SALEM — For the past few years, Bobby Verdun has spent countless evenings working one on one with Salem State basketball players, helping them address their areas for improvement on the court and bettering their game. Now Verdun will take the next step in his coaching career at Salem State, as the new head women’s basketball coach of the Vikings.
“I’m excited to be part of what’s developing at Salem State,” said Verdun, a Marblehead resident. “I’ve been there for a few years, involved with the programs. I’ve seen how hard the coaches work and the dedication of the students. I’m excited to be a part of what’s going on there led by the new athletic director (Tracey Hathaway, who announced the appointment). It’s exciting.”
In a statement released by the school’s Athletics Department, Hathaway described Verdun as a perfect fit to lead the program.
“Coach Verdun has tremendous leadership and coaching experience,” Hathaway said. “Those who know him describe him as a man of character, integrity, and one who deeply cares about higher education and the student-athletes he serves. He is a terrific fit for our women’s basketball program at Salem State as he will ensure our student-athletes succeed on the court and in the classroom. We welcome Bobby to the Viking family.”
Verdun has 25 years of coaching experience in tennis and basketball. A native of Brooklyn N.Y., Verdun coached at Canton High (1991-1996) before joining the men’s basketball staff at Division II Franklin Pierce as an assistant, from 1996-2000. Verdun was also a successful tennis coach at Franklin Pierce, earning two NECC Coach of the Year awards.
He spent the beginning of the 2017-2018 season as an assistant men’s basketball coach under Chris Harvey before lending a helping hand to both men’s and women’s teams at Salem State.
Verdun said he learned some of the ins and outs of coaching at the Division III level from Harvey.
“Chris and I are great friends,” Verdun said. “Coming from the higher levels, I was really able to learn the processes at this level. I think the players, the lower the level gets, the more deficient the players are with skill set. I think my strength is making the players better. Chris has coached successfully for many years. He really taught me the behind-the-scenes at this level.
“I’m intrigued with the Division III student-athlete. There’s a lot of challenges with these kids. It’s a privilege to coach them, it really is.”
In addition to his roles on the men’s and women’s coaching staffs, Verdun coached players one on one. Former Viking Norma Waggett, a Saugus native who eclipsed the 1,000-point mark last season at Salem State, credited Verdun for being a key part of her success. Verdun also worked closely with Anthony Hodges, a 2018 graduate who defied the odds and returned to the team last winter — two years removed from a paralysis.
Verdun inherits a Vikings team that went 9-17 last season and was eliminated from the MASCAC Tournament after a quarterfinal round loss to Worcester State.
“I’m familiar with the players, I did a lot of work with them individually last year,” Verdun said. “It’s been a program in transition for quite a while. They haven’t been at the bottom, they haven’t been at the top. They’ve just sort of been ‘one of the teams.’ There’s a lot of motivation to get better every day and that’s exciting as a coach.”
One of his main goals at Salem State, Verdun said, is to build a strong relationship within the local community. A few Vikings players are North Shore natives (Peabody’s Gianna Moschella and Salem’s Brianna Rodriguez). Verdun hopes the community will attend games and support the team when the season begins.
“I’m really committed to the movement at the university,” he said. “I’m really committed to the community. I want our kids to experience a packed house of local people. We’ll be committed to serving and helping the community. That’s what the college basketball experience is about.”