Learning the Ropes on the Court and the Recruiting Trail
Jan. 15, 2003
By Trent Packer
For five of the previous six years, Alexis Sherard served as director of basketball operations for Pete Gillen-coached teams. He spent two seasons in that role at Providence College (1996-98), before serving the last three seasons in that capacity at Virginia. During those five years, he observed Gillen’s teams, sat in on strategy sessions, and oversaw academic programs and administrative duties. He did not, however, get to do any hands-on work with the players, and he was prohibited from recruiting.
That all changed this season, when Sherard stepped into an assistant coaching position on Gillen’s staff at UVa and embraced the new responsibilities that came with the switch.
“Primarily, the change is now I’m recruiting,” Sherard says of the main difference between the two positions. “Your team is as good as your players, so recruiting is very important.
“I’m also on the floor working with the players hands on, as opposed to my old position, which was not hands on and was more working with academics and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the team.
Sherard’s new post requires that he spend a great deal of time on the road. He is now charged with evaluating potential recruits and visiting those who the staff has determined would be a good fit at UVa.
Gillen expressed a great deal of confidence in Sherard’s recruiting abilities prior to the season, citing his ability to relate to young players. Sherard was a McDonald’s All-American nominee as a high school basketball player at Lakewood Prep in Lakewood, N.J., and played college basketball at Saint Michael’s College, so he is certainly familiar with the recruiting process. This is the first time in his career at Virginia that he has been permitted to make home visits, however, so he is experiencing the process from the other side.
“The amount of traveling and recruiting is pretty intense,” Sherard says. “I was all over this summer. I went places I’d never been to, and that was a lot of fun.”
For many, the change may have been a daunting one. After all, moving from the world of academic supervision and team oversight to recruiting and on-court coaching seems challenging at best. However, the closeness of Gillen’s staff has made Sherard’s transition seamless.
“Our staff away from work is very close,” Sherard says. “We respect each other, so as far as the transition, the guys were happy for me.”
Sherard also credits Gillen himself with easing the transition, noting that the coach does everything in his power to make his assistants feel comfortable in any given situation. This includes making sure the assistants have the proper knowledge and experience both on the court and on the recruiting trail. Sherard notes that this level of preparation has been invaluable on the road, particularly when he has visited recruits in their homes.
“Coach Gillen is great,” Sherard says. “He makes you feel comfortable and puts you in positions where you are well prepared.”
Despite the fact that Sherard’s position and responsibilities have changed, he has not lost the bond he developed with the players after guiding them through academic sessions and serving as a confidant for the past three seasons. In fact, he says that he continues to have an open dialogue with the players both at home and from the road. In addition, his new role has given him the on-court contact with the players he couldn’t have before and has permitted him to become more involved in game preparation. He is scouting opposing teams for the first time, and is now responsible for presenting his scouting reports to the Cavalier players prior to the games.
“I’m excited I’m on the court working with the guys,” Sherard says. “For the last couple years I couldn’t scout teams, so I feel much more involved with the team in practice and game preparation.
“I call the guys all the time from the road. The guys are excited for me that I’m on the road. The relationship hasn’t changed at all.”