Today: Jun 17, 2024

Donnelly reflects on coaching career

photo courtesy | Head coach Mike Donnelly has had a stellar career at Southern Connecticut State University.

Jennifer Hoffer – Sports Writer

After realizing basketball was the one thing he knew the best at out of everything else, the only thing he was comfortable and familiar with, was the drive that sent Owls men’s basketball coach Mike Donnelly in the direction of trying to make it work in the coaching career.

“When thinking of my career,” Donnelly said, “I said to myself, if I knew a lot about cars I’d probably be a mechanic. Or if I was good with my hands I could potentially become a carpenter. But I’m not good at either so I figured basketball was the right course for me.”

For Donnelly, this year has been really exciting because it is the first year that all of the players in the program are players Coach Donnelly and the rest of the coaching staff recruited.

“That’s important when you take over a whole program,” Donnelly said. “We had great guys last year. They helped us win quite a few games. But to be able to be at this point where we can go out and handpick guys that we believed would work real well in the system is so important.”

Donnelly said that he thinks one of the factors that have contributed to the success of this season so far is how well the team finished last season.

The Owls finished the season on a high note with a 6-1 record in their last seven games ending up as a fifth seed in the conference.

“We started a junior, sophomore, and three freshmen so we were extremely young last year,” Donnelly said. “But we brought all of those guys back. So this is the first year we have had some continuity with our returning players. It definitely helps us get ahead of the game a little bit.”

Luke Houston, a sophomore guard for the Owls, feels privileged to be coached by a coach like Donnelly.

Houston said he brings enthusiasm and competitiveness to the court but he also lets the players do what they want to do.

“Donnelly has a great team structure here,” Houston said. “He lets us have freedom as players and lets us call some of the shots, but he still is in control of everything and I like that.”

Houston said the chemistry of the teams contributed to this team’s success. That factor lacked last season both off and on the court.

Houston said that dramatically changed this year.

“The guys have really enjoyed being around each other, playing with each other and for each other and it’s just much better,” Houston said.

Tylon Smith, sophomore guard, said that the fact that Donnelly is a laid back and enthusiastic coach doesn’t hurt the team’s success either.

“He’s animated, he’s very passionate, he wants us to do well,” Smith said. “He only yells at us or jumps down our backs when he needs to because he sees the potential we have as a team,” Smith said.

Donnelly not only wants to exert his coaching effort towards the game of basketball but he wants to coach these boys for what life holds ahead. He said he has more pride about watching these boys grow every year more than anything else.

“I love putting a team together,” Donnelly said. “I love building a team, I love watching a team grow both on and off the court and that to me is what is great about coaching and what I think of as a great privilege. I love seeing a team develop and work towards one common goal.”

Donnelly played basketball both in high school and college and said he loved the involvement as a player and now is fortunate enough that he has the opportunity to put his knowledge to coaching and show the younger guys what to do.

“You can kind of over see everything from a different and see how it all comes together,” Donnelly said.

That is one of the reasons why he chose to coach here at Southern, Donnelly said.

“The other programs here at Southern do extremely well and that was something that I saw during my job interview process,” he said. “I figured if everyone else was doing well we could do well too.”

photo courtesy | coachmikedonnelly.comHead coach Mike Donnelly has had a stellar career at Southern Connecticut State University.
photo courtesy |
Head coach Mike Donnelly has had a stellar career at Southern Connecticut State University.

Donnelly said the support that the team has received has been tremendous. And it ranges from the community, the students and right down to the administration.

“I like the fact that Southern is a sports school and that we all do well here,” Donnelly said. “I really enjoy coming to work everyday in this competitive environment.”

The one thing Donnelly does want to do for the players here, he said, is to have them to look back on their experience and forget the wins and losses and just really look back on their college experience. He wants them to say, “hey that was a lot of fun, we were treated fairly, and we were treated right.”

“There’s such a small window of opportunity in life they probably don’t realize it now but its over before you know it,” Donnelly said. “And I really want them to look back on it and just remember all the good times they had at here as a student and as a basketball player. Hopefully we can say that we helped them along the way of having a good time and having a great experience here.”

Smith makes it clear that Donnelly is getting that message across.

“Everything counts whether it’s in regards to a class a practice or a workout,” Smith said. “Everything is a build up to something so much bigger. It’s important to take each day and make the best of it every day that you step on that court, step in the classroom and as you make your way through life.”


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