Eric Hayes grew up in gyms, tagging along with his father, Kendall, to high school basketball practices at Virginia’s Potomac High School.
“That’s something when I was done playing I knew I wanted to do,” Hayes said. “I still wanted to be a part of basketball. Even if I wasn’t playing, I still wanted to help guys like my dad helped guys.”
The start to such a possibility is under way in College Park, where Hayes is working as a graduate assistant.
Show up early enough on game night, such as when Maryland (2-1) plays host to Lafayette (0-3) on Tuesday at Comcast Center, and the former Terp is working with a player on fundamentals or chasing down errant shots. It isn’t the most glamorous work for Hayes, but he’s absorbed plenty during his first months in Maryland’s basketball office.
It is a good place, though, to start. Hayes is familiar enough with the program’s past, scoring 1,201 points (31st in school history) during a career stretching from 2006 to 2010. Always a potent outside shooter, Hayes went on to play in Spain and Lithuania, and later in the NBA Development League with Canton.
Two years after graduating, he introduced himself to new coach Mark Turgeon and asked what Turgeon thought of him getting into coaching. Turgeon, who has made it a point of emphasis to connect with former players in his 18 months on the job, immediately explored a graduate assistant role.
Turgeon described the decision to add Hayes to his staff as “no-brainer,” even if it does cost the program some money to help pay for Hayes to pursue a graduate degree in minority and urban education. In turn, Hayes gets two years to figure out where he would like to go with his career.
“I think it’s good because I think former players see I’m not just going to take care of my own, that I’m going to take care of any former Maryland player I can help,” Turgeon said. “I think that’s what is really the big thing in this.”
Of course, the place Hayes left barely two years ago has vastly changed. The coaching staff has turned over since Gary Williams’ retirement. The court was redone. Even Maryland’s conference affiliation soon will be different after Monday’s announcement it would join the Big Ten in 2014.
“It’s a little bit different coming back with a completely new staff, a new athletic director and everything,” Hayes said. “It was a big difference. I’m still getting comfortable with the staff, but they really helped me with the transition.”
There still is a familiar face in senior forward James Padgett, the lone current Terp who was around for Hayes‘ senior season.
Perhaps it is a bit of a weird setup, but Padgett said he (like many at Maryland) could tell Hayes eventually would pursue a coaching career when he was playing for the Terps.
“As you get older, you mature,” Padgett said. “I think he’s a lot more talkative. He actually helps the guys out with learning the plays and knowing where to be on the floor. He’s doing a pretty good job with that and working with guys on their form.”
That’s only part of Hayes‘ responsibilities, of course, which is the whole point of his return.
“I get to see a different side of the game than a players’ perspective,” Hayes said. “Now you’re behind the scenes with the coaches up in the office doing recruiting stuff and other type of things. It’s been fun to see the other side and I’m learning a lot so far.”