His coaches tried talking him out of it, however tongue-in-cheek. But Julian Boatner was stubborn, and as a result, he’s ahead of schedule in his career path.
Boatner, who made 161 3-pointers for William and Mary from 2011-14, is now three weeks on the job as the Tribe’s newest assistant basketball coach. He never expected to be back at his alma mater this early, only 26 and in his fifth year in the profession.
These days, everyone tells Boatner they always knew he’d get into coaching. But he didn’t come to that realization until the final weeks of his senior year at W&M.
“I really got interested in how our three assistant coaches were compiling our scouting reports and putting together the personnel,” Boatner said. “I really tried to dive in and tried to be a coach on the floor that year.
“Asking them how I would get into the coaching business when I graduated, they were like, ‘Well, Boat, you probably don’t want to do that.’ But obviously, I didn’t listen to them, and I’ve had some great success in my few years. And I really thank those three guys for their influence.”
Those three guys are Jonathan Holmes, Kotie Kimble and Austin Shaver. Once they realized they couldn’t scare him off, they did whatever they could to help him along.
Actually, Boatner owes his father for that first break. In the winter of 2014, Melvin Boatner was watching a high school playoff game in the family’s hometown of Bloomington, Ind. Also in the stands was then-Indiana coach Tom Crean, who was watching his son play.
Melvin made his way over and, after a brief introduction, asked Crean what his son needed to do to become a graduate assistant with the Hoosiers. Crean said applicants must submit a letter detailing why they want to coach.
Julian did and was invited for an interview, which was more of a workout on the court. He got the job and, in his two years on Crean’s staff, earned his master’s in athletic administration and sports management.
In 2016, Jamion Christian had a position open on his staff at Mount St. Mary’s. Christian had been an assistant at William and Mary, where he coached Boatner for one season. They had kept in touch, and Christian offered him the job.
Boatner was made The Mount’s defensive coordinator. Last season, the Mountaineers were first in the Northeast Conference in both scoring defense and field-goal defense in league-only games.
“That obviously speaks to his basketball accruement,” said Christian, now the head coach at Siena. “But it probably speaks more of his ability to relate to the players. He’s going to be one of the special ones.”
In early April, Kimble left William and Mary to become an assistant coach at Charlotte. That paved the way for Boatner’s return to Williamsburg.
“When Julian was a player, we talked about what a great coach he would be someday,” W&M coach Tony Shaver said. “He has an incredible understanding of the game.”
Along with Holmes, Boatner will be working with the guards. He’ll also be recruiting the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area (a.k.a., the DMV) in addition to parts of North Carolina.
And he’s back where it all started.
“I didn’t think it would happen this soon, to be honest,” he said. “But the longer I got to be in the coaching business, the more I wanted to come back, whether it was an assistant or eventually maybe the head coach. This has always been a place that was special to me.
“This school has done so much for me in the four years I played here and was educated here. I’m super-excited. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come back.”
Johnson can be reached by phone at 757-247-4649. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveJohnsonDP.