by Thomas Zinzarella ’21
It has been over 20 years since God Shammgod ’15 donned the Friar black and white on a basketball court, yet he continues to carry lessons learned in Friartown with him in his career as the player development coach for the Dallas Mavericks. Indeed, Shammgod plays an integral part in the development of players not only on the Mavericks, but around the NBA as well.
To see where it all began, the clock must be turned back to 1997. The Providence College Men’s Basketball Team, led by head coach Pete Gillen, was en route to the program’s fourth-ever Elite Eight appearance. The team had a core of players that featured a shifty point guard from New York City named God Shammgod. It was in the Elite Eight game against the eventual champion, the University of Arizona Wildcats, that Shammgod would make his name known nationwide. Shammgod, famous for his exceptional ball handling skills, dribbled the ball towards the baseline from the wing. He then moved his body in the other direction while simultaneously pulling the ball back in towards the paint. This move would be coined, “The Shammgod.”
Shammgod elected to forgo his final two years at PC to take his talents to the NBA. He was drafted in the second round by the Washington Wizards and played for a few seasons before moving on to play overseas. After his playing career ended, his first order of business was to finish his undergraduate studies. Shammgod re-enrolled at PC in 2012 and started working on Ed Cooley’s staff. Cooley had just been named head coach of the men’s basketball team in 2011. Shammgod, at the time, was uncertain as to what he wanted to pursue following his NBA career. His time in Friartown pointed him in the direction of coaching. “The way Coach Cooley and his staff coaches…they’re all hands-on coaches and hard workers,” Shammgod stated. “Ed Cooley is a great coach, motivator, and innovator for the sport. He gets the best out of his players.”
During his time as a coach under Cooley, Shammgod played an important role in the development of some brilliant Friar point guards, including Bryce Cotton ’14, Kris Dunn ’16, and Kyron Cartwright ’18. Shammgod explains, “Their success is a testament to all of their hard work and what they put in… [That’s what will happen] if you’re willing to listen and to grow as a person and a player.” He pointed to each of the player’s successes in Friartown, but also to their successes in the professional leagues as well. Whether it was Cotton winning MVP awards in Australia or Dunn excelling with the Chicago Bulls, Shammgod was sure to recognize the talents of the Friar family.
Though he now works at the professional level, Shammgod still recalls the passion and pride that comes with being a Friar. “The energy from the fans makes people play a certain way and with pride,” he said. “PC is the biggest show in town. You have to play with a sense of urgency and pride.”
In his current job with the Mavericks, Shammgod coaches some of the best young talent in the world. He works with stars such as Kristaps Porziņģis and Luka Dončić, perhaps one of the best international duos to ever grace an NBA court. Dončić won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award in 2019, was named to the All-Star team in 2020, and with his recent play in the NBA bubble, looks to be an MVP candidate for years to come. “I feel blessed and honored,” said Shammgod, “for kids to listen and take advice from me no matter what I have done in my career…I take a lot of pride in that…to see dreams come true…knowing all of the hard work they put in, for me it is wonderful.”
Although he is currently on an NBA staff, Shammgod has worked with players on all levels of basketball. He recalled working with a young Kobe Bryant when they played on the same Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team for a summer in high school. Bryant’s dad actually approached Shammgod to ask him to help his son work on his dribbling skills. Shammgod and Bryant became friends and remained so well after. When asked about Bryant, Shammgod reflected fondly on their relationship. He talked about the attitude that many referred to as the “Mamba Mentality.” “[Bryant] said one day he would be better than Jordan,” Shammgod recalled. “And he believed it. Even if nobody else did. We had a friendship because we had a certain bond about work ethic.”
Another major influence on Shammgod was the late-great John Thompson ’64, a legendary collegiate coach and PC basketball star. Thompson and Shammgod connected through their love of hoops and passion for coaching. Thompson made sure to instill in Shammgod the idea that there was no one way to coach, that there was no perfect blueprint that you could easily follow. Shammgod took this advice to heart.
These days, everybody wants to learn “The Shammgod.” Shammgod gets asked about the eponym everywhere he goes. Though he is perhaps most famous for this specific move, Shammgod refuses to let it define him and continues to strive to achieve even more than he has already. He hopes to one day be the general manager of an NBA team. “I keep studying and working hard, developing…my foundation is strong,” said Shammgod. “I come from a great tradition, a foundation of family and sports at PC…I don’t see how I can lose.”