David Patrick, the new University of California-Riverside head basketball coach, wants his Highlanders to emulate this year’s NCAA Tournament “Cinderella” teams, Loyola-Chicago and University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
Indeed, Bermudian Patrick was integral in turning Saint Mary’s College from also-rans to mid-major powerhouse and March Madness regulars and sees a lot of similarities between the Gaels and his new school. Patrick left Bermuda for Australia aged 10 and helped turn Saint Mary’s into a haven for talented players from Down Under. He even recruited a pair of future NBA champions in Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova to the California school when he was an assistant there from 2006 to 2010.
Patrick also recruited his godson, Ben Simmons, the Philadelphia 76ers’ NBA rookie of the year candidate, to Louisiana State when he was an assistant coach there from 2012 to 2016, and joins UC-Riverside from Texas Christian, who reached the NCAA Tournament this past season and have several overseas players on their roster.
“I was in a great job and I worked under a great mentor in [head coach] Jamie Dixon at TCU before I got here,” Patrick told The Royal Gazette. “We had five international players in our team this year that went to the NCAA Tournament. We had two Australians, an Egyptian, a Slovakian, a kid from Antigua, so we covered the world.
“I see Riverside like Saint Mary’s. They haven’t had a lot of success of late on the basketball floor; it’s in a great location, the administration is great, they see the vision of what a California school, a UC school which is also great academically, which doesn’t have a tradition of winning but has the facilities to do that.
“I thought why not take the opportunity now, because I can still attract the same type player internationally who can compete in the Big West.”
Patrick also spoke of his friendship with Porter Moser, the Loyola head coach who guided the unheralded Ramblers all the way to the Final Four two weeks ago.
“Porter Moser is one of my closest friends in the business and we were with him [last week],” Patrick said. “Shoot, I remember talking to him four months ago and they were 1-4 in their league.
“There’s so much more parity now in college basketball, because kids are now being one and done, so if you can get a good group of kids who can stay together and play together for three or four years — because I’m realistic in that you’re not getting someone like Ben Simmons to UC Riverside — you can see the outcomes that UMBC had and Loyola had, George Mason a couple of years ago and VCU. They weren’t big-name programmes either until they established the culture and got the right players in there. And that’s my hope here.”
And international players are set to be a big part of what Patrick hopes will be a turnaround job with the Highlanders.
“Saint Mary’s was worse that this when we got there,” he said. “But coach [Randy] Bennett understood culture, he dips into Australia and eight of his 13 players are from overseas.
“I’m not saying I want to go that route, but the opportunity’s definitely there and you want kids that want to be here.”