NBA Champion Assistant Coach Proud Being Dominican Alum

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Following a recent basketball practice at the Chase Center in San Francisco, Chris DeMarco ’09 ’11 MBA, longtime assistant coach for the defending NBA world champion Golden State Warriors, pulled out his cell phone and showed why he could pass as an ambassador for Dominican University of California.

DeMarco is proud of his Dominican roots and, in fact, he has them on speed dial. The Warriors assistant coach belongs to a group text of at least a dozen college teammates and friends. They talk or text just about every day, and DeMarco finds time to play basketball with them in a couple of leagues in Marin County where he lives when he’s not sitting alongside Golden State coach Steve Kerr.

Now DeMarco, who visited the White House on Tuesday with rest of the Warriors, wants to share the good fortune that came with his move to Dominican. He has invited Warriors coaches and players to visit him in Marin across the Golden Gate Bridge and it’s not uncommon for Warriors players such as Klay Thompson to shoot around in the Conlan Center gymnasium on campus. DeMarco thinks any student or student-athlete would be naturally attracted to come to Dominican.

“I love the whole Bay Area, but I tell anybody who will listen around here they are missing out if they don’t spend time in Marin,” DeMarco said sitting at courtside after practice inside the Chase Center. “To be able to play a sport at Dominican in a location like San Rafael, it doesn’t get any better than that. It’s a nice campus. I love the people there.”

DeMarco, however, is far from a spectator. He has been a guest speaker on campus, including summer camps. In a manner of speaking, you could say he’s the best power forward in Dominican history.

“Chris DeMarco has made a positive impact on every team he has been associated with. His enthusiasm for the game of basketball, and his love for Dominican University is contagious,” said Penguins head women’s basketball coach Tim LaKose. “Chris is always willing to help our student-athletes and support our teams. He has inspired our players by sharing his Dominican experience, and how lessons learned here have been keys to his success.”

As DeMarco has discovered through the years, there’s much to like about Dominican.  He graduated in 2011 with an MBA to the NBA. He took Global Management and wound up traveling the world coaching basketball. He was the California Pacific Conference “Newcomer of the Year” in 2009 who is now a veteran in his 11th year as assistant for Warriors who have won four championships in his time.

“Dominican has a magical effect on most who attend. A lasting impact that stays with you long after you graduate,” said Phil Havlicek ’09 who played basketball with DeMarco at Dominican and now is manager of Cecilia’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco.

“Our group of teammates are still very close to this day, and I believe the intimate setting and smaller campus lent itself to that. Really only 20 minutes from the city but it felt like a different part of the world. I believe this is what Chris was attracted to, the tight bonds we created and charm of the campus and faculty. Doesn’t hurt that the weather is much warmer than Wisconsin, too.”

DeMarco’s journey to Dominican started when he transferred from Edgewood College in his home state of Wisconsin. He was looking to earn a degree in business at a liberal arts school while searching for a spark in his life. He enrolled in the business school, now called the Barowsky School of Business.

“Dominican helped me find my love for the game of basketball again,” DeMarco said.

At Edgewood, an NCAA Division III school, DeMarco had been named second team All-Northern Athletics Conference as a junior when he led the team in scoring with an 18.8 points per game average, topped by back-to-back 30-point scoring performances in a four-day span. Yet, with a year of athletic eligibility remaining and a desire to use it immediately, he was looking for better direction and that brought him to Dominican and its Athletics program. It was then an NAIA school so DeMarco could jump right into playing with the Penguins without having to sit out a year because of NCAA transfer rules.

In his senior year at Dominican  – the 2008-09 season prior to the University joining the Pacific West Conference in NCAA Division II  – DeMarco had the best time of his basketball playing career. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward led the Penguins to a 16-13 record overall and a third-place finish in the California Pacific Conference where he was named “Newcomer of the Year.” 

DeMarco led the team and conference in total rebounds (9.6 rpg) and defensive rebounds (6.9) which ranked him 16th in NAIA in the nation. He scored a team-best 14.9 points per game and shot a team-high 54 percent from the floor. He had 14 double-doubles with a season- and career-high 27 points coming against the Warriors  – the Cal State University Stanislaus (CSUS) Warriors  – in an 91-83 win on the road. He was named NAIA All-American Honorable Mention.

DeMarco also got into the school spirit. During the season, some of his friends and former teammates at Edgewood College who had graduated came to San Rafael for a visit. One of them even volunteered to stretch into and wear the Chilly the Penguin mascot costume and cheer on the home team while DeMarco was on the court playing.

Sal and Patti, DeMarco’s parents, flew out from Appleton, Wis. to watch him compete in almost every game he played at Dominican. They also made sure he was studying toward his diploma because, he said, “it was always education first in my family.” An MBA degree was DeMarco’s ultimate goal above the rim at Dominican.

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DeMarco had a game plan, and his late father helped him shape it. Sal DeMarco was as much as teacher as he had been a coach to Chris in basketball, baseball, and football. Sal also turned into quite a prophet when his youngest son decided to transfer to Dominican.

“My father lived in Marin 40 years ago so, when I was coming out to visit Dominican, he had a feeling I’d want to stay in the area,” DeMarco said.

“Dominican is a special place to Chris. When you think about the path he has taken in his life, DU was an important stop that landed him in the Bay Area and helped set the stage for where he is today both in his career and with a solid group of friends,” said Chris Souza ’09 Senior Director for Sales and Marketing Operations at Quotient Technology Inc., DeMarco’s friend and teammate at Dominican.

“The years after graduation we all stayed close to the program because we had friends and teammates still on the team. Throughout all those years DU has offered an opportunity for Chris to share his time, talent, and experience with the next generations and that is something Chris appreciates and enjoys doing. So even though he only played for a year  – which was a monster year  – it really has been more than that for Chris.”

Indeed, once DeMarco got his undergraduate degree in 2009, then his MBA, he moved to San Francisco and started networking for a job. He had wanted to play professional basketball overseas, but he found a better opportunity. DeMarco reconnected with former Edgewood teammate, John Fahey, who had moved to the Bay Area to become Golden State’s assistant video coordinator. Fahey contacted DeMarco when an internship opportunity within the Warriors’ organization became available and, in August 2012, DeMarco’s road to the sidelines of the NBA started in the video room.

DeMarco assented in the coaching ranks, from video coordinator to advance scout to Assistant Coach/player development to Assistant coach/director of player development to full-fledged assistant Warriors coach which he has been since July of 2021. He also has coached the Warriors team in the Summer League in Las Vegas and, since 2019, has been head coach of the Bahamas Basketball Men’s National Team.

One might say DeMarco is sitting pretty. Being a Warriors assistant coach has been a springboard to success. Five of Steve Kerr’s former assistant coaches in Golden State  – Michael Malone, Alan Gentry, Luke Walton, Willie Green, and Mike Brown  – have moved on to become head coaches in the NBA.

“Obviously I’d like to be a head coach, whether it’s at the NBA level or the college level,” DeMarco said. “That’s why I’ve continued to gain that experience in the off-season with the Bahamas National Team.”

DeMarco also loves to play basketball with his college buddies. They hoop together in different adult leagues throughout Marin and sometimes play pickup games in the Conlan Center.

“As we have all been getting a little older and busier, the opportunities come a little less often, but we never take for granted the times we do get to play together,” Souza said. “Chris is someone who cherishes his relationships and connections he makes with people. And when you think about basketball, even successful coaches never lose the love of just playing the game. So, when he gets the opportunity to play the game he loves with his buddies and teammates, it’s always special.”

DeMarco indeed is proud of playing ability and has proved it. He has successfully met the challenge of Warriors players over the years who have insisted and kidded DeMarco that he can’t hoop and dunk a basketball over the 10-foot rim. The most widely publicized of these dares happened during a shootaround practice in Salt Lake City before the team’s final regular-season game in 2018 when, prodded by Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, DeMarco ran in from the left side and dunked with his right hand. Players and coaches erupted in amazement and DeMarco took a victory lap straight up the concourse in the arena.

Otherwise, DeMarco has their back. He has made it his business to help establish a winning culture with the Warriors, focused on building relationships and team chemistry.  In a recent post-practice workout, DeMarco led Klay Thompson through a series of drills for more than a half hour designed for situational shooting. Though DeMarco’s player development assignments have mainly focused on Thompson, Jordan Poole, and Kevon Looney, he is available to help all players on the team. The Dominican graduate with his master’s in business is now a master in everybody’s business with the Warriors.

“One of the more rewarding parts of what we do as coaches, in a basketball sense, is watching young players develop their skills so they can have a long basketball career,” DeMarco said. “As a staff, we work every day to help individuals grow their games into a consistent level of play that is sustainable in the NBA.  Whether they are on the Warriors roster or another team, there is a great sense of pride when players you have coached are still competing and doing what they love.”

Those close to DeMarco know that feeling.  They recognize the time and passion he has put into the game and the rewards and respect that comes with that. That was evident early on in his Dominican days.

“As teammates it was apparent Chris wanted what was best for us as a team and as friends. He had a great work ethic and ability to bridge the gap between players and coaches, a skill that I think serves him well now,” Havlicek said. “Chris has the gift of foresight and I believe he knew when he decided to move and play ball at DU that he could spend a good chunk of his life here. That there was opportunity to grow, and that DU could be a place where he could forge friendships both personal and professional. Little did he know at the time where it would lead to.”

Photo of Golden State Warriors' assistant coach Chris DeMarco in team's practice facility inside Chase Center.

 

 

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