PITTSBURGH — Drew Garcia’s first head coaching experience was unlike most.
Many first-time coaches step into a program that is established on some level or at least carries name recognition. Garcia wasn’t afforded either.
The former Tulane Wave standout accepted the head men’s basketball coaching position at Chatham in 2014 under one small but large caveat: he would be responsible for building the program from scratch. There were no players. No jerseys. Not even a men’s regulation basketball.
Prior to Garcia’s hiring, a male undergraduate student had never been admitted at Chatham. Since the school’s inception in 1869, the undergraduate student population was completely comprised of women. 2014 marked the first year the university accepted male students in what was publicly billed as a “period of study.”
“It’s pretty daunting when you come in you and you have zero players and your school is all females,” Garcia said.
Garcia had spent the previous two seasons as the recruiting coordinator for the men’s team at renowned Carnegie Mellon. His sales pitch to recruits at Chatham required a little more persuasion compared to selling high schoolers on the global brand of the Tartans.
“It definitely was a challenge,” Garcia said starting the program. “I knew that going in, but it was something I knew I was going to learn a lot about and a lot from the process. One thing I’ve learned throughout my career is it’s never going to be smooth sailing anywhere you are.”
Garcia was just 30-years old when he accepted the head coaching job at Chatham, and the idea of publishing “started a basketball program” on his resume at such a young age was too attractive to pass up.
At the time of his hiring, Garcia also started to get involved with Pete Strobl and The Scoring Factory. A Pittsburgh native, he was familiar with Strobl and his up-and-coming skills training program. NCAA Division III rules prohibited Garcia from conducting individual or team offseason workouts, but The Scoring Factory offered the Central Catholic grad a chance to be around the game of basketball even more.
“I realized I needed to stay sharp all year,” Garcia said. “With Division III rules you’re not allowed to get in the gym with your players after the season. You’re very limited with that. I wanted to stay active and keep learning.”
Very few college coaches would entertain the idea of taking on such a commitment, but Garcia recognized the fundamental value of The Scoring Factory’s skills program. His passion is coaching and working with younger players still learning the nuances of the game helped Garcia refine his teaching style.
“That’s what helped the most, getting back to my voice as a teacher and understanding how important that is,” Garcia said of working with The Scoring Factory. “Also it was a way to get away from the stress of coaching college basketball and to really get back to, “This is why I do this. It’s a joy for me.’”
Garcia lost his first six games as the head coach at Chatham, but the Cougars showed progress in year two, winning 10 games and qualifying for the President’s Athletic Conference postseason tournament. His role at The Scoring Factory was growing, too. He was promoted to Academy Director, responsible for writing the program’s curriculum, organizing practice times, and increasing enrollment. Garcia’s life was basketball, 24/7.
In April he received a phone call, one he had been anticipating. His former coach at Tulane, Dave Dickerson, was returning to the college coaching ranks, taking over the program at Division I South Carolina Upstate of the Atlantic Sun Conference. Dickerson had spent the last year as a scout for the Utah Jazz and previously served on Thad Matta’s staff at Ohio State.
“We’ve been in pretty good contact since I’ve played for him,” Garcia said of his relationship with Dickerson. “Just being in the same profession, you always look for mentors when you’re going through things and advice. It wasn’t like we were talking everyday, but definitely every few weeks.
“So I had a good feeling he was in the process, and he always kinds of alerts me when he’s in the mix for things.”
Dickerson offered his former player an assistant coaching position, and Garcia jumped at the opportunity to serve on a Division I staff.
“This has always been a goal of mine—to get back to the level I played at,” Garcia said. “I’m really excited about it. Getting into my coaching career, I was a little naïve at how easy it might be. When I was a player at that level, I always figured that would carry me.”
“Just how difficult it is to become a Division I assistant is something at maybe 23-years old I underestimated. Now 11 years later, I’m really grateful…it’s less about the levels and more just about the journey.”
Garcia’s last official day at Chatham was May 11, and he’s currently in the process of relocating to Spartanburg, South Carolina. His departure also left an opening on The Scoring Factory staff. Strobl moved quickly to fill the vacancy, promoting coach Jermaine Turner to Academy Director.
Turner was an All-American at Dowling College and played professionally overseas in Switzerland, Spain, Ireland and Romania. His experience and enthusiasm for teaching the game of basketball will greatly benefit The Scoring Factory.
“His personality and passion is the first thing you notice about him when you meet,” Garcia said of Turner. “He’s like a larger than life personality. He’s naturally very easy to talk to.”
Turner worked under Garcia at both The Scoring Factory and as an assistant at Chatham. The two are very close, and Garcia has no doubt Turner is the perfect man for the job.
“He knows exactly what it takes to carry this thing on,” Garcia said.
Turner will be at the center of helping grow The Scoring Factory’s presence in Pittsburgh, and the academy is prepared to rollout several new initiatives in the next 6-12 months. Strobl said the program will be forming Select Teams for the first time ever this year and unveiling a new basketball education video series, aimed at teaching players different concepts and methods within an offensive system.
In addition, The Scoring Factory will host the 2018 Worldwide Invitational Information Deck, a pro exposure event for local collegiate players, presented by Worldwide Sports Management on June 23 at 4 p.m. at Moon Area High School. For more information, visit www.wsminvitational.com.
Although Garcia is leaving Pittsburgh, he plans to remain on as a consultant for The Scoring Factory. He’s a firm believer in the value the program offers to young players and the future direction of the academy.
“They’re promoting fundamentals, practicing more than playing at a young age,” Garcia said. “Quality over quantity. Just getting kids at a young age learning to work hard and do things right from a fundamental standpoint in a competitive and fun environment.”