DeAntoine “Cat” Beasley, the newest assistant coach with the Dayton Flyers women’s basketball program, must get this question a lot: How did you get your nickname?
Beasley, 39, explained the story behind the name Wednesday during an interview in his office at UD’s Cronin Center. He said he grew up in Atlanta, playing behind older guys who told him he had an old soul.
“You should have been born in the ’60s,” they said. “You remind us of those cats back then — the cat daddy.”
They shortened the nickname to “cat,” and it stuck. Beasley said it has taken on a life of its own, and most people call him that.
While Dayton head coach Shauna Green, her staff members and players have had to learn about Beasley and his nickname in recent weeks, most of the learning has been done by him. For one, he had never coached women’s basketball players before getting this job.
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Before Beasley could get on the road to start recruiting in June — something Green needed him to do right away — he had to pass the NCAA’s recruiting test. He was an assistant men’s coach the last four seasons at Gardner-Webb, but he had never taken the recruiting test on the women’s side.
“If you fail it, you can’t take it again for 30 days,” he said. “If I failed, I wouldn’t have been able to go out. It’s an important time. That’s my job. So there was a little pressure.”
A little pressure is nothing new for Beasley. He passed that test and visited Louisville, Cincinnati and Chicago on the recruiting trail. Of course, nineteen years ago, during his playing days at Tennessee Tech, he overcame a much bigger hurdle.
If the story behind his nickname is one thing Dayton fans will want to know about Beasley, the other big story in his life centers around his battle with cancer. He found a lump in his shoulder midway through his sophomore season.
Beasley felt fine and kept playing as doctors ran tests. It wasn’t diagnosed as Hodgkin’s Disease until he returned to Atlanta after the season. He not only had a lump in his shoulder but a huge mass in his chest.
“You heard cancer, and you thought you were dying,” Beasley said. “That’s the first thing that pops into your head. After I heard that, I said, ‘Let’s beat it.’”
Because he was young and healthy, doctors were aggressive in their treatment. He left school and underwent chemotherapy in Atlanta.
Then Beasley had to undergo radiation treatment. Doctors allowed him to do that at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, so he could return to Tennessee Tech. He sat out the entire 1999-2000 season and spent a lot of time in the fall of 1999 driving the 80 miles between Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tenn., and Vanderbilt. He did that five times per week between September and January.
The treatments worked. Beasley has been cancer free since 2000. He still goes to the doctor every two years for checkups. He returned to the court in 2000 and averaged a career-high 8.5 points per game.
“I worked during that redshirt year,” Beasley said. “I didn’t want to be the guy on the bench. I wanted to be a contributor. I wanted to play. I wanted to help us win.”
Beasley did that his final two seasons. Tennessee Tech finished 20-9 in 2001 and 27-7 in 2002. It remains the last time the program won 20 games in back-to-back seasons.
Ironically, Beasley’s second-to-last victory as a member of the Golden Eagles came at UD Arena. Tennessee Tech beat Dayton 68-59 in the second round of the NIT in 2002.
“That game was one of my favorite college games in my career,” Beasley said.
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Beasley, a 6-foot-7 guard, had eight points and two rebounds in 31 minutes. His team had hoped to be in the NCAA tournament but lost on a buzzer-beater to Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference championship game.
“We didn’t really want to be in the NIT,” Beasley said. “I’m sure (Dayton) didn’t either. It was a dogfight. I remember the energy in the building was unbelievable.”
Tennessee Tech beat Yale 80-61 in the next round before losing 79-73 to John Calipari and Memphis in the quarterfinals. Beasley’s college career ended. He then played seven years of pro basketball in England, where he met his wife, Katie.
Beasley retired from basketball at the age of 30 and got into coaching in 2009 as a graduate assistant at Auburn under Jeff Lebo, who had been his head coach at Tennessee Tech.
A year later, Beasley moved back to his alma mater as an assistant coach. He moved to Chattanooga in 2011, to Pensacola State College in 2013 and then Gardner-Webb in 2014. He coached men’s players at all those stops.
Beasley wasn’t looking to move to the women’s side, but a friend dropped his name to Green, and after talking to her, it made sense to make the move. He reached out to friends in the game for advice on how to coach in the women’s game.
“The main thing I’ve noticed so far is their willingness to be coached,” Beasley said. “They’re very interested in the points you want to make. They’ve been great with me as far as receiving me as the new person on staff.”