Taking on a New Role
Feb. 24, 2003
By Trent Packer
Any head coach will tell you that a college basketball program is much more than a season worth of games. It includes countless hours spent in study hall, schedules littered with classroom conflicts, and any number of various administrative concerns such as making travel arrangements, deciding where and when the team eats, and scheduling games with non-conference opponents. Consequently, University of Virginia director of basketball operations Scott Shepherd, whose job it is to coordinate players’ schedules and make all team-oriented arrangements, is one of the most indispensable members of the Cavalier family.
Shepherd spent last season as an assistant coach on Pete Gillen’s staff. He made the move to administrative assistant after a rotation of positions among the coaches. The move was geared towards giving each member of the staff an opportunity to experience every facet of coaching and coordinating an NCAA Division I program.
“Right now I’m taking care of academics, scheduling of games, and any activities that we do as a team, as far as when we are going to practice and things like that,” Shepherd says. “Basically, I’m making sure everybody is where they need to be and doing what they are supposed to be doing.”
While Shepherd can no longer participate in practice or conduct individual workouts with Virginia players, he has been kept plenty busy keeping the players dedicated to their academic pursuits. Each afternoon he makes sure UVa players get from class to practice to study hall, keeping them current with their studies. He also coordinates all team-related meetings, and does as much basketball-related work as NCAA rules permit.
“I can’t coach on the court this year, and I haven’t been able to do the one-on-one instruction with them that I did in the past,” Shepherd says. “It’s entertaining to be able to juggle their academic day with their athletic day. We have guys that come late to practice because of academic responsibilities that they have to fulfill before practice. Some of them have night classes and have to leave early, and we also have to be concerned with taking exams. A typical day is very strenuous on them.”
Shepherd does have some experience balancing the myriad responsibilities of young athletes. He was a student-athlete himself at Robert Morris College where he helped lead his team to the NCAA Tournament twice. Prior to coming to Virginia, Shepherd was the head coach at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va. Fifty of Shepherd’s players at Hargrave went on to play Division I basketball, so he is certainly familiar with the sometimes arduous task of keeping players focused on what needs to be done in the classroom and on the court.
Shepherd left Hargrave the year before current UVa sophomore Jason Clark first enrolled at the academy, and two years before point guard Keith Jenifer joined the Hargrave student body. He has maintained contact with the various other players who have gone on from the school to star at the Division I level.
“I try to keep track of the players that are still in college,” Shepherd says. “[Wake Forest’s] Josh Howard is probably the last kid left in the ACC, and there’s David West at Xavier. They are both having a very good year.”
Since Howard has become a standout in the Atlantic Coast Conference, it has been difficult for Shepherd to remain close with the Demon Deacons player, but he does talk with the player and his family each time Virginia and Wake Forest meet.
Despite the fact that Shepherd knew how to prepare players like Howard and West for Division I basketball, he still found a very different basketball environment when he made the jump from Hargrave to the University of Virginia. Even though Hargrave was one of the top prep programs in the country during Shepherd’s tenure, the level of play, the number of responsibilities associated with coaching, and the administrative realities of a Division I program remained a mystery until his arrival in Charlottesville.
“It was a big jump,” Shepherd says. “I’m very thankful to be here and working with Coach Gillen and the university. It was just completely different. You go from a prep school where we were riding in vans to games, to a big time college basketball program. It was an adjustment I had to make in a hurry.”
Shepherd has long since adjusted to the rigors of coaching and administrating a Division I basketball program. He has added the experiences of a coach and a director of basketball operations to his resume to go with the lessons he learned on the court as a player. With the knowledge he has gained over the years, he will be well prepared when an opportunity to take over his own program comes along.