Former Wizards coach Gene Banks has been hired as the athletic director of Gaston College. (Courtesy Photo)
By Demetrius Dillard
Special to the AFRO
Basketball legend and former Wizards coach (2009-2012) Gene Banks has been hired as the athletic director of Gaston College (GC), a community college in Dallas, N.C., that is reestablishing its athletic program after 50 years.
After Gaston College (GC) President John Hauser began the process to bring athletics back last summer, the school’s board of trustees voted unanimously to add the athletic program in November.
Banks was hired after school officials organized a national search for the new leader of the athletics program. The Philadelphia native brings an abundance of leadership experience into his new role.
At first, there wasn’t major interest from Banks to pursue the vacant athletic director role. But after numerous conversations and meetings with Hauser – and sports agent John Horshok pushing the issue – Banks considered taking the job.
However, what did it for Banks was the athletic program’s emphasis placed on diversity and inclusion, among other factors.
“The thing that got me more so was being able to see something come from the ground up — being a part of it,” said Banks, a former Duke University basketball standout under Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) during the late 1970s and early 80s.
At Duke, the 6-foot-8 forward earned numerous honors and went on to play for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls, followed by short stints overseas before beginning a career in sports leadership.
He said his decision to join GC Athletics also resulted from “being able to manage and be a leader of putting together some programs that will be really good,” and having the opportunity to foster minority participation and leadership while promoting diversity.
Concurrent with his role as AD, Banks will also serve in the college’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as well as work with WSGE 91.7 FM, the College’s award-winning radio station.
Gaston College’s main campus has an enrollment of about 5,000 students. Banks believes the diversity among the student body could be better, and that GC is an ideal place for students of all backgrounds to begin their collegiate and/or professional endeavors.
“It’s not as diverse as it should be, and that’s what brought my attention,” he said.
Banks has had previous experience as athletic director at Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C., which is where he resides.
At the moment, there will be five athletic programs at GC: men’s basketball, baseball, softball, beach volleyball and Esports (competitive video game league sanctioned by the NCAA).
GC has also announced the hiring of Dickey Nutt, who will serve as associate athletic director and the men’s basketball coach, and Shohn Doty, who will head the baseball program.
Nutt currently serves as an assistant coach with the Cleveland State University basketball team, where he plans to finish the season before heading down to North Carolina. He is a former head coach at Southeast Missouri State and assistant coach at Oklahoma State, Stetson, and Florida State, where he served under GC alum Coach Leonard Hamilton.
Doty brings 25 years of college coaching experience to GC, earning recent recognition for his success as a pitching coach with UNC-Charlotte’s baseball program. Banks still has to fill the coaching vacancies for the remaining three teams in GC Athletics, and said he plans to add women’s basketball at some point.
Professionalism and diversity among athletes and at the coaching level will be a fixture in the athletic program, Banks highlighted.
“What I will also be stressing is the Title IX concept where we have to have equal in sports for the men as well as the women,” added Banks.
“Whoever is going to be the softball coach or the beach volleyball coach is going to hold a position somewhere as a vice president in the administration. We have to have a respectable inclusion of a female for diversity in our administration. And I’m going to push that,” the newly appointed AD explained.
An on-campus $25 million sports multicultural center is in the planning process, according to Banks. He and his colleagues are also looking to build a residential complex for athletes during sports seasons.
Banks plans to implement leadership skills he learned from Coach K and aims to bring fun and excitement to GC Athletics, engaging students and the campus community in what he hopes will be a lively environment.
Beyond sports, Banks hopes to positively influence the surrounding community, while leaving a lasting impression on students, colleagues and others.
“I want them to continue the quest to continue to look at education as a viable door-opener for them to go on and make the right decisions,” Banks said.
“When I leave from there (GC), I want it to be in a better state of cohesiveness and community and pride, as well as being able to leave a mark that the program is doing good,” Banks explained. “I want to know that when they come here, they’re going to learn something about life to help them go forward.”