Time will tell what challenges await Dwight Thorne in a coaching career that still is just beginning.
Regardless where that road takes him, chances are Thorne will carry along the lessons from his leadership role with Team Colorado.
For the second consecutive year, the former Colorado guard has been tasked with providing the courtside leadership for Team Colorado at The Basketball Tournament, the $2 million winner-take-all competition the former Buffaloes stars almost took home last year before a big lead slipped away in the championship game.
By any standard, falling just short of such a significant payoff that seemed well in hand during a dominant first half in the title match provided a unique sort of heartbreak. It was no different for Thorne, who also is coming off his first season as the director of operations under former CU assistant Rodney Billups at the University of Denver.
"It took me a while, to be quite honest with you," Thorne said. "But for me, I'm not lying when I say that tournament was awesome. The first year, we lost our first game. And last year we just wanted to win the first game. And then, hey, let's win the second. And the third. So we didn't go into it with the mind that we're trying to win the money. The actually money kicking in didn't happen until later. But once it did kick in, it was there."
Adding a coach to the equation was one of the key moves team organizers made a year ago in hopes of making Team Colorado a more relevant participant in a summer competition that has enjoyed ever-increasing popularity through its first three years.
Thorne was able to cajole and motivate a roster comprised largely of former teammates to the title game, and he once again will be directing a number of old friends when Team Colorado hits the court for its opening-round game July 15 in Las Vegas. Thorne, who played for the Buffs from the 2006-07 season through 2009-10, played alongside Team Colorado members, Dominique Coleman, Richard Roby, Marcus Hall, Austin Dufault, Shannon Sharpe, Marcus Relphorde, and Xavier Silas, who eventually followed former CU coach Ricardo Patton to Northern Illinois.
"I learned last year that these guys are professionals. They're smart and they understand the game of basketball," Thorne said. "They can figure stuff out on their own. It works better that way than me just giving them what they want. They can adjust to their game. What I try to do is just give them a base line to allow them to figure it out and put them in position to be successful.
Given Thorne's post at DU officially is more akin to an off-court administrator than on-the-floor instructor, his summer duties with Team Colorado is giving Thorne an opportunity to hone his coaching skills. Following a four-year stint playing professionally at different stops in Europe, Thorne spent one season as a graduate assistant at Georgia Tech before joining Billups at DU.
"Things are going well," said Thorne, who averaged a career-best 12 points as a junior at CU in 2008-09. "Coach Billups is learning, just like I'm learning. We're really excited about our crew. What some people don't understand is a basketball team is like a corporation. There's millions of dollars at stake. You have to figure out how to spend that money. I haven't always been the most organized person in the past, so this job is helping me with that for sure."