January 21, 2003

Great player now coaches his old school

The Sports Journal of the Valleys
Sports Journal of the Valleys FP 2 The Sports Journal of the Valleys, formerly the Roanoke Valley Sports Journal, provides articles of interest to visitors of VirginiaPreps. 

Great player now coaches his old school

BLACKSBURG - When Doug Day returned home from vacation last summer, there was a message on his answering machine.

It wasn’t bad news, but it was a different way of learning about a change in jobs.

According to Day, it said, “Congratulations, you’re the new head basketball coach [at Blacksburg High School ].”

It wasn’t exactly a surprise to Day, who had been groomed to follow Bob Trear, one of the area’s top coaches and the man whom he played for in high school more than a decade ago.

Blacksburg didn’t even advertise the job, trying to lure applications from other top coaches. It was an easy decision that Day, who was Trear’s assistant the last five years, would be the new head coach.

“They told me [when Bob retired] that I was the No. 1 candidate. I trusted them,” says Day.

Day, 31, was a star player at Blacksburg and then went on to play for Radford University where he led the Highlanders in scoring four straight years.

His only other coaching job before returning here in 1997 was as an assistant under Northside’s Billy Pope, another of the top coaches in the area.

There were always hints that Day would land a job after serving under Pope. Instead, he waited to be called to return to Blacksburg .

There were other clues that Day was going to be the Indians’ new head coach. Last year before Blacksburg lost in the Group AA state championship game, Day had been given more responsibilities by Trear than most head coaches get.

For example, when it came to ordering new road uniforms, Day made the decision to go with ones similar to those worn by Duke that are blue and black.

“He turned over running practices to me,” says Day. “So the guys [including three returning starters] are used to me.”

The Indians, favored to repeat last year’s district championship run, were off to a fast start with a 7-0 and 2-0 before a Blue Ridge District game at Alleghany on Jan. 7.

Day started for Blacksburg as a sophomore. “I didn’t know I’d be the coach [one day],” he says. “I loved basketball. It wasn’t until college that I got interested in teaching and coaching.”

In three years playing for the Indians, Day scored 1,609 points including more than 1,200 the last two seasons.

In college, Day was the all-time leading NCAA three-point career shooter (401-1,068) until Roa-noke’s Curtis Staples broke his record at the University of Virginia . He also scored 2,027 career points, giving him more than 3,600 for his college and high school teams.

At Radford, Day played for Oliver Purnell and Ron Bradley, a pair of highly regarded Division I coaches. With his experience as an assistant to Pope and Trear, it means Day has had some good teachers.

Day was introduced to basketball at the early age of two years old. His father, Doug Day Sr.,  played high school basketball in Christiansburg Institute before integration. He was also a college baseball player.

Doug Sr., and his wife Betty, missed only two games Doug Jr., played in college and high school. They’ve never missed a game in which he has been an assistant or head coach at Blacksburg and Northside. In fact, the elder Day joins his son on scouting trips.

“We missed one high school game when my husband’s sister was very ill and we missed a [college road trip] to New York because of weather,” says Betty Day.

Too bad, because in the collegiate game, Day scored 11 3-point goals and more than 40 points. It was one of two games where he scored 11 3-pointers in the game. He made sure to bring home a videotape of the game so they were able to see the outstanding performance.

“It’s one of those things. Dad was always around sports. He got me involved,” says Day, who played three sports until he started concentrating on basketball his last three years at Blacksburg .

“I felt it was the sport I’d have the best chance [to play] on a collegiate level. Dad was supportive of me concentrating on basketball,” says Day, who was coached in recreation basketball by his father.

Doug Day Sr., recalls his son giving up other sports for basketball as a sophomore in Blacksburg . “The year he decided to concentrate on it, the 3-point shot came in. Because of his height, he felt his best chance to get a college scholarship was in basketball,” says the elder Day.

“I put a light on a goal out the window, marked off a 3-point shooting distance and every day at dusk he’d go out and shoot a couple of hundred shots. And the driveway ran uphill, so that helped him get stronger.”

Doug Day Jr., is very goal oriented. He set coaching and playing in the NBA as two of his goals as a child. When the NBA wasn’t going to happen after college, that left coaching.

Those goals were listed side-by-side with his academic goals. The family has been strong in school work with two sisters (Michelle Hairston and Kimberly Tuttle) graduating from college and going on to careers in education.

Hairston is principal of an elementary school in Henrico County while Tuttle teaches English in the Charlotte-Mecklinburg Co. (NC) school system.

Playing for Trear and coaching for Pope, Day learned good conduct expected of a high school coach. It’s not likely that he’ll ever lose his temper at an official or show a player up on the floor.

“Coach Trear is very knowledgeable in the game of basketball. He’s more laid back. He’s very calm and cool under pressure. He doesn’t get very high or low. He’s the same whether he’s winning or losing. Look [at him] down the bench and you can’t tell whether he’s winning or losing,” says Day.

Pope has also made an impression on young Day.

“I think he’s one of the best coaches in the state. He knows the game of basketball. He’s a player’s coach. They’d run through a wall for him,” says Day.

There is also a feeling on Day’s part to give something back to the sport that has been his only occupation. In 1993, he started a basketball camp and his mother says it opened with around 25 students. Last summer, the camp had an enrollment of 127.

“It’s not an overnight camp, but children come from all over and stay with friends [to attend],” says Betty Day.

The project is also a family affair. Doug Sr., helps in coaching while Betty and Doug Day Jr.’s wife, Dana, help run the concessions and distribute the shirts given to each camper.

The Day family is also blessed with the recent birth of a new daughter/granddaughter, Rachel.

Doug Day Jr. is close to the players after working with them last year. They are so anxious this season that they were willing to undergo extra practice time during the Christmas vacation.

He also understands his players, having lost in high school to Charlottesville in the state tournament after winning 24 straight games.

“It stung a long time,” Day says of that loss. “I used some of [that experience] to console the players after they lost to Martinsville [in the state championship game].”

His one regret was not winning the Big South tournament while he was at Radford. “It meant no NCAA tournament. March Madness. No matter how good you are during the regular season [in the Big South] it’s one-and-done [in the tournament],” says Day.

Despite that, Day has no complaints about his high school and college playing and coaching careers, or the attention his parents paid to their children. It’s been a great run that has a promise to keep going the next few years.

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