Back in November, I took my then 4 year-old son to his first college basketball game: George Mason vs. Colgate. Unfortunately, we left early since my son wasn't feeling well (it wasn't a good sign that he fell asleep in the car on the way to the game), but while he didn't say much during the game and wanted to sit on my lap the entire time, he talked about the game for days. Anyway, at the game, I picked up a program and noticed that the bio for one of the assistant coaches, Dane Fischer, stated that he graduated from Ithaca College. Well, I graduated from Ithaca College too. There aren't many (any besides Dane?) Ithaca College grads working as D1 basketball coaches, so I wanted to learn more about Dane and how he went from Ithaca to Mason. Dane was gracious enough to answer my questions. Enjoy!
How did you go from a Business major at Ithaca College to an assistant coach at George Mason University?
When I graduated from IC I was offered a job as a Financial Advisor with Edwards Jones. It was a great company and I really liked the job, but it wasn't my true passion. I worked in that position for about 10 months before deciding to pursue a career in college coaching. It was the best professional decision I've ever made.
Did you have a big adjustment going from the Patriot League to the Atlantic 10?
Any time you change leagues there is an adjustment. It takes some time to learn the different styles of play and tendencies of the coaches. The biggest change on the court is the overall athleticism of the players. It is also a significant change going from a league with 10 teams to a league with 14.
What are your responsibilities as an assistant coach? Do you have a particular focus on recruiting, scouting, player development, or all of the above (or something else I'm missing)?
As assistant coaches we all share responsibility in recruiting, scouting and player development and try to bring ideas to Coach Paulsen that we think can advance our program.
Both personally and professionally, what did you think about your first year in Fairfax?
Too much traffic! Personally - Fairfax is a great place to live. It's a lot of fun being close to DC and all that comes along with it. There are a ton of great restaurants and my wife and I really like it here. Professionally - The people at George Mason and in Fairfax have been fantastic. The support for our basketball program is really impressive and we are excited for what lies ahead.
It seems like GMU may have been one of the youngest teams in the country. What do you expect from the team for the 2016-2017 season?
Believe it or not, we are going to be even younger next year. As of today, our roster will be comprised of 10 freshmen and sophomores in 2016-2017. Our team made some nice strides this past season but we will probably experience some of the same growing pains next year as we did this year. Hopefully our culture continues to move in the right direction and with that comes more success on the court.
Since all of your home games are at Eagle Bank Arena, do you get free tickets to events there? Sesame Street Live tickets would be an awesome perk!
We don't get free tickets to all the events at Eagle Bank but some times I need to "stop by the office" when those events are going on 😊
I was an international business minor at IC and all I remember is that nearly every class involved the importance of learning and understanding the culture of a particular country or environment. So, um, did you learn this too at IC? Have you been able to use any aspects of business education as a coach?
I was a finance major so most of that material doesn't apply to coaching. I did learn a lot from my management, organizational behavior and computer classes that I apply on a regular basis to coaching.
Do you make it back to Ithaca much? Are there any potential recruits in central New York so you can make an excuse to stop by Ithaca for Rogan's pizza?
I've been back to Ithaca a few times in the past couple of years. The coach I played for (Jim Mullins) is still the head coach there so it's fun to go back and connect with him. Also, one of my good friends from Ithaca is the defensive coordinator for the football team so I've been back to watch his team play. We signed a recruit from Syracuse, NY this year but unfortunately it didn't lead me to any trips to South Hill!
Finally, where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
5-10 years from now is hard to answer because of the unpredictability of our business. Hopefully I'm coaching at a great school and part of a winning program that does things the right way.
Thanks again to Dane for answering my questions. Feel free to follow him on Twitter and go out to see Dane and the GMU Patriots in action next season.
Photos from GoMason.com, GMU Hoops & Ithaca College.