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Arizona State trip a homecoming for CU Buffs assistant Anthony Coleman

20th-ranked Buffs face Sun Devils in first Pac-12 road game

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Anthony Coleman may or may not have some little secret that will spell the difference between defeat and victory for the Colorado Buffaloes on Thursday night.

Yet the Buffs certainly won’t mind mining Coleman’s knowledge for whatever advantage they might uncover.

Head coach Tad Boyle’s 20th-ranked Buffs get the road portion of their Pac-12 Conference schedule started Thursday night at Arizona State (7 p.m. MT, ESPN2) in a contest that will be a coaching homecoming of sorts for Coleman, a first-year assistant at CU.

Coleman spent the previous three seasons as an assistant at ASU under head coach Bobby Hurley. He helped assemble the Sun Devils’ roster on the recruiting trail. And though the Buffs defeated ASU in the season opener at the Pac-12’s annual game in China, this will be Coleman’s first game-day trip back to the locale where his coaching career essentially started.

“It’s Anthony’s scout, let’s put it that way. He’s got the call on this scout,” Boyle said. “Obviously he knows their personnel. He knows a lot of those kids. Obviously he has good relationships with them. He helped recruit a lot of them. So it’s a big game for Anthony from an emotional standpoint. I know he and coach Hurley still have a very good relationship. I spoke to Bobby before I hired Anthony and he had nothing but good things to say about him. Now I understand why. But once the ball gets tipped up, that will go by the wayside.

“I’m sure those kids, they want to beat him. They don’t want him to come back and get a win at their expense. It’s kind of a little sidebar around this game that’s kind of interesting.”

Coleman, who played collegiately at Xavier and Long Beach State, spent time as a marketing executive with Adidas before shifting careers into coaching. He spent one season as the director of player development at USC before joining Hurley’s staff at ASU, where he played a role on the program’s first back-to-back NCAA Tournament teams in 38 years.

Coleman left ASU when he believed he was going to land on the staff at UNLV but ultimately wound up in Boulder. And the addition of the 6-foot-10 Coleman inspired a shift of duties on Boyle’s staff, as for the first time in 10 years at CU, associate head coach Mike Rohn is overseeing the guards instead of the Buffs’ big men.

“For me, the first one (in China) was a little uncomfortable, initially. Just seeing the guys and giving them hugs and seeing my former colleagues,” Coleman said. “It kind of busted the normalcy. But now, we’re in the meat of our season. It’s time to play basketball now.

“I think with our bigs — especially with Evan (Battey) and Tyler (Bey) and Lucas (Siewert) and Alex (Strating) and Frank (Ryder) — all come in with a kind of a hard-hat mentality. They’re always trying to get better, get extra shots in whether it’s before or after practice. I’m just trying to make sure I don’t screw up what coach Rohn has done the past nine years. I’m just trying to do my job, and learn from those guys as well. Every player that comes through here has gotten better, and I don’t want any drop-off or slippage to occur.”