Brian GregoryHead Coach
When Brian Gregory came to the University of Dayton as its head men’s basketball coach in 2003, he renewed the appreciation within the Flyer basketball program of UD’s history and traditions in the sport.
Just seven seasons later, he cemented his place in that history by guiding Dayton to the 2010 NIT championship. UD’s impressive run to the NIT title included four straight wins over teams from the Big East, Big Ten, SEC and ACC.
Gregory joined Flyer coaching icons Tom Blackburn (1962) and Don Donoher (1968) as the only Dayton coaches to win the NIT.
Gregory’s 150 wins are the most by a UD coach in his first seven seasons, and his .652 winning percentage is second in UD’s modern era only to Blackburn, whose winning percentage was .714. When the Flyers climbed into the national college basketball rankings in December, 2007, it signaled a benchmark for Gregory.
In less than five seasons at the Hilltop, and in his first with all his recruits on the team, Gregory had put together a Top 25-caliber program. In the three seasons since, Dayton has won 75 games, advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament and won the NIT.
The Flyers are 11-4 against BCS teams in that span. UD’s 27 wins in 2008-09 tied for the second-most in school history. As strong as those numbers are, you can’t top perfection. And that’s exactly where Gregory is when it comes to graduating his seniors. Every senior who has played for Gregory has graduated (23-for-23).
All seven seniors on the NIT championship team completed their degree requirements in time to participate in the University’s 2010 Spring Commencement and receive their diplomas from UD President Dr. Daniel J. Curran.
Since taking over as Dayton’s head coach in 2003, Gregory has a record of 150-80, with two NCAA appearances, the 2010 NIT championship and two other NIT quarterfinal berths. Entering the 2010-11 season, he was one of just 24 coaches who have been at their current school at least five years who average at least 20 wins a season.
That list includes Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, UConn's Jim Calhoun, Florida's Billy Donovan, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Duke's Mike Kryzewski, Louisville's Rick Pitino, Kansas' Bill Self, Maryland's Gary Williams and North Carolina's Roy Williams.
On May 6, 2009, because of his success, and what is expected in the future, the University extended Gregory's contract to run through the 2017-18 season. In making the announcement, UD Vice President and Director of Athletics Tim Wabler said it was a decision involving the past, present and future of Dayton basketball.
"The University of Dayton is committed to excellence, and this contract extension demonstrates our commitment to Brian Gregory," Wabler said. "The arc of our men's basketball program is outstanding on many levels. Looking back at our success, we are one of a handful of schools to win 50 games and have been ranked in the last two years. Right now on campus, we have young men of high character in our program who are dedicated to getting better and are earning their degrees. Looking ahead...we have recruited young men who will continue our program's momentum.
"I don't know what our potential is, but I know we haven't reached it" Wabler added. "And I know Brian Gregory is the man to test the limits of our potential."
Gregory maintains the new contract extension means more about the Flyer basketball program than it does about him.
"I've always said that it's an honor to be the head basketball coach at the University of Dayton," Gregory said. "It's a special place and a perfect fit for myself and my family. What this extension demonstrates above all else is that the University believes in our program. And that's bigger than just me. It's our staff, and it's our players; the players who came in at the beginning and have since graduated, the players who are in our program now, and the players who are coming to UD. It's gratifying to know that Tim (Wabler) and Dr. Curran and everyone in our administration believe in them as much as I do."
Dayton was 24-9 in Gregory's first season, winning the EA Sports Maui Invitational (Gregory is the only rookie coach to win the prestigious early-season tournament) at the beginning, and winning the Atlantic 10 West at the end. Gregory began his tenure at Dayton with a 9-0 record, the second-best start for a new UD coach in the 100+ year history of varsity basketball at the school. Only Harry Solimano, who won his first 25 games over a three-year span that began in 1911, did better.
After taking a veteran team to the 2004 NCAA Tournament, Gregory guided one of the youngest teams in the country (six freshmen averaged at least 11 minutes a game) to an 18-11 record, finishing tied for second in the A-10 West. CBS Sportsline.com and collegeinsider.com chose Gregory as their 2004-05 Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year.
Gregory's Flyers opened his third year 8-3, but injuries and a lack of depth limited the Flyers to a 14-17 final record, although it's worth noting five of the wins and 11 of the losses came against post-season teams.
In 2006-07, Dayton rebounded to finish 19-12 with nine of the losses coming on the road against teams that won a combined 74.2 percent of their home games.The next season, the climb continued even with the injuries. The team reinvented itself on the fly after the great start was diluted by the loss of Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team selection Chris Wright, the first and most damaging of the injuries.
Dayton was 23-11 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT, losing at eventual champ Ohio State in 2007-08. The 2008-09 squad finished 27-8, with highlight wins over Marquette (in the finals of the Chicago Invitational Challenge) and West Virginia (in the first round of the NCAA tournament).
In both 2008 and 2009, Gregory traveled to the Persian Gulf to support the troops in the USO's "Operation Hardwood," a USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour.
"These men and women sacrifice so much to serve our country," Gregory said. "They put themselves in harm's way every day, and it was a great honor to be with them over there."
Among the coaches and basketball figures who have participated in previous tours are Jay Bilas, Mike Brey, Bobby Cremins, Karl Hobbs, Tom Izzo, Bobby Lutz, Dave Odom, the late Skip Prosser, Tubby Smith and Gary Williams.
All but one of Gregory's recruiting classes has produced at least one player who has earned postseason honors from the Atlantic 10 Conference. The incoming class is nationally ranked and features Oak Hill point guard Juwan Staten, and two big-school state championship MVPs – Brandon Spearman (Illinois) and Devin Oliver (Michigan). Gregory brought with him to Dayton the knowledge of what it takes to win championships, and a reputation as a top-notch recruiter.
On the court, his Flyers won titles in their first two opportunities with the trophies from Maui and the A-10 West division. The first recruiting class Gregory and his staff signed to play for UD was ranked as high as 17th in the nation.
He also demonstrated his skills as a bench coach, making savvy move after savvy move in the championship game of the Maui Invitational. Since it was Maui, it would be tempting to say that Gregory drew up the defense that turned the tide in the Hawai'i game in the sand, but figuratively speaking you wouldn't be far off. Down eight at halftime, the Flyer coaches refined one of their zone defenses with a secretive walk-through at halftime with the Hawai'i team just a few feet away.
Here's Gregory's post-game description: "We thought if they started clicking on offense we might try the zone. But it was close enough for most of the first half, we wanted to save it for the second half, so they couldn't make any adjustments at halftime. We actually did a walk-through of what we wanted to do at halftime. Up where the locker rooms are, there is an open space right outside the locker room door. We put the defense in right there. I told everyone to make sure they were quiet because Hawai'i was just on the other side of the divider they put up between the two teams up there."
The strategy and execution it took to win at Maui didn't go unnoticed. ESPN's Jay Bilas made this observation after the tournament: "...Gregory did a great job of preparing his team, and his handling of the second half of the Hawai'i game was outstanding. Gregory's call for a lob play out of a critical timeout was well-conceived and well-executed, worthy of a veteran coach."
Gregory, 43, was named the Flyers' 18th head coach on April 9, 2003 (although he is just the fifth UD coach in the last 59 years). He came to Dayton from Michigan State, where he was associate head coach on Tom Izzo's Spartan staff. While at MSU, he was part of two Final Four teams, including Michigan State's national championship team in 2000.
"I'm honored and excited to be named the head basketball coach at the University of Dayton," Gregory said when he was named. "It's a program rich in tradition with tremendous community and fan support, and a great foundation has been laid for this program. "I've been well-prepared by my mentors -- Jud Heathcote (former Michigan State coach), Kevin O'Neill (current Arizona assistant coach) and Tom Izzo (current Michigan State head coach) -- and look forward to building a championship program at UD."
A native of Mount Prospect, Ill., Gregory brought 15 years of coaching experience to Dayton, with 12 of them coming in the Big Ten. Teams he was with reached the post-season in 12 of his 15 seasons. He began his coaching career in 1990 at Michigan State University on Jud Heathcote's staff until 1995, and then Tom Izzo's staff when Izzo succeeded Heathcote.
In 1996, Gregory followed Stan Joplin when Joplin went from Michigan State to become Toledo's head coach. After one season at Toledo, Gregory returned to the Big Ten by joining Kevin O'Neill's program at Northwestern. Gregory returned to Michigan State for the 1999-2000 season when he joined Tom Izzo's staff in East Lansing.
After two seasons serving as an assistant coach, Gregory was elevated to Associate Head Coach for the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons. In his last stint at Michigan State, the Spartans went to the NCAA tournament all four seasons, reaching the Final Four in 2000 and 2001, and winning the NCAA national championship in 2000.
In the four years coinciding with Gregory's return to Michigan State, the Spartans had a national championship, two Final Four appearances, three Elite Eight appearances, four NCAA bids, two Big Ten Championships, four players drafted in the first round of the NBA draft, and MSU signed six McDonald's All-Americans. While preparing to be a head coach, Gregory had been recognized as one of the top assistant coaches in the country by such recognized publications as The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.
As a recruiter, he was part of four Top 10 recruiting classes at Michigan State. He also helped bring a Top 20 recruiting class to Northwestern. Gregory was the fourth Tom Izzo assistant to land a Division I head coaching position. In addition to Joplin, Indiana's Tom Crean (who took Marquette to the 2004 Final Four), South Florida’s Stan Heath (who took Kent State to the 2002 Sweet Sixteen, and also coached at Arkansas), Tulsa’s Doug Wojcik and Utah’s Jim Boylen are active head coaches who are part of Izzo's coaching family tree. Mike Garland also coached at Cleveland State for three seasons.
A new branch of that tree has sprung up, as a former Gregory assistant has been named a Division I head coach. Mo Cassara was named the coach at Hofstra in the spring of 2010.
Gregory graduated from Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., in 1990 with a bachelor of arts in secondary education. While at Oakland, he was a three-time all-conference selection, and was named an Academic All-American in 1990. He was inducted into Oakland's Hall of Fame in 1997.
Before transferring to Oakland, Gregory spent one year at the United States Naval Academy, and was a teammate of David Robinson on Navy's 1985-86 team that advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight (note: That was not the Navy team that played in the NCAA tournament in UD Arena. Navy beat LSU and lost to Maryland in the second round in 1985 at UD Arena.). He also holds a master's degree in athletic administration from Michigan State (`92).
Not content to be a prominent member of the University of Dayton community impacting the lives of the student-athletes on his team, Gregory has become very involved in the Dayton community since coming to the Miami Valley in 2003. He is the spokesperson for National City's "Real Men Wear Pink" breast cancer prevention and care program. He was also the honorary chair of the United Way's 2007 pledge campaign.
Gregory and his wife Yvette are most heavily involved in a local chapter of "Secret Smiles," a charity that delivers beds and bedding to children of families who cannot provide for them. Not only do the Gregorys lend their time and support to the charity (an auction in 2009 raised $18,000 in one night), the coach also helps deliver the beds.
"It's one of my favorite things to do," Gregory says. "I pull my UD ball cap down low, and I'm just a guy delivering a bed."
Brian and Yvette have two daughters -- Isabella, and Elyse.