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 Columbia director of operations Jonathan Safir.
What led you to pursue a career in college basketball coaching?
"Ever since I realized that I was not going to be able to play professionally, I knew I wanted to be a coach. I couldn’t imagine myself not being involved in sports, particularly basketball, in some shape or fashion – and being a coach just felt most natural and something that I just really wanted to do."
As a young professional in the industry, what key decisions and experiences helped get you where you are today?
"Working hard. The Hoop Group helped me land my Graduate Manager spot with Columbia, which fortunately led into a director of operations spot."
Why is developing mentor relationships so important to young coaches, and who have been your most influential mentors?
"For me personally - funny and ironic story - Adam Cohen is actually a great family friend of mine. His younger brother was my closest friend in high school growing up. So he has always been someone that I have looked up and tried to follow his lead. He’s been fantastic, any time I need anything or have a question, he’s only a phone call away."
"As a former play at Vassar, I developed a terrific relationship with my Coach, BJ Dunne. Last year, which my first crossing the side from player to staff, it was a treat coming to work every day and getting to learn from the likes of Coach Smith and Coach Hovde. And this year, with Coach Engles, my first six months have been terrific. It's hard to beat those guys when it comes to knowledge about the game of basketball. I have been taking graduate classes at Columbia throughout my time here thus far. But to be able to learn from the two staffs I have been fortunate enough to be a member of, I view it like getting a graduate degree in basketball."
What professional competencies are you working to develop at this stage of your career?
"Everything. I can always keep learning and improving in all facets."
What career goals do you have for your future, and how do you plan to achieve them?
"Keep working hard with the goal to become a Division I head men’s basketball coach."
What is one thing about the profession that you wish you knew earlier in your career?
"It’s all about relationships – both on and off the court. Relationships with your players, the rest of the staff, your bosses and advisors, and especially recruits, their families, and their coaches."