Energetic New Coaches Join Wildcats on the Court

Sam Thomas ‘20

Senior Sports Writer

Left: New Women’s Coach Aaron Fernandez commands his former team, Mars Hill. Right: Joshua Heyliger listens in on a huddle while coaching with Dartmouth. Both coaches will look to take their respective teams to new heights. Photos courtesy of  Gavin McFarland; Davidson Sports and Information

Both Davidson basketball teams will have new faces on their sidelines as the men’s and women’s teams introduced new additions to their coaching staff.

On the men’s team, Joshua Heyliger joins the staff as the Director of Basketball Operations after his stint as a Graduate Assistant Coach at Dartmouth. The role entails many of the day-to-day logistical things that make the basketball program tick from behind the scenes. Said Heyliger, “My role as Director of Basketball Operations should add to the team a level of organization and commitment to building genuine relationships with our players, staff and the surrounding Davidson Community. I think through those relationships and organizational skills, I can have a true impact on the program.”

Meanwhile, Aaron Fernandez joins the women’s team’s staff as the Director of Player Development. Fernandez joins the staff after being an Assistant Coach and Interim Head Coach at Mars Hill College in Asheville. 

Per Fernandez, the position entails “helping scout upcoming opponents, video operations, game-planning, skill development, community outreach, and on-campus recruiting.” On the position, Fernandez said, “my job is to help make the lives of the coaching staff easier in every aspect. I’ve been a head college coach and an assistant coach at both the college and high school levels, so I feel like I can help in many aspects because I understand what everyone is going through and what is expected in each role.”

Both Heyliger and Fernandez have interacted with the Davidson athletic programs prior to their arrival on campus this past summer. For Coach Fernandez, a relationship between Davidson and Dartmouth formed after the two schools faced off on the hardwood.

Since then, both Heyliger and former Davidson Director of Basketball Operations Will Thoni ‘14 have both taken positions at the opposite school. Heyliger had several connections to coaches in Davidson’s program having grown up in the same neighborhood as Head Coach Bob McKillop in Queens, New York and through a mutual friend of Director of Student-Development Brian Sullivan ‘16. Sullivan was a member of the 2015 Davidson NCAA tournament team that lost in the second round to the University of Iowa.

Fernandez’s experience with Davidson’s program came from a practice visit last winter as the Interim Head Coach for Mars Hill. “I was looking for some ideas to help jumpstart the program at Mars Hill. What I saw when I came to watch practice was really great. You could feel the positive energy as soon as you walked in, and I loved the way they taught the game. [The rest of the coaching staff teaches] players how to play and allow players to read the situation and make decisions. They had created an environment of player empowerment on top of solid tactical concepts,” said Fernandez on that practice.

Both coaches enter what should be a promising year for both teams. The men are coming off of a 24-10 year and return a solid core; the women went 17-15 last year, their first winning record since the 2012-2013.

Heyliger looks to “have an impact on an already successful program. Here at Davidson I believe they value the right things, and I hope to be able to have a role in sustaining some of that success.” Similarly, Fernandez is “committed to growing each day as a person and a coach while I’m here and pushing our student-athletes to do the same.” 

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