Two of a Kind: Twin Alums Now Successful Basketball Coaches
Left: Terry Dunn in a 1972-73 team photo. Right: Jerry Dunn in a 1973-74 team photo.
The thump of the basketball on concrete could be heard each evening in the New Jersey neighborhood.
Thump, thump, thump, jump shot. Thump, thump, thump, a drive to the hole.
Rain or shine, the Dunn twins, Jerry and Terry, would face one another in their back yard. Covered in sweat, they knew each other’s moves on the family court, each fake and tendency, which only forced the teens to improve and improvise. Jerry said they were so evenly matched that most games ended in a tie.
On weekends, they traveled from Pemberton in the middle of New Jersey for a short drive to Philadelphia. It was city ball against outstanding college-bound players, and even though the Dunn boys only started playing at age 13, the duo quickly excelled at the game.
“When we played in Philly,” Jerry said, “we made a point to always be on opposite teams. And we made sure we were guarding each other.”
Mixing this competitiveness with brotherly camaraderie, they turned one another into elite players, garnering honors on their Pemberton Township High School team, then athletic scholarships to Casper College and four-year universities. From daily backyard contests to college scholarships, the siblings created their own paths to land jobs as basketball coaches in high school, college and the NBA.
This summer, the 62-year-old brothers will join the same team when they are honored with Casper College Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus Awards.
Terry Dunn received bad news his first day of basketball practice at Casper College. Coach Swede Erickson told him his hair was too long, something that was true of most all of the freshman players. “You’ve got 30 minutes to get your hair cut,” he told them, “then come back to practice.” The freshmen were perplexed. “Where can we find a barber in half an hour?” the players asked. Erickson said he had a pair of scissors in his office. Terry returned 30 minutes later, his afro now tightly shorn, to run through a series of drills.
Terry said his first week at the college was difficult, having never been west of the Mississippi River, and never away from his family for so long. He even had to leave behind his twin brother, who had a knee injury and had to sit out one year of basketball. “Swede heard about me from a coach in New Jersey who had seen me play,” Terry said. “He said I could really help the Casper College program.”
Terry remembers one afternoon soon after arriving in Casper when he was looking out a window of the college center’s Vista Lounge and wondering why he had come. The answer arrived quickly enough when Erickson started introducing him to the community. Soon, Terry was spending his afternoons on Beech Street where two other basketball players lived. While there, he met the Banister family two houses down, which quickly became Terry’s second home.
“My husband, Gaurdie Banister, Sr., and I were part of the boosters,” said Barbara Shannon-Banister “We had players over for Thanksgiving dinner, and really took to the Dunns. I remember that they studied hard in their classes and played hard on the court. They were very nice kids that everyone liked … open and honest young men.”
Barbara still talks to Terry on the phone whenever she can. “My husband grew close to Jerry and would visit him whenever he traveled to the East Coast.”
Terry and Jerry said they were amazed by the friendliness of Casper and the support system set up by Erickson. Terry said he spent many weekends in the homes of boosters and campus supporters, listing families like the Durhams, the Rosellos and the Boatrights. “We even ate at the president’s home a time or two,” Terry said.
The Dunns gained fans across Casper, two of which were Booster Club President Johnny Gardner and his wife, Judy, who entertained basketball players regularly with
“They were fantastic players,” Johnny said, “incredibly quick, great passers, and versatile athletes. I remember that Terry had a great shot and could hit anything from extremely long range. Jerry was a force inside who was impossible to guard. Both were very good defenders.”
More importantly, Johnny said the Dunn brothers were good citizens. “You couldn’t help but like them. Of course, Swede only recruited good kids.”
Jerry, who came to Casper the following year on his brother’s recommendation, said his introduction was easier in large part because Terry had paved the way. He said he has many fond memories of Casper and appreciated the chance to play for Erickson. “While I was in Casper, it was the first time that I rode a horse,” Jerry said. “I attended my first rodeo. I was amazed how friendly the community was.”
Being a twin can mean trying to establish your own person. “You know, we wanted to be our own self,” Terry said. “As a twin, especially an identical twin, you are always searching for your identity. I think that is one of the reasons that Jerry played football in high school, and I ran track.”
In high school, the two brothers were asked to wear colorful rubber bands around their wrists so the coach could tell them apart in practice. Yet, when they were feeling rebellious, they might switch jerseys before a game.
This need for individuality increases the irony that both brothers eventually gained fame in the same profession: as basketball coaches. Terry’s journey began with his desire to eventually play in the NBA. When he transferred to the University of Northern Colorado, a coach advised him to come up with a back-up plan in case he could not realize his dream. Coaching seemed to be a good plan B.
Meanwhile, Jerry’s body, or more specifically his knees, determined his career path. Because of painful tendonitis, he couldn’t play during his senior year of college at George Mason University. Instead, he helped his teammates as a volunteer coach.
From these early life choices, the Dunn brothers moved up the coaching ladder (see “A Coaching Resume,” below), adding stops at high schools, colleges and the New York Knicks to their resumes. And while Jerry said the life of a coach can be hard and require many moves for his family, the decision has been a good one.
“You make a difference in a person’s life both on and off the court,” said Jerry, the head basketball coach of Tuskegee University in Alabama. “I’ve met some great people through coaching, whether it was fellow coaches or young men that I recruited or young men that I didn’t get. I’m very fortunate. I’ve been placed in and done things that I wouldn’t have done if I wasn’t a coach.”
Meanwhile, Terry has returned to the high school game, leading the Sierra High School Stallions in Colorado Springs, Colorado, last year to a conference championship. After many years as a college basketball coach, Terry is glad to return to something more personal. “The thing I like is you can have greater influence on young men at this level because you catch them at an earlier age,” Terry said. “We talk a lot at practices about accountability, number one, and work ethic. We talk about life’s ups and downs, and what better way to learn that than through athletics. Life isn’t always fair. Just because you show up to work doesn’t guarantee you a promotion. Life owes you absolutely nothing, you are entitled to nothing and it is a competitive world out there. Those are things I try to teach.”
Both brothers said their success as coaches could be traced back to one of their early teachers, Swede Erickson, and what he preached to his Casper College players. The T-Birds during the 1970s shut down their opponents, in large part because Erickson would practice the basics of defense so much that it became second nature.
“Swede was a big reason I entered coaching,” Jerry said. “The one thing that his coaching spawned in me was the things you had to do to win. If you played for him, you had to be a good teammate, you had to play hard, you had to play defense. It was nonnegotiable.”
“I thought that he was a brilliant tactician,” said Terry. Most of all, he taught us how to be disciplined in our play. I didn’t understand that until I became a coach, but now I think back on the things he would say to us and how he would prepare us for practice, for a game and for life.”
Their lives will be honored in May when they are each presented with the Casper College Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus Award. Former Casper College Associate Vice President of Student Services and Athletic Director Bill Landen (’76) said their selection was an easy one.
“They represent the best of the college,” he said. “They were an integral part of the heyday of Casper College basketball, and then went on to become leaders in the coaching profession.”
For their part, the Dunn brothers said they are honored and humbled by the award.
“When I got the phone call, it was exciting and great news for me and my brother,” Terry said. “When I look at all the other distinguished alums at the college, it makes me feel proud. I am truly blessed to have begun my career at Casper College.”
The brothers are looking forward to bringing their wives and children to Casper and to lead them on a tour of the campus. And though they said they are a little old now to lace up their basketball shoes and take on one another on the court, they do plan to join one another for a competitive afternoon on the golf course. At that point, they probably won’t talk much.
A Coaching Resume
After two years as a volunteer coach at George Mason, Jerry was promoted to an assistant coaching position at the university. Building on his resume, he worked as an assistant coach at Penn State for 12 years before earning the head-coaching job for the Nittany Lions from 1995 to 2003. While at Penn State, Jerry earned 50 wins and 100 wins faster than any other men’s basketball coach in the university’s history. In 2001, Jerry led Penn State to the Big Ten Tournament semi-finals and to a number seven seed in the NCAA Tournament. Once there, Penn State defeated number two seed, North Carolina, to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in more than 50 years.
Jerry later worked as an assistant coach at West Virginia and Michigan before moving to the NBA for two years as a player development coach for the New York Knicks. Today he is the head basketball coach of Tuskegee University in Alabama.
Terry’s start began after earning his degree in education with a coaching job in 1982 at Harrison High School in Colorado Springs. Success there led to assistant coaching jobs at such colleges as Army, Air Force, Colorado State, and Colorado. From 2004 to 2010, he served as the head coach at Dartmouth in the Ivy League, fielding competitive teams each year despite not having scholarships to give to his recruits. He was credited that first year in orchestrating Dartmouth’s second-best turnaround in Ivy League history, when the team finished 1-13 in the 2003-2004 season during the season before Terry took the job. That next season, the Big Green improved 7-7 with Terry at the helm. Terry, who has served as the dean of students and basketball coach at Sierra High School since 2010, was also a coach for the USA Basketball Men’s Developmental National Team, helping to lead a squad of young men under age 16 to play against teams from around the globe.
Their Days at Casper College
Terry and Jerry Dunn remember many highlights during their playing time at Casper College. They were part of a 70-game home-winning streak while playing before packed crowds in the T-Bird Gym. Both teams finished with more than 20 wins while besting some of the top teams in the region.
Terry has special fondness for a win over Hutchinson Junior College, a team that came to Casper with the number two ranking in the nation. Led by future Purdue coach Gene Keady, Hutchinson lost some luster that day when Casper College pulled off the upset.
The Dunn brothers also remember playing against numerous quality opponents such as Robert Smith from Arizona Western, who ended up transferring to UNLV before getting drafted by the Denver Nuggets. “We still communicate,” Terry said of Smith.
Away from the court, the Dunns remember Casper College’s outstanding teachers. Terry recalls his English instructor, who helped him see himself as a future educator. “She helped me with my writing, something I loved, and taught me how to write better and express myself with words. I remember she was tough, and she was fair, and I learned a lot in that class. That was pretty motivating to me.”
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Footprints.
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