A lot of folks couldn’t fathom what he was thinking.
“People thought I was crazy,” Kyle Getter admitted. “They said, ‘What are you doing? You only have so many years you can play.’”
After a good basketball career at Miamisburg High School, Getter had gone to Centre College in Kentucky and started his first two seasons there.
And then he did what few, if any, college basketball players have ever done.
At the height of his career, he decided to quit playing, transfer to Hanover College – an NCAA Division III team in Indiana that Centre had played – and try to launch a college coaching career while still being a 20-year-old student himself.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be a professional player and I knew I was really passionate about becoming a coach, so it made sense to me,” he said. “It would give me a two-year head start on everyone else my age.”
Thanks to both Hanover’s head coach Mike Beitzel, who became a real mentor to him, and University of Dayton coach Oliver Purnell, who took a special interest in him, Getter said the experiment worked out wonderfully.
Thursday he turned 40. It‘s already his 20th season as a college coach and he celebrated this birthday with his No. 1 seeded Virginia Cavaliers at a closed Final Four practice at the U.S, Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
He’s the team’s director of recruiting and player development.
Saturday, Virginia (34-3) defeated No. 5 seed Auburn (30-10) 63-62 in the first of two NCAA Tournament semifinals. The Cavaliers face Texas Tech in Monday’s championship game.
Getter’s coaching resume begins with a memorable 2002-03 season at UD with Purnell and then came two years at Wright State on Paul Biancardi’s staff.
Since then he’s also coached at Marshall, Walsh, had two stops at Liberty and a four-year stint at Radford.
And while this is his first season at Virginia, it’s not his first trip to the Final Four.
He was at VCU with his old pal Shaka Smart – who had been a young assistant at UD when he was there – when the No. 11 seeded Rams topped off the 2010-11 season with one of the most improbable runs ever in the NCAA Tournament.
They went from the First Four in Dayton to the Final Four in Houston, beating five straight Power 5 conference teams – Southern Cal, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas – along the way.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been the beneficiary of good timing,” Getter said after Thursday’s practice. “I’ve really been blessed.”
And that’s not just heavenly hyperbole.
After he transferred to Hanover – where he said Beitzel “was known for getting guys into coaching at the college level,” – he spent two seasons as a student coach helping with practices, preparing scouting reports, doing game coaching and following along on recruiting trips.
He spent another season as a full-fledged varsity assistant and over that three-year period the Panthers went 60-18.
The one season he spent at Dayton – which featured Brooks Hall, Keith Waleskowski, Ramod Marshall and Sean Finn – UD went 24-6 and finished the season ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press poll, the highest national ranking a Flyers team has had in March in the past 61 years.
They made the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed, but lost to a Tulsa team that was far better than its No. 13 seed.
Getter’s other two trips to the NCAA Tournament have been with VCU and now Virginia.
“Three times to the tournament and twice to the Final Four,” he said with a chuckle. “Like I said, I’m the beneficiary of some good timing.”
Early start in hoops
“Basketball has always been my passion,” he said.
By age 3 he was playing in the Little Dribbles Program in Washington Township. As a fifth grader he was part of the Dayton Salvation Army team that won a national title.
Getter said he was influenced by the coaches he had growing up, beginning with his dad, Bill, who guided youth leagues, as well as junior high and JV teams at Miamisburg.
He mentioned his Dayton Salvation Army coaches Billy Winters and Gary Foster and his high school coach Craig Morris.
“These guys all had an impact on me,” he said. “Already as a kid, I wanted to be coach, but I really didn’t know how to go about it until I got to college and saw a path.”
It began with Beitzel and was then accelerated by Purnell, who he said “went out of his way” to create a position for him on his staff:
“I owe him a lot.”
While at UD, Getter said he bonded with Smart and Josh Postorino – both young assistants who “looked out for me,” – and he also made connection with the other coaches, Frank Smith and Ron Jirsa, whose staff he later joined at Marshall.
Getter coached on Ritchie McKay’s staff at Liberty a decade ago and then again the past three seasons when McKay returned to the Flames program after a stint with Tony Bennett at Virginia.
It was through that connection that Getter got to know Bennett and was offered a job with the Cavaliers this season.
Virginia’s fifth game this year was a seven-point victory over the Dayton Flyers in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. Dayton led the first 13 minutes of the game and cut the No. 4 ranked Cavaliers lead to 4 with 1:29 left in the game.
“That was a close, hard fought game,” Getter remembered. “They had a point guard – (Jalen) Crutcher – who had a big-time game against us. And Anthony (Grant) does a really good job,
“That game, that whole tournament really, helped us prepare to get where we are now.”
Trips back home
Over the years Getter said he has tried to return to Southwest Ohio as often as possible, not just to bring his wife Michelle, their 11-year-old son William and six-year-old daughter Madelyn back to be around his family, but to recruit the local hoops talent, too.
As the director of recruiting this season, he was very aware of Sean McNeil, the Sinclair guard who led the nation (junior college Division II) in scoring.
“We had two of our assistants come up there,” he said, “We really liked him.”
Although 21 Division I schools – including Top 25 programs Texas Tech and Kansas State – did make offers to McNeil, Virginia did not.
Now McNeil has narrowed his choices to three schools, thought to be Dayton, West Virginia and Ole Miss.
When he was a Liberty, Getter successfully recruited Chaminade Julienne’s Myo Baxter-Bell and Moeller’s 6-foot-6 Keegan McDowell.
“I spent a lot of time at CJ with Coach Staley and the guys,” he said. “And Myo had a great year for (Liberty) this year. He was really good in the NCAA Tournament.”
The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder scored 13 points off the bench to spark Liberty’s 80-76 upset of Mississippi State.
Getter said his goal is to be a college head coach:
“I’m not in a rush to make it happen. Right now I just want to try to do the best job I can for Tony, the staff and the players. And I want to enjoy the experience.
“And when God finally opens that door for me, I know that will be the right time.”
That’s how it’s been so often for a guy who’s been “the beneficiary of good timing.”