In the most recent installment in his "Coaching Greats" series, CHN writer Jon Teitel caught up with former Central Connecticut State head coach Bill Detrick. During his time in New Britain Detrick, whose name now adorns the Blue Devils' home arena, won 468 games and helped the program transition to Division I.
Jon Teitel: You went to college at Central Connecticut State, where you played football, basketball and baseball. Which sport were you best at, and which one did you enjoy the most?
Bill Detrick: I was definitely best at football, but I loved baseball and played in the minors after graduation for about $95/month. I was captain of the basketball team but it was not my best sport.
JT: After your playing career you became a coach at CCSU. What made you get into coaching?
BD: Basketball was the best sport to coach because you were really able to teach the game and it is where the action is. You have to use every skill you can think of, whereas some football players can just be stronger than anyone else. I wanted to coach since third grade because if you wanted to play on the playground it was better to be the guy picking the teams!
My PE teachers and coaches were kind of my idols, as I was not a good student. John Chaney at Cheyney State was the best guy I ever coached against. He forced me to change some of the things I did.
JT: What are your memories of the 1966 Division II tournament (CCSU won three games before losing to eventual champ Kentucky Wesleyan)?
BD: We were just a state teachers college in NAIA so a lot of the Division II schools shunned us. It was a big deal for us. The governor even showed up to watch us play. I always wanted us to go to Division I but I was not in any position of power to do so, whereas Kentucky Wesleyan was the opposite and just continued to dominate at the Division II level. When I was coaching my guys were as good as those at Connecticut because we took a lot of guys who were not able to get in there.
JT: One of your former players was Howie Dickenman (the first player in school history with 1000 career points and rebounds), who later became the only coach to lead the Blue Devils to the Division I tournament. What made Dickenman such a great player, and did you ever think he would become such a good coach?
BD: Howie was a man's man. His father was also a great coach so I assume he just followed in his footsteps. He was a great leader and could jump very high. Howie and I are still close and we talk a lot. I always ask him how he could play for me and turn out to be such a defensive genius! I just marveled at how Howie beat up UMass a couple of seasons ago. He learned a lot from Coach Jim Calhoun.
JT: After stepping down in 1988 you took one year off before spending a year as coach at the Coast Guard Academy. How did you enjoy the year off, and why did you decide to get back on the sideline?
BD: I did not get the AD job so my choice was to go back to coaching or retire, and I decided to retire with most of my pension. I decided to go back because I had some new ideas that I wanted to try out. We were 11-11 going into our last game and we lost by one point to finish with a losing record, which was very disappointing. I had a player make 59 straight free throws, which set a national record.
I called a timeout after he made the record-setting free throw so that the crowd would give him a big ovation, and he came over to the sideline and said, "Who the hell called that timeout!?" I realized that I had a lot of perks at Central Connecticut State because the players at the Coast Guard were treated just like all the other students!
JT: You spent the past two decades as golf coach at Trinity (CT) College. How did you switch from coaching basketball to coaching golf, and which sport do you enjoy coaching more?
BD: I have such a dilemma coaching golf, as the players all have their own swing coaches. I just help them to grow up and improve their academics. If I had known 20 years ago that I was going to still be doing this, I would have spent a lot more time being a coach rather than being a teacher. The academic culture at Trinity left me shell-shocked. Some of the players will get a 3% deduction in their grade if they skip a class to play in a golf match!
JT: Your wife Barbara was a teacher, and each of your three kids ended up going into public education. How important is education to you, and how do you get your players to balance academics with athletics?
BD: When I went to Trinity I thought that we could not win...and I was right. However, we have been able to get a lot of Academic All-Americans who have gone on to get great jobs after graduation. Athletics came first for me, but if my players tell me that they need to study then I let them study. A good teacher is hard to find. I taught at Central for 35 years and only had a few students who failed to graduate.
JT: You are the winningest coach in school history. What made you such a great coach?
BD: You have to have great players: that is the main thing. I am coaching in my sixth straight decade and it has changed a lot. My golfers asked me how they would do if they played basketball for me, and I told them that they would sit on the bench! When I tell them to change their grip and they tell me their grip is just fine...oh no. I have two rules: you have to be able to relate to people and then you have to know what you are talking about. You have to continually readjust things to make sure it still works.
JT: The gym at Central Connecticut State now bears your name. What did it mean to you to receive such an outstanding honor?
BD: Some people give a school $1,000,000 to get their name on a building. I gave them a $1,000,000 in sweat and hard work. I never missed a game or practice. I saw a lot of coaches holding onto their job too long and I did not want to get into that situation. When my grandkids go to a game and see the family name up there they really get a kick out of it. It means more and more every year.
JT: When people look back on your career, how do you want to be remembered the most?
BD: I wish I knew the answer to that. A lot of people have called me a fierce competitor, so I like to think that I competed pretty well. I tried to provide an environment for my players to do well and use some psychological techniques to get them prepared. If a kid had the drive and desire then he could play for me.
Detrick is also on Jon's list of best coaches in NEC history:
Bryant: Max Good (2001-2008) 132-86
Central Connecticut State Bill Detrick (1959-1988) 468-266
Fairleigh Dickinson Tom Green (1983-2009) 407-351, 4 NCAA tourneys, 4 conference titles, 2-time conference COY
LIU Brooklyn: Clair Bee (1931-1943, 1945-1951) 360-80-2, 2 NIT titles, 1 Helms title
Monmouth: Bill Boylan (1956-1977) 367-157
Mount St. Mary's: Jim Phelan (1954-2003) 830-524, 2 NCAA tourneys, 1 conference title, 16 D-2 tourneys, 1 D-2 title, 2-time national COY, 2-time conference COY
Quinnipiac: Burt Kahn (1960-1991) 459-358
Robert Morris: Jarrett Durham (1984-1996) 157-183, 3 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles, 2-time conference COY
Sacred Heart: Dave Bike (1978-present) 519-480, 1 D-2 title, 1-time D-2 national COY
St. Francis (NY): Daniel Lynch (1948-1969) 283-237, 2 conference titles
Saint Francis (PA): Skip Hughes (1945-1966) 293-206-1
Wagner: Tim Capstraw (1989-1999) 117-164, 1-time conference COY