Article written by Bruce Wood.
First-year Dartmouth men’s basketball coach David McLaughlin was Dick Whitmore’s kind of basketball player.
“He was a very strong athletic presence,” said Whitmore, who had a legendary 40- year run as head coach at Colby College. “He was about 6-foot-5 and bulked up to about 225 pounds, so he was always a great presence on the floor. But more than that, he was a facilitator for his teammates as much as any guy his size that I have ever had. He spent a good part of his junior year as a point guard on a pretty good team. He was a leader who made people better all the time.”
Ah, but was the big guy a future coach? When McLaughlin told him after his senior season that coaching was his goal, Whitmore wanted to be certain the kid out of Boston College High School, Deerfield Academy and Brockton, Mass., knew what he would be getting into.
“He came into my office and said, ‘I know we have talked about it before but I think I really want to try to be a coach,’” Whitmore recalled. “I said, ‘Well, David, here’s 10 reasons why going into coaching with the Colby education is not the best thing in the world for you.’ Then I said, ‘You take those things home, look at them and you come back tomorrow and tell me that you want to coach and then we will go full speed."
“He came back and recited all 10 things and said, ‘I’m going to coach.’ From that point on I just knew he was going places.”
He has, after a stuttering start to his job search following his graduation from Colby with a degree in history. With help from his future wife Jenna – an All-American soccer player at Colby – McLaughlin stuffed and addressed upwards of 300 envelopes to colleges across the country looking for a graduate assistant position. Expecting 40 or 50 responses, he got just one. That said, he was thrilled when Suffolk University gave him his shot.
“It was, ‘This is the greatest thing ever,’ ” McLaughlin said at his introductory press conference at Floren Varsity House. And so his career began with a year at Suffolk University, from which he earned a Masters of Education in 1999. After Suffolk he spent two years as an assistant at Wesleyan before moving up to Division II Stonehill College, only a few minutes drive from where he grew up.
McLaughlin spent his first 3 1/2 years as an assistant coach at the Easton, Mass., school before taking over as interim head coach in January of 2004. In his first full season as head coach he went 20-8. A year later he guided Stonehill to a 27-7 record, winning the Northeast-10 regular season title, the NCAA East Regional championship and advancing to the NCAA Final Four. McLaughlin was recognized as the NE-10 and NABC Northeast Coach of the Year.
Before McLaughlin was through at Stonehill, a team that had gone 11-45 in the two years before he took the reigns went 184-87 (.679) over the nine full seasons he spent as head coach. (He was 189-99 overall.) Six times the Skyhawks won at least 20 games, five times they advanced to the Division II NCAA Tournament and four times they ranked in the national top-10. Most importantly, the graduation rate while he was becoming the all-time wins later at Stonehill was 100 percent.
Eager to learn the lessons and gain the experience he would need to be a Division I head coach, McLaughlin moved on to Northeastern University as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator for the 2013-14 season. In his second of three years working under Bill Coen he helped the Huskies to a 23-12 record and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 24 years.
Now he’ll be trying to get Dartmouth back to the big dance for the first time in more than twice as many years.
With Harvard bringing in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, Yale getting a taste last winter of what Harvard has enjoyed the past few years, Princeton having climbed back to its regular place among the Ivy League elites and Penn eager to do the same, winning the Ancient Eight and going to the first NCAA Tournament since 1959 won’t be easy. McLaughlin, however, won’t be intimidated by the task at hand.
“I’m ready to take the challenge because this is Dartmouth and because of the people I met in the (interview) process and the energy that I felt,” said McLaughlin, who once dreamed of playing for the Big Green before ending up at Colby. “The leadership that is in place here with (Athletic Director) Harry Sheehy is palpable. You can see it. . . . That’s important. I feel that the support is there, people really want to win. It’s our job as a coaching staff to bring in top quality student-athletes. If you can do that in consecutive years and make sure they are the right guys, and they are buying in to the leadership in the upperclassmen who were already here, you can compete with anyone.”
Sheehy is confident that a thorough search which attracted a strong field of candidates has delivered Dartmouth the coach to help it get to the first Ivy League postseason conference and beyond. “We wanted someone who had an unbelievable passion for the game,” he said. “We wanted someone who was a great recruiter. We wanted someone who was an exceptional teacher. We wanted a first-class person with high integrity. And finally we wanted someone who is fun to work with."
“Check, check, check, check, check. That’s what we have.”
To read more from our 2016 Fall PEAK magazine, click here.
For more on our men's basketball team, click here.