STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
A lot more goes into collegiate sports teams than just the players and the head coach at the helm.
With a staff comprised of three assistant coaches, a video coordinator, video coordinator, strength coach, director of basketball operations, several student managers and head coach Ray Giacoletti, the Drake basketball team has one of the largest and most comprehensive support staffs on campus.
Not only is the staff expansive, but it is also experienced, including assistant coach Jeff Rutter, who has been coaching basketball for more than 20 years. Rutter is now entering his third year at Drake.
“Everyone is involved in every game,” Rutter said. “We all have a hand in putting together a gameplan, in talking about matchups and different things like that.”
Within the basketball staff, the jobs of game preparation and coaching are divided amongst the coaches. Each coach has their own responsibilities to the team, with Giacoletti at the head of the program.
“As an assistant, oftentimes, you may make some suggestions, but at the end of the day, just like in any business, it’s the head coach who has to make the decisions,” Rutter said. “(Coach Giacoletti is) a great leader and he really involves our staff a lot I think in the decision-making. We all work together to come up with what we feel is the best way to do something.”
Even if he isn’t the principal decision-maker, Rutter still makes his presence felt both during games and throughout the off-season as he fulfills a wide range of roles with Drake basketball.
“Recruiting may be the number one piece to the puzzle, … trying to find the guys that will be a really good fit here from the standpoint of academics, basketball and character,” Rutter said. “From a coaching standpoint, it’s an ongoing development with our players, helping them with skill (and) watching film.”
It isn’t only in basketball that these roles are delegated to the assistant coach.
Leslie Flores-Cloud, now in her third year as a coach for the Drake volleyball team and her sixth as an assistant coach at the college level, fulfills many of the same functions as Rutter, especially when it comes to recruiting.
Flores-Cloud heads the recruitment effort for Drake volleyball, contacting pre-collegiate athletes and narrowing down a prospect list before she and head coach Darrin McBroom head out on the road to meet the players in person and watch them play firsthand.
“(McBroom) has the main call on who we take in and who we don’t, but we’ve worked together for so long (that) I think we have a really good understanding of what our program needs,” Flores-Cloud said.
Recruiting is oftentimes one of the more overlooked responsibilities of a coach, something that players and fans often don’t think about.
Matt Frost, 22, is now in his first year as an assistant coach for Men’s Tennis after he graduated from Drake last June and learned about this oversight first-hand.
“I guess all the rules (are what surprised me most),” Frost admitted. “I had to take the recruitment test. I had no idea (that there were) so many rules that got involved in recruiting. … As a player you have no idea about that stuff.”
Even if Frost’s experience isn’t quite at the level of Flores-Cloud’s or Rutter’s, he still fills many of the same roles on the staff under head coach Davidson Kozlowski.
“If Davidson has any questions, he’ll just come to me and ask what he thought about a certain doubles pair together,” Frost said. “He feeds ideas off me and I’ll give my input back, but he’s the boss.”
However, that may be where the similarities end, as each coach has different responsibilities in practice or on gameday.
“I would say I make the biggest impact (by) watching film on those teams so prior to us playing them,” Flores-Cloud said. “I (need to) have a really good idea of what they’re looking to do so that our team can stop that, or so that our team can funnel the ball certain ways and then push back at them.”
Flores-Cloud will also communicate with players in-game, calling out adjustments to the Bulldogs on the court. McBroom is more reserved during matches, making his voice heard during timeouts and between games.
Their responsibilities differentiate in practice as well. Both McBroom and Flores-Cloud utilizing different teaching methods to best help the team succeed
“Coach McBroom and I have worked together for three years now and I would say we work very well hand-in-hand together,” Flores-Cloud said. “McBroom is very hands-on when it comes to how we’re going to approach the game. … He’s very good at talking to the kids that way. … I take a very huge role in our setting and running the offensive side of our program. I work with the setters hand-in-hand every day as well as what we’re going to run (with) hitters.”
In more than just athletics, the coaches have a duty to the players. Not only are coaches entrusted with improving the players’ skills in their respective sports, but they are also called to be strong leaders off the court.
“I handle any kind of odds and ends that the girls need as far as being a mom,” Flores-Cloud said.
Drake athletes aren’t solely athletes, but student-athletes who are expected to excel both in athletics and in the classroom. That’s where the coaching staffs can have an influence as well, to help in whatever way they can in their players’ education.
“We have full-time academic advisors that help our student-athletes, but we specifically are involved in that as well, just trying to monitor a little bit and maybe serve as guys with the best possible experience they can have here at Drake. … We take pride in seeing our guys and our team as a whole get better.”