Basketball Coach Robert “Dondi” DeShields Scores 300th Win
In the decade since Robert “Dondi” DeShields became head basketball coach at Community College of Philadelphia, the men’s team has won at least 300 games, eight regional and six state championships.
This impressive record makes DeShields possibly the “winningest” basketball coach in the region. No one can say for sure, however, because the Eastern Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference (EPCC) and the Pennsylvania Collegiate Athletic Association (PCAA) do not keep official records on individual coaches.
But no one can quarrel with DeShield’s impressive record. On Jan. 19, the team defeated Luzerne County Community College 83-40, giving DeShields his 300th win in 11 seasons as the College’s head basketball coach. His teams have lost just 71 games during that time.
For DeShields, a College alumnus who played hoops as a freshman and sophomore, the 300th win was a landmark in his professional career. Building a championship basketball team has not been easy. The College does not have scholarships or other enticements to offer promising student athletes. "At Community College of Philadelphia, we do not get the polished student athlete," DeShields said. "We don’t always get the best, but we make the best of what we have."
DeShields believes no other community college basketball coach in the PCAA can boast as many wins as he at a single school. “I am the winningest coach in basketball that nobody ever heard of,” he said.
That does not mean his coaching expertise has gone unnoticed. He was named EPCC basketball coach of the year for nine out of the last 10 years, and in 2007, he shared the Small College Sam Cozen Coach of the Year Award with David Pauley of the University of the Sciences.
Ollie Johnson, director of the College’s Athletics program, said community college basketball coaches typically do not stay in one place long enough to rack up this many wins at any one college. DeShield's 10-year tenure at the College makes him somewhat of an oddity in the field.
Johnson said he is proud of DeShields’ record and admires how he recruits and handles young players whose time at the college is fleeting. “He [DeShields] recruits well, and that is always the first order of business for a coach. He also plays all his players and that creates competition among players to play well and stay on the floor,” Johnson said.
As a coach, DeShields places strong emphasis on academics. Players must maintain a minimum 2.0 grade point average for freshmen and a 2.3 grade point average for sophomores if they want to remain on the team. He and his assistant coaches conduct tutoring sessions for players and monitor their classroom performance weekly.
Tyreece R. Brown, a former Colonial who graduated in 2003, transferred to Fayetteville State University (FSU) and played basketball for two seasons, said DeShields’ message helped him succeed both on the court and in the classroom.
Brown said he was a good player but a poor student before coming to play for DeShields. “He showed me how other players would do poorly academically and at the end of their two years have nowhere to go because they could not get into a four-year school,” Brown said. “He had me go to the library to study for at least two hours a day and hit the computer lab. Before that, I never knew that studying helps you take it to the next level.”
DeShields, 53, grew up in South Philadelphia where he played basketball at Barrett Middle School, Marian Anderson High School and the Christian Street YMCA. He played two years at Community College of Philadelphia while earning an associate’s degree in Communications. He completed his bachelor’s degree in Communications at Temple University, but did not play basketball there. He chose instead to focus on his studies.
After graduation DeShields worked as a sports writer for the now defunct Philadelphia Bulletin and later as a part-time basketball coach in South Jersey before being hired as head basketball coach at his community college alma mater.