January 11, 2013
From The Archives: Isaiah Cavaco ’01 Excited About Return To Yale
Editors Note: This story originally appeared on yalebulldogs.com on Jan. 11, 2008, prior to Yale's game with Oberlin. Cavaco will be bring his Oberlin team back to the John J. Lee Amphitheater this Saturday.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – When Yale fans look over to the visiting bench on Saturday, they'll see a familiar face. Isaiah Cavaco, a 2001 Yale graduate, is the head coach of Oberlin. Cavaco was a four-year letterwinner for the Bulldogs from 1998 to 2001 and knows his return to the John J. Lee Amphitheater will be emotional.
"I'm sure I'll have a rush of memories from when I used to run on the floor in a white uniform," he said. "Most importantly, I'll think about the people that made my memories so special and will wish I could experience this with all of them. I'll remember the big wins, the hard practices, the injuries, the struggles, the battles, Senior Night with my parents and the pride I have in what the current coaching staff has built. Once the ball goes up, though, I'll only be thinking about the Oberlin Crimson and Gold and competing against the opponent in front of us."
Cavaco enjoyed a solid career as a guard for the Bulldogs. As a freshman, he was the recipient of the John C. Cobb Award as the team's top freshman. He started the very first game of his Yale career against UConn at the Hartford Civic Center. In his sophomore year, he led the team in three-pointers (36) and assists (72). His assist total was eighth in the Ivy League. A knee injury limited him to five games as a junior, and that was when he started thinking about a career in coaching.
"I was really drawn into the preparation and the mental aspect of the game as I watched from the bench that year," he said. "I was never very athletic or overly gifted as a player, so I realized that thinking and coaching the game might be a natural fit."
James Jones, who was named The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball at Yale prior to Cavaco's junior season, helped him get a graduate assistant position at Ohio University following his graduation from Yale in 2001.
"I figured I would get my master's degree and move on, but I really enjoyed that experience," Cavaco said. "I owe a lot to Coach Jones and [Associate Head Coach] Curtis Wilson for steering me in that direction."
Cavaco returned to Yale as an assistant coach under Jones for the 2002-03 season and helped the Bulldogs to an 8-6 finish in Ivy League play.
"I learned a lot about how to deal with people and find a way to make a connection with everyone," Cavaco says of his time as an assistant at Yale. "This is a profession about getting the best out of everyone."
Cavaco was named the head coach at Oberlin in the spring of 2007 after serving as the interim head coach in 2006-07. In addition, he spent two years as an assistant coach for the Yeomen. He is excited about the opportunity to bring his team to New Haven to play the Bulldogs.
"I'm very grateful to Coach Jones for putting us on the schedule," he said. "I hope to play a Division I team every year, and I thought it would be fitting to play a team and a school with similar academic requirements. I hope our guys will learn from this experience."
While most of Cavaco's attention is focused on building the Oberlin program, he still keeps a keen eye on how the Bulldogs are doing.
"I really wear the program on my sleeve. When we went to the NIT the year after I graduated, I felt as happy and excited as if I had gone too," he said. "I hope the current players make the most of what they have and invest everything into this because it becomes a part of you, even when you are long past your playing years. I hope to instill that sense of pride in the Oberlin program and use Yale as a great model for that."
Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity