D’Antoni hits floor running as Thundering Herd coach

dantoni-marshallIt’s been one month since former Socastee High coach Dan D’Antoni was introduced as the new head basketball coach at Marshall University, and it hasn’t taken him long to get the ball rolling.

In his first 30 days on the job, D’Antoni has showed his abilities on the recruiting trail – both close to home and internationally – as well as secure a rock-solid staff of assistants.

Foremost among his to-do list was to prove that the Thundering Herd could recruit and land the top talent in his own backyard, and he delivered by making Calvin “CJ” Burks, a Class AAA All-State guard from Hedgesville High, the first in-state high school men’s basketball signee for Marshall in more than 13 years. D’Antoni made it clear that he expect signing a homegrown talent like Burks more than a once-in-a-decade occurrence.

“It’s important we have in-state, and I’d say, regional guys,” said D’Antoni, who graduated from Marshall and spent 30 seasons at Socastee and seven as an assistant in the NBA. “West Virginia, Kentucky, southwest Pennsylvania, southeast Ohio, eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina – all those should be in our recruiting area we focus on, with the emphasis on West Virginia. I don’t see why we can’t get half of a team, maybe more, from those areas.”

Displaying the balance needed in his roster for the Herd to be successful, D’Antoni added Aleksa Nikolic to its 2014 recruiting class last week. The 6-foot-5 point guard, a native of Pancevo, Serbia, averaged 20.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 8.0 assists during his most recent season on his Serbian junior club team.

D’Antoni also announced the additions of Chris Duhon and Scott Rigot to the Thundering Herd coaching staff this week, and also announced the retention of veteran Thundering Herd assistant coach Mark Cline.

Duhon played nine seasons in the NBA (2004-2013) with four franchises (Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers), most recently for the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2013-13 season, where D’Antoni served as an assistant coach on the Lakers’ staff. A graduate of Duke University in 2004, Duhon played four seasons for the Blue Devils and helped Duke win the 2001 National Championship.

Rigot has been an assistant coach at South Carolina, UAB, Hawaii, Kentucky and Duquesne. He has accompanied teams to postseason play in 12 of his 14 seasons as a Division I assistant coach and also enjoyed a successful stint as a junior college head coach. Prior to his seasons at Duquesne, he served as an assistant under coach Tubby Smith at Kentucky from 2002-03 through 2006-07, helping the Wildcats earn five consecutive NCAA Tournament bids.

Photo courtesy of MU Athletics

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