Photo by Alex Posis.
Photo by Alex Posis.

Ron and Joe DuBois have come a long way from their basketball-playing days as kids in Lodi, California, where they shot hoops in the backyard under the beaming Central Valley sun. Decades later, some things haven’t changed — both of them can still be found on a basketball court, only now at UC Santa Cruz.

Ron serves as the head coach for the men’s basketball team, while Joe is the assistant coach. Upon joining the Slugs coaching staff in 2012, Ron hoped his brother would join the team as an assistant and three years later, Joe was hired.

“[Joe] brings a lot of knowledge to go along with his experience and overall intensity and it has meant a lot to this young team,” Ron said. “He is a former player and he is also really good at communicating and motivating guys, so that has been his biggest impact.”

The DuBois brothers remember the countless hours spent after school playing basketball with their group of friends and at home. Some games would drag on into the evening, but they refused to leave their small backyard court. Basketball has always been something the brothers shared, something they can relate to at the end of the day and fall back on.

“Whether it was cards or pingpong, whatever we were doing, it was always a competition with Joe,” Ron said. “We had a small outdoor court at the house and needless to say there were a lot of hours spent on it. Whether individually or us taking turns shooting the ball, you could always find us there.”

Joe said he owes a lot of success to Ron, who pushed him every day growing up.

“We didn’t grow up with much TV, or video games for that matter,” Joe said. “We were always playing outside and it was fun because my brother would push me to play my best. He would never let me win, but I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.”

The devotion to sports at a young age engaged the brother’s interest to pursue coaching opportunities. Ron has more coaching experience with 15 years at different levels, including the NBA, NCAA Division I teams and a professional team in France. Joe has taken a different route, with careers in education and business before returning to basketball.

“I told my brother if he had an opportunity as a head coach and there was room on staff, I would jump in a heartbeat for the opportunity to learn under him,” Joe said. “I’m enjoying every minute of it, knowing it might not last forever. [Ron] has always been someone I looked up to, someone I have shared many joys with and someone I respect more than anything else.”

After 18 years of living in different cities, the brothers were elated to coach together three years after Ron took the helm of the UCSC men’s basketball team.

“It was a dream job for me so I couldn’t say no,” Ron said. “Now that I get the chance to have Joe on board, it has made this experience even more special.”

Living closer to each other brings out the “kid” in both of them. It has resurrected old rivalries — Ron claims he can still beat his brother, and proved it in a free-throw competition last week. But to Joe, that’s the only thing Ron has on him.

The extended DuBois family also enjoys the brothers coaching together at UCSC. Living near their hometown has brought the families closer, reminding them of the “old days.”

“We do spend a lot of time together outside the court with our families. I like to be around my nephews and help them out anyway I can,” Joe said. “We look out for each other. We make sure we’re both doing well, health and family wise.”

Their different experiences contribute to the team’s depth too. Both versatile coaches, Ron and Joe reflected on how their coaching styles now differ from the types of players they once were. Especially for Joe, who is the newest member on the four-person coaching staff.

“We’re on the verge of really turning this program around and that starts with the coach,” Joe said. “Ron’s ability to communicate with his players and make them see their potential really separates him from others. He is a coach who has earned his players’ respect. They work hard from him like he does for them.”

Ron has done just that, as the team is currently 10-11. Although still a losing record, it’s the start of a new era for the young squad. The Slugs have vastly improved from last year’s four-win season, and they look to continue their growth as a team and begin to establish an identity.

The Slugs have four games remaining this season and are a win away from matching the most wins in program history. Ron said his favorite aspect of coaching is impacting players’ lives.

“It’s rewarding to see all the things they accomplish off the court and see them grow into young men who will be fathers themselves one day,” Ron said. “It feels great to impact their community and academics and guide them into young adults.”

The Slugs are enjoying a two-week layoff, but look to end the season strong. The team’s next game is against UC Merced on Feb. 10 for its final home game of the season, which will also be senior night. The Slugs have additional motivation to win this next game, as a victory would mean they could bid farewell to the seniors on a positive note and finally own a winning record. It won’t come easy, but with the DuBois brothers on their side, they have a fighting chance.