The coronavirus pandemic has forced people to improvise how they live and work. For many people, including George Mason University’s basketball coach Dave Paulsen, that includes learning new skills.
Paulsen had to up his technology game at the Fairfax, Virginia, school, spending a lot of his time on video conference calls, as meeting with players in-person amid the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t option.
“Some people are going to come out of this better prepared for the future. I’ve tried to use this time as a mini sabbatical to try and reevaluate everything that I do, that we do.” Paulsen said.
He has been watching film of other programs and sitting-in on Zoom coaching clinics from all across the country.
“I think it’s a way for all of us to come out in the new normal with some skills at our disposal.” Paulsen said.
The coach is putting those skills to work now, helping with his recruiting.
“With a prospect, we can share some of our practice footage and some of the drills we do. It’s a way we can now access recruits videos, watch them share the screen and offer some feedback.” Paulsen said.
Paulsen said he is never been home this long, but he still makes an effort to keep in touch with his players who are spread out all over the country.
One way is holding individual virtual meetings, which include film edits from the season.
Paulsen also conducts once-a-week team calls, while coaches check in daily with players to see whether they’re healthy and how they’re doing.
George Mason will have its starting five back next season, but will the fans be back? The season may go on, but there may be no fans in the stands.
“It would be weird. The excitement, the passion of college basketball makes it different and unique from professional basketball. Doc Nix and the Green Machine make Eagle Bank Arena rock. When we have a good crowd, that place is electric,” Paulsen said.
“So, no doubt about that, we want to play in front of our fans. But, if you told me we could play but with no fans for the first semester, I’d sign up for that in a second, if the alternative is not to play. I think all of our guys would feel the same way.”
The unusual circumstances have made him appreciate his job more than ever.
“I’m never going to take for granted again just the privilege I have of doing a job I love with kids I love being around. At the core of why I coach and where guys play is not about how many fans are there, it’s about the joy of competing and the joy of becoming as good as you can become at something.” Paulsen said.
The coach said he is trying to be good at something else.
Paulsen is enjoying his “DP Distancing Dialogues.”
He has developed an extensive coaching tree during his 26-years as a head coach. His former assistants hold positions in the NBA, NCAA and high school ball. They include the Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Catholic University.
Unable to reconnect with them at the Final Four this year, Paulsen has taken their discussions to YouTube and Twitter.
They share coaching philosophy and hold a video coaching clinic.
“They will kind of replace the old, corny coaches’ shows they used to show on TV. We’ll just have meaningful discussions.” Paulsen said.
And for a meaningful cause.
The Patriots coach makes a charity donation with each episode. Some recipients include D.C. Central Kitchen, Coaches vs. Cancer, and Coaches Coalition for Progress.
His guests also contribute to local charities in their area.