Tim O’Shea is back, once again holding the title of head coach of a basketball team.
However, his latest hoop foray represents a vast departure from the roundball experiences that have defined his life for 34 years – 10 of which were spent patrolling the sidelines and creating memories as Bryant University’s men’s basketball head coach.
This time around, O’Shea won’t have to make a sale’s pitch to recruit talent, nor will he have to worry about the roster’s decimation due to one of college basketball’s biggest enemies – the transfer bug. As for scheduling, O’Shea will now have a much easier time fitting all the pieces together compared to the days his Bryant teams had to venture out to play blue bloods such as Duke and Gonzaga.
Officially, O’Shea is taking on the basketball head coaching position at the U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School – located roughly one mile from his Newport home. Besides not having to worry about fighting the traffic on his commute to work – Aquidneck Island folks, be on the lookout for a gentleman on a scooter, especially when the weather is nice – O’Shea finds himself involved with a basketball project with neither the hassles nor stresses that college head coaches know all too well.
In short, it’s basketball in its purest form; just the head coach, and the players. Drama? It need not bother applying.
“I always liked practice and developing relationships,” said O’Shea earlier this week.
1984 marked the official launch of O’Shea’s coaching adventure which included stops as an assistant at his alma mater Boston College, Yale University, and the University of Rhode Island. He also spent 17 combined seasons as a head coach at Ohio University and Bryant. When you’ve been that involved in Division I collegiate athletics, you’re bound to establish plenty of connections along the way.
One such connection is Navy basketball head coach Ed DeChellis, who O’Shea reached out to about the possibility of him joining the NAPS staff as an assistant. O’Shea left Bryant after the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, and was eager to fill his afternoons with purpose once it became clear that the Ocean State’s golfing season is tricky weather-wise as fall transitions to winter.
“I reached out to Ed, told him I lived in the area, and would like to help out a bit,” said O’Shea. “The short of it is, ‘We’d like to have an assistant coach. Would you want to do it?’”
Answer: absolutely. For two seasons, O’Shea served as the righthand man for NAPS head coach Greg Miller. He claims he wasn’t too involved – show up to practice and if need be, O’Shea drove the team van to away contests.
“It kept my hand in coaching and around kids which I’ve always enjoyed,” said O’Shea.
The wheels weren’t greased on the idea of becoming more involved with the NAPS basketball operation until this past June. Plans were set in motion after Miller resigned and followed his wife Alex Norden to Maine-based Gould Academy where she became the head women’s alpine coach. Norden had held a similar position at Brown University before the athletic department decided to eliminate the sport earlier this year.
After Miller’s departure, the only loose end that needed to be tied up was whether O’Shea would want to become the successor.
“I was perfectly happy helping out Greg as the assistant coach. Now that he’s gone and the job is available, I said to myself, ‘Why not? I’ll give it a go,’” said O’Shea. “I wasn’t looking for this. It just kind of fell into my lap.”
Moving into the chair that was previously occupied by Miller means that O’Shea has a significant stake in how the NAPS hoopsters conduct themselves off the court as well as on it. Essentially, the players are recruited to Newport, spend one year there, and then head off to play college basketball at either Division I Annapolis or Division III Coast Guard.
“It’s about making sure they stay on track academically in order to make sure they’re able to advance to the next level,” said O’Shea. “I like the idea that maybe I’ll be able to contribute something to their lives … making them better players, but also understanding the value in the opportunity they have through support and encouragement. I tell them that it’s like holding a winning lottery ticket. You’ve just got to make sure you cash it in by getting through this year so you can move on.”
“Essentially, you [as the NAPS head coach] have more ownership in trying to help them,” O’Shea added.
It was mid-July when members of the 2020-21 NAPS squad began arriving at the Newport campus.
“It’s a prep school with kids who demonstrate leadership potential,” said O’Shea.
The first practice with O’Shea at the helm was Aug. 17. NAPS is not in an affiliated league. They’ll play a hybrid schedule that in past seasons included matchups against CCRI, Mitchell College, Southern Maine Community College, and fellow prep St. Andrew’s, located in Barrington.
At a time when the coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of slowing down, who knows if the upcoming basketball season will turn into a series of practices that are strung together like pearls on a necklace.
Regardless of how the coming months play out, you won’t hear O’Shea complaining. He’ll still be doing what he enjoys best – coaching.
“This is a perfect situation,” said O’Shea.