Demetrius Poles in the middle with yellow shirt at 76ers practice in 2015 with Swedish national team coaches.

Rowan Coach Reaching Into Past to Connect to Present

Rowan University men’s basketball assistant coach Demetrius Poles played professionally in Sweden and has brought coaches from Sweden over the years to Sixers practices.

By Kevin Callahan

In mid-August, Demetrius Poles was in his basketball office at Rowan University watching the Swedish National Team games.

“I know all the coaches I know everyone in the Federation system,” Poles said.

The Rowan men’s basketball assistant coach played professionally in Sweden and has brought coaches from Sweden over the years to Sixers practices.

“Absolutely, they soaked up everything they got at the Sixers practice,” Poles said. “It had a huge impact on them. The (Sixers) coaches talked to them for quite a bit and they had a chance to see some drills and to see how an NBA practice goes.”

The Swedish coaches, who last visited in 2015, also attended a Sixers game.

“They are very curious how the Sixers are doing,” Poles said. “They are very excited for their future, especially getting (Ben) Simmons and (Markelle) Fultz. A couple of them have asked to come back in a few years because they think the Sixers are going to be very, very good.”

Poles, who was voted into the Al Carino South Jersey Basketball Club Hall of Fame earlier this year, was a very, very good professional player, too.

The 6-foot-8 Poles, who started his college career at Saint Joseph’s University and finished at Rowan, winning a Division III national championship with the Profs, played professionally in Lebanon, Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Poland, Qatar, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Russia, Syria, Jordan and Argentina.

“My connections are very strong and I'm just going to maintain them forever,” Poles said.

Poles was the head coach for Brahe Basket in Sweden from 2009-2013. In his final season, he coached them to a 19-1 record and a first-place finish in the South Division, before placing second in the Swedish finals.

From 2008-2009, Poles was the head coach for Nassjo Basket. His 18-2 team also placed first in the South Division and took second in the Sweden finals.

He previously coached Kvarnby Basket from 2003-2008, placing second in the South Division in 2005-2006 with a 16-4 mark.

Also, Poles coached the Swedish National Team (Boys U18) in 2012-2013 and was named the Coach of the Year.

“It was good for me to get that experience because before I went to Europe, I didn't know they could play that well,” said the former Delsea High School (Franklinville, N.J. power forward.

Poles was selected to the Atlantic 10 All-Freshmen first team his first year on Hawk Hill, but was soon diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia.

Poles had said about the diagnosis, “At first they didn’t know what it was and it was kind of scary because of Hank Gathers a few years prior ... they told me I was walking around with an enlarged heart.”

Poles transferred for his senior season to Rowan where current La Salle coach John Giannini was the head coach of the Glassboro, N.J. school. He was the starting center on the 1996 national championship team and led the Profs in rebounds with a 6.7 average and added with 5.7 points per game. Poles’ dramatic tip with three seconds left against Illinois Wesleyan won the national semifinal game, 79-77.

Giannini said, “We couldn’t have done it without Demetrius,” about winning the 1996 national title.

Poles was a teammate of Billy Lange at Rowan.

“Billy is very open and says whatever we need let me know,” Poles said.

Poles and representatives from Rowan recently went to Sweden and Finland.

“I watched the best players in Scandinavia play against each other for eight or nine days,” Poles said.

Through Poles, his friends in Sweden know they can come back and see basketball in the United States.

“They are always welcome and they know that and they will come back in a flash,” Poles said. “Definitely those coaches would come back if they have the chance."

“They love the NBA absolutely and now they love it even more with the influx of Europeans who are making their mark in the NBA,” Poles said.

“There is a lot of good basketball in Europe, those guys can play. They are seriously fundamentally-sound.”

And the Swedish national coaches have been well-coached by the Sixers staff.