Raider Insider with Billy Donlon

Charles Grove, Sports Writer

Head Coach Billy Donlon is in his third season at the helm of men’s basketball. He previously served four years as an associate coach under former WSU head coach Brad Brownell. Before coming to WSU, Donlon also coached at his alma mater, North Carolina-Wilmington under Brownell. Donlon played point guard at UNCW from 1995-99, and played professionally in France and Germany while also joining the Irish National Team in 2001. Donlon’s coaching career began at American University during the 1999-2000 season though he left to coach at St. Peter’s for the 2000-01 season. As he prepares to lead a young Raider team into the 2012-13 season, he sat down with The Guardian for a look back at his life and career.

Grove: “Did you play any sports growing up?”

Donlon: “I played a lot of sports. I played soccer, baseball, tennis [and I] loved football but my mom wouldn’t let me play it organized. I could only play it in the backyard or schoolyard.”

Grove: “What drew you to basketball?”

Donlon: “I’m the son of a coach. My dad has been a longtime basketball coach. My oldest sister played basketball as well, and she in a lot of ways was my idol. I saw all the time that she put into getting better and it became something I dreamed of becoming. My dad played at VCU and my uncle played at the Naval Academy. Basketball was something I was always surrounded with.”

Grove: “Where did you play college basketball and why did you choose to play there?”

Donlon: “North Carolina Wilmington. The head coach was Jerry Wainwright and he was from the same area of Chicago as me. I thought I could go there and play right away. I loved the university and the people there. I think there are a lot of similarities between WSU and UNCW. There were a lot of unfounded perceptions about UNCW when I went there. Wright State and UNCW are large universities that do everything in their power to cater for everybody. It’s more personable, not just a dollar sign and with 20,000 students that’s hard to do.”

Grove: “Did you play professionally?”

Donlon: “I played in Germany, France and a small cup of coffee in Italy.”

Grove: “You also played on the Irish national team?”

Donlon: “I did. Yep. From 2001 to 2002. We were the first Irish national team to make it to the semi-final round of the European Championships. However, I was only able to play that one year for the team.”
Grove: “What got you into coaching?”

Donlon: “I coached right out of college. I was really focused on getting in coaching at any level right after college. I did it for two years at St. Peters in New Jersey. I lived with my grandparents while I coached. When I wasn’t working, there was always a gym or playground so I would always go out and shoot or dribble. I decided I had to go back and try to play. I didn’t want to regret that I didn’t try. I could always get back into coaching. Eventually I ended up at UNCW under Brad Brownell who was an assistant coach at UNCW when I played there. He asked me to be an assistant. It would have been really difficult to say no to your alma mater and someone who is one of your closest friends. I ended up working for him for eight years. He’s like a big brother to me and we’ve been good friends for a long time now.”

Grove: “Did Brownell draw you to Wright State once he took the job here?”

Donlon: “Yes. I came with Coach (Brownell) and it was an incredible year. The university did a great job making us feel wanted, including Dr. Cusack, Bob Grant and Paul Newman.”

Grove: “What are you favorite moments at WSU?”

Donlon: “Winning the whole thing our first year here in 2007. That’s my number one moment. I talk to people in the Dayton community who still talk about that Butler game. They aren’t necessarily WSU fans and they say that was the best atmosphere of any sporting event they’ve ever been to. It was an incredible night. We’ve also played more nationally televised games in the past seven years and it really puts the university out there. I’m proud of that.”

Grove: “What’s your favorite part of the job?”

Donlon: “The interactions. The kids always stay the same age even though we get older. It keeps you youthful in a way. I also love the competition. I’m a very competitive person and we have a very competitive staff. We get the opportunity to put a game plan together and compete against other competitive people. It’s a great challenge and a lot of fun.”

Grove: “What’s your favorite thing about Wright State?”

Donlon: “The people. It’s not even close. The fans, alumni, faculty, staff and the students. It’s just the people.”

Grove: “Any particular message to the students of WSU?”

Donlon: “Get involved with the university in any way you can. Sure I want you to come to games but it doesn’t have to be basketball games. Your job as a current student is to leave the school better than when you got it.”

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