SARNIA, Ontario — Respect the grind.
Coaching in the game of basketball is never easy. The game itself can take you anywhere in the world. From the most populated cities in the world to the middle of nowhere, the game of basketball can be found. If you’re willing to put in the work and make sacrifices along the way, you can find yourself in positions that you never thought were possible.
For Hamilton, Ontario native Mark Lane, coaching was always in the books. Once his playing days were over, Lane knew he wanted to take a spot on the sidelines. At the age of 23, Lane’s playing days overseas came to a close, and his attention turned to pursuing his dream of becoming a coach.
Thirteen years later, with a handful of stops in his back pocket, Lane wouldn’t change a thing.
“Those stops have bettered me as a person and as a coach,” said Lane, who is currently the Associate Head Coach with the Cape Fear C.C. Seadevils. “I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
While Lane’s coaching career has taken him to several different locations over his 13-year career, they didn’t come without a ton of work and sacrifices. As Lane outlined in a recent interview, one needs to understand that it’s not all about the financial reward, and you need to respect the grind that is required to reach your goals.
Originally from Hamilton, Lane is in his second stint as a member of the coaching staff with the Seadevils in Wilmington, North Carolina. It’s a far cry from his hometown, as the two cities are separated by a 14-hour, 1,290-kilometre drive. While he is a fair distance from home, Lane is enjoying every minute in the coaching industry.
Lane first joined the coaching staff at Cape Fear C.C. back in 2008, when he was just 25 years old. When he first joined the program, the Seadevils had a young coaching staff who were tasked with turning around the team.
“When I first came here in 2008, I want to say we were the youngest staff in the country,” said Lane. “It went from just being an ok program to competing at the National Tournament.”
“Now, year in and year out we are a nationally recognized Junior College program in the country.”
As is the case for most coaches who are trying to get into the industry, it’s never an easy thing to do. It’s a grind. It’s not all about the financial reward or all about personal gain, but rather for the love of the game itself and to develop the next generation of basketball players into great people in society as well as great athletes.
In his journey to Cape Fear, Lane outlined a bit of his journey and what inspires him to continue coaching.
“My first coaching job paid me $250 a month, I did it because that was the only way to get my foot in the door,” continued Lane. “You must put “your time” in, it’s not about the money, it’s a grind.”
“Also, you must be willing to go where the job is, either that’s in the middle of nowhere or not that’s just part of the process.”
Sometimes you need to take an unconventional route to get to your final destination. That could mean taking a coaching position at a school in the middle of nowhere to make ends meet and to get the experience that you need to take that next step in your career. Get experience wherever you can, and everything else will fall into place from there.
However, the grind may seem defeating at times, especially for younger coaches who are trying to get their foot in the door.
“Best advice I have gotten is, do not get discouraged,” said Lane. “You must have tremendous perseverance in the coaching business because coaching gigs are so hard to get.”
“Continue to work hard at what you do, build those relationships with other coaches, and someone will recognize your hard work and it will help you move up.”
Taking a coaching job in some of the more remote places often lead to the best memories. They put you in a position to be tough to succeed, and one often learns a lot about who they are as both a person and a coach when their backs are against the wall. The relationships that you build during those times will help you down the road, whether you know it or not.
After four previous stops, a stretch that included a previous tenure with the Seadevils, Lane is back with Head Coach Ryan Mantlo at Cape Fear. When reflecting on his career thus far, Lane was quick to credit Mantlo for helping him develop as a coach by throwing him into the fire and putting him in positions that challenge him on a regular basis.
“Not only is he a good friend of mine but an excellent coach/mentor,” added Lane. “A lot of times, he would just throw me in the mix and say “Coach, you got it” either that be in practice or drawing up a play in the huddle to get a bucket.”
“Ultimately, it starts with trust and that is a huge reason why we work so well together.”
As his career unfolds, Lane’s goal is to one day become a head coach at the collegiate level. From there, becoming a professional scout in the NBA would be the next step later on in his career. Throughout his playing career, Lane always knew he had a good mind for the game and wanted to pass that onto kids who were coming up the ranks.
Now, as a part of Mantlo’s staff, he’s been put in a great position to pass on his knowledge to the younger generation. He’s regularly thrown into difficult situations, and as Lane explained, it’s the best way to go about things and learn from your mistakes.
“I think the best way to learn is getting thrown right in there,” said Lane. “You definitely have to adapt quickly but that’s how you can become a better coach.”
From day one as a coach, Lane has always wanted to pass on his knowledge of the game to the kids who are looking to take their game to the next level. For him, like he stated earlier, it’s never been about the money. If you’re in the industry for the money from the start, you’re in the wrong business.
For Lane, it’s the relationship with the kids that makes his work rewarding. On Mantlo’s staff, he is constantly put in a position to impact the lives of the young men on the roster each day, and Lane is quick to highlight his favourite part of the job.
“People ask me all the time, ‘Coach, what’s your favorite part of coaching’,” said Lane. “It’s the relationships you have with the kids.”
“When you get a call from a kid that you coached 10 years ago, that’s what’s rewarding.”
For the younger generation who want to become coaches down the road in their respective careers, let Lane’s journey and story serve as inspiration when you find yourselves in an uncomfortable situation. Your career will lead you on a road full of twists and turns, but you’ll always be exactly where you’re meant to be at that exact moment in your life.
The road is never going to be easy. The path to the top will never be straight-forward. Don’t let it be about the money. Do your time. Put in the work. Listen to other coaches. Forge relationships. Leave a lasting impact on the student-athletes and the academic communities that you’re fortunate enough to join over the years.
But, above all else, remember one thing.
Respect the grind.
– T. Bennett