Geoff Hensley, a second-year graduate assistant for the men’s basketball team, spent four years in the Navy after graduating from Norwich University in 2006. Google Map produced by Terrence Payne/The Student.
On March 3, 2005, Geoff Hensley stepped into Blake Arena to take on the Springfield College men’s basketball team in the first round of the Division III NCAA Tournament.
Hensley, a junior point guard for the Norwich University Cadets, walked off the court at the end of the game, disappointed as SC head coach Charlie Brock and his Pride defeated Hensley and his Cadets 71-56.
It would be more than five years before Hensley returned to Alden Street, but this time he has traded in his Norwich maroon for Springfield maroon. Hensley is in his second season as one of Brock’s graduate assistant coaches, and the former D-III star is using his four years of military experience and applying it to the hardwood.
Hensley received a scholarship to Norwich in exchange for a four-year commitment to the Navy.
“I really like the discipline part of it [the military],” said Hensley. “I wanted to travel and see the world.”
Soon after graduation, Hensley was stationed in Yokosuka, Japan, onboard the USS BLUE RIDGE from 2006-2008. His two years overseas were followed by two years stationed in Jacksonville, Fla., onboard the USS DOYLE.
“Military is a tough lifestyle,” said the Cincinnati, Ohio native. “You’re always waking up between 5 and 5:30 a.m., [and] going to work for at least 12 hours a day. That’s when you’re in port.
“When you’re out at sea, we’d go on six-month deployments routinely.
“The two years I was stationed in Florida, we were out to sea 310 days out of the 365 days.”
Hensley, who is still in the Navy reserves, finished his active duty in June 2010. It was then that he decided to get back into basketball.
His head coach at Norwich, Paul Booth, happens to be friends with Brock, so Booth informed his former point guard that there was an opening for a graduate assistant position at Springfield.
“I applied for it, got the interview with Brock and a couple weeks later, I got the job,” said Hensley.
However, Brock still has not let his grad assistant forget about that 2005 NCAA Tournament game.
“He remembers; he likes to give me crap for it a lot,” said Hensley.
“Every now and then, I tease him that one of the reasons we hired him is because we beat him twice,” said Brock.
Hensley, who averaged 14.3 points per game and 4.2 assists per game in his senior season with the Cadets, was a natural fit to work with the guards.
“He was a tough, hard-nosed point guard that is the consummate floor general,” said Brock.
His main duty is putting both point and shooting guards through dribbling and shooting drills, but on game day, he becomes a motivator for the entire team, trying to get them pumped up and ready for games.
“Coach Brock is very big in the X’s and O’s,” said Hensley. “I try to bring the different aspect of coaching, like the energy and the motivation.”
It is not just the intensity Hensley brings but also the leadership he learned while serving in the Navy.
“When I was in the Navy I was an officer, so I had a division of 40 junior sailors under me,” he said. “The great aspect of being a naval officer is you get to experience leadership in a military environment.
“I would say the thing I carry to the basketball court from the Navy is the different leadership style. Most coaches don’t have that military experience.”
Last month, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski passed his mentor and former coach at West Point, Bob Knight, for the most wins all time in the history of men’s college basketball.
Combined, both men account for over 1,800 victories and seven national championships, and both have military backgrounds.
Knight and Coach K were at one time head coaches for Army. At 22, Knight enlisted in the Army, while Coach K played under Knight before serving in the Army from 1969-1974.
There is no question there is a strong correlation between military background and success on the basketball court.
“I think there is something to be said for the military leadership within the game of basketball and I think the athletes are responding,” said the former Naval officer.
Hensley, who plans to graduate in May with a degree in Athletic Administration, hopes to follow in the footsteps of Knight and Krzyzewski and someday be a head coach, regardless of the level.
Brock, a head coach for 32 seasons, can see Hensley at the head of the bench one day.
“He’s mature, he’s responsible,” said Brock. “He wants to learn. He’s very diligent. He’s very resourceful.
And he’s knows the discipline and sacrifice that it will take.”
“I need to be the hardest working assistant coach and then work from there,” said Hensley. “I think every day I work as hard as I can, whatever Brock needs, whatever is best for our program.
“When the opportunity presents itself to me to be a head coach, I’m going to take it.”