Now that college basketball teams are into their conference schedules, vying for berths in March Madness, it’s time to check in on three Jewish head coaches with local ties. After last weekend, all three are off to very good starts.
Les Levine | Friday, January 18, 2013 via Cleveland Jewish News
• Cleveland Heights High School grad Larry Shyatt, in his second stint at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, in the Mountain West Conference, is off to a 14-1 start, losing to Boise State last week after reeling off 13 wins in a row. Of the 14 wins, 11 are of the double-digit variety. One of the starters is sophomore Larry Nance Jr., who played high school ball at Revere, near Akron, averaging 10.6 points and seven rebounds a game. Shyatt and Larry Nance Sr. forged a relationship when Shyatt was the head coach for five years at Clemson, Nance’s alma mater.
Shyatt, 61, was an assistant coach at Florida under Billy Donovan, when the Gators won back-to-back national championships from 2005 to 2007. Other stops along the way were at Akron, Utah, Cleveland State, New Mexico, and Providence. Prior to his stint at Clemson, Shyatt spent one year at Wyoming as head coach in the 1997-98 season. Part of the reason he went back last season is that he didn’t feel right leaving the way he did the first time. Shyatt’s son, Jeremy, is the lead assistant at Wyoming.
• Keith Dambrot is now in his ninth year as head coach at Akron, and through last weekend, was off to an 11-4 start. After winning 19 games in his first year, he reached the 20-win mark in each of the next seven years. He has led Akron to two NCAA Tournament appearances as well as three trips to the National Invitation Tournament.
Prior to coming back to his hometown of Akron, Dambrot had head coaching jobs at Ashland and Central Michigan. While “exiled” from the college game, he returned to Akron and took a job as a stockbroker. While coaching teams at the Akron JCC, he helped LeBron James in his developmental years, and wound up coaching James at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, leading to two state championships. He has signed an extension that will keep him around for quite some time.
• Rob Senderoff is in his second year at Kent State and led the Golden Flashes to a 21-12 record last year. After last weekend, Kent State is off to a 10-6 start. Both Akron and Kent State own relatively easy wins over Cleveland State this season. Kent State has been quite successful in recent years on the basketball court, and several coaches have used it as a steppingstone to perceived better jobs. Gary Waters, now at Cleveland State, led the Flashes to two NCAA Tournaments, while Stan Heath and Jim Christian took them there a combined three more times.
Kent State has had a phenomenal run in other sports. It almost always has top-ranked golf teams, under coach Herb Page. But last year, the baseball team had a great run in the College World Series, and the football team went to a bowl game for the first time in 40 years. That team featured Pro Football Hall of Famer Jack Lambert, a member of four Super Bowl-winning Pittsburgh teams, current Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel and a little-known defensive back by the name of Nick Saban. Saban has won four national championships, one at LSU and three at Alabama. The placekicker on that team was the aforementioned Page.