April 6, 2011
Donny Lind finished his time last year as a Loyola University Maryland men's basketball manager, graduated from the school, packed his bags and moved to Richmond, Va., where he would begin his career in the coaching field.
Lind took a position as a graduate assistant with the Virginia Commonwealth men's basketball team looking to gain more experience and build his resume at the start of his coaching career.
He got much more than expected, however, as Lind was a part of the Rams' program that went from being one of the last four teams to get in to the NCAA Tournament to the pinnacle of the sport, the Final Four.
Virginia Commonwealth lost to Old Dominion in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship Game, and it appeared the NCAA Tournament would not be in the cards. But, the Rams were one of the last four teams invited to the dance, and they headed to Dayton, Ohio, to face Southern California in the first round.
"We lost in conference final, and we were about 85-percent sure we'd be in the NIT," said Lind, who started at VCU in June 2010. "We dIdn't get everyone together for a selection show, but all of the coaches watched together in the office. We saw our name flash on the screen, and everyone went nut; people were running down the halls in the office. We had to go back and rewind the DVR to see who we were playing."
Two days later, the Rams beat USC, and their tournament run was on. Wins over Georgetown and Purdue in Chicago set up a date in the Sweet 16 against Florida State. The Rams needed overtime, but they slipped past the Seminoles by a point and moved on to face one of the pre-tournament favorites, Kansas.
Not many around the nation believed in VCU's chances to beat the Jayhawks, but that was just motivation Lind and the Rams used to their advantage.
"The media really played up the David and Goliath thing," Lind said. "We were definitely motivated by everyone who said we couldn't (beat Kansas). What set us over edge was when one of the Kansas players said our run was over."
Lind, who works with the Rams' post players and helps with video editing for the program, helped put together a motivational video before each game that showcased various people from around the nation who doubted his team's chances.
They did not back down against the Jayhawks, beating them 71-61 to move on to Houston and the Final Four.
"That night (after the Kansas win) and the next day, it was shocking that we were in the Final Four," Lind said. "We were sitting in the office, and someone would just say, `we are in the Final Four."
The experience in Houston could be considered once-in-a-lifetime, but it is one Lind hopes to repeat.
"Everything (at the Final Four) is very scripted. The only time we walked through the front entrance to the hotel was the first time. We had security and weregoing through the back door of the hotel. We had a five motorcycle escort, and then we were just there to play basketball."
Lind will graduate this spring with his masters of education in sports leadership from VCU, and he is looking to continue his coaching career next year.
"What I learned at Loyola was that I wanted to coach, and that was just reestablished here."
In addition to his foray in the coaching world, Lind's life will change in the next several weeks. He and his wife, Ciera, are expecting their first child, a daughter, in early May.