When Dale Parker married Deitre Collins-Parker, the head coach of the women’s volleyball team, in May, he didn’t think his good luck would include a new job. And when he began spending a lot of time visiting his new wife in Cornell’s athletic offices, he never guessed he might soon be working there too.
But what started as a casual conversation with women’s basketball head coach Dayna Smith — a friend of Deitre — ended with Smith’s announcement that Parker will join the basketball staff as a volunteer assistant coach.
“It was very casual,” Smith said. “He was hanging out in the office, and I got to meet him. I learned he had coached so I mentioned it in passing to Deitre. It took a little while to develop.”
“I wanted to get back into basketball,” Dale said.
For Parker — who has a combined 11 years of experience of professional play and coaching — the timing worked out well. He played for two years at Imperial Valley College in California, then finished his collegiate career at Valdosta State.
After college, Parker headed south — to South America that is — for a seven-year stint playing international with professional teams in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Venezuela.
Parker had to adjust to the different style of play he encountered in South America.
“It’s much more up-tempo,” he said. “And it is not really catered to the big man; we had a lot of shooters on the team.”
But Parker’s teammates were learning new things as well.
“When I was playing, all Americans brought something to the foreign game,” Parker said. “[South American players] were in the learning process, and they were learning from us.”
Parker will again be adjusting to something new, since this will be his first time coaching at the Division I level.
“There’s a better class of athletes [in Division I basketball],” he said. “The arena is bigger, as far as the talent you’ll be going up against night after night.”
But Parker feels the essence of the sport remains the same.
“Basketball is basketball; the game doesn’t change,” he said.
As a volunteer assistant, Parker will be involved with many aspects of the team, including on-campus recruitment, scouting opposition and working with Cornell’s frontcourt.
“He gets to do all of the fun stuff and not the things that aren’t as exciting,” Smith said.
The offices of the women’s basketball and volleyball teams are right next door to each other, but Deitre said that, although it’s nice to be able to see him, their schedules rarely overlap. Both coaches are only in the office for a couple of hours each day.
“Most of the time, we’re both heading out to practice,” Deitre said.
One thing the two have discovered is the extent to which the volleyball and basketball teams interact.
“Our best players are best friends,” Deitre said. “Both teams really support each other. A lot of volleyball players are ex-basketball players and vice-versa. There’s just this kind of understanding between the two sports.”
And when the workday is over, the couple finds it nice to be able to come home to someone who really understands the question, “how was your day?”
“It’s nice to come home after a game and he’s watched it and we can talk about it,” Deitre said.
For his part, Dale is very enthusiastic about his new team.
“I like the team, I like the coaching staff,” he said. “All of the girls are great to work with. I think we have a good chance to do good things this year.”