Dartmouth basketball coaches Paul Cormier and Chris Wielgus are enjoying a different view from their offices these days with the completion of the basketball suites in the Berry Sports Center Lobby directly across from Leede Arena. With construction completed on the basketball suites in late October, the coaches, their staffs and players have been reaping the benefits that the suites have brought.
The $1.87 million project consisted of the construction of the new basketball suite along with the expansion and ventilation of the locker rooms in Leede Arena, and several cosmetic improvements to Leede Arena which included new banners as well as new paint and logos on the bleachers and walls.
Longtime women's basketball coach Chris Wielgus is overwhelmed by the commitment from the college and the athletic department to both of the basketball programs.
"The entire program, from the staff to the players to the alumnae, is beyond excited to be able to have a home like this," said Wielgus. "To have the college commit so many of its resources to the basketball program has really been very exciting and humbling. What it shows to me is what the Dartmouth community can do when it is determined. This is not just about Dartmouth basketball; this is about the Dartmouth community coming together. It's the alumni, the administration and the staff. It's the people that actually supervise the development of this particular project. It's about everyone coming together and it has been such a boost in the arm to our program."
Men's coach Paul Cormier echoes Wielgus' sentiments. "The commitment to basketball is key," said Cormier. "I enjoyed coaching here the first time, but I felt that it was hard to take the program to where we wanted it to go without the college backing a commitment to men's and women's basketball. When I came back for the second time, in talking to the administration and seeing how President Kim is so enthusiastic about having winning basketball programs, one of the necessary steps toward that goal was getting a basketball home, something I thought we lacked."
The vision of the basketball suites was a joint venture between the college and the Dartmouth athletics department. The college wanted to adequately reflect a renewed commitment to both basketball programs while also instilling a sense of pride throughout the entire Dartmouth community.
The Friends of Dartmouth Basketball, in conjunction with the college, played a major role in the project.
"The college has been very helpful in getting our programs to where we want them to be," said Cormier. "Our friends group has helped a great deal. Peter Fahey, who is heading up the group, has helped immensely in making some of the bells and whistles possible that we have been able to add to this space that will benefit both programs."
While current Dartmouth basketball student-athletes are reaping the rewards of the suite, the impact that this facility will have on the future of both programs is tremendous, especially when it comes to recruiting. Wielgus likened the suites to a Wall Street investment.
"It's going to help, it's not going to be an immediate impact because we just got in here at the very beginning of this season," said Wielgus. "This is an investment and like any investment on Wall Street, or anywhere, it takes time. It's an investment and it shows the direction that you want the program to go in. It will have an enormous impact on the recruits."
Cormier agrees that the new basketball home will have a direct impact on recruiting and thinks the convenience makes all the difference.
"When we had our offices over in Alumni Gym, it was hard for recruits to find exactly where we were," said Cormier. "The Berry Center is a very adequate gym, but we needed to have a basketball home so that when recruits and their families come to look at Dartmouth College and what the basketball program is about they don't have to seek us out in one building and have to walk through another building and over a pool to get to our gym. This here really made sense. We've already had some success in going about the way we recruit. I think its really going to upgrade our recruiting and that's really the bloodline of having a really successful program."
Wielgus agrees that the impact on recruiting will be tangible. "It will have an enormous impact on the recruits," said Wielgus. "The recruits that are coming next year were already coming before the facility, but this "investment," combined with our upgraded technology and the outstanding staff, just shows the direction that Dartmouth wants to go with basketball."
The suite serves as the main hub for the men's and women's basketball programs and features coaches' offices, team rooms and a reception area. Each coach has their own office equipped with advanced audiovisual technology that allows for in-depth game and practice preparation and analysis. Additionally, each team has a team room in the suite that can be utilized by the student-athletes for team meetings, video analysis and studying. Alumni and other donors will utilize the reception area for postgame gatherings and it will also serve as the "front door" to the Dartmouth basketball programs for prospective student-athletes.
The technology that the suite has brought has also enhanced the experience for Dartmouth's current student-athletes.
"It's amazing to me what technology can do," said Wielgus. "For me, this is an enormous opportunity for me to grow. My assistants are already really good with technology but for me it's an opportunity to improve. I'm excited for the smart board and the projectors that we have. In the past, I used to do my scouts with three VHS tapes and putting in the numbers on the VHS and sticking them in and out. To me, this is just a remarkable place and it give us an opportunity to really teach the students. We have teaching stations, which is how I perceive the technology to be. It's a way to show a player how she plays, and we are able to go over it with ease. It's enhanced our ability to work with our athletes."
Cormier and his staff take pride in developing their players and the addition of the advanced technology has only enhanced that aspect of the program.
"Instead of just having space and offices, we have space, offices and some state-of-the art equipment, which again shows commitment to our programs and will help us in preparing for games, scouting and player development," said Cormier. "I have a staff that I think is good at helping to develop players. We bring in players and we take a lot of pride in trying to get these players to maximize their potential, and some of the technology that we have allows us to bring the kids in and boil down some of the things we see on film. We're able to break it down very easily to show them and not take a lot of their time. It's really to the point and is a tremendous benefit to the student-athletes."
The new suites and improvements to Leede Arena are the culmination of a vision both Cormier and Wielgus had many years ago and this commitment creates a bright future for the Dartmouth basketball programs. With the renewed commitment to excellence from both the college and the athletic department, you can be sure the Dartmouth men's and women's programs will achieve a high level of success in the years to come. The alumni, coaches and players are all very happy to finally have a place that they can call home.