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TGW: Jumping Right Back In

June 13, 2016

By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word

Eric Reveno hasn’t always been quick to rule, yet Georgia Tech’s new assistant men’s basketball coach took no time to decide that he’ll be at home on The Flats even after 50 years living and working out West and playing in Japan.

While on a chance visit to Atlanta in early April that coincided with the hiring of Josh Pastner as the Yellow Jackets’ new head coach, the big man who once spent two years after graduate school pondering his career had an immediate hunch.

He didn’t waste but a couple blinks feeling sorry for himself in the spring after being let go following 10 years as head coach at Portland. While in town to visit friends, he felt that Tech could match his re-ignited inner fires, and called Pastner.

Four weeks later, he was hired to coach Tech’s big men. Eager and pleasantly conversational, the 6-foot-8 former Cardinal passed on head coaching opportunities to help re-engineer the Jackets and himself – first as an assistant.

Reveno comes to the Jackets knowing of hoops and higher education after playing at and graduating from Stanford in 1989, taking an MBA there in 1995 and assisting the Cardinal men for nine years.

“I know some [coaches] after getting let go or fired, you want to take a break,” he said. “I was ready to dive back in. I took a deep breath for a couple days, and was ready to go …

“The gift of my education was to have a mindset to try and get better. So I’m trying to get better. Maybe this was the best thing that happened to me because I’m getting better at an unbelievable school in an unbelievable league.”

Indeed, the ACC stands as the monster of college basketball. Just months ago, six teams made it all the way to the Sweet 16.

This guy has stood tall in basketball.

The Stanford, Calif., native played two seasons in Palo Alto for head coach Tom Davis and two more for Mike Montgomery. His were good years.

As a senior starter in 1989, Reveno, 50, averaged 9.4 points and 5.1 rebounds as Stanford punched its first ticket to the NCAA Tournament since 1942.

When he was an assistant, The Cardinal put together the most successful stretch in school history, including eight trips to the NCAAs.

Basketball clearly runs in the man’s blood, as he played four seasons professionally in Japan after earning his economics degree and before returning to land that MBA.

There’s no mistaking the way he values education, either, but in the time he truly put his degrees to work, his heart battled his prolific brain.

In a couple years spent as president of the Riekes Center, a non-profit organization in Menlo Park, Calif., that mentors young athletes, he mused. His brain was wired toward business. The heart? Not as much.

“I always knew I wanted to coach, but it’s a crazy profession as I’ve learned the last few months. You have no control on where you live. If you’re in finance and you want to work in San Francisco or New Orleans or Atlanta [you can]. In coaching, that’s hard. That’s what kind of kept me out of it.”

Eventually, Reveno’s heart won over his hard wiring.

“I was very fortunate at Stanford that my former head coach was still there, and I got an opportunity to coach there,” he recalled. “Once I got in, I was hooked.”

He and the Cardinal were good, too.

While working with seven big men who would go onto the NBA, including Mark Madsen and twins Jason and Jarron Collins, Stanford put together three 30-win seasons, seven times won at least 20, won four Pac-10 titles and went to the Final Four in 1998.

Portland called in 2006, and Reveno helmed more success than the Pilots had found in a half century. With 20-win seasons in 2010 and 2011, Portland doubled its total from 1955-56.

Times were tougher in recent years, but Reveno is eager to learn from his experience as a head coach while helping his new boss. Beyond coaching rising junior Ben Lammers, redshirt freshman Sylvester Ogbonda and all the Yellow Jackets’ post players, he’ll serve as senior counsel of a sorts for Pastner.

“I think I was a very good assistant coach [at Stanford]. I’m ecstatic to be a great assistant coach because I think my experience as a head coach gives me a perspective that can really be an asset,” he explained.

“[With the] number of decisions a head coach has to make where he’s 60 percent sure … and it’s a yes-no question: hiring an assistant, letting someone go, making a decision on a recruit.”

There will be plenty of on-court work, too, and while he and fellow new assistants Darryl LaBarrie and Tavaras Hardy may not yet understand all nuances in Pastner’s methodology, like players, they are on the pick-up.

Reveno’s learning lamps are fully lit again, as he’s merging his ways and means.

“That’s exactly right,” he said. “There are certain ways [Pastner] sees things. I was doing a post drill that I really like, and he had a comment on how to improve it. It was great feedback. If you’re not careful, your light gets more narrow.

“It is kind of refreshing to think about it broadly.”

It’s too soon to detail the nuances with which Tech’s big men will play as coaches are still in discovery with returning players, and newcomers are yet to arrive.

Pastner’s made it clear since he was hired that he wants the Jackets to pick up the pace offensively, and Reveno is harping on defense as coaches are able to spend just two hours a week in skills workouts with players during summer school.

“There’s two pieces to [how Tech will play],” he said. “One is about core values, and the other is about strategy and technique. Strategy and technique will be open to debate, and you’ll have to adjust to your personnel.

“Core values can be consistent: Being hard-nosed, tough-minded, aggressive, unselfish, team-oriented … all these have nothing to do with whether you’re playing four guards, three guards, high-low offense or any of that. We’re going to be committed to making it really hard for [opponents] to score. Our bigs are going to be in shape, tough-minded and able to run.”

All that time spent in the books at Stanford years ago still comes into play.

Montgomery told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that members across a Stanford athletic department whose 109 NCAA championships are second all-time only to UCLA’s 113 consulted Reveno often, “because he was so capable of getting things done.”

In addition to helping Reveno develop an affinity for technology, the Stanford business school was good for him in other ways.

He met his wife, Amanda, there, and they’re bringing daughter Katie, 14, and son Andrew, 10, to Atlanta. Amanda is from New York, graduated from Virginia, and will be closer to much family.

This is Reveno’s side of the country now, too, and he looks forward to calling Tech and Atlanta home.

“Georgia Tech fits me well in terms of its commitment to academic and athletic excellence,” he said. “To try to compete at the highest level in the country is pretty special.”


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