Marian University was right fit for former Goodrich High School basketball star Drake Diener
June 25, 2018
Drake Diener can thank Twitter for helping to bring him back to Fond du Lac. Diener was thumbing through some tweets last March when one announcing the retirement of legendary Marian University coach Mark Boyle caught his eye. Already contemplating the end of long playing career, Diener saw an opportunity. “I saw a tweet that Coach Boyle was retiring and instantly bells started going off,” Diener said at an introductory news conference at the Stayer Center on Monday. “It seemed like it could be a perfect transition for me into what I always considered would be my next line of duty.”
Diener, 36, was named head coach of the men’s basketball program at Marian in late April, joining the Sabres program after 12 years of playing professionally in Italy. There he won two championships, one most valuable player award and retires as the all-time leading scorer in Italian Serie A. It also returned Diener to the town where he starred at Fond du Lac Goodrich High School, before going on to play at DePaul University. “It just could not have worked any better,” he said. Diener may lack official coaching experience, but it’s something he always has been around.
The son of WBCA Hall of Famer Dick Diener, he grew up not only playing basketball but also closely watching the way his father approached the game. He wasn’t purposely studying for a future career, but there were plenty of lessons to be learned. “I’ve thought like that from just being around my dad growing up. Everything from how he organized a practice plan to in-game things,” said Diener, whose brother, Drew, is the head coach at Rockhurst University. “I’m really excited to be here and be back in Fond du Lac and to have a team to look forward to working with.”
Diener inherits a Sabres’ team that finished 11-14 last season and has had just three winning seasons since the 2008-09 campaign. Marian posted a school-record 22 wins in 2013-14, making the NCAA Division III tournament, but has gone 44-59 in the four years since. Marian had just one senior on its roster last season – first-team all-NACC performer Alex Manhardt – and Diener likes the look of some of the younger players. “From what I’ve seen, I’m excited about the talent – last year’s freshman class especially. A lot of them played big minutes and are a pretty talented group,” Diener said. “I’ve told all of the players, this is a clean slate.” The Sabres averaged nearly 72 points per game last season, but that number could rise in 2018-19 as the team looks to play a little more up-tempo and with a nod to Diener’s European career.
“I’m more influenced by the last 12 years I have been in Europe, so I would like to play with a lot of spacing to open the floor a little bit,” Diener said. “You have to think about the roster you have and the characteristics of your players, that has to fit with what we want to do. We have some pretty good talent and some pretty athletic talent. I think we can play with a little more open style and play a little faster.”
Diener’s transition into the position has been made easier by assistant coaches Marcus Wiegert and Grant Monroe, who remained with the program after Boyle’s retirement. Plus, simply being in the town he has a history in and is familiar with has helped with feeling comfortable in his new role. “It’s an easy place to feel comfortable and the transition has been great,” Diener said. “People would always ask what are you going to do when you are done playing. My answer always was I didn’t know, but I knew I had to be involved in basketball somehow.”