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Heisman Highlights

New Coach Raises the Bar for Yeomen Basketball
by Michael McIntyre

Frank "Happy" Dobbs anticipates the day when Oberlin students recognize the effort and tenacity of student-athletes on the basketball court and support them by making the gymnasium in Philips resound with noise.

"We want to make that place a pit, a loud place where the fans can be right on top of the action. They'll make it the place to be whenever there's a game," says Dobbs, who became Oberlin's head basketball coach last July.

In basketball lingo, the fans are collectively known as the "sixth man" on the team. Before Dobbs could begin recruiting his own sixth man for Oberlin's team, however, he was traveling the country recruiting players who will be in uniform.

Dobbs looks for two qualities in recruits: intelligence and the ability to play ball. As head coach at Brown University from 1991 to 1999, he's had plenty of experience with such student-athletes.

"We're going after the same type of student we went after at Brown," said Dobbs, whose easy manner conveys a sense of confidence and enthusiasm. "We have a nice base to pick from right here in Ohio, and we can look hard in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Michigan. We want to do a great job in those areas. But the reputation of the College and the Conservatory extends throughout the country and the world, so we also want to keep our eyes open across the country."

Dobbs attained his position as Yeomen head coach after beating out more than 100 other applicants. After his tenure at Brown, he worked as an assistant coach at Cleveland State University under head coach Rollie Massimino, for whom Dobbs played on successful teams at Villanova University.

At Villanova, Dobbs–who was the team captain–helped the Wildcats make four consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament, including two appearances in the "Sweet 16" and two in the "Elite Eight" of the single elimination tournament.
An eighth-round draft choice of the Philadelphia 76ers, Dobbs never played professionally. Instead, he began his coaching career immediately after graduating from Villanova with a bachelor's degree in business marketing. He was an assistant at Dartmouth College from 1984 to 1988 before moving to Boston College as an assistant from 1988 to 1991, when he took the helm at Brown.

Dobbs' enthusiasm and experience has already inspired confidence on campus.

"He has coached at many fine institutions. He also has maturity, passion, knowledge of the game, and the ability to relate well to people," says Clayton R. Koppes, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Although he enjoyed working at the Division I level, Dobbs says when the Oberlin job opened up, he decided he wanted to run his own team again.

Oberlin offered a lot of what I already knew, a lot of what my background is in," he said. "Oberlin is a very good academic school. It's very similar to the situation I had at Brown, and we were able to build that into a respectable program."

Dobbs says he's encouraged that the Yeomen improved last year, but that expectations will be raised.

"What we're expecting is to be successful every year," he said, a tall order since Oberlin's basketball program hasn't had a winning record since the 14-10 season of 1991-92.

"President (Nancy) Dye has done a terrific job in trying to kick-start athletics here," he continues "and we're trying to make sure athletics are an important part of Oberlin, just like music is an important part of Oberlin."

He wants to improve the team while laying a foundation for good play in the future.

"We're building piece by piece. We want success right away, but we want to do it at a pace where we can fulfill our potential," he says.

The job will not be easy. Although Dobbs' teams at Brown won some big games'such as a 1991 overtime win against Providence College and a 1996 victory over Northwestern–his best season there was a break-even 13-13 in 1994-95. But Dobbs is no Pollyanna. He understands winning will be difficult, and he sees his job as twofold–to win and to teach.

"The student-athletes at a place like Oberlin are bright kids with the books, but they're still students when it comes to life. My job is to help them become better students in life," he said. "My goal is to have a program that strives for success both on and off the court."

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