BY STEPHEN CHOTT
Every year, new faces join the Salisbury University athletic teams. This year, the men’s basketball team introduced a new coach, but he’s not a new face at all.
Andy Sachs is a graduate of Salisbury who also spent time at SU as an assistant basketball coach under Ward Lambert from 1988-1992, when the team was at its best, making back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances and making it as far as the Elite Eight.
The school has grown in size since his last tenure, but Sachs has memories of a packed Maggs Physical Activities Center when he was last at Salisbury.
“When I was here, you couldn’t find a seat in that gym 30 minutes before the game,” Sachs said. “The game was sold out. When the team is good and you have good kids who are respected on campus that’s what you get.”
Although he started at Salisbury, Sachs has had a decorated career that has brought him to several colleges from Division I to Division III and even a stop as an assistant coach at Archbishop Spalding High School, where he helped coach current NBA player Rudy Gay. After Archbishop Spalding, Sachs was an assistant coach for five seasons at Holy Cross for Ralph Willard, a three time Patriot League Coach of the Year and current assistant at Louisville.
His last stop before Salisbury was at Bethany College, where he was the head basketball and tennis coach and finished as the all time leader in winning percentage, as well as two NCAA tournament appearances.
Sachs’ resume has a lot of impressive steps, but he’s been preparing for this coaching journey since he was attending coaching camps at 12-years-old.
“I don’t really consider this a job,” Sachs said. “Money is semi-important, but you want to be doing something that you really want to do.”
Aside from moving his family, Sachs believes the hardest part of coming back to Salisbury is adjusting to his new team and getting to know his players.
“Getting to know their personalities is the toughest part, but the people we have here are great. They really care,” Sachs said. “You have to care about what’s on the front of your jersey.”
What also has helped in his adjustment is knowing the area and having many familiar faces from his past nearby.
“A lot of people who were here 26 years ago are still here. Dawn (Chamberlain), Gerry (DiBartolo), Margie (Knight) and Jim Nester. All of that’s great and tells you a lot about the school and the athletic department,” Sachs said.
Sachs has a lot planned for the basketball team, starting the season with a 2-0 record and a Widener Tipoff tournament win. The center of his philosophy for his team is the
“circle of opportunity,” which he believes is essential for them to win this year. The circle of opportunity, which anyone can find posted outside of his office in Maggs, details the six things that Sachs and his coaching staff look for in each player’s performance. The circle includes transition defense, ball pursuit, deflections, offensive rebounds, emotion and confidence, shot contest, box outs and charges.
“That’s the foundation of what we do,” Sachs said. “It’s something that if you’re 5-foot-2 or 7-foot-7 you can do. We just hold you accountable.”
The coaches look for all of these stats from the players, which Sachs says he looks for on film, but believes the most important aspects are rebounds, turnovers and free throws.
“There’s three stats you want to dominate in the circle; rebounds, turnovers and free throws,” Sachs said. “You win those three battles, and you’ll win every game. The only thing that will skew that is if they make a lot of threes. You win two out of three; you’re probably winning 80 percent of your games.”
Winning is most important to Sachs, and he’s excited for the teams potential coming off of their NCAA tournament appearance, despite losing one of their top players in Wyatt Smith. The biggest concerns for Sachs is whether the team will become complacent after their success last season.
“The biggest thing you have to battle is complacency. This conference is really good,” Sachs said. “I told these guys ‘now you have a target on your back. It’s going to be a lot different and you have to take everybody’s best shot.’”
On the court, Sachs expects a faster tempo than Sea Gull teams in the past along with the importance placed on the circle of opportunity. All of his work with the team is a part of Sachs’ attempt to get the team back to the “glory days” of when he was an assistant coach.
“I helped coach and had an opportunity to build a championship contender here,” Sachs said. “Seeing those guys becoming national title contenders in just a few years was pretty remarkable for me. Losing the Elite Eight game was tough but I still remember it even though I’ve had a lot of stops since then.”