A passion for basketball
Reno Birghorns basketball coach David Arseneault Jr. has a reputation for bringing a fast-paced approach to the court.
That was evident during the Bighorns’ youth basketball camp at the Douglas County Community & Senior Center. Arseneault spoke with energy at the start of a dribbling drill, directing students to keep their heads and eyes up to better see action on the floor.
And he was clearly having fun.
“I’ve never been here. I’m not from the Reno area, so to come down here, with this facility, and to have these kids here and to see all the enthusiasm they bring with them, it’s just been awesome,” Arseneault said.
Forty-five students in third grade through high school went through four days of instruction co-hosted by the Douglas County Parks and Recreation Department that ended on Thursday.
Arseneault was impressed with the young players.
“It’s actually very good basketball,” he said. “I can tell that somebody has been working with the youth programs in this area because they know how to play. They have the fundamentals down. So hopefully, this week we’re able to help them have fun and get better at basketball.”
As a player at Grinnell College in Iowa, Arseneault was a three-time finalist for the Bob Cousy Award presented to the nation’s top point guard. While partial to the position, he also noted the importance of young players understanding every position on the court.
“I love to see all of these kids out here learning how to dribble the basketball,” he said. “I like to try to turn everybody into a point guard at times and giving everybody a chance. You never know who’s going to grow to be 7-foot tall, you never know who’s going to stop growing from this very moment. But making sure that everybody can dribble, everybody can pass and everybody can shoot, I think that’s the best way to help develop kids, rather than try to lock one person into one position.”
Arseneault, who celebrated his 29th birthday two weeks ago, had success as a player at Grinnell under the guidance of his father, David Arseneault Sr., that included a Division III career record for assists (9.4 average).
The senior Arseneault, who has been Grinnell’s head coach since 1989, has used an uptempo style that includes pressure defense and rotating shifts of players to achieve notoriety, including a 2003-04 season when the Pioneers led the nation in scoring with what was then an NCAA record 126.2 points per game. In November 2012, Grinnell’s Jack Taylor broke the NCAA single-game scoring record with 138 points. Taylor scored 109 points in another game the following season, and on that same night, Patrick Maher set an NCAA single-game record with 37 assists, breaking a record previously held by young Arseneault.
More attention may have been garnered by the scoring record, however, Arseneault acknowledged that those shots are made possible by the point guard and other teammates who are passing the ball.
“Especially the way I coach the game at the pro level in Reno, our fast-paced offensive system is all predicated on good point guard play and having a guy that can make decisions, that knows how and when to get teammates involved,” he said. “It just makes everybody else’s job on the basketball court easier.”
Arseneault was an assistant on his father’s coaching staff at Grinnell in 2014 when he was hired by the Sacramento Kings to bring Grinnell’s uptempo style of basketball to the Bighorns. The coach is obviously looking forward to the start of his second season in November.
“I’m hoping we can build on what we did this last year, improve in a lot of areas, have a better record, continue getting guys called up to the NBA, continue developing and continue to test out different things in the game of basketball,” he said.
Players in the D League are obviously trying to work their way on to an NBA roster. That call can come from any team and at any time.
“We have scouts from different teams at every one of our games, so they get a chance to be seen by everybody in the NBA,” Arseneault said. “As an example, a number of them who did get called up by the Kings … David Stockton, Sim Bhullar, David Wear. We also had guys get called up to other teams … Jordan Hamilton got called up and is still with the Los Angeles Clippers; Quincy Miller got called up to the Detroit Pistons, although he’s since been traded (to the Brooklyn Nets).”
Stockton, the son Hall of Fame point guard John Stockton, was undrafted out of Gonzaga in 2014 but spent time last season with the Bighorns and Kings and has signed with the NBA franchise for the 2015-16 season.
“I’m having a blast,” Arseneault said of coaching the Bighorns. “It’s like, I take my job very seriously, and at the same time, I feel like it’s a paid holiday because I really enjoy what I do.”
He does admit to missing the college game. Well, to a point.
“I was in my hometown, Grinnell, coaching with my dad. My fiancé and I still have a house there, so there certainly are aspects that I do miss,” Arseneault said. “But at the same time, this has opened a lot of doors for me, it’s created new challenges and it’s helped me get to know the game that I love even better.”