Unwavering love for UMass basketball brought Derek Kellogg back home

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 12-16-2022 3:16 PM

AMHERST — The lights in Derek Kellogg’s Amherst house flickered on when he flipped the switch after five years. The family kept the home in Western Massachusetts even after UMass fired him in 2017 and he took over Long Island University.

It was like they never left, because in some ways they hadn’t. Kellogg returned to UMass this summer as an assistant under Frank Martin and resettled in a place he’s spent most of his life.

“It’s home. When your family is really comfortable and then happy to be back in an area and around the campus, it just makes everything more easy because our jobs as coaches are can be difficult. It’s been a lot of time away from here,” Kellogg said. “Working with great people and being around coach (Martin) just made it an amazing transition and you know, the comfortability of being at a place that you spent, feels like half your life now just makes everything feel really good.”

Martin reached out to Kellogg when he was still at LIU to do his due diligence before accepting the position, chatting with a coach that had been there and an important part of the program’s history on the court. Kellogg wanted to help however he could because he was still invested in his alma mater’s success.

LIU fired Kellogg in June after five seasons. He took the team to the NCAA Tournament in his first season and finished third in the Northeast Conference last year with a 16-14 overall record.

“I’m a forward thinker, but you have to reflect to make sure that you can better yourself, so I think it’s a daily reflection on all jobs you’ve had throughout your career and what maybe you’ve done great, not so good, or what you where you can improve,” Kellogg said. “I felt like LIU in particular, we had some good success for the resources provided in the amount of buy games you’re playing. So from a revenue standpoint, I thought we did pretty good and, 1,000% graduation rate and things that are important to university. Time and circumstances always important, and it might have just been the right time for me to kind of move along and come back to a place I call home.”

A position on Martin’s staff opened when Will Bailey, who followed Martin from South Carolina, left for Saint Louis (and former UMass coach Travis Ford). Kellogg presented his return to Martin first.

“I think he felt kind of good about it and didn’t realize that it’d be something I’d be interested in,” Kellogg said.

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Martin brought the idea to UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford to hear his impressions. Bamford responded that he thought it was a fantastic idea but wanted to talk to Kellogg first to make sure they were on the same page given their history.

“I have a tremendous respect for Derek, and I told Frank that,” Bamford said.

They spoke for an hour and had a “wonderful conversation” about how the move could impact the program and him both personally and professionally. Kellogg’s love for UMass never waned.

“You can’t replace that, I don’t care who you hire. When you’ve got somebody that played here, wore the maroon and white and really bleeds for this place, in that way bringing Derek back here was a no brainer,” Bamford said.

Martin also used the phrase “no brainer.” He described Kellog as an “unbelievable competitor with a selfless soul.”

“A lot of guys got credit for the way this program was built back in the day. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” Martin said. “He competed with that, that relentless energy to because people didn’t think he was quite good enough. But he never searched for that attention. He always was willing to let the others get the attention. He’s the same way coaching.”

Egos haven’t impacted their interactions at all. Kellogg remains focused on being the best assistant he can. He operates in ways he would have appreciated from his assistants as a head coach.

“You’re not making all the decisions, you’re helping somebody make the decisions. I understand what it takes to make his job easier and try to make the players perform at a level that’s best for our team and program,” Kellogg said. “There’s a ton of things that he does that I will, if I ever was a head coach again, I would take with me that I feel are very important, invaluable to kind of running a program the right way. It’s been a great learning experience.”

Kellogg has also taught Martin about UMass and Amherst. He knows the right people to introduce Martin to and how to navigate the area.

“He knows everything and everyone on both sides of the fence, and he’s helped me relentlessly and even with simple things. This might sound stupid, but it’s the truth,” Martin said. “You’re on the road and you’re recruiting and you’re out all day. You’re watching film, you’re tired and you’re hungry. He loves pizza just like me. Like he’s told me like every little hole in the wall where I can go get a slice of pizza that he knows will put me in a good mood.”

As long as the people that are important to him are in a good mood, Kellogg’s in a good mood. His son Max was more excited to come back to Amherst than he was.

“When you see a smile on your son’s face, and your wife’s in a good groove, and you’re at a place that you enjoy coaching and being at it makes life makes life worth it,” Kellogg said.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>