Changing direction

Sitting at the end of the GW women’s basketball bench is Eran Horodniceanu, his short, skinny frame in a sharp, business-like suit. Horodniceanu follows the action in front of him and occasionally looks down through his glasses to record any analysis or observations with a pen.

Truthfully, Horodniceanu looks more like an accountant than the director of basketball operations, but then again, he should. Just two years ago, he was an accountant.

That was before his self-described epiphany, an epiphany that came two years into his accounting job and two years before he would actually leave it.

“I just finished a summer of coaching (Amateur Athletic Union) and a summer of working basketball camps and I was at work preparing for, the CPA exam. And I realized the reason why I never focused on it was because my heart wasn’t in it,” he said. “And I asked myself, if I could do anything, and it had to be a real job and pay me a salary, what would it be? The answer was coaching women’s college basketball.”

At the time, Horodniceanu was 24, two years out of undergraduate school at GW and a senior auditor at Eisner, LLP in his native New York. He had been a student manager for the GW women’s basketball team as a junior and senior in college, meaning he helped with laundry, uniforms, practice and other such duties. And now, two years out of college, with no other basketball experience, he hoped to find a job, any job.

By his count, Horodniceanu, now 27, spent the next two years applying for 120 openings, not once getting so much as an interview. He continued to work as an accountant while saving money for his planned career change, and after much persistence, he landed the director of basketball operations position at his alma mater under women’s head coach Joe McKeown.

“He bugged the shit out of me,” McKeown said, remembering the two years before he hired Horodniceanu. “He just kept bugging me, and he used me as a resource as I tried to help him with some other jobs that were out there. And we had one open up and I interviewed him and said, ‘There’s no guarantee that you can get this job because we’re a Top 20 program and you have no experience coaching at the college level.’ But he convinced me I should hire him instead of all these other people that were out there.”

This dream of coaching women’s basketball is not the manifestation of some lifelong love of the sport for Horodniceanu. In fact, he didn’t pick up a basketball until the sixth grade while growing up in Queens.

He played soccer for his high school but played basketball recreationally with friends. And when he came to GW, he started to play more and more as a freshman, eventually playing pick-up games five days a week.

During his sophomore year, he announced basketball for the University radio station and then became a student manager for his remaining two college years. But throughout that gradual increase in interest, he never considered making the game his life.

He graduated with a bachelor’s in accountancy and went home to work. Only in the summers did he coach a women’s AAU team named the Liberty Belles.

“I was successful at what I did,” Horodniceanu said of accounting. “But the favorite time of the year for me was March when AAU started.”

While searching for a job, Horodniceanu called McKeown once every three weeks at first, and then once every two weeks. As time went on, he would make an effort to say “hi” to McKeown if they were ever in the same city, and ask to meet him for lunch. Finally, he interviewed for the director of basketball operations position and got that long-awaited first job.

Now in his second year, Horodniceanu’s duties are a mixture of handling the team’s travel plans, exchanging game film with other schools, acting as a liaison for parents of the current players and a handful of other tasks. In doing all this, Horodniceanu makes one-third of his former salary as an accountant.

“I took a pay cut that I wouldn’t advise anyone else to take,” he joked.

While all of his duties are essential to a program running smoothly, Horodniceanu said he longs to actually coach.

“I still love to coach and love to teach. And the fact that I can’t do it is very difficult for me every day,” he said. “But I take it in stride. I have to pay my dues.”

Horodniceanu doesn’t plan on wasting his time at GW while paying his dues. He will readily acknowledge that he has much to learn before getting that next job as an assistant coach, and the only way to learn is to observe the Colonials’ staff.

“I’m like a sponge,” he said. “Everything that we talk about basketball-wise, whether it’s recruiting, even though I’m not on the road, it’s a chance for me to learn. I watch game film for my own (good), just to see what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong. It’s an opportunity to learn, and that’s the whole thing.”

Looking to the future, McKeown said Horodniceanu must be looking for that next job, that next move up in the coaching ranks.

“He’s got two years of experience here, so now parlay that into a full-time coaching job where he can get some recruiting experience and be on the road, be on the floor coaching,” McKeown said.

Horodniceanu said he would love to become an assistant at GW but knows that jump requires a step in between.

“If I could become an assistant coach somewhere else and then a job opens up as an assistant here, I’ll have more experience and the ability to come back in and be successful at it,” he said.

While finding that next job could prove as difficult as finding the first one, it wouldn’t be wise to bet against Horodniceanu. After all, of those 120 initial job applications, two of them were for GW’s director of basketball operations, and both times someone else got the job. It wasn’t until the position opened for a third time that McKeown interviewed him and hired him.

“Anyone that tells you that persistence doesn’t pay is lying to you,” Horodniceanu said. “Because I’m proof that it does. Now I’m just waiting for that next step.”

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