The first time he met Adrian Dantley 24 years ago at DeMatha High School, Terry Truax sensed he was dealing with an unusual teen-ager.
"Adrian had a commitment that was unique for a 14-year-old," said Truax, who taught Dantley freshman English at the time. "He told me he wanted to be the best basketball player who's ever played. He always wanted to be the best, and he was always conscientious about achieving his goals. Anything he has accomplished has never surprised me."
Dantley went on to accomplish plenty, particularly when he had a basketball in his hands. A great four-year run at DeMatha gave way to an outstanding career at Notre Dame. That culminated with Dantley's memorable contribution to the United States' gold-medal effort in the 1976 Olympics.
HTC And those achievements were merely a primer for the main event, a 15-year NBA career in which Dantley earned Rookie of the Year honors, won three scoring titles, averaged 24.3 points and became the ninth-highest scorer in league history with 23,177 points.
Yesterday, Dantley, 38, completed an improbable circle and launched what he hopes develops into a new career. After a 55-minute drive from his Silver Spring home, he reported to Towson State to begin his new job as assistant basketball coach under Truax.
In between meeting members of Towson's athletics staff, moving into his office and talking basketball with Truax, Dantley reminisced about his former teacher.
"Terry was a tough teacher, but he also had a sense of humor, so you wanted to attend his class," Dantley said. "He would work you hard, but he gave you a break if you needed one. All of the students liked Terry.
"I'm a rookie right now, just observing things like I did when I was new to the pros as a player. I think I'll be coaching for a while, because I like to work with players, and this [basketball] is what I know best," added Dantley, who looks fit enough to dominate another game.
He is eager to begin passing on the knowledge that helped him survive the rigors of the NBA and excel at the game's highest level for so long.
Dantley's professional career was as quiet as it was remarkable, probably because he played on seven teams and never on a championship club.
Using his 6-foot-5, 215-pound body and an array of offensive moves, Dantley shot 54 percent from the floor and failed to average at least 20 points in only three seasons.
For four straight years with the Utah Jazz in the 1980s, he averaged at least 30.3 points. He also was an 82 percent foul shooter whose 6,832 career free throws rank him fifth on the all-time list.
"I can help them [the players] mentally and physically with the game of basketball because I've experienced everything in the college and pro games," said Dantley, who has replaced Adrian Walters, who left for a similar post at Southern Cal. "I can get on the court and actually demonstrate things. I'm in the kind of shape that I can still take any of these guys one-on-one.
"The main thing is I need to learn all of the [administrative and recruiting] rules. A friend of mine asked me to play in a pickup game the other day, and I thought, 'Are there going to be any high school players there?' When I played in high school, there were college coaches living in town. This is a great job for me, a great way to learn the ropes."
Truax didn't hide his excitement as he and Dantley begin preparations for their first season together.
"A lot of former very good players aren't very good coaches because they don't have the patience to work with players, but I think Adrian has a good knack for that," Truax said. "I've seen him lecture at camps and break things down for kids.
"He may be the most disciplined individual I've ever known. He brings so much to Towson State and the community. I don't know if our 13 student-athletes are going to be better players with him around, but I know they're going to be better people."