By Howard Herman, The Berkshire Eagle
Nick Giard has wanted to run his own college basketball program since he got into the coaching business. Now, he’ll get the chance.
Giard, who spent the previous two seasons on Kevin App’s staff at Williams, has been named the head coach at Division III Kalamazoo (Mich.) College. Giard is on his way to Michigan, where he will take over a program that was 7-18 a year ago.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to be a head coach at a great academic school, ideally close to home, which is [Ann Arbor] Michigan,” Giard said. “Kalamazoo has always kind of been a dream job for me. I wasn’t sure when the opportunity would present itself. I was fortunate that I was able to apply for the job, get my name in the mix.”
Giard replaces Jay Smith, who resigned his position after three seasons, to take a job as director of player personnel under Juwan Howard at the University of Michigan.
From the time Kalamazoo announced Smith’s departure back on July 15, it took just about two months for the Division III school to offer Giard the job. It did not take him nearly as long to accept.
“I received my official and verbal offer [Sunday], and it took me about one and a half seconds to accept,” Giard said, during an interview in the Williams basketball office earlier in the week.
“Coach [Kevin] App has been very supportive of me from the get-go,” he said. “Even before I applied, I told him that this was a job I wanted. I’m fortunate to be at a place like Williams, working for someone like Coach App who is very supportive of the growth and development of his assistant coaches. That’s one of the main reasons I love working for him and working here is that it’s a really good place to grow and develop as an assistant coach, and get prepared for the next opportunity, whatever that will be.”
Since App arrived at Williams, every assistant who worked for him is now coaching elsewhere. Brian Emerson is the head coach at Division III Sewanee. Mick Hedgepeth, who was the head coach at Sewanee, is now the director of basketball operations at his alma mater, Division I Belmont. Justin Bradley is on the staff at Division I Dartmouth.
App wrote the following on Twitter.
“Thrilled for @nick_giard. Made an impact in our program over 2 years and now gets to make an impact in his home state. He’ll be missed, but people in Williamstown now have another team to follow!”
Giard came to Williams in 2017, arriving from Division I Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, where from 2015-17, he was the director of basketball operations. He spent the previous two years as a graduate assistant at South Florida.
He is a 2013 graduate of Michigan State where he was a walk-on player for Tom Izzo’s Spartans. Giard was a teammate of Draymond Green at Michigan State.
“His combination of playing at a high level at Michigan State and coaching at Williams, a program with tremendous success on the court and in the classroom, are experiences he will use to benefit all aspects of our men’s basketball program as we strive towards [Michigan Intercollegiate Athletics Association] championships,” Kalamazoo Director of Athletics Becky Hall said in a statement.
The Hornets were 7-18 last year, but haven’t had a winning season since going 18-7 back in 2002-03, a run of 16 consecutive seasons.
“They had no seniors on last year’s team, so they’ve got a really good group coming back,” Giard said. “I love the pieces they already have. We have a chance to win sooner rather than later. We’re trying to lay the foundation of building really good habits on and off the court.
“I think if we have a consensus belief that this is our year, we have a chance to be good right away.”
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Giard isn’t the only NESCAC basketball assistant coach moving to a head coaching position. Amherst assistant Aaron Toomey will coach at his alma mater this year, as veteran head coach Dave Hixon is taking a one-year sabbatical.
“The opportunity to see various NBA teams [with connections to Amherst], a few D-I programs as well as having time to take care of some important personal matters,” Hixon said in a release. “To help limit speculation, I would like to say my health is great and that this is not retirement but a season-long sabbatical leave.”
Toomey took the reins for the Mammoths last year when Hixon’s mother passed away. Toomey led Amherst to a win over Williams..
Hixon is 826-292 in 42 seasons at Amherst, led his team to national championships in 2007 and 2013, and four Final Fours.
Quietly, Williams field hockey coach Alix Barrale has built a nationally-ranked squad.
The Ephs, who have won two straight games by a combined 8-1 score, are ranked 14th in this week’s National Field Hockey Coaches Association Top 20. The Ephs, now 2-1, are one of seven NESCAC teams in the Top 20.
Middlebury is No. 1, Tufts is No. 3, followed by Bowdoin at seventh, Bates at 15th, Trinity at 17th and Colby at 20th. Hamilton and Amherst would be No. 21 and 22 respectively.
Senior Emma Ticknor leads Williams with two goals and two assists. Senior goalie Abby Lloyd has a 1.07 goals-against average.
It’s a big weekend for the Ephs, who travel to Trinity on Saturday and return home to play 4-0 St. John Fisher on Sunday at home.
An 0-1-1 week for the Williams women’s soccer team cost them their No. 1 ranking in the United Soccer Coaches Top 25. It also cost the Ephs a spot in the Top 10.
After losing at Wesleyan on Saturday and battling Springfield to a Sunday draw, the 2-1-1 Ephs are now tied for 11th in this week’s poll. They are tied with Pomona-Pitzer.
Williams is one of three NESCAC teams in the Top 25. Middlebury is third while Amherst is seventh.
In the second round of USC New England rankings, Middlebury, Amherst and Williams are the top three teams. Tufts is sixth and Connecticut College is eighth.
Williams will be at Trinity on Saturday and home to Castleton on Sunday.
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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