As the lone senior on the GW men’s basketball team last year, Greg Collucci’s name was not at the top of many statistical categories. However, he played a vital role on the team, providing veteran leadership to many young players.
Although he averaged about eight minutes per game last season, playing time never mattered much to him. Individual success meant less to him than his team’s success, which is a philosophy that is helping him in his new position: a graduate assistant coach.
“I’m a team guy, I never gave coach (Karl) Hobbs the reason to think I wasn’t,” said Collucci, who is enrolled in GW’s exercise science program. “It’s a good experience for me, coach Hobbs is a great guy to work for.”
While he will not spend much time actually instructing players, he is a big part of the coaching staff. His primary duties will be scheduling team activities, watching film and helping players with off-the-court activities such as academics and adjusting to life at GW.
One day, Collucci said he hopes to become a head coach somewhere. This job, he said, is a step in that direction.
“The hardest part of the coaching business is getting your foot in the door,” he said. “You have to create contacts.”
This year, he will have to get used to the fact that he isn’t just one of the guys anymore. He is in a position of authority, but as a first-year grad student, he said he can still connect with the players.
“I think I’m kind of like a bridge between the players and the coaches,” he said. “But sometimes I can’t just be (the players’) boy or their friend.”
Matt Osborne, a graduate assistant athletic trainer, said it is not always easy making the transformation from player to University employee. Osborne starred for the GW men’s soccer team from 1999-2002 and is also currently in the GW Exercise Science program. He often works with his former team.
“With my own sport (soccer), it’s a little bit difficult to take that step away,” he said. “A lot of the guys who play for the soccer team I’m still pretty good friends with socially. So when they come in (to the training room), I have to take on that other role. Sometimes it’s a little bit difficult, you’ve got to check yourself with some of the things you say.”
The biggest difference between playing and coaching is what Collucci called “being in the coaching loop,” which he said means being on top of every team issue possible. As a player, Collucci said, you don’t necessarily have that responsibility.
Now, as a coach, the former guard’s responsibilities will increase. However, he said he will still miss taking the floor as a player.
“I mean this is the first summer in four years where I didn’t have to worry about missing a workout,” he said. “But once college basketball starts and the ball goes up I’ll start to miss it more.”
Osborne, who led the GW men to the 2002 Atlantic 10 championship, has fond memories of his not-so-distant playing days.
“I miss everything,” he said. “There’s nothing I want more than to be a freshman again and have another four years of eligibility.? I miss it like you wouldn’t even imagine. There are occasions where I do work with men’s soccer, and to go up there and to see them practice while I sit and watch is just a killer.”
When an athlete misses competing, working with the team or coaching is naturally the next step.
“I think almost every athlete has a slight desire in their head that they want to be a coach, and it’s an avenue I wanted to explore,” said Darrell Andruski, a former GW cross country standout. “I wanted to see what I could give back to those same athletes, and that made the decision really easy.”
“I think there is going to be part of me that’s always going to hold on to (competing),” he added.
After graduating in May, Andruski became the lone assistant coach of the GW cross country team. He said he had no problem filling the position.
“I think that my tenure here as an athlete and how I carried myself during the four years that I attended school here made it easy for (the athletic department) to choose me,” he said. “They voiced their concerns and reservations about having a young coach come in, but ultimately they gave me the job.”
Cross country, unlike basketball, is not micro managed. There is only one assistant coach, which is in sharp contrast to the men’s basketball team, which employs three full-time assistant coaches (not including managers, graduate assistants and trainers).
As the team’s only assistant, Andruski said he must focus on his athletes’ performances.
“It’s solely about the athletes,” he said. “I’m purely trying to foster their ability and grab as much potential as possible out of them.”