Primesport NABC Next Generation is an interview series with assistant coaches and support staff from across the country, highlighting their career experiences and future goals. Today's feature is West Florida assistant Brian Benator.
What led you to pursue a career in college basketball coaching?
“I knew I always wanted to be in the field of sports, and initially I wanted to be involved in sports marketing. Throughout my entire life, I have always had a passion for the game of basketball. When I got to college at the University of Georgia, I happened to have a mutual connection to Jay McAuley, who was the graduate assistant for the men’s basketball team. So I reached out to him and wanted to get involved in some capacity with the program. Fortunately, he offered me a student manager position, and I happily accepted. I joined the program more for my love of the game rather than wanting to jump into a coaching career. However, it did not take long to decide that I wanted to become a coach.”
What is one detail about coaching you didn’t know early in your career that you have since learned?
“I have always known that you have to be organized in any profession. But as I’ve continued to grow and learn in every coaching position I’ve had, attention to detail is incredibly important. This goes for everything in the profession. How you write up your scouts, how you teach a certain drill, how you organize your office, what you say to a recruit - you have to be incredibly detailed, and not leave any room for error or excuses.”
What leadership traits do you think are most important for coaches to possess?
“Honesty. You have to be honest with yourself as a coach and with your players as their leader. Be honest with yourself and recognize the areas that you are good at, as well as the areas that you might need improvement. With your players, you have to be up front with them. I’ve never found that a player has improved or given their best if we haven’t been honest with them. Sometimes they may not want to hear it, but as a coach, I’d rather tell them the truth so they can grow and improve than tell them non-truths and hurt their game.”
What has been the biggest challenge so far in your career, and what have you learned from it?
“While a number of coaches move up the ranks at a rapid pace, there are many who move up at a slower rate. College coaching jobs are so coveted at every level - especially at the Division I level. You are probably going to be told no more times than you are going to be told yes. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some terrific coaches who have all taught me many lessons about moving up. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you have be patient and do the best job that you can in the job you’re at. You can’t worry about what job might open or when it might open. Professionalism and hard work do not go unnoticed, and when the opportunity presents itself, be ready to jump on it.”
What kind of impact – both on the court and off – do you hope to have on your student-athletes?
“The absolute most satisfaction I get from coaching is seeing players achieve success in something they’ve worked so hard for. One of my favorite examples is when I was at Fishburne Military School. I worked with our forwards on a baseline catch and rip to the rim to score - something very simple. During a game, one of our players who ended up signing at the University of Delaware - Barnett Harris - made the move and scored. It was the first time he made the move since we started working on it. I honestly didn’t think much of it, but when he checked out of the game, he said to me, ‘Coach, you see I made our rip drive move? Looked good, didn’t it?’ This may not be a newsworthy story, but it’s something that made me feel good in a sense that I was helping a player have success.”
“I also love seeing my players grow when they are done playing for me. Anytime I get a call or text from a former player thanking me for being there for them or teaching them about something that has made an impact on their life - that makes me happy. That’s why I coach.”
What career goals do you have for your future, and how do you plan to achieve them?
“On a broader scale, my goal is to become a head coach at the NCAA Division I level. As a younger coach, I had a vision of how I would move up the ladder. However, as I’ve matured, I understand that those are such rare opportunities and they are very coveted. I’m confident that I will eventually reach my goals, and the way to get there is to do the very best job that I can at whatever position I’m in. Right now, I am going to be the best assistant coach at the University of West Florida that I can possibly be. What happens from there? I don’t know the answer. But I know that I will continue to work hard and do things the right way.”
What’s the best advice you would give to somebody considering a career in coaching?
“One, don’t get discouraged. As I mentioned earlier, you are going to get told no more than you are told yes. Be prepared, and when an opportunity arises for you, jump on it and do the best you can.”
“The second thing is to be yourself. Head coaches and administrators can easily spot a fake. Be who you are. Do not try to be someone you aren’t. Sure, you can borrow things from mentors and other coaches in the business, but remember to be yourself. For me, I’m working to be the best version of Brian Benator that I can be. I’m confident that will help me have a successful coaching career.”