SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – Former CBA great Greg Paulus did not expect to start his head coaching career the way he did. Former Le Moyne coach Patrick Beilein resigned as Niagara’s head coach three weeks before the season opener. Paulus then became the interim head coach before officially being named head coach just two days before Niagara tipped off with Drexel on November 8th.
Even before the unusual start, the Purple Eagles were predicted to be the second to last in the MAAC. Niagara finished 12-20 this year and 9-11 in the conference, good enough for sixth place in the league.
In Greg’s eyes, this season was a success.
“I saw the growth each day and each week and to have our players see themselves in a different way and to see their progress that was a lot of fun and a joy to be a part of,” said Paulus.
“It’s one of the things that I said to our guys at the end of the year was talking about all the different positives and steps forward that we took together.”
In three weeks time Paulus had to prove he could lead the Purple Eagles and that’s when he relied on his past.
“One of the things that I’ve been very fortunate to have is some amazing experiences before and working with tremendous people,” said Paulus.
That list is of people is long. His first coaching job brought him to the Naval Academy in 2010-11. He headed to Ohio state to work for Thad Matta as a video coordinator in 2011, before serving as an assistant coach from 2013-2017 for the Buckeyes. He then went to Louisville and George Washington for one season each.
But his molding began in his playing days. In 2009, he learned from Doug Marrone on the football field during his return to Syracuse playing a year with the Orange.
It was such a special year for me because when I went there and I met with coach Marrone he talked about laying the bricks of the foundation for the future teams of Syracuse football,” said Paulus. “We were 4 and 8 that year and right there in a couple games to get to a bowl. So for us being able to see the accountability and the way he was patient with understanding big picture for what we were trying to do.”
His collegiate career started at Duke suiting up for Hall of Fame Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“One of the biggest things I learned from him is just the standards he created at Duke. And the way that he does it in terms of communication and relationship and team building, there’s no one better at it than him,” said Paulus.
“One of the things we’re trying to do at Niagara is try create that standard and that way that how we play on the basketball court. How we conduct ourselves on the basketball court and the growth we were able to make in some of those areas is something I’m really proud of and we have a lot more work to do and along ways to go but we certainly took a lot of steps moving forward.”
But first, it all started at CBA playing for another Hall of Famer in Buddy Wleklinski.
“What I learned from him is so many things but I think one of the biggest things is making it about the team and make it about doing it the right way. He’s done an unbelievable job with his players over the years and my relationship with him 15 years later is as strong as it’s ever been,” said Paulus.
One of Paulus’ earliest mentors could tell he was doing well by the way the connected with his team early in the season.
“The first win when it was like they won the championship. You’re taking a bunch of college guys that are oh and 5 and you have a coach walks in and they’re cheering like they won a championship,” said Wleklinski referring to Niagara’s 65-61 win over Norfolk State on December 1st.
“He took a team that wasn’t expected to do very much and he just kinda hung in there,” added Wleklinski.
Greg went from purple and gold jerseys at CBA to purple ties and dry-cleaned suits at Niagara, but he will always remember his roots.
“A big part of me is Syracuse its Christian Brothers Academy. I take so much pride in being from Syracuse and coming from CBA,” said Paulus. “It’s really just one of those things that applies to me in everything that I do and just very thankful for all the people that have been so supportive along the journey.”
And that journey is just beginning.
“To see the progress that we made as a program, as a team there were so many positive strides in areas that are program made that it’s just a really exciting time,” said Paulus.