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Dollar Rises

May 5, 2011

A Thursday visit to the men’s basketball offices at Georgia Tech found a place that looks and smells foreign. It’s been white-washed, literally, as walls are being skimmed before being re-painted, furniture is out of place, wires are hanging out of walls and re-modeling is mid-stream.

It’s out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new — except for a guy in the middle office. Chad Dollar is old school in more than one way. Added a couple weeks ago to the staff of new coach Brian Gregory, Dollar knows his way around. He grew up in Atlanta and played for his father, Don Dollar, at Douglass High.

“I told coach [Gregory], when I flew in from Wichita . . . as we were landing, seeing the city the excitement that went through my body knowing I had an opportunity to come back home and work at Georgia Tech was a good feeling,” he said with a smile.

Gregory showed up with precious little local knowledge. He’s taken steps to build a staff with local ties including Thursday’s addition of former Wheeler High star Amir Abdur-Rahim – whose older brother Shareef nearly played for Tech before instead going to Cal and then to the NBA – as director of player development.

Dollar figures to anchor Tech’s recruiting efforts in talent-rich metro Atlanta, not to mention the state of Georgia as a whole. In prior stints as an assistant at Wichita State, Arkansas State, LSU, Murray State, Georgia Southern, Eastern Kentucky and Western Carolina, he recruited his old stomping grounds.

“I always knew I was going to be a coach [since] probably the age of 8. At that time, you didn’t have all the AAU basketball that you have now,” Dollar said. “You had basketball camps, and invitational camps. I used to travel a lot with my dad and his players.”

Chad Dollar was a pretty good player. I recall seeing him play at Douglass, on Atlanta’s west side, during his junior year (1988-’89).

That Astros team was ridiculously loaded with seven Division I prospects, including backcourt mate Marquis Hicks (Oklahoma), future Florida Final Four player Brian Thompson and future Georgia Bulldog Dathan Brown.

Their chief rivals were in the region. Southside was stocked, too, with future Tech star James Forrest, eventual Clemson center Wayne Buckingham and slick guard Antonio Moore (now deceased).

Hicks was a lights-out shooter, so Dollar’s job was to run the show.

Likewise, he will not be the guy in the spotlight on the Tech staff unless you consider the fact that recruiting will be the lifeblood of the program.

His playing history is not why he’s here. Dollar’s on The Flats because his local knowledge.

“I used to look to a lot of the old-school coaches, like James Lunsford at Baldwin, Don Richardson at Southwest Macon, Ken Ross at College Park and Riverdale, Lee Hill at Statesboro, James Martin at Griffin , Robert Bell, Phil McCrary at Columbia,” he said.

Beyond his familiarity with these coaches, just a couple of whom still coach (his father is retired as well), the fact that Dollar has recruited the area for previous employers is a very big deal.

It’s similarly large for him and his family to be in Atlanta. He’s married, with three kids, and Dollar, 39, would be hard-pressed to think of anywhere he’d rather be an assistant.

Soon after Gregory was hired, “I kind of put some feelers out to people he knew to see if there would be a mutual interest,” he said. “[Then] I contacted him and let him know I was interested. That’s how it started.”

Dad is still around, and so are a lot of Dollar’s aunts, uncles and cousins. His mother passed away years ago. He’s home.

Gregory has not yet sorted out duties on his staff, but the fact that Dollar played guard for three years at South Florida and one at Milligan College (Tenn.) does not guarantee that he’ll work chiefly with Yellow Jacket back-courters. He’s coached bigs before as well.

For now, recruiting is priority one. The time to coach will come, and Dollar said he take a home-spun approach to his work.

“My brother [Cam] coaches [as head coach at Seattle] so my dad goes out there and messes around with him a lot,” he said. “I think that the main principle I’ll carry is the care he had for those kids, the genuine love he had for those kids and wanting them to succeed whether it was on the court or in the classroom.

“That is a foundation that I will always have, outside of the X’s and O’s and things of that nature. Seeing him caring about his kids on and off the court whether it’s going over to Allen Temple [housing project] to pick up a kid that didn’t come to school, or going to Bankhead to pick up a kid who didn’t go to school, to making sure he was afforded an opportunity for education and basketball.”

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