Feb. 13, 2006
This article originally appeared in the Tulane Hullabaloo online edition on Jan. 30, 2006.
Reprinted by permission.
By Benny Powell
When the men's basketball team takes the court, regardless the opponent, first-year head coach Dave Dickerson is on his feet and going the distance.
Bad call or no call, he's been known to step out as far as the three-point line to protest while the game is in progress. Or, when the action transitions up court, Dickerson is waving his hands to hurry his players back on defense, most times causing his Tulane green tie to flank over his shoulder.
"I coach as if I want to be out there," Dickerson said. "My passion and love for the game comes through in my coaching methods."
Dickerson's interest in basketball was developed in his intriguing hometown of Olar, South Carolina.
"It's one of those genuine, pure places," Dickerson Said. "There's no false pretenses there, no fast-food restaurants, one or two stores, 500 to 1,000 people, maybe."
With the passing of his mother while he was eight years old, Dickerson was raised by his father and six older sisters. His second youngest sibling, Kate, would be his connection to basketball.
"She was a very good basketball player and I was always around, sort of like her manager," Dickerson said. "I got involved and fell in love with the game through her eyes, and watching her play."
Due to limited resources in his small hometown, Dickerson wouldn't play organized basketball until his freshman year at Denmark-Olar High School.
Along with the challenge of trying to make the varsity team with one year of experience in the sport, the 12-mile distance between his home and school was also an assessment of his passion for the game since he didn't have transportation.
"We were not financially in a situation where I had a car in high school. We [Dickerson and some teammates] had to hitchhike home from practice," Dickerson said. "Some nights we would be on the side of the road until ten, eleven o'clock at night."
From then on Dickerson would appear to be on a humbling road in the game of basketball.
He made varsity his sophomore year and helped lead the team to the conference championship. His performance in the championship game against a highly recruited player led to his own pursuit by colleges, and eventually Maryland where he lettered four years as a forward.
During his freshman year, Dickerson credits playing with then Senior Len Bias as his greatest experience as a Terrapin athlete, but it would unfortunately be Bias' last experience as an athlete himself.
After winning ACC Player of the Year, Bias was drafted second overall by the Boston Celtics. That same night he died of a cocaine overdose.
"It was tough, probably one of the toughest things I experienced," Dickerson said. "He was a close friend, a teammate, a role model, a talented person, and he risked everything he had and lost his life, which is the ultimate loss."
Dickerson graduated from Maryland in 1989 with a degree in government and politics, a goal of his is to go back to Olar as a politician and "right some wrongs", but the next year he took an assistant coaching job at Gardner Webb College.
After six years, and two other assistant coaching jobs, at James Madison and Radford Universities, Dickerson would return to College Park as an assistant for the Terrapins.
"My experiences at Maryland as a student athlete and as a coach, more so as a student athlete, is the reason why I am here today," Dickerson said. "I've had significant experiences in high school, on what it took to be on a team, the sacrifices we had to make just to be on a team and at practice, then at Maryland I go through what I went through as a freshman, my teammate died over a cocaine overdose."
"All of those things made me who I am today, and it's part of the reason why I'm here as a head basketball coach."
Before Dickerson could make a home debut with the Green Wave, the team was shifted to Texas (A & M) along with most of the athletic department in evacuation of Hurricane Katrina, but instead of seeing a hardship due to the catastrophe he sees opportunity.
"I have the chance to help lead a university and its basketball program through one of the most difficult times that any university has gone through," Dickerson said. I have a chance to be a part of that, and this'll be a part of my legacy and I'll cherish that."
Dickerson is working to make his tenure at Tulane reflect the reputation he helped create at Maryland.
Currently Dickerson and the Green Wave are 9-12, but the head coach won over his team before the season tipped off.
"We knew when Coach Dickerson came in something had to be done, and some changes had to be made, we knew it was for the good of the team," senior Quincy Davis said. "It would be hard for anybody else to come in and tell us the struggle when we know they haven't been through anything, but it's the total opposite with him."
After assessing the university's academic history, Dickerson seems determined to change traditions of the Green Wave's men's basketball program.
"My goal is simple here. If we are a top 30 to 50 University in the country, why can't our basketball program be the same? No one has told me that yet," Dickerson said. "Until we get our program on the same level as our school, there's work to be done."
In his current situation, Dickerson looks back down the humbling road of his youth at something he didn't experience to get him through the obstacles before him today.
"Quitting was never an option for us when I was growing up," Dickerson said. I never thought about quitting. Do what you can to make it right, and go from there."