By Steven Eggert
The message was only 125 characters long, but that’s all that was necessary to give the men’s basketball program a huge upgrade with a new assistant coach.
On June 5, Associate Head Coach Mike Witcoskie sent out a tweet intended for then-retired basketball player Jason Kidd that read, “Heard @realjasonkidd wants to be a coach. Let me know if you want to coach in college this year. Rider Broncs are interested.”
Though Witcoskie was not confident Kidd would join the Broncs’ staff, it didn’t hurt to try.
“Kidd had said something to the media about wanting to coach,” Witcoskie said. “Obviously, we had no idea he was going to end up as the coach of the Brooklyn Nets, but, basically, we put it out there. If we can get a guy with that kind of experience, we’d definitely take him.”
The Broncs didn’t land Kidd, but were able to snag another former NBA player, Donyell Marshall.
After seeing the tweet, Marshall contacted Witcoskie and Head Coach Kevin Baggett, stated his interest in the coaching vacancy, and the rest is history. Marshall’s hire was announced on Aug. 22.
Marshall, a forward who played with eight NBA teams throughout his 15-year professional career, averaged 11.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and is tied for the NBA record with 12 three-pointers made in a single game.
He was aware of Rider before becoming the assistant coach because his son was being scouted to play for the Broncs.
“We liked his son and we ended up going in another direction, but Donyell was very genuine and good to us in the whole recruiting process,” Baggett said. “It’s just funny, you never know where roads are going to meet. We had a good time getting to know one another then.”
It was not only Marshall’s NBA experience and first impressions that helped get him the job, it was his desire to become a coach and get involved in basketball, even though he could not play anymore.
“There’s a couple things: one being his experience and then his passion to become a coach and someday a head coach,” Baggett said. “I thought it was a right fit and this would be a good step for him to get experience. Then he’ll go on to do better things as an assistant and maybe as a head coach as time progresses.”
Marshall’s prior coaching experience includes assistant coach at George Washington University in 2010 and assistant coach with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League in 2011.
After playing basketball in college and with several teams in the NBA, he has a new-found respect for what coaching is all about.
“As a player, you just go to the games, get the scouting report and do it,” Marshall said. “As a coach, you have to do everything, the behind-the-scenes stuff. Even as a player, you know what a coach does, but you don’t appreciate it as much. Now that you’re in this part, it gives you a lot more appreciation as a player.”
On the court, one player whom Marshall has worked with hands-on is senior forward Danny Stewart. Since Marshall was a forward during his professional career, Stewart tries to observe and follow his advice when developing his own game.
“Having him here helps because he played the same position,” Stewart said. “He has tips, pointers and information on how I can make myself better. He sits back and analyzes what’s going on. He’ll pull you to the side and tell you what you need to do or what you should’ve done.”
Off the court, Marshall brings various coaching perspectives from his past experiences. He uses that knowledge when talking strategy with the coaches.
“What’s great is that he played with a multitude of teams,” Witcoskie said. “He’s seen it done in a lot of ways, good, bad and ugly, as we all have. He can bring the experience into, ‘Here’s what I’ve seen that’s worked, and hasn’t worked,’ and that’s essentially what coaching is.”
Marshall declared for the 1994 NBA Draft as a junior while attending the University of Connecticut. He was selected fourth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Though he went on to have a long and successful career in the NBA, Marshall’s advice to these players has nothing to do with going professional.
“I try to preach to get your degree,” Marshall said. “If you look at myself, who played and made money, I had to go back and get my degree in order to even coach. To me, that’s the most important thing. If you play professionally, that’s just an added bonus.”
The players have grown attached to Marshall and appreciate not only his basketball knowledge, but also his knowledge about life.
“I think they’ve responded well,” Baggett said. “The reality sets in that he’s got to help us. He’s got to coach these guys, yell at them, and discipline them. He’s a guy who’s hungry to become a head coach at some point. I don’t know how long I will have him or most of my guys on my staff, so you enjoy having him while he’s here.”