BY CHRIS MACKOWIAK
Featured photo: The SU men’s basketball team meets in a huddle with the coaching staff during their CAC First Round game vs. Wesley last season. Feb. 21. Emma Reider photo
Two days after being named the interim head coach of the Salisbury University men’s basketball program, Brian McDermott made his first appearance in his new role in Maggs Physical Activities Center.
The SU alumnus takes over the lead spot of the program after SU Athletics announced Tuesday that head coach Andrew Sachs is on leave now from the program. For McDermott, this interim position is his first opportunity to be a head coach at the collegiate level.
“First and foremost, I’m blessed,” McDermott said. “Getting this opportunity is life-changing for me. I’ve been in basketball my entire life and been around it. This is an opportunity that no one saw coming. I’m very grateful that I was considered for the position. I’m honored to take it.”
Prior to this opportunity, McDermott spent last season as a voluntary assistant coach under Sachs. It was his third stint with the program as an assistant coach. His lineage with the Sea Gulls comes from his time as both an undergraduate and master’s student at SU during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Outside of the college game, McDermott has spent much of his time in the local high school game across Delmarva. Most notably, he has had coaching stints at Mardela (Md.), Sussex Tech (Del.) and Stephen Decatur (Md.).
As the start of practice looms on Oct. 15 for the SU men’s basketball team, McDermott inherits a squad that went 18-9 overall and 13-5 in the CAC, finishing third and as a conference semifinalist. It was the first time in four years that the program did not reach the NCAA Tournament.
McDermott said that he sees many of similarities among the program and the players currently alongside the talented teams he was a part of in the mid-1990’s.
“The scope of what’s going on here and the level of what these guys [are doing] and their passion for the game is exceptional,” McDermott said. “They put in as much effort as any D-1 player.”
“Here at the D-III level, there’s no scholarships. There’s no money involved. It’s purely love and passion for the game. You’re dealing with the psychology of a young man who just does it because it’s all they know. They love it.”
McDermott said that his focus is to stay the course with the direction that Sachs had the program in recently. He will look to rely on the senior class returning for the Sea Gulls alongside the remaining coaches on the staff.
One coach that will be next to McDermott nearly every day is graduate assistant Daniel Eacho, who worked alongside Sachs all of last season. The interim head coach will trust the former All-ODAC center to be a key factor is continuing the program’s success.
“He is the best in the business,” McDermott said. “He has been around this team and the players. He knows the ins and outs of the program better than me at the moment because he lived in the office and had that opportunity with Coach Sachs.”
So far, the Salisbury alumnus said that he has talked to the team once since he was named as the interim head coach. His message to the many returners to the squad was a simple one.
“Focus on what you can control,” McDermott said. “Those young men are smart enough to know what that means. They’re doing it, consistently working out. Nothing for them has changed.”
“My message to them has just been, ‘Stay positive. It’s all going to work out. Everything happens for a reason. You’re in the right place.’”
The Sea Gulls open their regular season on Nov. 10 when they host Arcadia in a 7:30 p.m. tip-off in Maggs Physical Activities Center. Their schedule features 12 home games, including the first three games of the season.
SU Athletics has no comment on Sachs’ current leave of absense, noting that it is a personnel matter.
A full Flyer report on Sachs’ leave of absence and McDermott’s new position will come in the next few days.