Donyell Marshall, NBA veteran and former LeBron James teammate, launches coaching career at George Washington

By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 26, 2010

Donyell Marshall's new players sat on the couch of an office tucked in the back of a townhouse on George Washington's campus, asking with interest about LeBron James's "decision." Marshall is now an assistant coach for the Colonials, his first college coaching job less than two years after retiring from the NBA and four seasons since he teamed with one of the NBA's biggest stars.

That's how Marshall's players know him. That's how the recruits know Marshall. He was an avatar in their video game. He was never a graduate assistant, never the hustling assistant coach at summer shoe camps hoping to impress a head coach from a bigger school. Marshall's résumé is the 15 years, the 10,716 points -- and the buzz swirling GW's way that never would happen if Coach Karl Hobbs hired an unseasoned unknown.

"The one thing I learned is that if you don't stay in the game," Marshall said, "people forget about you."

Marshall cannot afford for that to happen. When he went recruiting earlier this month, he could not speak to the players and the players could not speak to him. But Marshall noticed prospects inching toward him, and he read their lips.

"That's Donyell Marshall. What school is he at?" Marshall remembered them saying.

"I was like, 'I hope it really works come time to get you to school here,' " he added.

Hobbs said Marshall's name recognition has already started to help. When Marshall is allowed to speak with players, though, he insists he will not pitch his NBA experience. Marshall emphasized that only 30 players are guaranteed entry into the NBA each season -- "you have a better chance of becoming a lawyer or doctor," Marshall tells kids -- and would rather pitch GW.

When his players ask about the NBA -- such as the questions about James -- Marshall answers. He won't volunteer the information because he wants those players to view him as a coach, not as a former player. Yet during practices, Marshall will allow himself to brag.

"Before, they could say, 'Coach, he ain't ever play in the league,' " said Marshall. "Now, what can they say? They can't say I never played there. They can say, 'You wasn't an all-star.' So what? I played 15 years. That's where it will come in handy."

There's also a benefit for Marshall. He feared remaining out of the game too long. In his first season without NBA paychecks, he worked for Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia. But he wanted to coach after taking an active role with his AAU team during the twilight of his NBA career.

Marshall earned his degree earlier this month, the final step before joining a staff. He thought an opportunity might become available at Connecticut, his alma mater, before Hobbs offered the job.

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