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‘It shows that it’s possible.’ How this Brampton local is making history as a coach in college hoops

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Brampton local Manny Dosanjh fell to his knees and started to cry when he was offered a graduate assistant position coaching basketball a few years ago. Then when he was recently offered a job as an assistant coach in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, it was his wife crying for him.

Dosanjh is believed to be the first Canadian of Indian descent to become an assistant coach in the NCAA and the first person from Brampton to coach college hoops in the U.S. so the accomplishment means that much more for the couple. One that he hopes will inspire others.

“I felt like this was a calling,” Dosanjh told the Star. “What I’m most proud of is that someone can see me as an example … and it shows that it’s possible.

“This is not something I take for granted. I want to help the next one reach their goals.”

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Dosanjh is joining the coaching staff at Western Michigan in Kalamazoo after spending the last two years at Michigan State as a graduate assistant.

His chosen career path isn’t exactly traditional, given he estimates there are just over 1,000 assistant coaching jobs in the NCAA and only a handful belong to Canadians.

“It’s important that people in our community really sit down and go after what their heart desires,” said Dosanjh. “You’re allowed to pursue what’s (in your) heart and when you do that, you’ll accomplish things that you didn’t know were possible.”

A shoulder injury put an end to Dosanjh’s basketball playing career in 2017. That’s when he started to look toward coaching as another way to leave an impact on the game.

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When Dosanjh first became an assistant coach for Orangeville Prep he would drive solo in his dad’s Ford pickup truck across the U.S. border to watch several college basketball teams practise. He’d observe diligently and pick up new drills and training techniques to take back to his players in Canada to fuel their development. His level of dedication wouldn’t go unnoticed.

“Everything he did was never about Manny. It was never about I needed this for me, it was always if I did this, I’m going to help build the game and I’m going to help make players better,” said Tony McIntrye, head coach at Orangeville Prep, which has an impressive alumni of Jamal Murray, Thon Maker, Luguentz Dort, Oshae Brissett and Ignas Brazdeikis who all went on to play in the NBA.

“Ultimately, he knew if he made everyone else around him better that success will follow for himself, but it was never intended to be about himself.”

During his time at Orangeville, Dosanjh would visit Michigan State — where he used to play ball — every chance he got to observe practices and hope to learn from a program that is tied for the third-longest streak of NCAA tournament appearances.

Every trip he made, the coaching staff welcomed him with open arms. He built a tight bond with David Thomas, the team’s basketball director of operations and a former Canadian basketball player and Michigan State alumni. Thomas also grew up in Brampton.

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“We bonded over Canadian basketball players who were excelling at the NCAA and NBA level,” said Dosanjh. “We loved talking about Peel Region, that was our thing.”

When a graduate assistant position opened at Michigan State, it became the perfect opportunity for Dosanjh to earn a master’s degree, learn from Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame head coach Tom Izzo and kick-start his journey to becoming an NCAA coach.

Manny Dosanjh photographed alongside head coach Tom Izzo and longtime Michigan State assistant Dwayne Stephens.

For the last two years, Dosanjh has helped Michigan State closely with its player development and opponent scouting as coach Izzo let him sit in on daily staff meetings.

“(Izzo) has had such an impact on my career because he saw something in me and gave me an opportunity,” said Dosanjh. “(He) believed that I could be an assistant coach and he installed that belief in me.”

Longtime Michigan State assistant coach Dwayne Stephens, who Dosanjh reported directly to, also saw the graduate assistant’s potential. And when Stephens accepted the position of head coach at Western Michigan, he offered Dosanjh a spot on his staff.

“Manny is a young, energetic star in the making,” wrote Stephens in the announcement of Dosanjh joining his staff. “Although young, there is no one I know that is more connected. He has spent time at every level, from prep and AAU ball in Canada.”

At 27, Dosanjh hasn’t met a Division 1 assistant coach younger than him yet. The feeling of achieving this milestone couldn’t be more surreal, but he’s not close to done. In addition to coaching, he wants to let as many Brampton kids as possible know their aspirations are never too far-fetched.

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“He’s a community type of guy and he’s going to help escalate everything in the basketball community (here in Canada),” said McIntyre. “I think what it does is give everyone hope. Manny did it through hard work and just being a real person.”

Since his days playing for Michigan State, Dosanjh has received dozens of emails and messages from upcoming local high school players in the Greater Toronto Area eager to pick his brain on how they can be recruited by the top schools.

Now, nearly 10 teens reach out a week and Dosanjh takes the time to reply every chance he gets.

“In my mind, if I can give them a little bit of hope that may be all they need to keep on going and to ultimately attain their goals,” said Dosanjh. “I want to be a resource for them, I want to be available for them and I want to be a tool for them.”

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