Darien hires former player as new basketball coach
There could be good reason to think this time it will be different.
Kyle Marian views the Darien boys basketball head coaching job unlike most that have come through the program or most who coach and play against it.
It's the job he's always wanted. It's the job he's been proudly boasting is his "dream job" ever since he was given free rein on the program last Friday and became the new head coach.
He'll also be the fifth head coach in 10 years at the school. Winning in the winter in Darien is synonymous with one sport: hockey. To get basketball in on that conversation is going to take years. It will most likely require a change in the culture of basketball in this town.
But Marian isn't approaching his role with an attitude that suggests he needs to alter the mindset of the Darien athlete in the winter.
"I'm not trying to steal any players," he said. "If a kid wants to play hockey because that's what they choose, then that's what he chooses. We haven't proved that we should be `stealing' players. The way I see it is, I'm going to come out and try and show people what we're going to do. I don't expect change to happen overnight, and people need to be realistic and know the undertaking that this is, but I have a 10-to-15-year plan in my head. I hope that in a couple of years we'll have a little of success. They'll see my energy, the type of guy I am."
The 6-foot-9, 28-year-old is a member of the 2001 class at Darien. He played during his junior and senior years, combining to go 4-36. Those four wins came his senior year, and he said, "It was like the high-water mark for Darien when we did that."
Marian lives in Darien now, and is a full-time teacher's aid in the special education program at Middlesex Middle School.
The process to find a new coach took nearly a month, and there were 18 applicants involved, according to Marian, who was quoting a number used by Darien athletic director John Keleher.
Since graduating DHS, Marian got plenty of experience around the region and across the Atlantic Ocean. He graduated from Springfield College in 2005 (where he was co-captain), then went on to play in Switzerland and England before knee injuries ended his professional career.
He actually spent one year at the high school -- as the head coach of the freshman team. But for the past three seasons he was in charge of the JV team and was an assistant on the varsity at Rye Country Day School in Rye, N.Y.
"He's got a good basketball pedigree, is a Darien resident and hopefully a longtime and successful coach for using the future," Keleher said.
Nevertheless, since he had returned to the area after playing in England ended, Marian kept his ear close to the program, listening for whenever the job may open up. Marian replaces three-year coach Tom O'Donnell, who will continue to coach the boys golf team.
In fact, Marian applied for this job three years ago, but knew he wouldn't get it; he wanted to familiarize himself with Keleher. He wanted Keleher to remember his name.
"I always wanted the job," Marian said. "It's something I've been thinking about since I graduated Darien High. ... I threw my name in three years ago, but I knew I didn't have the experience to be a head coach -- I just wanted to kind of plant the seed. This year I came across an e-mail because I work in the school system here, and once I heard that I made sure I got my name into John."
Now that the week-long exultation is starting to wear off, Marian is looking ahead and what can be and acknowledging what has been -- for so long -- the identity of Darien basketball.
"It's unfortunate, because I believe the talent and the athletics is there; the consistency and coaching hasn't been there," Marian said. "And I'm going to be the fifth coach in 10 years, and it's hard to build a program when every two or three years the coach changes. This is my job, my life, all I've ever known to do, and to be back in Darien is an awesome honor."
Marian will put into effect the presentation he put on during his interviews. There's a method of coaching that he said he's been learning and cooking up the past six years, just waiting for his chance to run a team and put it into motion. Marian added that he's a "cerebral" player, and that the athleticism he sometimes lacked was made up for by smart play against opponents.
It's a philosophy he's going to pound into the varsity players.
"I made sure to be smarter and worked harder than my opponent," Marian said.
And he's not a strict, narrow-minded defense guy -- it will not just be a zone or man-to-man concept. There will be different reactions and responses to different teams, Marian said.
"I like to keep the tempo up, but I understand when you gotta know when to let the tempo take care of itself," he said. "My packages are something I've been putting together for a long time, knowing that this was the job I wanted all along. I catered my package knowing what kind of kids I would be coaching."
And having been one of them before, Darien may have finally -- finally -- found the right man for this job.