Climbing Up the Ranks for Saint Mary’s Men’s Hoops, PU Alum Schroeder Promoted to Associate Head Coach
ON POINT: Marcus Schroeder makes a point during a game earlier his month is his role as the associate head coach of the Saint Mary’s men’s basketball program. Schroeder, a 2010 Princeton University alum and former star point guard for the Tigers, is in his 10th season at Saint Mary’s, having climbed up the ranks from graduate assistant to director of basketball operations, to assistant coach to his current position. (Photo by Tod Fierner, Saint Mary’s Athletics)
By Justin Feil
Marcus Schroeder was a high school senior committed to playing for the Princeton University men’s basketball team when he got asked what he’d be doing in 15 years.
“Coaching college basketball,” answered Schroeder.
That was during the 2005-06 school year, and now 15 years later Schroeder has become one of the most highly respected young college coaches in the country. After a year away from the game following his 2010 graduation from Princeton, he returned close to home to join Saint Mary’s College, where this year he was elevated to associate head coach.
“In my head, I had it going a little bit in high school,” said Schroeder.
“In college, I felt like I was going another way and wanted to do something business-oriented or something like that. I had a little reversal once I started missing being a part of a team and being around basketball.”
Over his career with the Tigers, the 6’3, 180-pound Schroeder was a reliable and consistent point guard, displaying passion and grit. Schroeder broke into the lineup immediately and almost never came out. As a freshman, he led the country in minutes played per game (38.8). After he finished his college career fourth in steals (156) and fifth in assists (295) in Princeton history, he toured China briefly with the USA Basketball Academy but didn’t see much of a future in playing. He worked for his father’s small business for half a year, and came to Saint Mary’s as a graduate assistant that fall.
“That year in between I really missed it,” said Schroeder. “I really missed basketball. I missed being a part of the team. I knew a couple guys on the Saint Mary’s coaching staff and started going to a practice or two and went to some games and I was able to talk to them a little more.”
Schroeder, 32, is now enjoying his 10th season at Saint Mary’s having climbed up the ranks from graduate assistant to director of basketball operations, to assistant coach and now to associate head coach under the Gaels’ 20-year head coach Randy Bennett.
“Marcus is one of the top young assistant coaches in the country,” said Bennett in a release about Schroeder’s promotion this summer.
“He has unbelievable character, work ethic, and loyalty to the program and is a great role model and leader for our student-athletes. This promotion is a testament to the hard work and dedication he’s put into coaching, development, recruitment and everything else that’s needed to be a great coach.”
Schroeder gained national recognition only a few months before his promotion, getting named as one of 50 Impactful Mid Major Coaches by Silver Waves Media.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Schroeder of the accolade. “It’s just all a product of our program being good. I just so happened to be the longest tenured assistant under coach Bennett. This is my 10th season at Saint Mary’s with coach Bennett, and we’ve been good. Hopefully we continue to stay good. It’s hard to do, to continue to have the success that we’ve had. It’s great to get that recognition and I’m proud of it. It’s really just a testament to our program and the players and the coaches that are a part of it. We’ve been winning. Usually when you win, you get rewarded with those types of accolades and things.”
Schroeder was listed on the National Association of Basketball Coaches Under Armour 30-under-30 list in 2018. He gets his share of credit for helping the Gaels remain well respected nationally as a top-caliber program. They have gone to 12 straight postseasons. He brings a lot of the same qualities to coaching that he did to his playing career and shares experiences from his playing days as a coach.
“There’s been a little more implementation of the Princeton stuff into our offense,” said Schroeder.
“It’s kind of happened in basketball in general, seeing more of the Pete Carril/Princeton offense; almost everyone runs some of Princeton offense now. That might not be me, but that could be the way the evolution of the game has happened. In our offense, we run a little bit more Princeton-type concepts since I’ve gotten to Saint Mary’s. I’m pretty intense, not that any other coach isn’t. I played with a lot of intensity. That’s something that made me halfway decent. I try to coach that way and try to bring a certain edge to our program and a competitive edge and scrappiness.”
Schroeder’s path to associate head coach is a little different than some former Tiger players’ coaching journeys. He didn’t connect with a program that had a fellow Princeton graduate involved, starting close to his hometown of Concord, Calif.
“All the Princeton guys kind of stick together which is a cool part about Princeton,” said Schroeder.
“I’m really close with a lot of those guys who are in the coaching profession still. It wasn’t by design. I grew up near Saint Mary’s and I was able to get in. I look at it now as probably a little bit of the best of both worlds. If you look at it from my perspective of career development and being able to pursue head coaching jobs down the line, I have the Princeton thing and then I also don’t have the Princeton thing and I have another avenue and another coaching tree that I can use.”
In his decade with Saint Mary’s, Schroeder has climbed up through every coaching position possible. It started as a graduate assistant while earning a master’s degree in kinesiology.
“My first couple years were so exciting,” said Schroeder. “It felt so good to be back in it. There was pressure on me to execute and perform to a certain degree. It was really enjoyable. It’s a ton of work. You have to put in a ton of time. It’s stuff I enjoy. Maybe not everyone enjoys it, but I like breaking down film, maybe rebounding for a player, just being in the gym. It’s not like you get to work on your own game, but you’re in the gym and you get to do a lot of that stuff and it’s pretty fun.”
In the two years he was there as graduate assistant, Saint Mary’s was led on the court by Matthew Dellavedova. Dellavedova, who won an NBA title with the Cleveland Cavaliers whom he just re-signed with, went on to marry Schroeder’s younger sister, making Schroeder likely the second best point guard in their family.
“They were here for the last six or seven months in a row,” said Schroeder. “Cleveland didn’t make the bubble, so they were here in California. He was just working out. I probably see him three times a week. Now they’re gone again since he signed with Cleveland.”
In 2014, Schroeder was elevated to Saint Mary’s director of basketball operations. That job came with a different element of responsibility that has also been valuable to his development.
“That’s a grind for sure,” said Schroeder. “You don’t get to do as much basketball stuff. You have to do the travel and the administration stuff. It really teaches you about the business of it and that was great for me, but it was tough.”
Schroeder spent the next five years as assistant coach before this year’s promotion to associate head coach. He felt the draw of coaching the most over those five years as he began to establish himself and his style and his influence.
“Once I became assistant, that’s when I thought, this is a lot of fun,” said Schroeder.
“You get to recruit, you get to coach, you get to game plan. That’s a lot of fun to build relationships with the players. So it’s 1000 percent a big-time grind, and there are so many people that want to get into coaching and it’s extremely competitive like any industry. You have to scrap and claw. If you’re loyal and you’re all in and you work really hard, you can be successful.”
Getting exposed to Princeton-style basketball while starring at De La Salle High School, Schroeder further enhanced his understanding of the Princeton offense while playing for Sydney Johnson. His college career has influenced how he looks at the game and uses Princeton principles.
“It shows up quite a bit actually,” said Schroeder. “At Saint Mary’s, we don’t run the Princeton offense but we are a program that takes a lot of pride in skill and high basketball IQ. The way I’ve been raised in basketball with going to Princeton, it fits well with what we do at Saint Mary’s. Just in recruiting, being able to evaluate certain players, there’s certain things I align with with our head coach on and believe in in terms of what wins games and what doesn’t. And in terms of what we run offensively and defensively, there’s a lot of different concepts and schemes that I picked up along the way at Princeton. I know that Princeton basketball, everyone would always say, can you pass, dribble and shoot? That’s something that we talk about at Saint Mary’s. We want to play with skilled guys that can make shots and can really pass and have a good feel for the game.”
Saint Mary’s hasn’t run into many Princeton connections in Schroeder’s time. He was just a graduate assistant when the Gaels played Joe Scott’s Denver team and Mike Brennan’s American squad. Schroeder keeps a good relationship with current Tigers head coach Mitch Henderson and is close with Princeton assistant Skye Ettin, who was also named as one of the 50 Impactful Mid Major Coaches by Silver Waves Media, and closely follows his alma mater.
“I’m pretty connected with them,” said Schroeder. “I follow them because I love Princeton basketball and I love the school and everything about it. I know their schedule backwards and forwards. I’ll know when they play that day. I check in and look at the box score. I know some of the names on the team. I know their recruiting class. I might not know that if I weren’t in coaching, but I know that because I’m in coaching. I know who they’re bringing in each year. We’ve had to recruit against Princeton at certain points.”
Feeling lucky to be coaching during a season in which the Ivy League has canceled its 2020-21 campaign, Schroeder also feels fortunate with the way that his career has been shaping up.
“I really enjoy where I’m at,” said Schroeder. “I try to remind myself that I’m really lucky just because I’m in a situation where people will move all over the place to just stay in coaching and get their foot into coaching. I’m super fortunate. I live 10 minutes from my parents and where I grew up. I get to coach at a top-30 type program, and I’m an assistant and I know people would kill to be in my spot. I try to have humility on that because some of it is luck. Some of it is luck, some of it is work.”
Schroeder’s hard work and dedication are again showing up on the scoreboard. Saint Mary’s improved to 6-1 with a 96-61 win over San Jose State last Friday and is again a front-runner to win the West Coast Conference. Keeping among the top teams in the country can only help open possibilities for the assistant coach’s long-term aspirations.
“The ultimate goal is to be head coach,” said Schroeder, who has helped the Gaels go 136-37 overall and 69-17 in WCC play over the last five seasons.
“But it’s not like I’m going to be moving around to find more assistant jobs. I’m committed to St. Mary’s. If a really good head coaching opportunity came about, that could be something I’d pursue. I’m super happy with where I’m at at Saint Mary’s.”