Novak Goes from Prankster to Boss in Coaching Odyssey

Doug Novak-Brian Streeter-CCSU-1

On June 4, 2013, the Associated Press ran in its list of transactions that Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn., hired Doug Novak as its men’s basketball coach.

For most of those who glanced at the sports page that day, that transaction was in the mix after the Arizona Diamondbacks recalled left-handed pitcher Tyler Skaggs from Reno of the Pacific Coast League. But for The Citadel it was another bloom on its basketball coaching tree as Novak, an assistant with the Bulldogs from 2006-10 under then-head coach Ed Conroy, assumed the reigns of Royals’ hoops program.

During his tenure as Citadel assistant coach, Novak was an integral member of Conroy’s staff that captured 49 wins. That included the second 20-win season in program history (2008-09) and being instrumental in the recruiting process of eventual all-time leading scorer Cameron Wells. However, the mass exodus by the staff to Tulane brought to a close the 10th-best four-year stretch by any coaching staff that spent at least four years together in Bulldog history.

“I came to The Citadel to work with my good friend Ed Conroy and to see first-hand how the leadership development really worked,” said Novak. “I was fortunate to have coached there for four years so I was able to gain perspective on the process.   One of the great things The Citadel teaches is time management. If you tried to be perfect at everything, you were going to struggle. As our players matured, they began to figure out ways to work within the system, to be good enough in some of the details while excelling in other areas of their lives. The discipline The Citadel offered actually gave them more freedom and time than a regular college student.”

Doug Novak-Citadel-1

Novak’s success at The Citadel didn’t exactly translate to the most Taj Mahal of starts off the court. For the first month he and Conroy slept on the third floor of McAlister Field House amongst a collection of scurrying friends.

These “friends” proved to be significantly-sized rats that even invaded Citadel Brigadier Foundation Membership Coordinator Gina Inabnett’s box of candy. Inabnett promptly accused co-worker Caleb Davis of taking the candy and placing the wrappers back in the box before reaching the bottom of the box to find rat droppings inside.

“We would walk down the stairs late at night and see the rats running across the gym floor,” added Novak. “I bought a couple of fake rats and put them in Ed’s desk, shoes, etc. to keep him alert.  He had a bathroom by his office.  One night, I placed a fake rat just to the right of the toilet.  The only way you could see it is if you sat down.  Late that night, Ed went to use the restroom and we heard him scream at the top of his lungs.  Andy Fox and I had a good laugh at his expense.”

This led to several witty pranks between the devious minds of Conroy, Novak and former Athletic Director Les Robinson which included fake rats being found in desk drawers, placed inside sneaker boxes as pretend sneakers, elevators and even the bottom of a trash can by members of The Citadel housekeeping staff.

The infamous rat!

The infamous rat!

“You would never know where you were going to find these toy rats,” said one Citadel staff member who still fears opening a box with a Novak-placed rat.

While the pranks ensued for a number of years, one thing remained—Novak forged a solid career that witnessed success on the court. He also grew with the experience and will certainly develop Bethel’s basketball program in a similar mold.

“Recruiting and style of play go hand-in-hand,” Novak added.  “When we were at The Citadel, we were never married to a certain system of play.  We knew, because of the nature of the school, that we needed to be extremely flexible in how we played.  Our philosophy remained constant, but how we utilized personnel changed every year based on player development and recruiting. The culture of getting better was far more important than any offense or defense.

“We wanted to give them space to grow into their games as they improved, but we also wanted to protect them as they were in the process of getting better. The bottom line then and now is to recruit the best players possible regardless of position and figure out a way to best utilize their talents and hide weakness until they are developed.”

Below is a list of the most wins in Citadel history by a head coach in a four-year time span:

Wins Head Coach Four-Year Span
58 Les Robinson 1981-85
57 Norm Sloan 1956-60
57 Les Robinson 1978-82
52 Pat Dennis 1998-02
51 Les Robinson 1977-81
51 Pat Dennis 1999-03
50 Les Robinson 1976-80
50 Randy Nesbit 1987-90
50 Pat Dennis 1997-01
49 Les Robinson 1981-84
49 Randy Nesbit 1989-92
49 Pat Dennis 1994-98
49 Ed Conroy 2006-10

 Jon Cole

– Assoc. Director of Media Relations –


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