Chris Spartz isn't with the Washington Generals — winners once in a matter of 16,000 or so games — anymore.
The Ohio State Buckeyes basketball team wins. A lot. The Buckeyes have been to a pair of Final Fours since Thad Matta became coach nine years ago and have won three of the last four Big Ten Conference titles.
Spartz '07, '13 MOL joined the staff of Matta's NCAA Division I powerhouse earlier this month. He will fill the newly created position of recruiting and operations coordinator after two seasons of learning the college coaching ropes as a graduate assistant coach at St. Ambrose.
"It was one of those things that manifested over time," said Spartz, who put himself on Matta's radar while attending a coaching clinic over the summer. "They wanted to create this role, one thing led to another and here I am."
The step up to Big Ten basketball didn't happen by happenstance, of course.
A guard for Coach Ray Shovlain's SAU Fighting Bees from 2004-2007, Spartz returned to his alma mater in 2011 with his sights set on a Division I career. He previously had spent two years after college traveling the globe with the Generals, regular victims of the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters, and then another two working as an account executive for a company near his suburban Chicago hometown.
"Coach Ray gave me more opportunity than anyone could ever imagine," said Spartz, who earned his Master of Organizational Leadership degree while working as head coach of the junior varsity, a lead varsity assistant and the Fighting Bees top recruiter from the fall of 2011 through this past summer. "I can't tell you how lucky I am to have been working for Coach Ray, how valued and appreciated I felt. I always said the next place I went, I really would be lucky to feel the same way."
Spartz said he feels that way in Columbus, Ohio, where Matta and his staff created an opportunity out of an office opening resulting from the retirement of the coach's longtime secretary.
His job will involve staying in contact with recruits through texting and social media, and he will organize on-campus visits by recruits. As a bonus, he has spent time recently working out OSU graduate and NBA guard Mike Conley in the Ohio State facilities.
As the season approaches, Spartz will have limited contact with Buckeyes players but will spend time with the coaching staff as they breakdown opponents, discuss recruiting prospects and generally go about the business of maintaining OSU's status as one of the strongest programs in college basketball.
As such, Spartz will be learning on the job and building toward a future he hopes will one day find him in at the helm of his own big-time program.
That is the path he began when he sought a chance to work with Shovlain two years ago.
"I told him I had my eyes on Division I but I promised I wouldn't take my eye off of where I was at the time," Spartz said. "Once that was said, I put my head down and worked as hard as I could for Coach Ray. Hopefully, I am making him proud by moving on to Ohio State."
"It is an unbelievable opportunity, but he is ready," said Shovlain '79, '82 MBA. "Chris has done a lot of things for a young person, been all over the world with the Washington Generals. He came back to us and did an outstanding job, earned his master's and now he is with Ohio State. That's as high a level in the country as you can get."
Under Shovlain, only one other graduate assistant has moved up to NCAA Division I. Duffy Conroy '99 is an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The SAU graduate assistant role will be filled by Steve Shovlain, a nephew of the veteran Fighting Bees's head coach. He spent the past three years with the Clinton Community College basketball program, assisting his father, Joe Shovlain '81, '86 MBA.