Article on new mens basketball coach Mike Maker.

Coaching for 17 years in the topsy-turvy world of Division I college basketball, Mike Maker always had a knack for landing on his feet.

He spent 11 years as one of the top assistant coaches at Dartmouth before working three years as an assistant at Samford University in Alabama, two years at the University of West Virginia and last year at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.

But not since the 1984 graduate of North Salinas High was coaching the Hartnell College women’s basketball team during the 1990-91 season, had Maker held the title of head coach.

That was until last week when Maker, 42, was named head coach of Williams College, a Division III school in Williamstown, Mass.

I am no basketball expert, so could someone walk me through Maker’s career progression? Did he leave Dartmouth because his career was stalled there? Why would he leave West Virginia to go to a similar(?) job at Creighton?

“I’ve had some close calls (at getting a head coaching position),” Maker said. “I was a finalist last year at Princeton and I had a chance at VMI. It was well worth the wait. For me, this is a dream job.”

If your “dream” is coaching at a place like Williams (where academics are much more important than athletics and the TV cameras never visit), then why would you leave Dartmouth to spend time at places like Samford, West Virginia and Creighton? Why would you consider VMI, a place as different from Williams as an undergraduate college can be?

Coming to Williams College is nearly as much a family reunion as it is another chapter in what has been a long and successful coaching career for Maker.

“I’m only couple of hours away from where my dad was born and raised,” Maker said. “I have family in the area. I feel humbled and honored to have this job.”

Maker interviewed for the coaching position at Williams College eight years ago and has remained friends with some members of the basketball program ever since.

“Williams represents everything that’s good about college,” Maker said. “It’s a top liberal arts college, and to me its academic level makes it seem like a mini-Stanford.”

It is always a good idea to hire faculty with close ties to the region. They are more likely to stay at Williams. Note the importance of networking. Even though Williams turned down Maker 8 years ago, he kept in touch with them. You can never do too much networking.

Is the “mini-Stanford” line a compliment or an insult? Opinions differ. Our athletes are much smarter than the athletes at Stanford. Our non-athletes are less smart. Bug or feature?

“It’ nice to have your own program and put you own stamp on it,” Maker said. “And to do it at a place like Williams College is quite overwhelming.”

Williams College went 17-8 overall last year and returns three starters.

“We have 14 players coming back and four coming in,” Maker said. “We’re going to Italy in August, and I’ll use that to get to know the players.”

Are you a member of the class of 2012 who wanted to try to walk on to the men’s basketball team? Think again. Coach Maker has 4 players coming in and you aren’t one of them.

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