LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, Pa. - Doug Overton is used to being a leader. He likes the view from up front. He enjoys setting the pace and thrives on making key decisions.
In May, the 47-year-old former point guard made an important, career-altering decision by accepting the job of head basketball coach at Lincoln University.
“I’m ready,” said Overton, a former standout at Murrell Dobbins Tech and LaSalle University.
Among his accomplishments was winning a Public League title at Dobbins, where he played with the late Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble, and leading the Explorers to three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
He averaged a team high 22.3 points a game during his senior season in 1991. In fact, he remains LaSalle’s career leader in assists (671) and steals (277).
“Doug has always had a high basketball IQ,” said St. Joseph’s Prep coach William “Speedy” Morris, who recruited and coached Overton at LaSalle. “He was like another coach out there. He was always thinking on the court. He knew what he had to do and he knew how to make the players out there with him better.”
After college, Overton spent 11 years in the National Basketball Association with eight different teams, including his hometown Sixers.
“I’m incorporating everything that I’ve learned over the years,” he said. “I’m ready to work hard, and I know it will be a challenge. I’m looking forward to making my mark in this program.”
A true student of the game, Overton has paid his dues. He was an assistant coach with stops at St. Joseph’s University and the Brooklyn Nets. Two years ago, he got his first shot at being a head coach with the Springfield Armor, a NBA Developmental League team in Massachusetts that was initially affiliated with the Nets until 2014.
“I was able to see what it took to be a head coach,” Overton said. “There are a lot of things that go into coaching a team. It’s not simple. I believe I did a good job. It was a learning experience that I believe prepared me for being [at Lincoln].
In his first season in the Northern Division, Overton is one of two new head coaches in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA).
He has assembled an impressive corp of assistants: Jon Howell Clark, a former assistant coach at Rutgers-Camden University; Dorian Long, a former director of basketball operations at James Madison University; Gene Lett Jr., a former graduate of Cheyney University; and A.J. English, a former All-American at Virginia Union University who played with Overton on the then-Washington Bullets.
The rookie CIAA head coach is going to need their help. In a preseason poll, the Lions, who are coming off a 9-20 campaign in 2015, are picked to finish last in the division.
“That’s fine with me,” said Overton. “It’s good that no one is expecting much from us. We’re going to surprise some people, I’m sure of it. I know the group that I have. I’m confident in them. We’re going to come together as a team.”
The Lions have some talent. Senior forward Josh Davis returns. He averaged a team-leading 12. 1 points and 7.1 rebounds a game. The Lions also have a 6-10 transfer from Manhattan College in Carlton Allen to accompany Carl Lane, a 6-foot-9 junior college transfer from Southeastern Community College in Burlington, Iowa
Next year, the Lions are expecting Deaquan Williams, a 6-foot-6 forward from Camden High in New Jersey. Williams recently committed to Overton and the Lions and should complement the lineup.
Founded in 1854, Lincoln University is the oldest historically Black university in the United States.
Robert N.C. Nix, the first Black U.S. congressman from Pennsylvania, and Thurgood Marshall, the first Black U.S. Supreme Court justice, headline an impressive alumni list that also includes actor Roscoe Lee Browne along with musical legends Cab Calloway and Gil Scott-Heron. Baseball Hall of Famer Monte Irvin also attended Lincoln.
Lincoln has had only four 20-win seasons since 1952-53. The last of which was a 20-9 record after the 2013-14 season.
In building continuity and spirit, Overton has borrowed a page from Naismith Hall of Fame basketball coach John Chaney. When he was at Temple University, Chaney held 6:00 AM practice to keep players from getting into late-night trouble, enabling them to focus on what was important.
“Those were some of the reasons we’ve adopted it,” said Overton, whose son Miles plays for Drexel University. “Another reason is that we were working out early and I noticed how responsive they were. It was just something that I decided to do and it’s had pretty good results so far.”
Picking up tendencies has helped Overton enjoy a charmed basketball life.
“What I found in Doug was that he was observant and a listener,” said veteran St. Joseph’s University coach Phil Martelli. “Some guys like to be noticed. They have to be noisy. Not Doug. He was quiet and he listened.
“People were quick to praise me for getting him as an assistant, but the praise really belongs to Doug. He’s a Philadelphian. Everyone knows what that means. You scratch and claw and don’t want for anything. You want what you earn. Doug, in his career, has earned the respect that he’s been given,” he added.
When he played, Overton wasn’t the best player on the court. He didn’t dunk over players or was a marksman from three-point range. He wasn’t the fastest player from baseline to baseline and he didn’t block many shots.
But he excelled at playing with his head. He made the shots that he had to make. He ran offenses like a veteran. He passed the ball accurately and his dribble was sure-handed and tight. He played tenacious defense.
“I did what I had to do to win ball games,” said Overton. “I played hard and I played to win. That’s what I expect from my team. I want us to play hard and I want us to win some games.”
“We’re going to jump right in it,” said Overton. “No one is going to lay down for us. We’re going to have to do like the old cliche, take them one at a time. We’re going to come out and play good, hard basketball. We’re going to be ready.”
And once again, he’s more than prepared to lead the way.