Archdeacon: A dream comes true for Red Scare coaches Gruden, Bonsu

Joey Gruden, Jeremiah Bonsu and Jordan Sibert talk at the Red Scare practice on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, at UD Arena. The Dayton alumni team plays in The Basketball Tournament on Sunday. David Jablonski/Staff

Combined ShapeCaption
Joey Gruden, Jeremiah Bonsu and Jordan Sibert talk at the Red Scare practice on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, at UD Arena. The Dayton alumni team plays in The Basketball Tournament on Sunday. David Jablonski/Staff

This is banking, Bonsu style.

The day before the Red Scare’s opener in The Basketball Tournament at UD Arena, the marquee player for their Cititeam opponent – Josh Selby, a former McDonald’s All American who played for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, as well as several G-League and overseas teams – topped Red Scare veteran Darrell Davis in the TBT’s three-point contest.

“When he won, their whole team was sitting over there banging on the press row table, talking about how they were gonna beat us,” said Jeremiah Bonsu, the former University of Dayton walk-on who is the assistant head coach of the Red Scare, a TBT team made up primarily of former Flyers players.

Red Scare head coach Joey Gruden, also a former UD walk-on and one of Bonsu’s best friends, didn’t respond to the Cititeam taunts. He’s not one for bombastic back-at-yous.

Bonsu, though, has no such qualms.

“He’s the best trash talker on the team,” Scoochie Smith once told me when he and Bonsu were both Flyers.

So when the Cititeam started crowing, Bonsu piped up: “I’ll see you at 3 p.m. Sunday!”

That’s when Selby decided to go one-on-one Bonsu said with a grin:.

“He said, ‘Oh you don’t want to see me!’ He told me he was gonna score 40 on us.

“I told him, ‘We’ll see what you do.’

“And you know what? He ended up with three points. He made one of four shots (and had a free throw.)”

Davis said Selby’s boasts to Bonsu fired his teammates up to play defense on him Sunday.

The Red Scare defeated Cititeam, 75-70.

“That’s the one thing about my teammates,” Bonsu said afterward. “I’m going to write a check and I know the team is gonna cash it. They always do.”

And while that’s the way Bonsu banks, he’ll be the first to admit, his financial planner is Gruden.

He makes sure Bonsu doesn’t overdraw his account. He keeps him grounded and focused.

In turn Bonsu lights a fire under Gruden.

“We’ve got the perfect yin and yang relationship,” Bonsu said. “We feed off each other.”

Gruden agreed: “I think our personalities are perfect for each other. I’m more laid back and reserved and kind of quiet.

“He’s passionate, aggressive and loud. He’s always looking at me, going ‘Let’s go! Let’s get excited!’ And I’m looking at him going, ‘Calm down.’ We mesh very well in that aspect. We’re really good friends and we both really have a love for basketball.”

Combined ShapeCaption
Red Scare coaches Jeremiah Bonsu (left) and Joey Gruden this past week as they readied for The Basketball Tournament. CONTRIBUTED

Red Scare coaches Jeremiah Bonsu (left) and Joey Gruden this past week as they readied for The Basketball Tournament. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Red Scare coaches Jeremiah Bonsu (left) and Joey Gruden this past week as they readied for The Basketball Tournament. CONTRIBUTED

The two bonded in the fall of 2013, their freshman year at UD. They met playing pick-up basketball games at the RecPlex. Neither had joined the UD basketball team yet, but they fantasized.

“I remember we were in the Marycrest dining hall the last week of our freshman year,” Bonsu said. “We said we not only were both going to play on the UD team, but one day we both would coach at UD Arena. We kept that promise to ourselves, but it’s all came true.”

While that may seem like the wildest of dreams being realized, the latter part shouldn’t be that surprising considering what the two are doing now.

Gruden, was a graduate assistant on the University of Louisville staff of Chris Mack and has been the head coach of the Flyght Academy here in Dayton and a local AAU team. He’s about to become the Director of Basketball Operations at Stetson University.

After being a grad assistant at Bowling Green and the University of Arkansas, an intern with the Dallas Mavericks and spending a short stint as director of player development at Duquesne, Bonsu recently was named the head video coordinator of the Houston Rockets.

The pair has coached the Red Scare before. They served as Damon Goodwin’s assistants in 2019. Gruden then coached the team on his own in 2020 and the pair joined forces in 2021.

But this year is different.

The Red Scare’s regional (tonight at 9 they play the Golden Eagles, a team made up of former Marquette players) and the TBT final rounds all are being held at UD Arena.

This is the basketball home of Gruden, Bonsu and most of the Red Scare players and the games draw a large following of passionate UD fans.

Sunday’s crowd included several current UD players, as well past Flyers’ favorites like Obi Toppin, now with the New York Knicks, and Jalen Crutcher, now in the G League. They both sat on chairs scooted up right behind the bench.

“Having the current team here, and former alumni and coaching my former teammates, there’s pressure to make sure we’re representing everyone well,” Bonsu said. “And it’s not just people who are Dayton Flyers, but the surrounding community, too.”

Gruden admitted he felt the weight of the moment:

“Before the game, me and Bonsu talked about it. We were both walk-ons and then you’re involved in the game, but you know you’re not going to play much and have an impact.

“This definitely felt like it was the first game in the Arena where I’ve had a true impact on it. It was my first time making real decisions to help us win.”

Combined ShapeCaption
The Red Scare's Jeremiah Bonsu coaches during a game against CitiTeam in the first round of The Basketball Tournament on Sunday, July 24, 2022, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

The Red Scare's Jeremiah Bonsu coaches during a game against CitiTeam in the first round of The Basketball Tournament on Sunday, July 24, 2022, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Combined ShapeCaption
The Red Scare's Jeremiah Bonsu coaches during a game against CitiTeam in the first round of The Basketball Tournament on Sunday, July 24, 2022, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Ready for their moment

Bonsu and Gruden both come with backgrounds that built them for his moment.

Gruden’s grandfather, Jim, was a Flyers assistant football coach in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. His Uncle Jon was a walk-on quarterback for UD in the mid-1980s and then went on to NFL fame as the head coach of the Oakland and Las Vegas Raiders and the Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers and also was a popular Monday Night Football broadcaster.

His dad Jay was a star quarterback Louisville and then in the Arena League before becoming a Cincinnati Bengals assistant coach and head coach of the Washington Redskins.

While Joey had offers to play Division III football and basketball, he chose UD.

He didn’t make it as a basketball walk-on his freshman year and ended up playing intramurals – his team was called the Average Joes – and watching Flyers games from the Red Scare student section.

Bonsu’s parents came from Ghana and prospered here. He was born in New Jersey and moved to Ohio as a seventh grader.

His first three years at Pickerington North High, he was cut from the basketball team and served as the manager. His senior year he made the team and scored one point.

At UD, he was not one to go out on weekends and instead spent all his free time at The Rec playing basketball.

Gruden’s sophomore year, he made the Flyers team as a walk-on. Bonsu did not and ended up a manager.

But when the Archie Miller team lost several players to season-ending injuries and had two kicked off for rules violations, he was asked to wear a uniform.

He and Gruden became fan favorites and the UD students often chanted for them to get into games.

Gruden did sink a pair of free throws as a junior and then, as senior, he had the moment that’s every walk-on’s dream.

Coach Anthony Grant sent him in late in a game against VCU and, right in front of the Flyers bench, he got a pass from Xeyrius Williams.

Darrell Davis, who was on the bench right behind him, yelled for him to shoot.

He did and snapped the net cords for a three-pointer. It was the only basket of his career and his teammates mobbed him afterward.

Bonsu finally got in two games his senior year and though his stat line was goose eggs, he had one tremendous assist. He introduced Gruden to Megan Marasco, who had gone to Pickerington North with him and was a friend.

Last week Megan and Joey celebrated their second wedding anniversary.

Combined ShapeCaption
The Red Scare's Joey Gruden coaches during a game against CitiTeam in the first round of The Basketball Tournament on Sunday, July 24, 2022, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

The Red Scare's Joey Gruden coaches during a game against CitiTeam in the first round of The Basketball Tournament on Sunday, July 24, 2022, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Combined ShapeCaption
The Red Scare's Joey Gruden coaches during a game against CitiTeam in the first round of The Basketball Tournament on Sunday, July 24, 2022, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Repping the Flyers

Originally, Bonsu had wanted to be a college coach, but he didn’t like the recruiting. After he left Duquesne, he was about to take a sales job in Lincoln, Nebraska, and admitted: “I was down in the dumps.”

That’s when he found out about a video assistant’s opening with the Rockets and he knew the head coach Stephen Silas, who’d been with the Mavericks when he interned there.

Bonsu got the job and Silas has now taken him under his wing. After nine months, Bonsu became the head video coordinator.

Before he left for the TBT, Bonsu said Silas gave him some coaching insights. And he said some of the Rockets players warned him: “Don’t go there and stink.”

The biggest pressure though comes from representing the Flyers, especially Sunday with Toppin and Crutcher looking right over his shoulder.

“Obi gave us real energy,” Bonsu said. “He did a great job encouraging our guys.”

And as the game wore on, he said Selby was doing considerable talking to him and Obi “when he should have been focusing on the game.”

Afterward, during team handshakes, Bonsu met up with Selby.

“He said his teammates iced him out,” Bonsu smiled.

“I said, ‘No, we stopped you – just like I said we would.’”

It may have been Sunday

But with Bonsu, the bank is always open.

About the Author