During his first month as men’s basketball head coach, Chris Caputo has appeared to fill nearly all the openings left by the firing of the coaching staff in March.
Caputo has announced four hires with NBA experience, deep ties to the DMV and NCAA championship runs under their belt to start rebuilding the staff that the program fired alongside former Head Coach Jamion Christian after the team was eliminated from the A-10 Championship earlier this spring. Caputo has hired two assistant coaches and two directors of recruitment and operations, and many of the remaining staffers are set to return for the upcoming season, namely three graduate assistant coaches and the director of scouting who acts as special assistant to the head coach, according to the team’s roster.
The hires and staff returns would nearly match the size of Christian’s staff, which sported the same positions and one additional assistant coach. Christian hired three assistant coaches in the span of a week of his first month after the team named him as head coach in March 2019, as he worked to rebuild a smaller coaching staff left by the firing of former Head Coach Maurice Joseph.
But Christian took roughly a year and a half to hire directors for recruitment, operations and scouting for the 2020-21 season.
The men’s coaching staff underwent three years of turbulence and turnover after the team fired former Head Coach Mike Lonergan in 2016 amid verbal and emotional abuse allegations. The number of staff directors fluctuated during Maurice Joseph’s three-year tenure as interim head coach before the number fell to one staffer split between operations and recruitment after he was fired.
Following Caputo’s series of hires, men’s basketball looks ready to enter the season with a staff of three directors each overseeing scouting, recruitment and operations.
Caputo’s first hiring announcement came in late April, roughly a month after he was named head coach with the addition of Eric Rubenstein, a former member of the Sacramento Kings scouting office, as the program director of recruitment. Rubenstein worked with Caputo at Miami for three years, where he helped with analytics and scouting on the support staff while Caputo was associate head coach, before working in the Kings’ scouting office to manage “day-to-day coordination” and “grassroots scouting efforts,” according to a press release announcing his hire to GW.
“Eric is one of the most passionate, bright minds in basketball,” Caputo said in the release. “His work capacity and attention to detail is really unmatched. Eric will bring great experience from his time in grassroots basketball, college basketball and the NBA.”
Three days later, Caputo announced the hiring of Brenden Straughn as an assistant coach with nine years of coaching experience dating back to his high school experience in Maryland. Straughn holds strong ties to the DMV after coaching Team Takeover – a D.C.-based basketball youth organization – and at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland.
“Brenden Straughn is someone I have known since his high school days at Eleanor Roosevelt High School,” Caputo said in the release. “Brenden is one of the most talented, respected and well-liked people in the DMV Basketball community. Brenden’s passion for recruiting, basketball acumen and experience in the A-10 will be a huge asset to our program.”
Caputo named his third addition to the men’s basketball staff that same day, selecting Cooper Handelsman as the team’s director of operations. Handelsman joined the Colonials after serving as an assistant coach at Brown in the past three years, guiding star players like Jaylan Gainey, a two-time Ivy League defensive player of the year, and Kino Lilly Jr., the Ivy League’s rookie of the year this past season.
“Cooper has the diversity of experience we were looking for in the role of director of basketball operations,” Caputo said in the press release. “He was not only an outstanding player at Kenyon College, but his organizational skills developed at the Hoop Group and his work at two highly competitive academic institutions like Lehigh and Brown make him the perfect fit to run our daily operations for GW.”
Last Monday, Caputo announced the hiring of Dwayne Lee as the second assistant coach for the program. Lee joins the Colonials staff after spending three seasons as an assistant coach at Quinnipiac, where he led the Bobcat to rank as the eighth-highest national defensive field percentage rank and to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference semifinals in the 2020-21 season.
“We are excited for Dwayne and his family to join our program at GW,” Caputo said in the release. “Dwayne has such a strong basketball background starting with his time at St. Anthony’s Jersey City playing for a Hall of Fame coach in Bob Hurley Sr. Dwayne was an excellent player in the Atlantic 10 and professionally.”
Lee will bring experience in signing four-star recruits such as Justin Wiston and Alejandro Vasquez while holding four NCAA tournaments under his belt.
The team prepares to begin its off-season training this summer as Caputo continues to build his coaching staff with the possibility of an additional assistant coach if he chooses to follow Christian’s model.