Reporting David McCoy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – In a ballroom in a downtown Minneapolis hotel, the brightest young minds in college basketball have gathered.
It’s an exclusive event that you can’t buy or even win your way in. You have to be invited to Villa 7.
Mike Ellis is the Gophers’ associate athletic director and founder of Villa 7.
“This is the next wave of head coaches in college basketball. So we’re kind of stipulating that if you’re in that room, you’re going to be a head coach in the next three to five years,” Ellis said.
The coaches are picked by Ellis and with Nike, which helps pay for it.
Virtually everybody says “yes” to the invitation.
“Very few people decline,” Ellis says. “Because we have 112 coaches that have come through this program in nine years that are now Division I head coaches.”
Coaches like Shaka Smart, Buzz Williams, John Groce and Andy Enfield are Villa 7 grad. Saturday’s meeting included Kentucky’s Orlando Antigua, Ohio State’s Chris Jent and Tennessee’s Jon Harris.
“Just trying to build a rapport, a relationship with somebody,” Harris said. “Maybe you can exchange business cards and keep in touch.”
That’s done through a session where each coach does seven interviews with seven different administrators for seven minutes each.
They called it “speed dating.”
Gophers women’s assistant Kelly Roysland says the interviews are quite thorough.
“Where your strengths lie, your weaknesses, your philosophy, why you want to be a head coach, why you feel you’d be a good head coach,” Roysland said.
Ellis says administrators are looking for the qualities of a strong leader.
“It may be how someone interacts one-on-one, it may be how someone interacts in a group setting. What kind of questions they ask, how they present themselves,” Ellis said. “There’s a lot of different things. Are they humble? Are they entitled?”
Gophers men’s assistant coach Ben Johnson says the interviews are invaluable training exercises.
“Gets you comfortable with people coming at you from different angles, and having to respond quickly,” Johnson said. “And also it gets you to the point where you’re able to meet people that potentially, one day, could hire you for a position.”
Villa 7 started as a two-hour meeting of about 50 people. Now in its ninth year, it has grown to 45 men’s coaches, 30 women’s coaches and about 60 administrators.
“It’s an experience, I think, for both people,” Roysland said. “Athletic directors learn a lot about the types of people that they’d want to hire. You kind of learn, like, hey – these are the steps that you take. This is what I have to be prepared for when going for a potential real interview for a job. So there’s a lot of things you can take away from an opportunity like this.”