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Albany first-year men’s basketball coach Killings wants to win games – and fill the stands – at SEFCU Arena


ALBANY – He wants to win on the pitch.

Albany’s first-year men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings also wants to win in the stands.

“When you dream of being a head coach, you don’t dream of the building being half full,” Killings said. “When kids dream of being college basketball players, they don’t dream of the arena being half full.”

Since being hired in mid-March, Killings has expressed his desire for the Great Danes’ home games to be played in front of larger crowds and active in his attempts to bond within the region’s community. of the capital to help foster this change.

“I try to make sure people are aware and motivated to enter the building because to appreciate [the team] by far doesn’t do much for us, ”said Killings, whose squad starts at 7 pm Tuesday at SEFCU Arena against Towson. “We need the energy and the people inside the building.

Of course, no fans were allowed at last season’s games at the SEFCU Arena due to restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Prior to that, however, rugged crowds at the SEFCU Arena weren’t the norm. Inside Albany’s 4,538-seat arena – which fans are currently required to wear a face mask to enter, per protocols related to the Albany pandemic – the average Great Danes attendance for the five seasons leading up to the 2020-21 campaign was 2,511.2, according to the NCAA database. The first season of this five-season cycle saw the Great Danes attract an average home crowd of 3,161, just under 1,000 more than the average crowd of 2,162 that watched the team. former head coach Will Brown during the 2019-20 season.

On several occasions, Killings has said he knows “there is a hunger for college basketball in the Albany area”, and there is proof of that. The average home attendance of Siena – “the other program in town” – over the past five seasons with fans allowed at matches was 5,970.2. Siena’s men’s basketball brand has long been strong in the capital region, but the Saints crowd is like any other – it’s a mix of die-hard fans and casual fans, and it’s far from over. ‘be composed exclusively of elders.

“A lot of them,” Killings said, “just like basketball.”

Killings has made a point of trying to get some of those fans to come to the SEFCU Arena for a game this season, which is a goal that does not directly compete with Siena since the two programs do not. are not scheduled to play at home. the same day anytime this season. Albany’s new head coach has hosted several community events, held camps, reached out to alumni, and was a staple on the school campus. This work was “intentional” – one of Killings favorite words – and was central to his early months as head coach of the Great Danes.

“The first goal for me was to publicize the program,” Killings said.

“I always tell him: ‘You won in the community – now you have to win on the pitch,” said Vic Cegles, Albany’s deputy sporting director and Danish men’s basketball administrator.

UAlbany has a small base of season ticket holders; At the end of last week, data Cegles provided to The Daily Gazette showed that Albany had 369 season ticket holders for that season, a figure that represents a 70% renewal rate over the season. 2019-2020. UAlbany wants to increase this number, but is also making a significant effort to get more students to go to the games than in recent years. There has been an increasing emphasis on providing buses for students to get from their dorms to the games, and making sure that students are aware of the attractions and events associated with the games.

“And we hope that with the new coach, the new team, the new energy, it will help bring more kids out,” Cegles said.

“I hope that with the work we have done and the efforts of our marketing department, we will find new fans who will enter the building for the first time,” Killings said. “I hope there will be a lot of new faces that will come here and then be inspired to keep coming.”

The easiest way to keep people coming back, of course, is for the basketball team to win games and keep Killings’ promise to play nice, fast style. Tuesday’s game against Towson offers the first chance at that – and Killings knows there will be few better opportunities to build buzz around his team than the one the Great Danes have with a home game on opening night. .

“We have a first impression and I want to make it perfect,” Killings said.

“We want to play hard and energize,” said UAlbany junior Trey Hutcheson. “This will be the first time that people see this team, that people see Coach Killings, so we want everyone who comes here to have a good experience and to make sure they know we are playing hard.”

Killings has already made sure that additional fans will be present at his first game. He said his wife Ana – “the family’s head coach” – told him on Monday morning that the number of Killings’ family and friends visiting the SEFCU Arena had reached 65.

His hope, however, is that there will be more people on Tuesday night attending their first Albany game than the part of the crowd that is there primarily to support him – and that those fans are back at the SEFCU Arena. for the team’s second home game against Harvard. November 17.

“We want to do it right,” Killings said. “I hope everyone who enters the building says [they] want to come back because it was a great experience.

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