James Haring has taken a limited tour of UD Arena. He’ll have to wait to see the entire facility. It’s still a hard-hat zone as work continues during the final phase of the three-year renovation project.
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Haring, the new director of basketball operations for the Dayton Flyers men’s basketball team, doesn’t need to see the stands full to know what to expect Nov. 9 when the 2019-20 season begins.
“I know Dayton basketball is big time from a regional standpoint but on the national stage as well,” said Haring on Tuesday during an interview at the Cronin Center. “That’s exciting — to be at that level. I’ve kind of been that level before, but not necessarily at a place where everyone’s following everything all the time.”
Haring, 27, interviewed for the job in late June and started Friday. He arrived at Dayton after two seasons in the same position at Jacksonville State in Alabama. He plunged right into his new duties.
“I just walked out of a meeting to kind of brief me on what’s going on with (the Maui Invitational) and all the logistics that are going into that,” Haring said. “What’s already been done. What needs to get done. What needs to get finished up? That’s a big piece (of his job): team travel. On top of that, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly scheduling. What’s going on this day? Who’s got this? What time is (weightlifting)? Just making sure all those pieces are kind of glued together.”
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Haring will also help the graduate assistants — Brett Comer, Sean Damaska and Khyle Marshall — with video editing when the need arises. In addition, he will serve as an academic liaison between the academic staff, the coaching staff and the players.
These are all things a future college basketball coach needs to know, and Haring has wanted to be a coach since his high school days in New Lenox, Ill, a Chicago suburb.
“My dad was a high school coach before any of my siblings were born,” Haring said. “Then when we were born, he became the PA announcer at our high school. He was a high school teacher. So I went to every game all the time. A big part of my life was going to those games. One of the players at the time at our high school was James Augustine. He’s arguably the best high school player to come out of our school. His dad also taught with my dad at the school so we were kind of family friends.”
Haring was 9 at that time in the early 2000s and remembers then Illinois coach Bill Self coming to New Lenox to recruit Augustine, who would score 1,383 points for the Illini. In short, Haring became a big basketball fan. He’s a Chicago Bulls fan just old enough to remember Michael Jordan’s final season in 1997-98.
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While in high school, Haring learned he could get his foot in the door in college coaching by serving as a student manager. His high school Spanish teacher was a manager at Iowa. Haring contacted a number of programs while applying to colleges and got an answer from West Virginia. He ended up serving as a student manager for four years in Morgantown, W.Va., and was the head manager as a senior in the 2013-14 season.
Haring learned from one of college basketball’s winningest active coaches, Bob Huggins.
“You think you know the game, but you don’t really know the game,” Haring said. “(Huggins) might be standing underneath the basket, and you might be standing next to him with a towel and water and a ball, whatever, but how he sees the game was so much deeper than how I saw the game. Just being there every day and experiencing that was great. Getting to know him was great. Unbelievable person. They play hard every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1-on-0, 5-on-5, 3-on-3. They play hard every day.”
During Haring’s senior year at West Virginia, he built a relationship with Illinois assistant coach Dustin Ford and other members of then Illinois head coach John Groce’s staff. A graduate assistant job opened in the summer of 2014. Haring landed the job and worked two years in that position before being promoted to director of basketball operations in the 2016-17 season.
Haring said he learned from Groce coaches have to bring their best every day.
“It didn’t matter if we lost three games in a row or won three games in a row, if it was July or November,” Haring said. “He was walking in the door the same John Groce every day. He gave it 110 percent all the time. I felt like I did that going into it, but I really walked away from that experience in that three years knowing I got better because I thought I was giving 110 percent and I really wasn’t. He took me to that next level.”
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Groce, now the head coach at Akron, lost the Illinois job after an 18-14 season in 2016-17. Haring then moved to Jacksonville State, working under Ray Harper, whose teams were 47-22 the last two seasons.
Haring thanked the Jacksonville State coaching staff and university on Twitter when Dayton announced his hiring.
“It was a fun two years there,” Haring said. “We had some good teams. Coach Harper is awesome. I absolutely love him and the staff there.”
Haring arrives at Dayton during a promising time. The Flyers finished 21-12 last season and return six key players while adding five promising newcomers to the mix in head coach Anthony Grant’s third season.
“I’ve only been in the gym a couple times,” Haring said, “but you can tell people have some pop. They’ve got a pep in their step, whether it’s returners, four-year senior, fifth-year senior, junior, sophomore, freshman, transfers who sat out last year who are now eligible. You can tell there’s a level of competition each day, which is great, but also guys have really good relationships, which is big.”
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