DuBois brings NBA pedigree to sidelines looking to turn around Banana Slugs

Now at the University of California-Santa Cruz, DuBois is using the tools he’s learned along his expansive journey, the Xs and Os, as well as motivational and personal skills to rebuild the Division-III program.

Even though NBA players are the best in the world at what they do, they’re still people, DuBois said. And while basketball is their job, he said, they can still be talked to just like anyone else.

DuBois has brought that mindset to UC-Santa Cruz, albeit from a reverse outlook. Though his players don’t have scholarships, they still play the same game he coached in the NBA.

“I feel like Division III now is really what the model of college basketball was about way back in the day,” DuBois said. “I think it’s the truest form of college basketball, and because it’s non-scholarship, I think the players are in it for the right reasons.

“Not that Division-I players are in it for the wrong reasons, I just think Division III is what being a basketball player at the college level is all about.”

DuBois, 35, played collegiately at Arizona State and assistant coached for the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies. He’s coached in Europe and Mexico, as well as in Memphis, Tenn., with Division-III Rhodes College.

In August 2012, he was hired at Division-III UC-Santa Cruz, before the Banana Slugs went 7-18 this season. Despite the season’s lopsided record, his players have confidence in DuBois and his coaching background to elevate the program.

DuBois learned his pick-and-roll, seven-seconds-or-less offense from Mike D’Antoni while with the Phoenix Suns from 2001-03. In Memphis from 2007-08, DuBois learned his man-to-man defense from Kevin O’Neill and Marc Iavaroni.

“To work in the NBA for two different teams as an assistant coach was a goal of mine. It was a dream, and I just feel so fortunate that, that came true,” DuBois said. “But I also had a dream to be in the position where I have my own program, near my family and have that stability and consistency that’s pretty rare to find at the top levels professionally.”

His goal in his first year at Santa Cruz was to change the mindset of the program. He focused on three prominent points: Trust in each other, the system and oneself, stay in the moment and create a team brotherhood.

The Slugs improved on all throughout the season.

“He’s a teacher. He’s constantly teaching because he knows so much,” guard James Townsend said. “I feel like it’s making me better and it’s making the team a lot better because we’re getting all the experience that he has. He’s really trying to share everything he knows with us.”

Townsend and DuBois work out every day and talk about the future they envision. Townsend said he’s confident that by the time he graduates UCSC, it’s going to be one of the top teams in Division III.

DuBois instilled that confidence in his players.

“He’s definitely going to take us to a place UC-Santa Cruz basketball has never been,” sophomore guard Marshal Arnwine Jr. said. “I really feel that he’s the right person to get us to every goal that we’ve set.”

He’s been around the globe, but to DuBois, it’s still basketball. His NBA pedigree gives him a different perspective than most coaches at the Division-III level, and that’s what gives his players the confidence he can bring them to the top of Division-III basketball.

“Everyone has a scrapbook,” DuBois said. “I don’t really tell a lot of stories or anything. I just stay in the moment where I’m at and coach these guys.

“What I’ve learned is that even though the highest levels have these really great players, they’re still all just people. They’re all human beings and everyone’s just working hard.”