‘We’re going to climb the mountain together’: New DSU coaches, AD aim for success

New Delaware State University head football coach Rod Milstead discusses his team’s prospects during a meet and greet session on campus Wednesday night. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

DOVER — For the first time in public, all the newness at Delaware State University was present in one room.

New athletic director, new football coach, new men’s basketball coach and new women’s basketball coach — it is indeed a new era for the Hornets.

All four were present at an event for season ticket holders and donors on Wednesday night.

“We’re going to wake up the sleeping giant and climb the mountain together,” said new athletic director Dr. Scott Gines. “Delaware State’s best is yet to come.”

Eric Skeeters

Gines was hired over the summer and started in mid-July. His first task was to find two head basketball coaches after the positions were open for more than 100 days.

Gines’ first selection was Eric Skeeters, an assistant at UMBC, to head the men’s basketball program. A few weeks later, Gines tabbed David Caputo as the new women’s coach.

The duo joins first-year football coach Rod Milstead as brand new coaches at Delaware State. Milstead, an alum of Delaware State, was hired in February.

There’s also a new president at Delaware State, Dr. Wilma Milshoe.

“I hit the Delaware State University lottery,” Milstead said. “This is a great place to be. We got a new president, new athletic director, new administrators in the president’s cabinet, new basketball coaches and a new head football coach. You got a lot of new pieces to the puzzle and everyone is going to able to grow together. We can all piggyback off each other.”

David Caputo

None of these three programs has had a winning season in the past three seasons. But the four new hires are out to change that.

“The new regime, the excitement around here is unbelievable,” Skeeters said. “I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

“It starts at the top,” Caputo said. “President Mishoe’s energy and devotion to Delaware State is contagious. Dr. Gines is a special guy and he’s a winner as a coach and athletic director.”

Skeeters’ path

Not many coaches saw their stock rise quicker than Skeeters’ did this past season.

He was an assistant on the UMBC team that made history by knocking off top-seeded Virgina in the NCAA Tournament — the first time a No. 16 seed had ever defeated a one seed.

Skeeters comes to Dover with the same mindset he had two seasons ago when he moved to UMBC for a new job as an assistant.

“Success has happened here before,” Skeeters said. “Understand, two years ago at UMBC, there wasn’t a lot of people talking about that program.”

Dr Scott Gines

Skeeters has had a nearly 20-year career as an assistant and has been a part of three different teams who won at least one game in the NCAA Tournament (UMBC, South Florida, Coppin State).

While he’s fresh off a historic result in his last job, Skeeters said he knows this could be a longer project.

“It starts with the foundation in year one and it’s going to take some time,” he said. “This year is a building year, it’s a foundation year. It’s like tilling the soil to lay the foundation to build on. It didn’t happen overnight at UMBC and it doesn’t happen overnight anywhere.”

Gines said the three main qualities he was looking for in the right fit for both programs were grit, great instincts and creative. Skeeters also had a proven track record in recruiting, something that would be important considering how late of a hire he was.

“I needed to identify recruiting pedigree where they had players who were maybe a step slow or undersized but they were able to put together a team that was cohesive that had great talent,” Gines said. “When you’re recruiting late, you better have an eye for that.”

Skeeters was able to relate with the current Delaware State players when he first met them. He reminded them UMBC played at Delaware State this season and the Hornets were winning the game at halftime.

He said he’s hopeful that shows his new team it should have the belief it can compete with anyone, like his UMBC team did. And he wants to raise the profile of Delaware State just as UMBC did this season.

“When your name comes up on that screen on Selection Sunday, everybody knows who you are,” Skeeters said. “That’s the plan here.”

Caputo’s dream

Caputo had been coming to Delaware State men’s games for three seasons when he stepson Dana Raysor was on the team.

It was a manageable drive from Bloomfield College in New Jersey, a Division II school where Caputo was the head women’s coach.

Every trip, Caputo would remark to his wife how much he enjoyed Dover. So when the women’s job opened, it was obvious in the Caputo household he would be applying.

Caputo had always thought about what it would be like if he was in charge of the women’s program during those visits.

“I always thought if I could get my hands on it we could get some pretty good players in here, run our system and do special things,” Caputo said. “We were blown away by Dover, there’s great food, the casino, the mall, movies and Rehoboth Beach isn’t too far away. So when the job opened up, my wife looked and me and was like, ‘You’re going after it right?’ And I said absolutely.”

Caputo coached Bloomfield to two Division II tournament appearances and three conference titles. He also has experience as a Division I assistant at Louisiana Tech, Florida Atlantic and UNC Wilmington.

But it was Caputo’s work at a junior college in Florida which impressed Gines the most. Caputo coached Indian River Community College to three Elite Eight appearances from 2008 to 2011.

“That wasn’t a good job when he got there,” Gines said. “He made it one.”

Caputo said he’s installing a new offensive system with the Hornets that will be faster and more aggressive. There’s also new messages he’s preaching to help form a new mindset for the program.

“I want to change the culture of how we do things,” “Right now our theme is, ‘Everyday girls.’ Meaning, we’re doing the little things right and if we keep doing the little things right, we’ll get some big things done.”

Caputo also pointed out that the MEAC’s dominant women’s basketball program Hampton is no longer in the conference, meaning the race for the championship is wide open.

And he is hopeful the Hornets can compete for that in his first year.

“I think it’s a sleeping giant program and a hidden gem,” Caputo said. “From a recruiting standpoint, three hours north and three hours south is a recruiting hotbed. The campus is beautiful, the facilities are great and we have great new leadership.”

Gines’ vision

Gines technically had two jobs during July.

He was considered a part-time employee at Delaware State while he was heading up the search committees for the new basketball coaches. He did that while using his paid leave time from his last athletic director stop, Texas A&M Kingsville.

He’s lived in Dover for only about a month full-time.

Now that Gines is getting settled, he’s able to start outlining his vision for the future of the athletic program.

“In two years I want to see a department of great leaders in athletics,” Gines said. “A sound financial plan to generate success, schedules that will put us on campus competitively more often than not and facilities and training opportunities that will not be interrupted whether it is by weather or by surface.”

Milstead said he was blown away by Gines’ expertise. While at Texas A&M Kingsville Gines initiated $12 million in stadium upgrades and an additional $1 million in scholarship budgets.

“We’ve already hooked our football program on to his wagon,” Milstead said. “We’re going to allow him to pull us to where we need to go.”

Gines also has experience as an athletic director at Dakota Wesleyan and Fairmont State. Before he entered the administration side of things he was a baseball coach for Virginia, Radford and Virginia Military Institute.

He’s looking to draw on all those experiences to help bring the same amount of success to Delaware State.

“The challenges are evident but those are also opportunities,” Gines said. “My career has been filled with several of those across six other institutions but I can look you in the eye and tell you they’ve all worked out. I look forward to this new building process.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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