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 Western Illinois director of operations Mike Dashner.
What led you to pursue a career in college basketball coaching?
“I’ve always possessed a strong passion for the game. When I went to University of Minnesota Duluth for my undergrad I learned that being a student manager for the basketball team would be a great way for me to not only stay involved in basketball, but also a great way to learn the game and help mold me as a coach. It didn’t take me long into my time at Duluth to realize that coaching at the college level was my calling, and I jumped head first into learning as much as I could.”
What are the most important skills for young professionals in the industry to possess, and which are often overlooked?
“I’d say the most important skill for a young professional would be listening. I’ve been blessed to be around some great coaches so far in my career, and having the ability to keep my eyes and ears wide open and my mouth shut has helped me to learn a lot from these coaches.”
“One thing that is overlooked in this profession is if you are called upon by a head coach to give your opinion, you have to really be on top of your game. Being unprepared can keep a head coach from calling on your opinion in the future. Some ways I try to stay on top of my game as a young professional are to watch film, read articles on coaching, listen to other coaches, and read books. Even though I am currently not in a coaching position, I want to be prepared If I am called upon.”
Why is developing mentor relationships so important to young coaches, and who have been your most influential mentors?
“Relationships are everything in this business. I would not be where I am today without the people who have helped me along the way.”
“I would say that Gary Grzesk has had the largest impact not only on my development as a coach, but also my growth as a person. It was through Coach Grzesk that I was introduced to the seven pillars that have formed his program at St. Norbert College into one of the most dominant programs in all of Division III. Seeing how Coach Grzesk got his players, staff, and everyone involved with his program to buy into these pillars - humility, passion, excellence, discipline, unity, servanthood, and thankfulness - is what drives me as a coach. When I first came to Western Illinois, Billy Wright stressed these same pillars to me. It made Western Illinois a natural fit.”
How do you effectively balance all the various responsibilities of a director of operations?
“As a first-year director of basketball operations, I’d say staying organized is the only way I can balance the many responsibilities I have. Having gone from an NCAA Division III assistant coach, to a Division I video coordinator, and now to a Division I director of basketball operations, each step has forced me to change some of the ways I keep myself organized. Figuring out how to keep my head coach happy while keeping myself organized has been one of the biggest challenges.”
What professional competencies are you working to develop while the season is in-progress?
“I’d say one of the biggest professional competencies that I’m working on this year is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Being a young professional, it’s very easy to lose myself in my work and put all of my identity into my job. Trying to maintain that healthy balance between the two has been a big focus for me this year.”
What career goals do you have for your future, and how do you plan to achieve them?
“My short-term goal is to try and be the best director of basketball operations that I can be. I would also like to find my way back into an assistant coaching position. As much as I enjoy my role today, it’s been hard for me to step off the floor and into more of an administrative role these past two years. I definitely miss coaching and recruiting.”
“My long-term goals are to one day become a head coach, but I look forward to each new challenge and struggle that comes my way. I know they all are preparing me for that one day when I’ll get the opportunity to lead a program.”
What is one thing about the profession that you wish you knew earlier in your career?
“One thing about this profession that I wish I had known earlier in my career is how much bookkeeping and accounting play a role in this business. Looking back to college, I wish I would have taken a couple of entry level accounting classes so I didn’t have as much of a learning curve when starting to work with budgets, expense reports, etc.”