SJU Hoops Assistant A ‘Rising Star’

As a Cubs fan, Derrick Wrobel describes himself as an “eternal optimist.” The St. John’s men’s basketball assistant to the head coach has reason to feel good about his future when Steve Lavin called him “a rising star in the business.”

Wrobel is entering his fourth season on Steve Lavin’s staff, having known Lavin for more than a decade.

“I used to work his camps at UCLA during the summers when I was at Arizona State,” Wrobel said. “I’d keep in touch with him. We’d exchange e-mails, phone calls. When I was at Cal and he’d do our games for ESPN, we’d get something to eat and talk.”

During games, Wrobel charts every offensive possession, writing the play calls, seeing what works and what does not.
“I try to be on point because you never know when coach will turn around and ask ‘How many timeouts do we have?’ or ‘How many fouls does he have?’”

It has been a much-traveled road for the man from Mississippi.

“I knew when I was in high school that would be it for me as a player. I went west to go to school at Arizona State,” he said.

During this time, Wrobel became a team manager.

“Being a manager allowed me to learn the game from the ground up.  It’s up to you to be that sponge soaking everything up,” he said.

He spent one year at Ole Miss before moving out west again. Moving on to the Cal Bears, Wrobel assisted Ben Braun and then Mike Montgomery.

“Mike Montgomery is a mentor and in my opinion a Hall of Famer caliber coach,” Wrobel said of the man with over 650 wins. “I’m fortunate enough to be around Coach Lavin and the experience he’s had. Working for ESPN. To be around [special assistant/advisor] Gene Keady, a Hall of Fame coach.”

Wrobel does a lot of behind the scenes work, including schedule planning.

“Everybody has a role. Every role is important to the success of an organization. It brings value to the organization. A lot of administrative duties, day-to-day logistics, there is a value. Making sure the bus is on time, making sure tickets are taken care of, making sure we’re set at the airport. I want to make a good representation of Coach Lavin and a good representation of the organization,” he said.

There is also a solid chemistry between the assistant coach and the team, as he said “It’s a very good relationship. We’re fortunate that we have a very, very good group of kids. I’m excited about the staff I get to interact with, and I’m excited about the players I get to interact with. They’re the ones that make it fun to come to work every day.”

-David Russell