand how difficult it can be to be the head coach even in a non-pressure situation like the games in Canada, where it's an exhibition, you are playing all 15 players and the outcome isn't as crucial – it's more or less us getting better and teaching them," said Keating. "It was a teaching moment for everyone - the players, the coaches and all the staff."