The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Men’s Basketball: 30 years after ND, Dantley finds success in coaching ranks

Chris Khorey | Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It’s been quite the spring for Adrian Dantley.

The former Notre Dame star, who is now an assistant coach for the Denver Nuggets, has his team in the NBA Playoffs and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on April 7.

“It’s really powerful for our basketball program and for Notre Dame,” Irish coach Mike Brey said of Dantley’s introduction.

Dantley played forward for the Irish under coach Digger Phelps from 1973-76. He was Notre Dame’s leading scorer in 1974-75 and 1975-76, averaging around 30 points per game in both seasons.

“He was one of the great ones to ever play here,” Phelps said.

After college, Dantley played for the U.S. team in 1976 Olympics and won the Gold Medal game over Yugoslavia. He went on to a 15-year career in the NBA and played for seven different teams.

Brey said he thought the Hall of Fame waited too long to induct Dantley. He said the forward’s career was good enough that he should have been in the Hall “10 or 15 years ago.”

Phelps said what he remembers most about Dantley was the forward’s ability to draw fouls and convert at the free throw line.

“He was one of the best ever to draw fouls,” Phelps said. “He had a natural instinct to draw fouls.”

Dantley, however, said it wasn’t so much skill as luck that got him to the line so often.

“A lot of guys were dumb and fouled me,” he said.

Dantley said his best memory at Notre Dame came in 1974, when the Irish upset UCLA 71-70, ending the Bruins’ 88-game winning streak.

“I remember when we won the game how excited the student body was,” Dantley said.

“UCLA was definitely the best team. They were the team back in those days.”

Dantley said Phelps fired up the Irish squad with a rousing pep talk before the game.

“Everything was different for that game,” Dantley said. “His pep speech pumped the guys up. He was like Knute Rockne in a sense. He gave some great speeches.”

34 years later, Dantley finds himself on the Nuggets sideline. But, as an assistant coach, he sees his role as less of a motivator and more of a teacher of fundamentals. He also tries to encourage his players to be self-motivated.

“Sometimes you get excited, but pros are different than college,” he said. “I wasn’t [an emotional] kind of player anyway. I played the same every game.”

Dantley, who is responsible for the Nuggets’ big men, said the biggest change between coaching and playing is that he has to keep track of the progress of all his players, rather than just worrying about himself.

“Coaching you have to worry about all the players on your team,” he said. “Playing, you just worry about yourself.”

The Nuggets trail the Los Angeles Lakes one game to none in their first round playoff series. The series continues tonight at 10:30 in Los Angeles.