Yesterday Seattle University announced that they signed men's basketball coach Cameron Dollar to a long-term contract after going 17-14 in his first year.
Seattle rewards Cameron Dollar - College Basketball Nation Blog - Diamond Leung - ESPN
Dollar, 34, developed a star player in Charles Garcia and, despite not being selected for a postseason tournament, managed to finish with a winning record.
"This contract speaks to Cameron's commitment to building a successful Division I program at Seattle University," athletic director Bill Hogan said in a statement. "As one of the top young coaches in the country, he has the skills and experience to grow and strengthen the program in the coming years.
Dollar will be probably be recognized for sometime as the guy who brought Charles Garcia to Seattle U, but the most notable part of the excerpt above is Dollar's focus on development, particularly in his handling of the NBA prospect star player whom he initially called the best prospect in the state.
The period of time during last season that seems to say the most about Dollar the coach is the stretch from late January to early February when the buzz about Garcia as a serious NBA prospect was still lively but starting to stagnate. With NBA scouts still showing up to KeyArena to evaluate Garcia, Dollar benched him.
NCAA: Seattle University - Swish Appeal
It's partially that inconsistent effort and focus - in practice, but translated to game performance -- that made Seattle coach Cameron Dollar decide to take Garcia out of the startling lineup.
"He just told me in practice, ‘Alright just see what happens these next two games - see where you'll be at'," said Garcia. "He's a man of his word."
Doing press conferences separately, Dollar and Garcia were on the same page about how the junior transfer could get back into the starting lineup: earn it through hard work in practice. Since they won't have a practice again before their game against Idaho on Thursday, he won't be starting then either.
"He don't get a chance to earn it until we go practice again," said Dollar, who has move Garcia to the bench. "He's gonna be comin' off pokey here until we get a stretch of practices again."
There were moments throughout last season that Garcia showed that he wasn't quite ready for prime time, whether it was adjusting to increased defensive pressure from faster players as a transfer, body language when he was pulled from games, or in this most public instance demonstrating a poor work ethic. Rather than give in to the short term pressure of showcasing his star player for the NBA scouts, Dollar took the tougher road and benched him but had earned enough respect from his star to get the effort he desired.
That Dollar communicated clearly with his team and was "a man of his word" clearly helped him build the type of strong relationship with his players that helped earn the type of respect where even a star with NBA aspirations like Garcia were willing to accept the consequences of their actions.
After returning to the lineup from his benching, Garcia showed significant growth as a player, being more patient and playing more within a team concept. But on Dollar's Redhawks, it wasn't about supporting the NBA star -- throughout the season he made it clear to Garcia that he would have to do what was best for the team or sit, either out of the starting lineup or during games like their 51 point blowout of Oregon State in January.
Ultimately, Dollar's value as a coach shouldn't be defined by his ability to recruit a NBA prospect, but how he managed that player full of potential within the context of a team.
Garcia's Efficient Double-Double Leads SeattleU to Victory: "He's just growing up" - Swish Appeal
"There's nothing more beautiful than coming together," said Dollar. "And at this point right now, nobody cares who gets the credit -- it's just the team. And there's power in that. So if you pick us apart -- coaches, players -- then maybe we're not as good, maybe we're not supposed to win. But if we're together like we are that power is undeniable."
Undoubtedly, some people might blame Dollar's management of Garcia as part of a team-building effort as the reason why Seattle U lost a star player who could have really taken off this year. On the other hand, the fact that Garcia went undrafted and ultimately left without a roster spot validates Dollar's judgment as a coach and someone who can develop talent even when scouts were salivating about potential that never panned out.
A developing Division I program could do a lot worse than finding a coach that has demonstrated coaching and leadership skills that many people never figure out, the ability to recruit star talent and bring that player into the team concept, and a mentor across town in University of Washington coach Lorenzo Romar who still shares insight with the former Husky assistant.
For more on Dollar, visit GoSeattleU.com.