“Networking,” said David Rivers, the new associate head coach of the Owls’ men’s basketball team.
Rivers said he had a relationship with Kennesaw State athletic director Vaughn Williams from “way back,” but that wasn’t the only link. As luck would have it, Rivers and head coach Jimmy Lallathin shared mutual friendship with athletic trainer Dwight Robinson, who has had a long experience working with college, professional and Olympic athletes.
Between the two relationships, Rivers’ interest in possibly coming to Kennesaw was piqued, particularly with how he “instantly” clicked with Lallathin.
“It was him and an institution as a whole,” the 49-year-old Rivers said. “It’s a great opportunity how Kennesaw State represents where it would like (the program) to go.”
The former point guard also fit the profile of an experienced coach Lallathin wanted to add to his first staff.
“I wanted coaches that had experiences around the game, but not necessarily coaching experience,” Lallathin said.
In Rivers, he got both.
As a high school player, Rivers learned from Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley Sr. at St. Anthony in Jersey City, N.J., then from Digger Phelps at Notre Dame before playing for another Hall of Famer, Pat Riley, with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Rivers said he’s pulled from all of them to help make him the coach he is today.
“I take nothing for granted,” he said. “I learned discipline and execution from coach Hurley. I got credibility from Digger, and he always talked about leadership. From coach Riley, I learned that there were issues and non-issues. Riley was all business, and I learned to dismiss all the non-issues because they didn’t mean anything.
“I listened and watched everything.”
Once Rivers got to Europe, following short tenures with the Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and a couple second-tier teams, he said everything was done with military-like order because the coaches he played for and worked with were all former officers.
“That took a little getting used to,” Rivers said.
After getting used to the style of play overseas, Rivers prospered. In 1997, he led the powerful Greek team, Olympiacos, to a Euroleague championship, and in 1998, he was a teammate of former Atlanta Hawks great Dominique Wilkins for Fortitudo Bologna in Italy.
Ultimately, Rivers spent 16 years as a player on the professional level, and he hopes to teach Kennesaw State’s players the valuable lessons he learned from his teachers, and install a sense of urgency.
“Growing up, it was made clear to me that I don’t have time to waist,” Rivers said. “I have to go out and make the opportunity. My philosophy is I don’t have time to wait.”
And that’s why Rivers is looking forward to the Owls’ trip to Italy in August. He wants to set the standard of what the players can expect when fall practice begins.
“These guys are going to work harder than they ever have,” Rivers said. “The sense of urgency is needed in the things we do now.”