By: Sara Morris | April 1, 2021
Credit: Jay Bendlin, ASP
The University at Albany Great Danes welcomed Dwayne Killings as the newest head coach of the Division one men’s basketball program at a press conference held Thursday, March 18 at the SEFCU Arena.
“Basketball was a priority on the campus in connecting the community,” Killings said in an interview with the ASP. “I thought it was a no-brainer opportunity to go after.”
The change in leadership comes after former-head coach, Will Brown’s sudden dismissal from the program after his five-year $1.75 million contract was not renewed for future seasons. The athletics department did not provide information regarding Killings’ new salary package at the press conference. Athletics director, Mark Benson, declined a phone call from the ASP to further discuss Killings’ package.
This will be Killings’ first contract as a head coach. He will be the 14th head coach to the Great Dane men’s basketball program and fourth since the transition to the D1 level in 1999.
Killings plans for the 2021-2022 season to involve a revamping of the way the men’s basketball players view the court. By amplifying the team’s natural athleticism, he can see the team achieving any goal.
“I wanna [sic] play fast and with a lot of energy on both sides of the ball,” Killings said when thinking about the different offensive and defensive plays. “If we play connected, we are always going to make the right plays and take the right shot.”
Killings comes to the Great Danes from Milwaukee, Wis., where he coached the Marquette University Golden Eagles for three seasons. In 2018, he was hired as an assistant coach. During his final year with the team, he was promoted to associate head coach where he recruited a top-20 rookie class during the 2020 season.
Killings graduated from Hampton University in 2003 with a degree in sports management. Straight out of college, he entered the coaching world as a video coordinator for the NBA’s then-Carolina Bobcats, as well as assisted in player development.
From the Bobcats, Killings entered his 15-year NCAA coaching career in 2006 as the director of basketball operations for the Temple Owls. He has been the assistant coach for four D1 basketball programs including Boston University and the University of Connecticut.
Killings has made seven postseason appearances in the NCAA March Madness bracket, as well as obtaining three conference championships, two with Temple and one America East conference title with the Boston Terriers in 2011.
Killings is joined by Jon Iati, who filled in an interim coach during the nationwide search for Brown’s successor. Iati, who has been with the UAlbany coaching staff since 2012, was an assistant coach until his promotion to associate head coach in 2018. His title for the 2021-2022 season is unclear at this time.
The men’s basketball team finished its 2021 season with a 7-9 record, after having to postpone a series of scheduled games twice due to COVID-19 exposures. They played their last game of the season in the America East conference tournament against the Hartford Hawks, only to fall to the no.5 team 77-83 on Feb. 28.
Brown and the university ‘mutually’ parted ways almost 18-hours after the devastating loss.
Under Brown’s leadership, the Great Danes set records in 2015, with their third straight America East conference title, as well as a 15-1 season record. Over his 20-year career with UAlbany, he finished his contract with a 315-295 record, and five conference titles and March Madness appearances.
Once Killings walked onto the Great Dane’s home court at the SEFCU Arena, he began a 30-day plan for success. Filled with individual meetings, team work-outs, and open conversations, Killings’ main goal at the start of his time as head coach is establishing trust within the team.
“I’m not gonna be able to coach them the way I want, they won’t be able to play the way they want without our trust.” Killings said.
Former team captain, Antonio Rizzuto announced on Sunday that he is transferring to Towson University, Md. to continue his collegiate career. Seven other players from Brown’s squad have entered the transfer portal, there are no other commitments at this time.
Killings’ reputation as a leader on and off a field is nationally respected through his work ethic and passion for building great athletes and better communities. During his time in the Big East conference with Marquette, he founded Coaches for Action. A group of 21 minority assistant basketball coaches challenging the Big East conference’s efforts in addressing social justice.
“We go into players’ homes and promise to protect them and help them through tough times,” Killings said. “We wanted to make sure our players and assistant coaches had a voice.”
Coaches for Action is working on establishing a $20,000 scholarship for a black student to attend one of the 11 Big East universities. Killings hopes to expand the organization to the America East conference and surrounding schools.