'Bittersweet' return for Cornell basketball assistant Sears Coach started his coaching career at Binghamton University
If Marlon Sears gets the chance to be a head coach, he will remember Binghamton University as the place where his journey began.
Sears’ coaching career began in the Events Center, where on Sunday he will return. Sears is the top assistant men’s basketball coach on Bill Courtney’s staff at Cornell University and may soon be a candidate for a Division I head coaching position.
Cornell will provide the final nonconference tuneup for the Bearcats at 2 p.m. Sunday.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Sears said of returning to the Events Center as a visitor. “I still feel like it’s home.”
While Courtney will likely be the most animated figure on the Cornell sideline, Sears will seldom be more than a few arm lengths away, seated beside Courtney on the end of the bench. The senior assistant on the staff, Sears is often the most talkative in the coaches’ huddles during timeouts before they speak to the team.
Sears joined Al Walker’s staff at BU prior to the 2001-02 season, the program’s first year competing at Division I. Sears had finished his degree requirements that spring, and had spent a year and a half overseas playing professionally after wrapping up his collegiate career at Newman University in Wichita, Kan.
Sears played two seasons at Seward County Community College prior to Newman. Sears earned NAIA second-team All-America honors his senior year after he averaged 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists per game. After playing in Spain and France and returning to the United States to complete college, Sears joined his former coach from Seward, Lawrence Brenneman, on Walker’s staff.
Sears considered himself “fortunate” to walk into a position as the third assistant on the coaching staff. The program did not have a director of operations, so duties such as travel arrangements, collecting game film, overseeing student managers, and monitoring players’ academics also fell to him.
“It was an amazing experience,” Sears said of his time with the Bearcats. “It was an amazing time in my life. With a guy like Al Walker, he challenged you every day.”
Sears’ goal is ultimately to be a college head coach, and he admits he had interest in the BU head coaching job when it opened up in the spring when Mark Macon was fired.
However, Sears also said he thinks the program is headed in the right direction under Director of Athletics Patrick Elliott, who Sears described as a “basketball guy,” and new coach Tommy Dempsey.
Sears watched from afar as the BU program went through a scandal, including the dismissal of former coach Kevin Broadus as well as six players and a temporary reduction in scholarships.
“It was a little discouraging because I felt like Coach Walker had worked so hard to build that thing to where it was,” said Sears, who still talks two or three times per month with Walker, now an assistant coach for the University at Buffalo women’s staff.
Following the 2005-06 season, Sears left to become an assistant coach at Wagner College. He spent two years at Wagner (2006-07 to 2007-08) followed by a year at High Point University in North Carolina (2008-09) and a season at Columbia University (2009-10). Hiring Sears was one of Courtney’s first moves after taking over the Big Red following the program’s storybook run to the Sweet 16 in the 2009-10 season.
At each stop after BU, Sears has held the title of recruiting coordinator, bringing in three top-100 recruiting classes as ranked by the publication HoopScoop. At Cornell, he helped bring in Shonn Miller, last year’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year and the team’s leading scorer this season.
“Coach Courtney, he doesn’t want to recruit against the other Ivy League schools,” Sears said. “He wants to recruit against the other mid-major schools.”
Cornell played at Boston University on Dec. 22, reuniting Sears and former Columbia University head coach Joe Jones, now Boston’s head coach. Following the game, Jones said he thinks it is only a matter of time before Sears is a head coach himself.
“He’s ready,” Jones said of Sears. “I think Bill is going to help him get ready. I think him having a chance — Bill was talking to me yesterday — he lets him run practices and things like that just to get him ready. I never had a chance to do that kind of stuff. He’s going to be ready. A good opportunity is going to come and somebody’s going to hire him.
“He’s got all the tools. He’s very articulate. He’s very good with the players. He knows the game. He was a very good player. He’s compassionate. He’s a guy the families are going to like because he’s going to do want to do the right thing by them. He’s got all the qualities.”