Carroll County Times

Women's Basketball: Sykesville native moves up coaching ladder

It was the tail end of his freshman year at Thiel College and, already, David Saur had a tough decision to make.
Playing on the school's basketball team, Saur broke his hand for the second time in three years and started weighing his options. The more he thought about it, the less inclined he became to return - but he didn't want to leave the sport.
Fortunately for the Sykesville native, the opportunity to stay around basketball quickly arose.
"I was debating what do I want to do. 'Do I want to come back or do I maybe want to coach?'" Saur recalled. "I talked with my coaches and I said, 'I know I want to coach and at the end of the day I'm not going to be a professional playing the game, so what can I do to get a leg up in coaching?'"
Having lost an assistant coach, Thiel women's basketball coach Artina Trader offered Saur the chance to be a full-time assistant while still an undergraduate. It took the one-time Century High School basketball player a very short time to accept the offer.
Learning the trade over the next three years, Saur graduated and, two years later, he continues to climb the coaching ladder. After this past season working as an assistant and recruiter for Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania, he secured a Division I gig at Stetson University in Florida.
In addition to being an assistant coach, Saur was named the recruiting coordinator and it was his aggressive style on the recruiting trails that attracted Hatters coach Lynn Bria.
"With Division II you kind of wait and see what the Division I schools do, but David didn't do that and that was what I liked so much about him," Bria said. "He didn't wait on Division I and really went after kids. He recruited like a Division I coach.
"That's one of the things that was appealing to me and that was why I hired him."
That mentality was inserted into Saur's psyche from a young age and it came from his father. Citing Joe Saur's business-world background, the young coach said his dad often preached to him and his brother that going after something is the only way to get what you want.
Saur took that advice and carried it over to his recruiting responsibilities when he joined the coaching staff at California University of Pennsylvania after graduating from Thiel in 2011. After just one season he moved on to IUP and continued to excel in recruiting.
Despite the quick rise, there have been many stops on Saur's journey and he believes those various steps have helped him get to the Division I level at the young age of 26.
Spending his first three high school seasons at Century, Saur then went to St. John's Prospect Hall for his senior season and spent a year at Laurinburg Prep in North Carolina.
Throughout those years, Saur played AAU in East Baltimore and he thinks that experience combined with growing up in Sykesville, has given him a leg up in recruiting.
"I was able to have both experiences and I still have friends from both environments and I think that was the biggest thing for me," Saur said. "I'm able to sit down and I can talk to an inner-city kid from Detroit and have a connection and a conversation just like I can with a kid from the suburbs."
Those life lessons combined with the two years at Division II schools, earned Saur two offers for Division I jobs this spring.
Besides the Stetson offer, Iona College extended an opportunity as well and it was time for him to make a decision.
Noting the excellent job Bria had done in turning around the program - the Hatters had suffered consecutive 20-loss seasons when she arrived in 2008-09 but have won at least 20 in each of the past three seasons - and her high-level connections in the industry, Saur picked Stetson.
Well, that and one other reason.
"It's 20 minutes away from Daytona Beach, so that certainly doesn't hurt either," said Saur with a laugh.
Over the summer, Saur has begun to see some of Bria's connections up close. He sat next to University of Maryland women's coach Brenda Freese, a friend of Bria's, at a recent tournament in Tennessee.
"Brenda is someone you look up to. I remember her recruiting my friend Marah Strickland in high school," Saur said, recalling the days when he played with and against the future Division I women's basketball star during "open gym" time at St. John's.
"It was like, 'Oh my god, Freese is in the gym.' Now I am sitting down and talking with her at a tournament years later. It's incredible, it really is."
Saur is focused on recruiting and coaching for the Hatters, but said being a Division I head coach is one of his eventual aspirations. While saying he knows he has a long way to go, it hasn't changed his drive.
Bria said Sauer has a chance to reach that goal at some point.
"I think he would be very good because I think he takes initiative," Bria said. "He's able to make decisions and he's good with people. I think one day he will have his own program."