Comments Published on January 21, 2019 at 10:52 pm Contact Matthew: [email protected] | @MatthewGut21 Facebook Twitter Google+ DETROIT — At 10:38 a.m. Friday, Jan. 4, sneakers screeched the hardwood floor inside Calihan Hall. The heating system and constant beating of basketballs provided the soundtrack for two bodies getting a little extra work, 13 hours after a conference win. Sweat dripped from Detroit Mercy forwards Chris Brandon and Boe Nguidjol as they listened to the voice that dominated the arena.They led drills of driving and finishing, while the man behind the voice peppered his players with passes and encouraged them to hold their follow-throughs on their shots. For more than a decade, 31-year-old former Syracuse star Eric Devendorf led similar drills — with a similar vigor — in the place he called “home.”Dating back to his time as a player at Syracuse, the Orange fanbase beloved his dogged style of play and durability. He arrived at SU in 2005 and ascended to stardom, sitting 14th on the program’s all-time scoring list. He went undrafted but played professionally in the NBA Gatorade League, then the Development League and overseas. From 2016-18, he fulfilled his late father’s wish to be on the Syracuse staff, where he molded head coach Jim Boeheim’s newcomers from stand-out high schoolers into college athletes at an ACC power.Then, last summer, Devendorf sacrificed his study under a Hall of Fame coach for a fledgling mid-major full of uncertainty. As special assistant to first-year head coach Mike Davis, Devendorf moved 400 miles east to a small Catholic school with less than one-quarter the enrollment of SU. Although he’s a 90-minute drive from his Bay City, Michigan hometown, he leaves behind his girlfriend, Triyah Jones, and two daughters, Madelyn (10) and Miranda (8) in Syracuse. He risked losing comfort to take a shot at his long-term goal.In his new role, Devendorf hopes to instill some of his own style. He believes in nurturing strong relationships with players, many of whom are only 10 years younger than he is. He’s learning to be patient with a roster of mostly freshmen at Detroit Mercy, which finished 8-24 last season.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHe consulted the entire SU coaching staff before departing his alma mater, and he made sure Boeheim thought the move would propel him closer to his long-term goal of running his own Division I program. His former head coach, plus former associate head coach Mike Hopkins, both advised him to go.“It’s great for him to get a coaching job full-time,” Boeheim said. “He’s going to be a really good young coach.”Courtesy of Detroit Mercy AthleticsIn Calihan Hall in early January, Devendorf had Brandon and Nguidjol attack with power and make stronger moves with fewer dribbles. High above, three banners hung reflecting Detroit Mercy’s basketball history — just one NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999, when Devendorf was 12 years old. He left the packed Carrier Dome for the scarcely-attended arenas of the Horizon League, where only one team is guaranteed a ticket to the Big Dance.After an hour of drills, Devendorf threw his backpack over his shoulder, walked out of the building for lunch and spied his Nissan Rogue across the lot. The license plates still belonged to New York.“All of this is helping me be a head coach,” Devendorf said. “When that time comes, I know I’ll be ready.”—The clock hit 11 a.m. on Jan. 4, and Devendorf jogged to the 3-point line. He picked up a loose ball during an inside-move drill.“Come on, dawg! Left hand!,” he told Nguidjol. “You ain’t ever used that left hand in your life.”At Syracuse, Devendorf earned a reputation for a relentless work ethic, enthusiasm and bluntness. He brings the same style to a new place.Devendorf started at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, playing alongside Kevin Durant. He switched his commitment from Michigan State to Syracuse, where he played for four seasons. From 2005 to 2009, Devendorf was a double-digit scorer in all four of his seasons playing for Syracuse. He made the Big East All-Rookie team as a freshman and averaged 14.5 points across 116 career games for SU.He developed a knack for community involvement. His philanthropic approach included aiding in the Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation, the Flint water crisis and coat drives in Syracuse. After a storied career as a player — one that plastered him on the front of a 2007 issue of Sports Illustrated that still hangs in his room — he started a family in Syracuse.Jan. 13 marked three years since his father, Curt, died of cancer. Curt had put a ball in the hands of a young kid with a dream. Before Curt’s health deteriorated, he had hoped for Devendorf to one day join the Syracuse staff. Devendorf fulfilled Curt’s wish and bounded forward.“Leaving Syracuse was tough, and I didn’t want to,” said Devendorf, who still says “we” when he refers to the Syracuse men’s basketball team. “That was my family. I have a lot more responsibility now and I feel like a real assistant coach. I can still play with them, so I think that helps when I go to show them something. I can still do it. The experience here has been priceless.”Matthew Gutierrez | Senior Staff WriterIn late July, his iPhone’s ring altered his career trajectory. On the other end was Davis, the former Texas Southern coach who’d met Devendorf a few times. They had exchanged texts every few months. Then Davis called and offered him the job. “Kind of random,” Devendorf said. “I told him I had to talk to coach Boeheim about it, but it was a no-brainer.”Boeheim called Davis and told him he’d be getting a good coach. Within a few days, Devendorf kissed his girlfriend and two daughters goodbye, packed up his car and embarked on a new life.—Devendorf misses his family a lot. Every day, he FaceTimes home, and he plans to figure out his long-term situation after this season. Any chance he gets, he drives nearly seven hours each way from his two-bedroom place in Detroit to see his girls. They’re active in the Liverpool Central School District in third and fifth grade, respectively, while competing in swimming and cheerleading.“It’s tough being without them,” he said. “I wanted to keep them there for the year until I know where I’ll be long-term. Maybe they’ll come to Detroit next year.”After lunch, Devendorf drove back to campus and parked his car. He climbed the stairs from the court to the basketball suite, where the coaches’ offices reside. He walked to the back left. A sign reads, “Conference Room: 225E.” He placed down his backpack beside a chair.For a couple of hours before practice, he pulled out an iPad and studied film on the Titans’ next opponent, Northern Kentucky. Devendorf brought with him the Syracuse 2-3, which his new team is just starting to get the hang of. Detroit’s coaching staffers said they appreciate his 2-3 insight.With “Madelyn” tattooed on the back of his neck and a gallon of water on the table, Devendorf analyzed the Titans’ zone. He hears Boeheim’s voice in his head when teaching rotations. Watch the high post. Cover the shooters on the wings. For zone feedback, he’s texted Boeheim a few clips.High energy and reliability are the hallmarks of Devendorf’s coaching philosophy. He tweets motivational quotes and feeds his brain with self-help books. Now he’s reading, “Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself.” As he hopes to rise in the coaching ranks, he wants to teach his players the power of a positive attitude.With his arms crossed near midcourt, he surveyed the defense in practice. He walked up to two players on the side of the court. He playfully grabbed their jersey and laughed. Then he high-fived freshman forward Willy Isiani, who requested a post-practice workout with Devendorf. A team manager noted that in his four years at Detroit, there’s been a “big jump” in the number of workouts outside of practice hours. Thanks to Devendorf.There are plenty of unknowns now. The Titans are a young team with a lot to prove. He doesn’t know what his next job will be. He’s unsure exactly when his girlfriend and two daughters will be able to move back in with him. Uncertainty followed him as he opened his car door outside the Detroit facility. But he’s found comfort in his new home, dragging along much of what he left.“You never know when your life could change on you,” he said, and he climbed inside the driver’s seat.