NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When Kevin DeMille was an undergraduate student at the University of Connecticut, then-Huskies assistant coach Shea Ralph told him that if she ever had the opportunity to become a head coach that she would hire DeMille to her first coaching staff.
While a nice gesture, the UConn student thought it just that.
Eight years later Ralph has been named head coach at Vanderbilt. And then DeMille’s phone rang.
“I had never spent more than six days in Tennessee, I was here for the Final Four when I worked at UConn. It was still a no-brainer for me to pick up my life and move to Nashville, to work with someone who I believe is going to be a champion forever in a program that has already proven to be a championship-capable program,” DeMille said. “I’m really excited about the high-academic, high-athletic culture we have here. It’s a special place. Vanderbilt is elite in every way and we’re excited to make sure people know that from a basketball perspective, too.”
DeMille’s basketball background begins much earlier than his start as a practice player for the elite Connecticut women’s program. His mother, Ann DeMille, is a legendary coach for Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
That background gave him the courage to head over to Ralph’s office one day in Storrs, Connecticut, to ask if he could help the Huskies’ program as a practice player. Soon after that conversation he found himself guarding one of college basketball’s all-time greats in Tina Charles.
DeMille then started his coaching career as a graduate assistant and assistant director of operations at UConn before departing for George Washington to work for Jennifer Rizzotti where he spent the previous five seasons.
Now he and Ralph are reunited as part of a staff looking to reinvigorate Vanderbilt.
“I think more than anything my role is going to be an energy giver. That’s something that I’ve really grown into as a coach,” DeMille said. “I’m a little bit younger, I’m a little bit closer in age to some of our student-athletes. So I understand a little bit more of their mentality. I can relate to them in a lot of different ways.
“But I’m really good at giving energy and helping them understand what level of energy it takes to compete at this level. We will help them with their effort on the court, with the X’s and O’s, but we will really have to help with the energy level that they need to win championships and that for me is going to be pretty critical.”
DeMille’s preexisting relationship with Ralph isn’t the sole reason for his decision to join the movement in Nashville. He described how the new Vandy head coach has an uncanny ability to be a perfectionist on the court and succinctly detail what championship basketball entails while stepping off the court and becoming a nurturer and carer for her basketball family in striving to make them the best people they can be.
The opportunity to help Ralph return Vanderbilt to its winning pedigree also enticed DeMille. Now he looks forward to the 2021-22 season and starting to resurrect a program with a friend and coach he knows will be successful.
“In our mind, a program with a university and an academic opportunity like Vanderbilt has, and with this unlimited, untapped potential on the court, we feel like there’s no ceiling,” DeMille said. “We obviously have a lot of work to do to make sure we can achieve that. But we are really, really excited about the players we are talking to, about the players we have in program, the staff we have surrounded ourselves with and we feel like we have a chance to go so many places with no limit to that.”
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.