The Coaching Tree

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By: Brian Laubscher
Sports Information Director

What you are reading is actually my second attempt at a blog entry.  After crafting four paragraphs about how this weekend is the real “official” start to the athletic season (even though we had a few games last Friday and Saturday), I decided “why write another piece about the start of the year”?  I even had a cool analogy about a diver looking over the edge of the 10-meter platform and having butterflies, but I axed that too.  Truth is I’ve done this far too many times to get butterflies anymore.  What will be will be and the best attitude is to be prepared for anything to happen (as was the case with poor Nate Jervey, who apparently lost electricity to the press box for his first football game as the SID at Methodist on Saturday).

Another to tell the truth moment is that I wrote the above paragraph still without a clue as to what would be the content of this blog.  But after reading my own words about Nate’s unfortunate opening weekend, I think I’ve come up with a topic.

I learned of Nate’s predicament because another former W&L sports information assistant was also in the box that day.  Methodist’s opponent was none other that Washington & Jefferson College, whose SID is Scott McGuinness, my assistant in 2000-01.  Reading on Scott’s W&J twitter feed that something was amiss, I gave him a call on my ride home from F&M on Saturday to find out what happened.  Scott said Nate handled himself admirably amidst terrible circumstances and they emerged from the game with less than five minutes left on Nate’s laptop battery, but stats intact.

Members of the tree that attended my wedding. From left to right: Rachel Buck, Mollie Robertson, Scott McGuinness, me, Andy Krauss, Austin Calhoun, Nate Jervey.

I can’t express the pride that I felt, knowing that two of my own helped each other through circumstances from which I would have used every four-letter word in the book.  It got me to thinking about how proud I am of every former assistant who worked in this office.  Some who are still in sports information and others who have moved on to other careers.  People talk all the time about Bill Walsh’s coaching tree in the NFL and I feel like I’ve got a pretty good tree from my time here at W&L.  Let’s take a look at who they are and where they’ve been, starting with the original, Mr. VMI himself Andrew C. Krauss (a little inside joke there).

I arrived at W&L in the summer of 1998 and was told that the assistant was going to be returning for another year.  It was none other than Andy Krauss.  Andy had it rough from the sense that I was young, energetic and wanting to make my mark.  I wanted to prove to everyone that they made the right decision in hiring me.  I worked crazy hours and demanded that the assistant do the same.  I’m surprised Andy survived it all and that we remain friends, but it all worked out well.  A Maryland graduate and fan of all D.C. metro sports, Andy went on to work at the University of Florida, before returning to Lexington as the assistant SID at VMI.  Andy left the field and now serves as a communications specialist with the Easter Seals Foundation in his hometown of Silver Springs, Md.

My second assistant is the one guy that all the others claim never existed.  Mostly because none of the former assistants has really ever spoken to him, despite the fact that he was a part of numerous office fantasy teams, etc.  His name is Andrew Zapotoczny (Zapo for short), and he worked with me for the 1999-2000 school year.  Andrew had a great pedigree as a student assistant at William & Mary and was a native of nearby Fishersville, Va.  After one year with me, Andrew realized sports info wasn’t for him and he answered his call as an educator.  He’s currently an elementary school principal in the Denver, Colo., suburbs.

Scott McGuinness was the third assistant, working for me in 2000-01.  It was an interesting year to say the least.  A lot of practical jokes and sarcasm that year.  Former AD Mike Walsh likened Scott to Puddy, Elaine’s boyfriend on Seinfeld.  Probably wasn’t too far off.

Andy, Scott and myself at Scott’s wedding

I actually got Scott’s resume from Villanova after losing a potential hire to the Wildcats.  He was stunned to get the call from a school he never knew existed, but the Shippensburg grad was more than happy to come interview.

Scott remains one of my most loyal friends, and as a father of a 1-year old boy, we converse more about kids these days than SID stuff.  Scott left after one year for W&J and has been there ever since.

Scott was followed by Greg Murphy, who arrived in 2001 after graduating from John Carroll University in Cleveland.  Greg was a superstar as a student assistant and proved that he was talented from the very start.  Obviously, I also lost Greg after one year as he was hired as the SID at the Colorado School of Mines.  Might seem like a random location but his girlfriend was from Denver and this worked out perfectly.  Greg later moved to his native Cleveland where he began working at Cleveland State University.  Today, he is the school’s sports information director.  Greg seriously hooked me up in March of 2011 when CSU hosted the first and second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  My beloved Villanova Wildcats were sent there and Greg gave me the best job ever, writing notes about each game for the Cleveland site.  I sat on press row and got to watch every game in its entirety.  Greg recently got married and seems to be loving life more than ever!

My next assistant was a bit of a stretch.  I figured why not take a chance on someone with all the skills, but just needs experience.  Aaron Hatfield had been a lacrosse player at Connecticut College and was working in finance in New York City.  He desperately wanted to get involved in sports and appeared to be a good writer.  Aaron did wonderfully and fit in perfectly.  It only took one year before he began pursuing his dream of becoming a sports writer.  A couple of years later he realized sports writing doesn’t pay the bills quite like finance and he went back to working with Citi Group in New York.  He’s currently finishing working around the world with the organization, finishing in London before returning to New York.

Cory Thornton was with me for 2003-04 after finishing his graduate assistant SID position at Shippensburg University.  Cory had played soccer at Lebanon Valley and was an intern at Gettysburg for a year as well.  He had the pedigree and did a nice job though I think his year was more about figuring out what he really wanted to do.   His hobbies included raising chickens, if that gives you a sort of mental picture.  Cory went on to design websites for CSTV (now CBS Sports Network) in California and I got to spend some time with him at a Padres game while attending CoSIDA in 2007.  It was a nice visit and great to catch up.

Chris Hodgson was my first assistant to stay more than one year, serving from 2004-06.  A native of New Jersey and graduate of Lock Haven University, Chris started after completing his master’s degree at Old Dominion.  He had been an intern at SUNY-New Paltz and knew the job well.  Chris was a hard-worker and is one of the few former assistants who still lives in the area.  He and his wife Amanda have a 3-year old son Gavin and live in Waynesboro, just close enough to catch a W&L game every now and again.

Austin, Mollie and I before the 2008 Athletic Awards Ceremony

Austin Calhoun followed Chris and stayed from 2006-08.  Austin played basketball at W&L and I knew her well from all the hours spent hanging out in the SID office simply because it was the cool thing to do (sarcasm).  Austin helped us out as an undergrad, serving as the sound technician (what she put on her resume) for the baseball games, among other things.  She went on to get an SID internship at the University of Delaware before earning her master’s degree from the University of Miami.  She then returned to Lexington for two fun-filled years before packing up for the University of Minnesota, where she is now finishing up her doctoral studies in an attempt to become an athletic director/professor.  I recently attended her wedding in the Twin Cities, which was a blast and brought back a lot of great memories.

Mollie Robertson also stayed for two years, serving from 2007-09.  It was during the Calhoun/Robertson years that we actually had two assistant positions, which to put it bluntly, allowed me to have the semblance of a life again.  Anyway, Mollie was terrific.  Austin had remembered working with Mollie at a basketball game at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (now simply Randolph) and when we needed a quick hire late in the summer, we contacted Mollie despite the unconventional spelling of first name (or the fact that her real name is actually Rosalie).  Mollie will always be known as the assistant that kept copious notes on every subject and did everything exactly as instructed.  She was also the person who probably reminded everyone of their own mother because of her nurturing ways.  She remains a close friend even though she fraternizes with the enemy on a daily basis as the assistant commissioner of the ODAC.

Nate Jervey was hired in 2008 and holds the distinction of having the longest tenure of any assistant.  Prior to leaving this spring, he had been a member of the office for four years.  A lot happened during this time period, but most notably were the addition of live and recorded video highlights.  Nate was also brilliant at layout and design work and significantly upgraded all of our publications.  Obviously better days are ahead at Methodist, where his gold handicap will undoubtedly improve due to its impressive golf facilities.

Rachel Buck was hired in 2009 and was sort of the second generation of the Aaron Hatfield hire — someone with all the pieces and just needing experience.  Rachel had pretty much worked with every minor league baseball and hockey team in the Midwest and just needed a shot.  She had graduated from Marquette undergrad and was finishing her grad degree at Georgetown (and to think she’s not even Catholic).  She was also assisting the communications staff of the Washington Capitals.  Rachel needed only to experience how communications were handled in a college athletic department before she would be ready for big things.  She supervised the addition of both facebook and twitter to the sports information office and also expanded our love for grilled meats and Wisconsin cheese and beer.  I never did pick up her love of hockey, but she did help to increase our awareness of the sport.  Rachel parlayed her time in Lexington in an assistant SID position at George Mason, where she is beginning her second year.

That brings me to the final two:  Brittani Sahm and Chip Whipple, my current assistants.  The pressure is on guys, there’s a lot to live up to.  No worries though, no butterflies on my part because the 2012-13 year has the makings of the best year yet.  Thanks to all my former assistants who has made my first 14 years with W&L so special.  Go Generals!

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One Response to “The Coaching Tree”

  1. Elizabeth LeRose Says:

    Love the history – all great people. Brings back memories just reading about all of them! Go Generals!

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