Hero behind the scenes
The director of player development for a Division I basketball program is a role with a plethora of responsibilities.
On the contrary, Seton Hall’s Ryan Whalen claims he hasn’t worked a single day in his four years at Seton Hall.
“You know the old adage it’s not work if you like what you’re doing,” Whalen said. “It’s all worth it in the end, it’s fun, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Whalen left Iona College with head coach Kevin Willard to be- come a part of the Seton Hall coaching staff for the 2010-11 season and has since worked behind the scenes booking flights, scouting opposing players and analyzing game film for Willard and the Pirates.
“I don’t even know if you could put a description on what I do,” Whalen said.
“I do a lot for the program in terms of like the logistics stuff… stuff that you might not see on the court. I’m in charge of coach Willard’s personal stuff, everything that he does goes through me. I’m in charge of scheduling… a lot of stuff that gets us up to the game.”
He has worked for Towson University and the Philadelphia 76ers but is enjoying his current responsibilities here at Seton Hall.
“I do a lot of scouting and help with on-the-court stuff as much as the NCAA will allow me,” Whalen said.
“It’s been kind of a long year but it’s been fun. It’s rewarding, you’re always busy, which is a good thing.”
Part of Whalen’s player scouting responsibilities this season included developing a game plan for defending Naismith Award finalist, Creighton’s Doug McDermott.
“It’s cool because you’re sitting there trying to figure out something that no one else could figure out. You’re sitting there watching him and you’re saying, ‘what can we do differently that this team didn’t do?'” Whalen said. “He’s a special talent and it doesn’t come along very often but with games like that it’s more of how do I stop everybody else?”
The hours of game film and opposition scouting has also given Whalen and the other members of staff a good benchmark for evaluating talent, in particular the talent of the incoming 2014- 15 recruiting class.
“The recruiting class is an attribute to the assistants and coaches hard work. They’ve been busting their chops since they’ve been here,” Whalen said. “They’ve been working very hard to make sure the best talent in the area is staying close to home and I think it’s paid off.”
Whalen’s tight-knit relation- ship with Willard has allowed him to see a side of the coach that may not be visible to the public eye.
“I think that the program is more in his mold. I think you’re crazy to think that you’re going to come into a new place and do it your way and rule with an iron fist. I think his best attribute is that he’s been able to adapt and change, but still put his stamp on what he wanted,” Whalen said.
Whalen is a St. Joseph’s University graduate with a college basketball background that dates back to his junior year of college when he took a job as Phil Martelli’s student assistant head coach.
Despite any type of change or transformation, Whalen could not abandon his Philadelphia bias and this is made apparent in what he describes as his shining moments during his time at the Hall.
“I’m a huge coach Martelli fan and a huge fan of the program and when we beat them that was cool, just to be on the other side of the bench,” Whalen said. “Beating Villanova was fun for me obviously being a St. Joe’s guy. But I like those guys a lot and I got a lot of respect for them.”
Whalen also explained that his wife is close friends with the family of Villanova point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, which only sweetened the victory over the Wildcats.
Although he once worked with the 76ers, Whalen did not let his feet get cemented in Philadelphia. When asked if he had an opinion on the struggling 76ers, Whalen laughed and said, “I wish I did.” He made a point that his attention has been paid to college basketball and that he, “barely follows the NBA.”
As for the future of this program, Whalen has allowed himself to be optimistic for what lies ahead for the Pirates.
“I think the Seton Hall fan base is really going to be excited and they’re going to be rewarded for sticking with us and seeing us through here and it’s going to be fun.”
Gerard Gilberto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.