As he continued on with a successful professional career overseas, David Vanterpool never saw himself as a future coach.
He was a star player, sure, in much the same way he was with the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team in the early 90s. He led his small Siena team to its first Italian league championship and the Euroleague Final Four, the first of his many Final Four appearances. He helped his Moscow team to the Euroleague title in what was “one of the greatest things to
happen to me as a player.”
He was an All-Euroleague second team selection in 2003-04 and the Italian Supercup MVP in 2005.
““AASS AA PPLLAAYYEERR, I never even thought I would want to coach,” he said with a laugh. “I never thought about what it would be like on the other side. I knew I wanted to be involved in basketball, I wasn’t sure in what capacity. Fortunately for me, I’ve been blessed in all these things that have happened.”
What happened next might have been the one thing to change his mind. Vanterpool played out his final seasons with CSKA Moscow under Ettore Messina, who is widely considered to be one of the best basketball minds in the world, let alone the NBA. He spent those years soaking up every nugget of basketball knowledge he could under his new mentor.
“Having a chance to play for his team was really good for me and great for my situation now, which is coaching,” he said. “Having some of those concepts, having some of those ideals, I think really helped me. Just going through a lot of those experiences led to … even the idea.”
VANTERPOOL, who at 39 still looks like he could give the Bonnies 16 and six on a nightly basis, answered the call, coaching under Messina the following year. He then realized he wanted to come back to the United States to “be in and around the league, in and around the NBA.”
In 2011, he took a job as a pro scout with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who would eventually reach the NBA Finals, working under one of the league’s best executives in Sam Presti.
“My first experience in the NBA as far as that stuff goes, was with Sam,” he said, “and the knowledge he gave me was invaluable. I moved up really fast and was promoted and had all these other opportunities that just spurned from learning and being close to Sam Presti.”
The Silver Spring, Md. native decided one of those opportunities was too good to pass up: a job this season as an assistant coach with the Portland
“I really only left Oklahoma City because it was an opportunity to coach and be on the bench immediately,” he said.
“That opportunity was one that was still in my appetite, still in mind, and something I wanted to take advantage of.”
His transition from the front office to the bench has, admittedly, been a trying one. There’s the constant grind of the travel and an 82-game schedule, of preparing for opponents while helping your own players. However, he said the experience has been equally as rewarding.
“IT'S A LOT MORE immediately gratifying when you see some of the players have their first small successes in what you’re teaching and what you’re trying to help them learn, said Vanterpool, who is the only player in Bona history to record at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 100 steals.
“I’ve been with Damian Lillard (the frontrunner for the league’s Rookie of the Year award) pretty much the whole season, and he’s been having
an incredible season. So having an opportunity to see some of that stuff, some of the stuff he and I talked about in the preseason, coming to some type of fruition is gratifying and gives you a little bit of a glimpse that you’re doing some of the right things.”
What has the season as a whole been like for Vanterpool, whose Blazers (33-38) entered Friday in 11th place in the West and three games out of the last playoff spot? Well, last night Portland played Utah, which was an
opponent the 1995 Bona grad was assigned to scout beforehand.
He had to prepare his players and fellow coaches for what the Jazz like to run and how they attack, put together the important snippets of gamefilm, plan the practice schedule for that particular Northwest Division rival.
But there’s so much more to it than that.
““PRE--PRACTICE STUFF, you get with some of the younger players to kind of work with them, train them, get them better in whatever facet you see fit,” he said. “Then of course during practice you’re giving support to the head coach along with the gameplan and what we have prepared for that day.
“And then post-practice stuff, you gotta work with some players on skill-sets, improvement, some things that they need to get better at, some things they need to think a little bit more about. And then at the end of that, it starts all over again.”
Vanterpool, who ranks No. 14 on SBU’s all-time scoring list with 1,474 points, might not have expected this in his early days in Europe, and certainly not in the 22 games he played with the Washington Wizards in 2001, but back in the NBA, he’s right where he wants to be.
“My goal is to be a head coach,” he said. “I would love to get to that point one day. From there we’ll see what happens. That’s pretty much my attitude. Everything I do, I want to be the person that’s responsible and has an opportunity to get on top of whatever I happen to be doing.
“When I was doing front office stuff, my goal was to be a general manager, and I still want to reach that one someday as well. I don’t see why I should be limited to one realm or another.”
Eighteen years after last putting on a St. Bonaventure uniform, after leading Bona out of its previous black hole and to an NIT home game, Vanterpool’s name still resonates around the area. He’s still one of the all-time fan favorites. And the area still resonates with him. Without being asked, he mentioned what the late Mickey Parks and his wife, Ann, did for him, and what they meant to him, throughout his four-year career. And that, perhaps, is his biggest accomplishment to this point.
“It means the world to me,” he said. “You wanna be as successful as possible. You want to reach the highest of heights. A lot of times, people’s
perception and the way they feel about you, especially when it sinks in with
something as honorable as St. Bonaventure, it’s great to me. To me, that’s what the reward is, that’s the success."