ALBANY — A half-dozen scholarship UAlbany men’s basketball players are in the NCAA transfer portal.
That would seem to allow new head coach Dwayne Killings an immediate opportunity to bring in players that fit his vision for where he wants to take the Great Danes.
For sure, to some extent, that will happen — but Killings, at his introductory press conference on Thursday at SEFCU Arena, left the door open for any and all of the Great Danes to return.
Wide open, actually.
“I want to keep everybody that wants to be here,” said Killings, who was associate head coach at Marquette prior to heading to UAlbany on a five-year deal. “It’s their program. It’s not mine. I’m the caretaker, I’m the head coach — [but] it’s their program. I want them to be here.”
UAlbany is coming off a 7-9 campaign and its third losing season in a row during Will Brown’s final season as head coach. Killings knows the program’s roster needs improving and said the program’s new coaching staff is already looking at ways to improve the team’s talent base, but the 39-year-old native of Amherst, Massachusetts, doesn’t appear eager to see waves of current Great Danes head elsewhere, even if that might be advantageous in the long-term for the new head coach.
Killings met with the team Wednesday, then led UAlbany in an on-court workout Friday. As much as those players probably felt they need to impress their new head coach, Killings said the same goes for him as he gets started leading his program.
“They need to get to know me, as a coach, as a leader, get to understand what we’re going to try to do as a program,” Killings said, “and then we’ll take the right steps from there.”
And there are players in place, Killings said, that fit the mold of what the new coach is looking for at UAlbany.
“When I watched the team [last season], there was a toughness that was in the team that I really enjoyed,” Killings said. “Will — coach Brown — did a great job with this group over the years. He’s achieved some amazing things in college basketball. That, we all know. Now, what can we do to make adjustments to grow our team and make us better, make sure we can win an America East championship?”
Figuring out that answer?
“That’s my job,” Killings said. “That’s why I was given this opportunity.”
The toughness that Killings said he saw in last season’s roster is something he plans to carry over into the 2021-22 season and beyond for the Great Danes. Killings had two separate stints working at Temple for coach Fran Dunphy — who won 580 career games at Penn and Temple — and said that quality is what he most wants his UAlbany teams to emulate from Dunphy’s teams.
“It starts with toughness,” Killings said. “It starts with competitive guys — and, coach Dunphy, the way he coached is, he just started with trying to be tougher than the opposition. He gave the guys a lot of freedom offensively, but he demanded a lot defensively. You’ll see a lot of that in how we play.”
It’s college basketball in 2021 and a coaching change was made, so it’s inevitable that the Great Danes’ roster will look — likely significantly — different next season. Killings made it no secret that part of his job is to “grow” UAlbany’s roster with incoming transfers and new recruits.
“But,” Killings said, “the most important thing right now are the guys inside the locker room.”