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The circle of life: from player to coach

by Tyler Deffebach / Beacon Correspondent • November 29, 2012

Drew Venter, class of 2012, is the men's new basketball assistant coach.
Drew Venter, class of 2012, is the men's new basketball assistant coach.

Drew Venter has spent the last four years of his life playing Emerson College basketball. Now, Venter will take on a different role for the Lions, working with some of his former teammates as the new assistant coach, just months after he cleared out his locker as a player.

“I always looked at the game with a coaching perspective,” Venter said. “I was a point guard, so I was responsible for the plays — knowing what the defense is going to do, transitioning from offense to defense, and getting your players in line to react accordingly. The transition has not been as hard as people may think.”

At the end of last year, Venter said he was looking into graduate-assistant coaching positions at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) and Virginia Tech, but after both opportunities fell through, he was then offered the assistant coaching position by Emerson head coach Jim O’Brien.

“When I was offered those [graduate-assistant opportunities] I thought to myself, ‘I would love to do that,’ because I’m getting a free education and staying around basketball — and getting paid for it would have been great,” said Venter, who graduated in May with a degree in broadcast journalism. “I would have felt as though I was progressing my life more, but I love what I am doing right now, and I would not change it for the world.”

Venter, who is from Mansfield, Mass. said that while he is not fully committed to a career in coaching, his current job is a great opportunity to network and to gain valuable sideline experience. 

A defensive-minded point guard, Venter played for Emerson’s basketball team for four years and was in the starting lineup for two seasons. As a senior, Venter was the team’s captain and ranked second in assists and steals.

Venter said he still has a close friendships with many of the players, and his relationships will enhance his coaching ability.

“These kids are coming in as freshmen, and they have a former Division I coach that they are supposed to talk to,” said Venter, referring to O’Brien. “So I understand there might be some disconnect, but that is also one of the reasons why I think they brought me in, because I can relate to these players.”

After the unexpected firing of former men’s basketball head coach Hank Smith two years ago and the employment of former Boston College and Ohio State University head coach Jim O’Brien, the men’s basketball program, which finished 7-19 last year, is currently in a state of transition.

But Eric Wahl, a senior guard on the team who played with Venter for three years, said he thinks the new assistant coach will make a big difference in how the team prepares for games.

“I think it’s cool to have someone who is similar in age and who experienced the same things that you are going to experience through the course of the season to be your coach,” Wahl said. “It definitely is a unique situation, but he has played against a lot of the guys we play against, and you always see things on the court that you can’t see from the sidelines.”

O’Brien, who appointed Venter as team captain last year, said he thinks the former player is doing a great job so far.

“I think this has worked really well because of who Drew is and who the players are,” O’Brien said. “I love that he is apart of this team still, and he gives us a great perspective. He is less concerned about Xs and Os but more about developing team chemistry and helping the team work together.”

Venter will join a coaching staff that includes assistant coach Jack Barrett and Bill Curley, who played under O’Brien at Boston College.  

Venter said that, though the program is in a rebuilding stage, he has big expectations for the team this year.

“I have very high hopes this season,” Venter said. “You always have to believe that you will win the championship. If you don’t, what else do you play for?”