Coach Paulsen strives to help students on and off the court

Ben Kaufman

Editor in Chief

After two Patriot League Championship titles in the past three years, three Patriot League regular season championships in the past three years, and almost 100 University wins overall, head coach Dave Paulsen is ready to start his sixth year leading the men’s basketball team to reclaim the Patriot League throne.

Paulsen came to the University in 2008 and has led the Bison on their most successful three-year run in the history of the program. Prior to that, he graduated from Williams College in 1987 where he played basketball for four years and has been coaching basketball ever since. After coaching at the high school level for a year, his first taste of coaching at the college level began at his alma mater, where he was the assistant coach. He then worked as an assistant coach at University of Michigan for a year and Cleveland State University for four years.

“I loved coaching, and that was my passion, as a way to connect with young people through the avenue of basketball,” Paulsen said.

He began his career as a head coach at St. Lawrence University for three years. Then he coached at Le Moyne College for three years, and after that, he returned to Williams for eight years as the head coach. 

As the head coach of Williams, he led his team to a NCAA Division III championship in 2003 and NCAA Division III runner-up in 2004. He also led his team to win the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament in 2002 and to a first round appearance in 2007. With all this success, it is not surprising that the University would approach him upon the news of Pat Flannery retiring as head coach.

“When I came on campus to interview, I was blown away [by] the facilities we have, and the level of support from not just the student body, but the greater community and the passionate fan base,” Paulsen said. “If I was ever going to leave Williams, this was the type of situation where I wasn’t sacrificing either the academic side, or the chance for students to pursue excellence athletically.”

As professional as he looks on the court, Paulsen has a casual look off court. Wearing Bison Athletics clothing and sweatpants, he looks ready to coach and is ready for practice with his team. No matter whether he is in a suit on game day, or sweats for practice, Paulsen is ready to help his team in any way possible.

While it is obviously important for his team to be successful on the court, Paulsen promotes excellence in the classroom and around campus as equally important. He said that the University is a place that promotes excellence for their students in all senses of the word, and said he would not want to work at a place that strives for anything less than excellence. He said that an example of this success is that the team’s average GPA last spring was a 3.49 and they were one of six teams in the NCAA tournament last spring with a perfect graduation rate. He said he strives to prioritize academic integrity and importance for his players but also to achieve their fullest potential on the court.

Paulsen believes one thing that differentiates coaching basketball for the Bison rather than at a big school is how well respected the team is with the rest of campus. He said that people go to the games not only to watch the team but to watch their friends. He said the players on the team are known as hallmates, classmates, and friends, not just as members of the basketball team. He said the team has meshed well into the campus community and are not just figureheads in the way major athletes are at bigger schools.

“Basketball is really important, but not at the expense of their coursework, and not at the expense of being a part of the core fabric of the University,” Paulsen said.

“He is highly demanding of our players but at the same time he is very mindful of their time and extremely concerned with their well being, academic success, and development as people,” associate head coach Dane Fischer said. 

Paulsen said he wants his team to be as involved as possible on campus. He said he encourages his players to go to other teams’ games to show support for their peers around campus. With that, they do community service as a team, including a trick-or-treating event at a children’s hospital. His hope is to make sure they get involved around campus to show that as important as basketball is, academics and involvement will help them succeed as well.

“He wants you to always try and be the best version of yourself each day, not only on the court but in life,” Cameron Ayers ’14 said.

While also promoting excellence, Paulsen said he also wants his players to embrace the process throughout their four years on the team. With the transition of four outgoing seniors, three of whom were starters in the past season, and the three new first-years, he said he wants his team to take the season one game at a time and to not get wrapped up in the expectations.

“[We need] to stay consistent in our work ethic, our process, our practices, and focus on improvement, and the results will take care of themselves,” Paulsen said.

With their first scrimmage around the corner, Paulsen said that because of how the team has been doing the past few years, many of the returning players have not had a lot of playing time prior to this year. He said this will be a year of trying new things because of the absence of veteran players, and this will be a learning time for his whole team.

Paulsen has worked well with the players and coaches. Members of the basketball team have said he has a good rapport with everyone, and that the team respects him as both a coach and a person.

Paulsen has an infectious personality. According to Ayers, he has a way of connecting with students. Ayers also said how Paulsen is a sharpshooter and is not afraid to tell someone what he is thinking.

“What I like about him is that he can separate what is going on, on the court and what is going on off the court,” Ayers said. “He can get on you on the court but it’s all constructive criticism and because he loves us. Off the court he is a goofy guy always trying to crack a joke. There is a time for play and a time to be serious and he does this extremely well.”

Fischer echoed these thoughts. He said that Paulsen has been great to work with since the start and that Paulsen sets his expectations for his staff, and lets them run with it and does not intervene unless he has to.

“As good of a coach as he is, he’s an even better person and friend,” Fischer said.

Paulsen is equally as passionate about the game and his personal life off the court. He said that he is always there for his students when they need it, offering his help in order for his team to succeed in every sense of the word.

“He is a caring guy and always looks out for your best interest,” Ayers said.

To prove this point more, Paulsen said that his favorite moment coaching at the University so far was at the Senior Banquet last spring. The graduating seniors talked about their experience playing basketball, how they valued it, and the time they spent with Paulsen as their coach.

“This is why I coach, to be a part of these guys‘ growth over four years,” Paulsen said.

(Visited 46 times, 1 visits today)