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Donlon’s coaches strive to make him look good

A photo of Wright State head coach Billy Donlon from the Detroit game on Jan. 30 shows Donlon glaring at the officials with a look of disgust you would normally reserve for someone who keyed your car — or, in this case, someone who had just issued you a technical foul.

At his side, calming Donlon down, assistant coach Chris Moore whispered in his ear, urging him to avoid a second technical.

“He’s intense,” Moore said. “He gets into it. I think our kids feed off it.”

Donlon thanked his staff Monday after being named Horizon League Coach of the Year, and that’s for good reason. His assistants do more than whisper in his ear. On the court, Wright State has won with different players leading the way almost every night. Off the court, it’s a similar story.

Moore and fellow assistant coaches Scott Woods and Brendan Mullins, plus director of operations Billy Donlon Sr., administrative assistant DJ Wyrick and graduate assistant Troy Tabler form the team behind Donlon.

“I told coach a long time ago, one of our primary jobs is to make your life as easy as possible and make you look as good as possible,” Moore said. “Along with everything else we do, coaching individuals, recruiting, something like this (award), it’s what we all strive for at the end of the day.”

Like the roster, the coaching staff underwent an offseason transformation.

Assistant coach Clayton Bates took an assistant coaching job at Western Michigan in September. Donlon promoted Mullins and brought in his dad to fill Mullins’ spot.

Said Donlon: “I’m lucky because they’re all really good people. Having my dad has helped in a lot of ways. He’s got great basketball knowledge. There’s a lot of kids who have really grown to my father. They’ve found him to be someone to go talk with. That was maybe a concern with some people. He’s 68. How do you relate? If you talk to Tavares Sledge, he just runs around and says my dad is his favorite guy. I said, ‘Hey, that needs to change. My dad doesn’t give out the minutes.’ It’s like that with a lot of guys on the staff.”

Mullins came to Wright State in 2010 as director of basketball operations.

“Moving up Brendan was pretty seamless,” Woods said. “Brendan had been here for two years and knew how things had run. He knew what coach wanted. It made it a lot easier than if we had brought in someone from the outside.”

Mullins is grateful to Donlon for the opportunity. “We talked previously that if somebody left the staff, he felt I was ready for it,” Mullins said. “That was a big reason I wanted to stick around.”

Woods and Donlon have coached together for six years. Woods spent three years as director of basketball operations before being named assistant coach in April 2010 when Donlon was hired as head coach.

“I owe Scott a lot,” Donlon said. “We’ve always worked together. We worked side by side in a co-role, and then I became his boss. He does a really good job.”

Moore joined Donlon’s staff in June 2010 after four seasons at Morehead State. He’s been around long enough now that he’s heard Donlon give the same speech several times.

“He’s got a couple he saves for a certain time of year,” Moore said. “There’s one in particular involving his mom and how she had to discipline him. The guys that have been here look forward to that because they know it’s coming. That’s one that always has the right effect. He always picks the right time to use it. You don’t pull it out too early, and you don’t wait too long to use it.”

Wyrick spent two season as a graduate assistant before being named administrative assistant. Tabler, who was a senior in Donlon’s first season in 2010-11, joined the staff this season.

“DJ has been with us a long time,” Donlon said. “A lot of the things he does that don’t get noticed are important. Troy has an ability to play and practice, and he’s a former player who won (19 or 20) games every year for four years. He has an arrogance about him. He thinks we’re going to win every game. The more guys you have like that, it’s contagious.”

Mullins coaches the guards, while Moore and Woods work with the big men. Each coach recruits in different areas. Mullins covers part of Ohio and Illinois, for example.

All the coaches break down tape, which is easier these days because of a company called Synergy Sports Technology, which provides film online for most Division I schools. Woods said if he wanted to watch clips of Cole Darling, he could watch every one of his shots in a short amount of time. Mullins said the coaches watch endless amount of film — about seven or eight games on each opponent the first time they play and maybe five games the second time.

During the game, they’re all talking to Donlon.

“We’re all trying to win the game,” Mullins said. “We’re all throwing out what we think, whether it’s a substitution or if it’s the team you scouted, you might be more focused on what the other team’s running.”

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