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Ryan Daly’s unique journey from under recruited to the UAlbany sideline

After a promising mid-major career at Delaware and St. Joe’s, Daly is finding success as an assistant coach with the Great Danes.

During his own playing career, Daly was a well respected guard who averaged 18 PPG across 100 career appearances - and now works with the guards in his coaching role at UAlbany.
Photo Courtesy of UAlbany Athletics

Assistant coach Ryan Daly’s hiring to the UAlbany men’s basketball staff in 2022 marked another checkpoint on what’s been a unique journey for the Havertown, Penn., native.

His journey spans from under-recruited prep player, to mid-major stardom, and now to the sidelines of the Broadview Center as Daly and head coach Dwayne Killings look to rebuild this Great Danes program. Ultimately, this journey starts at Archbishop Carroll High School where Daly was crowned Philadelphia Catholic League MVP as a senior but only received a single collegiate offer.

“I was the last kid in the country [to commit],” said Daly. “I didn’t have any scholarship offers until the last day of recruiting, so [Delaware] took a chance on me and it changed my life.”

Despite being under recruited, Daly thrived given the opportunity to play for first-year head coach Martin Ingelsby. Daly went on to earn 2016-17 CAA Rookie of the Year and led the Blue Hens in scoring for consecutive seasons.

“I was [Ingelsby’s] first recruit as head coach,” Daly said. “I had a really good two years there and made a lot of connections and relationships with the team and coaches that are still too this day.”

Finding so much individual success as only a sophomore offered Daly a chance to enter the transfer portal prior to his junior season in search of a higher-level program. However, growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs with a significant family history on the court at a certain Jesuit University, Daly always had a destination in mind.

“I use to have birthday’s where we’d go to [Saint Joseph’s] games and we’d go down to the locker room and Phil [Martelli] was there, or I go and sit close to Jameer [Nelson], Dwayne Jones, Pat Carroll, all those guys and I grew up on that,” Daly said.

“I didn’t want to go to the NBA, I wanted to play at St. Joe’s.”

Following in the footsteps of his father Brian Daly, a former wing at St. Joe’s between 1988-92, Daly committed to join Phil Martelli and the Hawks just before the 2018-19 season.

Ultimately though, while Daly was forced to sit out his first season on Hawk Hill, SJU finished 14-19 and Martelli was hastily fired, shocking the Philadelphia basketball community.

Just nine days later, the University announced that former Philadelphia 76ers assistant Billy Lange would take over the job. A decision that pushed most of the remaining roster to hit the transfer portal or search for professional opportunities. After a season already spent on the bench, Daly was one of the few that opted to stay on Hawk Hill for the rebuild, endowed by his passion for the program.

As one of the more experienced veterans on Lange’s first-year roster, Daly flourished in his return home as the Hawks leading scorer averaging 20.5 PPG and 4.3 APG despite a 6-26 record.

“When I transferred I had some decent schools [offering], but I was cool sacrificing that level just to be comfortable and close to home,” he said. “I wish we’d won more but it was a great experience.”

Some will remember Daly’s game-tying 3-point circus shot to force overtime against Davidson on the road, undoubtedly a highlight of his junior season.

Before the completion of the 2020 Atlantic 10 Championship, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, putting a pause on the sports world and college basketball subsequently. Returning for the 2020-21 campaign in a chaotic and unknown environment, Daly persevered and led St. Joe’s with 18.5 PPG while battling injuries throughout the year.

Following his final season of college basketball, Daly entered a professional sports world still uncertain of its future and once again persisted despite the disorganization.

First, he joined the Chicago Bulls for the 2021 NBA Summer League. Daly later spent time with the Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers G League affiliates.

“You’ve got to always be ready to adjust in basketball,” Daily said. “One day in the G League, I played with the Celtics and the next day I got waived and the Clippers picked me up and I was there for six weeks. You never really know what’s going to happen, you’ve just got to be ready to roll with the punches.”

Now, working as an assistant coach, Daly’s been able to learn from those experiences and uses that to impact the players he works with today.

“If I could give one thing to our guys or potential recruits, basketball is a weird game.” he said. “I had no scholarship opportunities and I ended up playing with a bunch of NBA guys, summer league, training camps, all that stuff. You never really know where basketball’s going to take you, you’ve just got to be ready.”

Under Killings, another coach with Big 5 ties, Daly says he’s developed tremendously and is continuing to grow into his relatively new coaching role.

“This has probably been two of the biggest learning and growth years of my life,” Daly said. “I have the best boss in the country, he cares more about his staff and his players than anyone I’ve ever been around. I’m really lucky to start my [first coaching job] out with a guy like that because he’s pushing, motivating, loving, and giving me chances to make my imprint on the program.”

And that’s exactly what Daly has done, playing a pivotal role in the Great Danes offseason recruiting efforts to secure one of the America East’s top transfer classes. A class that includes the teams two leading-scorers in Sebastian Thomas and Amar’e Marshall, as well as Cooperstown, New York, native Tyler Bertram.

For Daly, it’s all relationship oriented and it’s easy to see looking back on his career how he’s found so much success navigating the transfer portal at UAlbany.

“When I was a junior at St. Joe’s, [Bertram] took an official visit, so I met him and his family in 2018,” Daly said. “When [Thomas and Marshall] hit the portal, I had seen Amar’e when he played at Hofstra and I called him right away. When I was in the G League, I remember watching [Thomas] with seven points and four assists in 12 minutes against St. Joes.”

With the Great Danes starting strong on the season, Daly took a moment to reflect on some of the legendary and accomplished coaching figures he’s been around over the years.

“From [Martelli], I learned the way you treat people and [Killings] obviously has been great for me,” he said. “As for many of the other guys I’ve learned patience, right? Three years ago, they were calling for [Lange’s] head but given time, look what’s happening [at St. Joe’s]. Patience man, you can’t rush the process of trying to get where you’re going.”

As for whether his dad, who spent time in the coaching ranks with Penn State and Boston University, had any thoughts on his son’s career decision, Daly, Sr. had just one remark.

“‘Why are you putting yourself through this torture?’” said Daly. “No, he basically just told me to be yourself [because players] don’t want to look at you as just a coach. They want to view you as someone who they can relate to.”

With a developing star in the assistant coaching world, the Great Danes look primed to build on a recent five game win streak at the redeveloped Broadview Center.

Now, UAlbany sits 6-3 and will have a chance to showcase the program’s growth on a national stage with a matchup against Temple at the Barclays Center on Sunday.

An opponent he’s undoubtedly familiar with and at a venue he found some success at during his own playing career, it’ll pinpoint yet another stop on Daly’s unique basketball journey.