ATLANTA (May 3) – Georgia Tech head basketball coach Paul Hewitt has assembled his first Rambling Wreck coaching staff with the hiring of Dean Keener, formerly of James Madison, Cliff Warren, a member of Hewitt’s staff at Siena, and Willie Reese, who has been at Tech the last year, as assistant coaches as well as former Villanova assistant Peter Zaharis as Director of Basketball Operations.
“I was looking to put together a staff that has tremendous energy and that is strong in two areas in particular, recruiting and player development,” said Hewitt, who was named Georgia Tech’s 12th head coach on April 6. “In addition, organizational skills were very, very important. I realize how competitive the ACC is, and making the best use of your time is vital to your success.”
Keener spent the 1999-2000 season at James Madison, where he worked under former Georgia Tech assistant coach Sherman Dillard, helping the Dukes post a 20-9 record. He previously spent a total of six years at Virginia Tech and has also served as an assistant coach at three other Division I programs.
Before going to JMU in 1999, Keener served two years (1988-90) at Virginia Tech under Bobby Hussey, his college coach at Davidson College. He also worked four years on the Hokies’ staff under Bill Foster from 1991-95, during which time Virginia Tech posted a 43-20 record his final two years, including the NIT championship in 1995.
In between his stints in Blacksburg, Keener was an assistant to Mike Dement at Southern Methodist for two years (1995-97). He began his coaching career in 1988 as a graduate assistant at Drake for two seasons (1988-90) and then spent one year as an assistant on George Raveling’s staff at Southern Cal (1990-91), where his tenure overlapped briefly with Hewitt’s stint as a graduate assistant.
“When I realized I was going to be named the head basketball coach at Georgia Tech, one of my first calls was to Dean Keener,” said Hewitt. “Dean and I worked together for a short time 10 years ago at USC. I was extremely impressed with him then, and we’ve remained friends over the years.
“He’s recruited nationally, and he also understands what my goals and my philosophies are for Georgia Tech.”
A native of Tallmege, Ohio, Keener received his bachelor’s degree in economics from Davidson in 1988 and was a member of the Wildcats’ 1986 NCAA Tournament team. He is married to the former Meg Young of Radford, Va.
Warren served the last three seasons as Hewitt’s assistant at Siena, helping the Saints to a 66-27 record and two postseason berths with the 1999 NCAA Tournament and the 2000 NIT.
A native of Silver Spring, Md., Warren went to Siena in 1997 after three years as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Mount Saint Mary’s College, under the legendary Jim Phelan. In 1995 in Warren’s first year on the staff, the Mount made its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, falling to Kentucky in the first round, and the following year Mount St. Mary’s played in the NIT.
“I worked with Cliff for three years at Siena, and I have always been impressed with his ability to get along with players, both the players in our program and the student-athletes that we were recruiting,” said Hewitt. “He does a great job with individual instruction, in particular, guard development. He runs some of the hardest workouts I’ve ever seen.
“He and I are very much on the same page in what it takes to help players reach their potential.”
Warren is a 1990 graduate of Mount Saint Mary’s with a bachelor’s degree in business finance. He then worked as a graduate assistant and earned a master of business administration from the Emmitsburg, Md., school in 1993.
Before returning to the Mount as a full-time assistant coach in 1994, Warren played professionally for the Frederick Flyers of the Atlantic Basketball Association. Midway through the season, he named an assistant coach. In addition he worked as an intern for the National Basketball Association’s Washington Wizards as well as serving as a volunteer coach at Paint Branch High School, his alma mater.
In six seasons as an assistant coach, Warren has been part of programs that earned four postseason appearances, including two NCAA Tournaments bids and two NIT berths.
Reese, a four-year Rambling Wreck letterman (1986-89) and a 1989 graduate of Georgia Tech, returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach in 1999. He spent the previous five years as the head coach at Landmark Christian Academy, compiling an 87-35 record at the Atlanta private school. After a 3-18 record in his first year, Reese won nearly 79 percent of his games the next four years.
“Obviously before I came to Georgia Tech, I did not know Willie, but from day one, I’ve been impressed with his work ethic and sincerity,” said Hewitt. “He brings a great knowledge of the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia, which hopefully will be our main recruiting base for the years to come.
“As a Georgia Tech grad, Willie can relate his experiences to our current players to help them be successful in academics and in basketball. He is also very familiar with the Georgia Tech winning tradition, having played on very successful teams coached by Bobby Cremins.”
Reese, who attended Carver High School in Atlanta, and his wife Subrina have a son Willie, 9, and a daughter, Jasmine, 6.
Zaharis has spent the last four years with the Villanova program, including the last three seasons as an assistant coach. He joined Steve Lappas’ program as administrative assistant in 1996-97, Hewitt’s final year on the Wildcats’ staff.
“Peter was the non-recruiting assistant coach at Villanova, where I worked with him for one year, and I’m happy that he has accepted the Director of Operations position here at Georgia Tech,” said Hewitt. “He has a great mind for basketball, he does not mind working long hours, and he is extremely organized.”
Zaharis, who also spent one year as an assistant at New York University, began his coaching career in 1992 as an assistant coach at Holy Trinity High School in New York, where he remained three years before moving to the collegiate level in 1995.
A native of Jamaica, N.Y., Zaharis attended earned his bachelor’s degree from NYU in 1987 and then added his MBA in 1989. Upon graduation he worked five years as a financial analyst at Citibank before joining the coaching ranks. Zaharis is married to the former Ritsa Demetriades.