When asked to describe UC Santa Cruz men’s basketball coach Ron DuBois, guard Marshal Arnwine Jr. and forward James Townsend both called him “motivating.” With the motivation of DuBois propelling the team toward the start of the season, the Slugs try to embrace their coach’s philosophy, style and ethics, believing it will translate to wins and a shot at the NCAA tournament.

As the home season opener against Cal Lutheran on Nov. 16 approaches, the UCSC men’s basketball team aspires to make their presence known in the Division III level. DuBois is working to build up a young team that only has one senior player this season. Coming off an 7-18 season last fall, Townsend said the Slugs are hoping for impressive wins against Whitworth, Chapman and Claremont Mudd Scripps.

“All the these teams are tournament teams who are seen as the best in the west, so it is our goal to knock them off,” Townsend said.

The team’s ultimate goal is to be the first UCSC men’s basketball squad to make it to the NCAA tournament. With one year of coaching at UCSC under his belt, DuBois aims for a more balanced attack between offense and defense.

“Offense and defense are like yin and yang,” DuBois said. “[This equilibrium is necessary] to play at a high level.”

With an eclectic resume including four years of assistant coaching in the National Basketball Association and seven years in all three divisions of the NCAA, DuBois recalls his journey to his present head coaching gig at UCSC.

Two years ago, DuBois beat out 70 applicants to earn the head coaching spot at UCSC. After holding coaching jobs spanning from Mexico to France, DuBois decided he wanted to work at a place like UCSC. Santa Cruz was the perfect fit for DuBois, who wanted to find a suitable place to raise his kids and find a team he could build a relationship with and develop.

“It’s not about the financial reward,” DuBois said. “It’s the rewards you get from the relationships you develop with the players, and the impact you can hopefully have on their life — not just with basketball, but anything in life. It’s really rewarding to feel like you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.”

With his last job at Rhodes College, a NCAA Division III school in Memphis, Tenn., DuBois came into UCSC familiar with the structure of Division III athletics.

“I just feel that Division III is the purest form of NCAA athletics,” DuBois said. “Division III is what playing college sports is originally supposed to be: you’re a student first, taking care of your academics, and you’re getting the chance to have a great athletic experience.”

UCSC men’s basketball guard Marshal Arwine Jr. expressed his gratitude for DuBois and the “no excuse” mentality and positive atmosphere he fosters for the UCSC men’s basketball team.

“Most coaches like to shoot down their players, but [DuBois] has always focused on helping me strengthen my strengths and make slight adjustments to improve my weaknesses,” Arwine Jr. said.

There’s a common expression used in athletics: coaches coach and players play. Despite DuBois’s positive impact on the players’ basketball skills and mindsets, reality sets in the moment the referee heaves the ball into the air at center court. Always coming back to his core values, DuBois hopes for more than just a winning season, but a season of team growth.

“We need to be focused everyday on living up to what our core values are as well as our standards of attitude and action,” DuBois said. “We feel if we do that, the results will take care of themselves.”