(courtesy of Justin Zackal of the PAC Sports Network)
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PITTSBURGH, PA - April 16, 2018 - Forgive David Saur if he will be in hurry to change his shirt after his first game as the head women's basketball coach at Chatham University. The last time he coached in the PAC, from 2008-11, he was an undergraduate at Thiel, serving as an assistant coach for both the Tomcats' men's and women's teams, which play their conference games as doubleheaders. One coaching staff dressed up more than the other, so following each women's game he would trade a necktie for a polo shirt.
"I couldn't outshine the head coach," said Saur, who was recruited to play for Tim Loomis at Thiel, but because of a recurring hand injury he instead tried his hand at coaching.
Loomis, however, was the one helping Saur shine in his career. After a seven-year climb in the coaching ranks at Division I and II universities, Saur landed his first head coaching job at Chatham. At 31 years old, he will be the youngest head coach in the PAC next year, but his experience was multiplied while at Thiel because he coached two teams, with back-to-back practices, and Loomis allowed him to recruit, an opportunity rarely afforded to younger assistants, especially undergraduates.
"That experience tailored what became my focus as an assistant coach and working my way up pretty quick as an assistant," said Saur, a Baltimore native who helped the Thiel men's team land a few recruits from Maryland, including first-team all-PAC standout Khari Bess. "Coach Loomis allowed me experiences that I would have never have gotten if I had gone to a Pitt or a University of Maryland."
Saur coached at California (Pa.) and Indiana (Pa.) in Division II as a recruiting coordinators, before coaching at Division I Stetson, UMass Lowell and, most recently, as the recruiting coordinator at Louisiana Monroe.
"I'm the sum of everyone who I've worked for," said Saur, who was also mentored as a player by Anthony Lewis, whose AAU team in East Baltimore produced several NBA players such as Rudy Gay. "I've worked for people who have been super successful, all different in their own right, and I've been able to soak it up like a sponge to prepare me for the opportunity I have now at Chatham to get our own thing going."
Saur hopes to incorporate elements of the Princeton Offense, using constant motion and back-door cuts to open up layups and three-pointers. Stetson used the style of offense while Saur was there, resulting a school-record 27 wins (27-8, 16-2 conference) in 2013-14, for which Saur was named Atlantic Sun Conference Assistant Coach of the Year by FGBScouting.com.
"Your style of play must fit your head coach's personality and your offense and defense has to have some synergy between them," said Saur, who emphasizes forced turnovers on defense to set up layups and rhythm three-pointers on offense. "If we get to the point when we are trading our threes for your twos and a high-possession game, then we have a chance to be really successful."
As a recruiter, Saur will look for players who match his competitive personality as well.
"Recruiting is going to be a major part of (our success)," Saur said. "There's certainly talent and leadership coming back, but it starts with those kids establishing a competitive, team-first culture."
There were many reasons why Saur pursued the Chatham job: returning "up north," the campus, the academic profile, the familiarity with the PAC and working under an athletic director, Leonard Trevino, who shares Saur's vision as a former basketball coach (at Goucher in Baltimore) and currently serves on the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Committee.
"All those things together," Saur said. "Being at the Division I level for so long I was ready to get back and get closer to my roots and put down roots, so to speak. It all came together at the right time."
Timing his wardrobe changes at Thiel led to bringing together recruiting classes for seven head coaches in seven years. But now, by changing to Chatham purple, Saur can shine for a team of his own.
For more information on the Chatham women's basketball team, please visit gochathamcougars.com.