North Carolina

How Dante Calabria is following the footsteps of basketball legends

Former UNC standout Dante Calabria was elevated to interim head coach at Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Former UNC standout Dante Calabria was elevated to interim head coach at Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

New Keiser University interim head basketball coach Dante Calabria played for a legend, followed a legend and now is getting his first shot at being a college coach.

Calabria, who played under Dean Smith at North Carolina in the 1990s, coached two seasons ago as an assistant under hall of fame coach Rollie Massimino at Keiser. Calabria was hired to be interim head coach of the Seahawks on Friday following the Aug. 30 death of Massimino.

Calabria was out of coaching last season but he said he was looking for an opportunity to return to the bench. He said getting the chance to take over for Massimino was bittersweet.

“It is good and bad,” Calabria said Tuesday. “I am excited about the opportunity but it’s not the best way to get this opportunity with the passing of Coach Massimino. I played for Coach Smith, so I know how he ran a program. And then to be able to be with Coach Mass and to see his differences, I’m going to try to combine what I learned from both of them. I think it gives me the best of both situations.”

Keiser is a small private university in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

When Calabria last was with the Seahawks in 2015-16 they won the Sun Conference regular-season championship and reached the NAIA Elite Eight. They finished 30-5.

“He has learned from two of the all-time greats in Coach Dean Smith and Coach Massimino, both of whom were focused on student-athlete development on and off the court,” Keiser athletics director Kris Swogger said in a news release.

Prior to arriving at Keiser, Calabria coached Cus Jonico Taranto of the Italian Basketball League and Montverde Academy Prep. He also was an assistant at UNC Wilmington for Buzz Peterson, another former Tar Heel.

Calabria played four years at UNC and was a member of the 1993 NCAA national championship team. He also was on UNC’s 1995 Final Four team.

After graduation, Calabria spent 16 years as a professional basketball player in Italy, Spain, Greece and France. He was also a member of the Italian national team.

Joe Johnson: 919-419-6678, @JEJ_HSNews

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