Battle

Former Syracuse manager climbing coaching ranks as assistant at Lycoming

A green Five Star notebook belonging to a 23-year-old man is filled with quotations and anecdotes that have guided him to living his lifelong dream.

“12/31/08: ‘Greatness is an everyday thing.’ – Coach Hop,” one reads.

The notebook belongs to Aaron Winshall, an assistant basketball coach at Division-III Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., and former head manager of the Syracuse men’s basketball team from 2010-11.

Winshall’s passion, work ethic and knack for absorbing information have helped him ascend the coaching ladder. By joining the Syracuse basketball program in 2007 as a manager, he became part of a well-regarded family tree. The relationships he established at Syracuse, as well as the connections he’s been able to form outside of the program, have positioned him to advance his career even more.

“Every day I was at least writing at least one thing down from a basketball perspective that I picked up,” Winshall said.

Lycoming head coach Guy Rancourt coached John Jay College in New York City from 1999-2003. In that time, he built relationships with the people at Madison Square Garden. Whenever teams playing at MSG could not practice there prior to a game, they automatically went to John Jay.

That’s how Rancourt met SU coaches Jim Boeheim and Mike Hopkins. Years before, Rancourt watched SU assistant coach Adrian Autry at St. Nicholas of Tolentine High School in the Bronx, N.Y. In the summer of 2011, Rancourt coached Brandon Triche and Baye Moussa Keita on the East Coast All-Stars team in the Four Nations Cup in Talinn, Estonia.

Hiring Winshall came naturally.

“The relationship with Syracuse runs deep,” Rancourt said. “…That just helped to give me some more comfort, too. Having a relationship with Stan (Kissel, former SU director of basketball operations), and with Coach Hop and Coach Boeheim, and getting to talk to Aaron a little bit, at least I knew the type of young man I was getting.”

Winshall’s coaching aspirations began at Weston Middle School in Weston, Mass., and continued into high school.

“At that point I was no longer delusional about whether I would go on to play D-I basketball and beyond,” Winshall said. “However, my love for basketball, specifically the college game and feeling of understanding of the game, made me believe I should become a college coach someday.”

His determination to be a manager showed even before he arrived in Syracuse. Winshall talked to his cousin Josh Goldstein, then a manager at Muhlenberg College. Goldstein connected Winshall with Matt Grodd, a former student-manager at Syracuse. Grodd then put him in contact with SU’s head manager-to-be, Brendan Hart.

“Student-manager sounded like a rite of passage,” Winshall said. “I’ve always felt that I needed to coach college basketball and that was the best route that I could see.”

As a freshman, Winshall spent hours rebounding for Jonny Flynn, and helped in the weight room and at Boeheim’s Big Orange Basketball Camp. He also worked basketball camps at Duke and the University of Florida.

In 2011, he became head manager. Winshall led a staff of 26, including current head manager Kevin Belbey. Belbey said Winshall was someone he could always ask for advice, “the true definition of a role model.”

“I wouldn’t be where I was today if it wasn’t for Aaron,” Belbey said. “He’s a terrific leader, top-notch person and someone who brought it every single day. As managers, we’re expected to be there early and be there late. Nobody set the example like Aaron did. He’s just a tireless worker.”

Winshall came highly recommended to Rancourt from Syracuse, and joined Lycoming’s staff in 2011.

“I think Syracuse just does a wonderful job, from top to bottom, with their program,” Rancourt said. “What the managers and grad assistants and people that get to be involved in that program can take away from the experience just helps them by leaps and bounds. I think it’s made my life a lot easier having someone like Aaron here. It certainly makes our program stronger.”

Though some of the Lycoming players are his age, Winshall’s knowledge goes beyond his years, and he’s passed it along to players and coaches.

“You learn stuff accidentally, let alone stuff that you really try to learn when you’re around people like that,” Rancourt said. “There’s such a wealth of knowledge and experience there … Aaron has done a great job in really sharing his experiences with coach Boeheim and coach Hop, I think it’s helped quite a bit.”

As he grows into a coach himself, he reflects back on his time at Syracuse. Winshall said working with the Syracuse program gave him an opportunity to learn from one of the best coaching staffs. Spending time with the Orange, especially traveling with the team, he said, was a great learning experience for him.

Rancourt said Winshall has already passed on “some high level, high Division-I opportunities.

Wherever he ends up, fingerprints of time spent at Syracuse will be with him.

“The Syracuse program is something I’m always going to have memories about,” Winshall said. “And I’m always going to have a connection to the people who I shared those memories with.”

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