Photo: Courtesy of Denver Basketball
Denver basketball added two new assistants today in hopes of turning around the struggling program. Out goes Ricardo Patton and Steve Snell and in comes Bacari Alexander and Roman Sposato. Dan Ficke continues as an assistant to Rodney Billups while Zach Ruebesam moves up from grad assistant to director of basketball operations. Dwight Thorne moves over to director of player development and Henry Aldous will stay on with the Pioneers as a graduate manager.
Of course, the staff changes that are getting the greatest attention involve the hiring of Alexander and Sposato as assistant coaches.
As an assistant at the University of Michigan from 2010-2016 under head coach John Beilein, Bacari Alexander enjoyed his greatest success. Alexander was responsible for coaching the Wolverines’ post players, developing defensive strategies, scouting opponents and on-court coaching. In Alexander’s four seasons as an assistant coach at Michigan, the Wolverines advanced each year to the NCAA tournament, won a Big Ten Conference regular season championship in 2012 and 2014, and advanced to the Final Four as the National Finalist in 2013 and Elite 8 in 2014. Clearly, Alexander’s defensive coaching skills are desperately needed for a Pioneer squad that struggled from both the inside and the outside last season, finishing 342nd out of 353 D-I teams in Team Defensive Efficiency last season. That’s a quality Big 10 pedigree that none of the current DU coaches have.
Unfortunately, Alexander’s biggest failures occurred at the University of Detroit Mercy from 2016-2018, where he had triumphantly returned to his alma mater as head coach after his success as a Michigan assistant. At UDM, Alexander went just 16-47 before getting canned March 26th, 2018. Known for his sartorial splendor, Alexander was suspended seven games last season for what the school called ‘personal issues’ – verbally abusing one of his UDM players during a practice session. While his results as a head coach were poor, there is no doubt that his performance as an assistant head coach was outstanding by nearly any measure. Hopefully, he’s learned from his mistakes.
The other new assistant, Roman Sposato, also had a pretty tough go in his last coaching position. Hired in April of 2016 at Tulane, Sposato was hired by then-new Tulane Head Coach Mike Dunleavy as the director of basketball operations and later moved into an assistant head coach role. He handled practice planning, skill development, scouting, game preparation and recruiting efforts among other responsibilities with the Green Wave. However, Dunleavy and Sposato registered three losing seasons in New Orleans, including a 4–27 campaign in 2018-19. Tulane went 0–18 in the American Athletic Conference which led to the eventual firing of Head Coach Mike Dunleavy and his staff.
Before joining Dunleavy at Tulane, Sposato gained most of his coaching experience in the NBA. He was a regional scout for the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets after serving as an assistant coach for the 2015 NBA Developmental League Champion Santa Cruz Warriors. Prior to joining the Warriors, Sposato spent eight seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers in a variety of roles. His duties included player development assistant/game prep coordinator, where he analyzed opponents to help prepare players and coaches for upcoming games. He began working in the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers during the 2003-04 season, where he served as video coordinator under former head coach Maurice Cheeks.
Once again, like Alexander, Sposato enjoyed his greatest success prior to his last position. Both coaches are surely looking for redemption and a fresh start in Denver. With a young Pioneer squad, Rodney Bullups will need to leverage all their skills to get next season’s team up to speed and back on a winning track.