Dalip Bhatia is currently an assistant coach under Coach John Dunne in his inaugural season with the Marist Men’s Basketball Team. While this news seems boilerplate, Bhatia’s past coaching experience was anything but. When he joined the coaching staff of the St. Peter’s College basketball team, he became the first known Division I men’s basketball assistant coach of Indian descent in NCAA history.
Bhatia’s first collegiate coaching job was at a Division III school in New Jersey, Kean University. He was there for one year before moving over to the MAAC conference, where he then joined Dunne at St. Peter’s. In his five years with the squad, he and Dunne captured a MAAC championship together and had the opportunity to coach in the NCAA tournament, which he refers to as, “the best moment of my coaching career.”
After a brief stint at Rutgers, Bhatia and Dunne would reunite at St. Peter’s before again joining forces on the Marist staff. After last season, the Red Foxes made a coaching change by relieving former head coach, Mike Maker, of his duties on March 5. Less than a month later, Dunne was hired to be the 12th head basketball coach in Marist’s history. Dunne later announced his coaching staff, including that he would bring over his close friend Bhatia. “Back in 2008, Coach Dunne gave me a chance to become a Division I coach, and I have learned a lot from him,” Bhatia said. “He kind of taught me the business of college coaching. He has been a great mentor to me.”
“The entire coaching staff is excited to be here at Marist College. We are all excited to be a part of the community,” Bhatia said.
Marist finished the regular season at 12-18, good for eighth in the conference, with a MAAC record that sits at 7-11 following a four game losing streak. Bhatia and the staff do believe in this unit, though. “The young men have really bought into our system, from a basketball standpoint, and we have had some great stretches over the season,” Bhatia said. “We have shown we can compete in this league and that the league is open for the taking.”
Thus far, the season has been a long journey for the Foxes, but this is nothing new for Bhatia. His own voyage has been a long but exciting one. “My journey has been like any other journey in life. You have your ups and downs. You have your ultimate highs and lows. You have your wins and losses,” Bhatia said.
Bhatia made it known that his favorite part of coaching is the bonds he has made with so many people, especially the students. His favorite part of his job is watching the student-athletes grow, not just as athletes in their game, but also as individuals.
He found his passion for basketball when he was a high school student. He played point guard for North Brunswick High School, located in New Jersey. “I was your average high school player and viewed myself as a coach on the floor during my playing time,” Bhatia said. “While playing, I always had a coaching mentality. I believe any point guard will have this same mentality.”
He always knew he wanted to become a coach and with all the assistance and guidance he received along his journey, he was able to chase and succeed his dream. After graduating from Rutgers University, Bhatia joined his former high school coach and became a volunteer Assistant Coach for North Brunswick High School, just the first step in his journey to the D-I level.
“I was very fortunate that so many people in my process of becoming a coach helped and took a chance on me… [it’s] something I will forever be grateful for,” Bhatia said.
Although he knows the significance of his name and his doings, he made it clear that it does not change his role as coach. “It is nice to have this designation, but I do not view myself differently than any other college basketball coach in the country,” Bhatia said. “To achieve your individual goals, you are going to have to get out of your own comfort zone. I’ve also known myself to never back down and to break these barriers.”
His hope is that he can serve as an inspiration to others just like those who encouraged him. “I hope my opportunities can afford other people of Indian descent to be able to pursue their passion and chase their life goals,” he said.
Bhatia, as an assistant coach – at this point in time – is excited for what his future holds. “My goal, when I entered the coaching profession, was to break the barrier and be the first coach of Indian descent,” he said. “And now that I have done that, my continued goal is to be the first Division I collegiate head coach of Indian descent.”
Edited by Meaghan Roche & Will Bjarnar
Header image courtesy of Marist Athletics. Bhatia is pictured at left.