- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2005

Dave Dickerson left Maryland after last season to become the coach at Tulane. Now, however, basketball is the last thing on his mind in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Dickerson, who was Gary Williams’ top assistant, is trying to stabilize a program in exile, one of the countless victims of the city’s devastation. The school has canceled its fall semester, but sports will go on “to carry the torch, face and name of Tulane University,” according to university president Scott Cowen.

The Green Wave’s teams have been shifted to five schools in Texas and Louisiana. The men’s basketball team will call Texas A&M; its home for at least this semester.

Dickerson, 38, is not concerned with when his team will begin unofficial workouts, doesn’t know where his team will play home games, has put recruiting on hold indefinitely and is not focused on winning. Such matters are relatively trivial now.

“It’s going to be a day-to-day process,” said Dickerson, who was focusing yesterday on getting players on campus, registered, on meal plans and “just being able to cope with what we went through. It is imperative for our players to go through some counseling. You just don’t know how to deal with what they have had to endure.”

The players were expected to arrive in College Station, Texas, by yesterday afternoon. All of them evacuated New Orleans before Katrina hit Aug. 31 and went to their homes as far away as California and Virginia. Only one, Kory Castine, is from the New Orleans area.

Dickerson said all of the players’ immediate families survived Katrina. However, there were momentary concerns about Castine’s mother, Desiree, a nurse who stayed behind to help others when the family left.

“There were about 48 hours or so in which Kory didn’t hear from his mom,” Dickerson said.

Later the player learned the Castine home in Marrero, La., absorbed only minimal damage.

Dickerson considers himself and his family lucky to be alive with all the death and destruction taking place in New Orleans. He was in Boston for the wedding of former Maryland star and Washington Wizards point guard Steve Blake when the storm struck Louisiana. His wife, Laurette, and their 4-year old son, Dave III, had been evacuated to Pensacola, Fla. The plan was for the family to go back to its new home once the danger passed.

Dickerson met his family in Pensacola and spent last week and some of this week at his sister’s home in Charleston, S.C., where he watched the horrors of New Orleans on television. He has not returned to his house or heard anything about its condition, although it appears the immediate area didn’t sustain extensive flooding or other damage.

“The hardest thing outside of basketball is my son asking every day, ‘When are we going home?’ ” said Dickerson, who will enroll his son in preschool in College Station. “We need each other more than ever now.”

For now, Dickerson must serve as a surrogate father and counselor to players, as well as their coach. Dickerson plans to tap into his experience from 15 seasons as an assistant coach and even more into his time dealing with adversity as a college player himself. He played at Maryland from 1985 to 1989 and was a teammate of Len Bias, the All-American forward who died of a cocaine-induced heart attack in April 1986. An investigation of Maryland’s program followed and contributed to the dismissal of longtime coach Lefty Driesell.

“We have to worry about us as people first,” Dickerson said of his Tulane team. “We have each other. That is the most important thing.”

The coach will begin working on a practice schedule before long and address the issue of where Tulane will play its home games. Clearly in doubt is the scheduled home opener Nov. 18 against nearby Loyola of New Orleans, which has canceled all fall sports and soon could cancel the basketball season.

But for now, all that is irrelevant as a team tries to get on with life in a awkward situation on a distant campus.

“As far as tomorrow is concerned, we will deal with it when it comes,” Dickerson said. “I spent my last seven years at the University of Maryland working for Gary Williams, who I feel is the best coach in the country. I don’t see going into the season just trying to survive. However, there are some things we have to accomplish before we worry about wins and losses.”

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