(Image Courtesy of UMass Dartmouth)
Sports Editor: Shailyn Bacchiocchi
For Brian Baptiste, 700 wins mean more than just on-the-court victories.
UMass Dartmouth men’s basketball team’s win over Castleton University on January 14th brought forth a huge milestone for head coach Brian Baptiste, as it secured his 700th career victory.
He is now the only active NCAA Division III basketball coach to reach that number.
Baptiste saw his first win with UMass Dartmouth (then Southeastern Massachusetts University) against Anna Marie College in November of 1983.
Baptiste reflects on how his coaching has changed since that first win in 1983.
“I think I was a lot tougher back then,” he says, “I wanted to make a name for myself, but I learned that there are more things other than that that make a good coach. You just get wiser as time goes on.”
In his time with UMass Dartmouth, Baptiste has won 12 Little East Championships and made it to 14 Division III National Tournaments.
When asked why he didn’t go DI or DII, Baptiste offers some insight on his decision to stay.
“I applied for some DI and DII jobs. It’s very hard to go right to head coach from DIII, and that’s what I wanted to do. So I decided to stay, and I’m glad I did.”
Baptiste is not the only one who is appreciative of his decision to stick with UMass. Over the years, many former athletes have come back to visit Baptiste because of his impact both on and off the court.
“Sometimes I see some of my old players and they go to the games, it’s always nice seeing them come back and let me know how they’re doing,” Baptiste says.
Though Baptiste has had immense success, coaching isn’t always easy. Baptiste explains one of the hardest parts of coaching throughout his years.
“A lot of the incoming players come from being the leading scorer on their high school team to now being on a team with other players who were also leading scorers”, Baptiste says, “One of the hardest parts is convincing players we’re all pulling the rope in the same direction,”
Times were especially tough during the past two years when the pandemic prevented Baptiste from in-person scouting and interviewing.
“I had to meet with all the prospective players on zoom, and then you have to judge without having many in-person interactions,” Baptiste remembers, “It ended up working out, but it’s not the same as in-person at all”
Though it may have been tough, Baptiste’s perseverance reflects in the success of the team.
UMass Dartmouth has advanced to the Little East Championship game for the past three years and claimed the conference tournament title in 2021.
Sitting down with him in his office, there are many indicators of his successful career. Awards and pictures of his past years surround him. It is clear he takes pride in his team, and in turn, they take pride in him.
For Baptiste, the fundamental part of coaching doesn’t always happen in the practices or on the court.
“I think I see the reward the most when former players come back and tell me they’re using things I told them with their own kids or in their own life,” Baptiste says, “It makes me feel great knowing that they use what I taught them way past their time here.”
A swarm of congratulations came after Baptiste’s 700th win. Former player Bill Butts, who graduated in 1987, tells Corsair Athletics how thankful he is for Coach Baptiste.
“You were a great mentor to me,” he writes, “I owe you for pushing me when I needed it the most!”
Coach Baptiste, even with this remarkable milestone, is still focused on his coaching. He will continue the 2022-2023 season as he always does: turning his attention to his team. The Corsairs will face the Huskies at Southern Maine on Saturday, hopefully producing another victory.