Paulus adds limb to Krzyzewski coaching tree

Greg Paulus, formerly a point guard under Mike Krzyzewski and now video coordinator for Ohio State, has head coaching aspirations of his own.
Greg Paulus, formerly a point guard under Mike Krzyzewski and now video coordinator for Ohio State, has head coaching aspirations of his own.

When two of the nation’s top five teams take the court for tonight’s battle in Columbus, Ohio, the eyes of the college basketball world will be on Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and William Buford. But the duo, which has combined to score 36.5 points per game for the Buckeyes this season, gets substantial assistance from a man working in the shadows, the Ohio State video coordinator­—former Duke point guard Greg Paulus.

Although he will not be a focal point after the game tips off, the former Blue Devil will have spent countless hours behind the scenes breaking down game tape in preparation for Tuesday’s much-anticipated matchup. This type of work is valuable experience for Paulus as he seeks to further his deeply rooted coaching ambitions.

Since his graduation from Duke in 2009, Paulus has taken a very circuitous route to his current role in Columbus. Taking advantage of an NCAA rule that allows athletes a fifth year of eligibility in another sport if they pursue a graduate degree, the point guard transferred to Syracuse to revisit a once-promising football career. A highly-touted high school passer from Manlius, N.Y. who received scholarship offers from several schools including Miami and Notre Dame, Paulus threw for over 2,000 yards and 13 touchdowns in what he deemed a successful season despite his team’s 4-8 record.

“Syracuse was an unbelievable experience,” Paulus said last year. “If I had to make that decision, I would 100 times out of 100. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I was able to get my master’s degree in communications.”

He briefly pursued a professional football career after getting invited to the New Orleans Saints rookie minicamp for a tryout, but he did not receive a contract offer. So he moved to Annapolis, Md. to take a job as an assistant basketball coach at the U.S. Naval Academy. As the junior member of Billy Lange’s staff at the academy, Paulus gained exposure to a variety of different responsibilities. The Navy program lacked the resources to have a dedicated video coordinator, so Paulus handled many of the video responsibilities but was also involved in recruiting and on-floor coaching.

“Being at the Naval Academy, I had a lot of responsibility and got a chance to do a little bit of everything,” Paulus said. “From camps to workouts to recruiting to the video side.... That was such a great year for me to get to learn all the different aspects of running a basketball program.”

As last season came to an end, Navy head coach Billy Lange departed the program to return to his previous employer, Villanova, as an associate head coach. With his boss gone and uncertainty surrounding the program, Paulus was open to looking at other schools, and he did not have to wait long until a familiar voice reached out.

Thad Matta, who left Xavier to become the Ohio State head coach in 2004, had aggressively recruited Paulus out of high school while still at Xavier. The interest was mutual, as the two-sport athlete made the Musketeers one of his final five choices and took an unofficial visit there during his junior year of high school. Ever since that recruitment process, Paulus and Matta had remained in touch, making it easier for Matta to offer him a position on his staff, which he accepted this past May.

At Ohio State, Paulus’ role is not so diverse. As a video coordinator, he is prohibited by NCAA rules from participating in on-floor coaching or recruiting. Although he helps out in any way that he can, the vast majority of his time is spent preparing video for scouting and game preparation. In some regards, he had to take a step back in order to get a chance to work at one of the premier programs in college basketball.

Paulus admires the way that his current mentor has sculpted the Ohio State program into one of the country’s finest, while also demonstrating the character and dignity he remembers from his high school days. Another coach that he holds in very high regard is the one from his collegiate playing days.

“Having the opportunity to be Coach K’s point guard for four years, I don’t think there was a better way to learn the game,” Paulus said. “I’ve always wanted to coach ever since I was as little as I can remember. Learning from the all-time winningest coach and all the great coaches that have come out of his program has been an unbelievable resource.”

At this point, Paulus is completely focused on his coaching career, and could not help but chuckle when asked about the possibility of returning to the playing side of either basketball or football. Despite occasional interest from professional basketball teams overseas, the video coordinator seems very content in his current capacity as he works toward his dream of one day running his own program.

“One hundred percent of my attention has been on coaching since I made the decision to pursue coaching,” Paulus said. “I have certain goals and aspirations that I want to achieve, and I’m completely focused on bettering my craft and achieving those goals.”

Paulus admitted that Tuesday is going to be an emotional night for him with Coach Krzyzewski patrolling the opposing bench, but he will spare none of his focus for sentimentality.

“There will be a lot of emotions for me personally because of how much I love Duke,” Paulus said. “To see the coaching staff and the players, it’s exciting. It’s exciting to have two top-five teams playing each other. But it will be a great test for us to have a top program on our home floor.”


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