As Duke Athletics wraps up yet another successful calendar year, we wanted to look back at interviews with inductees of the Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2016—Individuals who not only contributed to the university’s achievements, but laid the foundation for those to follow.
Today’s feature highlights our conversation with legendary women's golf head coach Dan Brooks.
How in the world did you end up coaching? Why did you decide to put yourself through that for all of these years? What made you want to coach?
What’s crazy is I never had it in my mind at all to be a coach. Like you know, you hear coach K was always going to be a coach or a leader or something, I figured someone else could lead the way. I was into golf, I played in college, and my grandfather was a pro, and he was my hero, so I it was in my blood that way, but then I discovered that I had a real interest in teaching and I could tell that it was an interest in teaching something, it didn’t really matter what. But it kind of came that my interest in golf and my interest in teaching fell together, when I went into the regular golf business. Then, a guy walked into the golf shop at Boise State with a flyer that said Duke University is looking for a women’s golf coach. I sort of wanted to get another degree, and stay in academia and thought my teaching might go in that direction, and I’m thinking wow this is Duke University, I can go there, I can hedge my bet, I can go there and coach a team and try my hand in teaching more golf with a college team and be at a great university, so it was a hedge bet, and when I got here I discovered that I not only liked the teaching aspect, but I loved the player development, the helping people grow up and that has never gone away. I’ve always loved the experience of that, sometimes I love it more than other times, but in general, I’ve loved it.
How have you been able to consistently have success? I would think as a coach, the types of personalities of the players and the society that they grow up in, you know some are more coddled, and some are not, there’s international and there’s pro. As these different things have evolved over your tenure at Duke, how have you been able to remain so successful, going on three plus decades?
You know for the most part I don’t think kids are going to come to Duke with the idea that everybody’s going to adapt to their new way of being in 2016 or whatever. You come to a place like Duke coming with the idea that I’m going to challenge myself, and people are going to challenge me. So I think I’ve already got that a little bit ahead is that I’ve got kids coming that are ready for a challenge. And then, on top of that, I sort of came from a family particularly my dad who you know he didn’t care what anybody did at someone else’s house. We had our house, and this is how it goes at our house, and it doesn’t matter what year it is or what the latest thing is down at the junior high or whatever. This is how it is in our house and we don’t change. So I think there is a certain comfort for these kids, in that really I think they come and they realize, wow, there’s a structure. You know what, I’m sure people don’t go onto Coach K’s team hoping that he’s going to adapt to them. So, I just sort of, the years are way more similar than they are different. I wouldn’t say that we are doing things, I had a lot to learn in the early years, but once we sort of settled into a pretty good way of doing things I would not say they have changed a whole lot, and it’s challenging at times, because kids are different. They talk about attention span and something I don’t know if I can pin it right down, but I have noticed differences, but golf is the same, humans are the same for the most part, so we do a lot of things that are very similar year after year on purpose. We do that for a reason.
One thing that undoubtedly has changed is this department since you got here. What has it been like to watch from across the street for the most part and from the outside from an administrative perspective, you know that’s not your job, you’re not an administrator, you’re a coach, so in some senses you are watching a little bit from the outside in terms of that - To watch it grow in facilities and numbers of people, and dollars. What has the transformation been like for you?
All improvement, and I was a little worried about that, when we started seeing Nike swooshes all over the place and Tom Butters always had a wonderful philosophy about that. We had to be really careful over at the golf course putting up any kind advertisements or anything. Because Tom Butters would [say], “we don’t want that, that’s not what we are.” He didn’t like the commercial thing, he loved the integrity of not commercializing things, it’s all about the student athlete, and so when we became ‘big time’ you know you get nervous. Okay, are we going to start kind of changing a little bit on our standards? Are we going to chip away and now we are recruiting a little bit looser, and I’ve discovered that maybe because we’ve beefed up compliance and we’ve beefed up the academic side for student athletes we beefed everything up so much that we had enough personnel to keep our integrity, keep our standards, despite the fact that we were becoming more big time. We are doing things on a much bigger scale, and we have a lot more employees, but it seems like we’ve been able to remain who we are and that’s wonderful to me. Because I came here because of a mission, I came here and stayed here because I loved Tom Butters and what he told me that we were all about, and he kept telling me that, and we kept doing it, and that’s why I’ve stayed. And now we got a guy, Kevin White, who I believe is sort of the, in a sense, he’s sort of the integrity of Tom Butters moved into the year 2016, and how can you do any better than that?
Perfect. Appreciate it, Coach.