By Jeff Goodman
John Becker was 38 years old when he decided to take his family – wife and two daughters – to Burlington, Vermont to join Mike Lonergan’s staff as the director of operations.
The salary was $10,000 per year.
That was just five years ago, so you can understand why Becker became so emotional at the news conference on May 20 in which he was introduced as Lonergan’s successor.
``I didn’t get the job in the conventional way,” the 43-year-old Becker admitted.
No, he sure didn’t.
His coaching career began as an assistant at Gallaudet University, the only four-year school for the deaf and hearing impaired in the country, where he joined without even knowing sign language.
He was promoted to the head spot in 1997 and went up against Lonergan, who was in the same league at Catholic University. However, Becker was being paid just $5,000 at Gallaudet and was also forced to work a full-time job doing computer work.
It was ultimately too much for too little at Gallaudet and Becker got out of the business, getting his master’s degree at George Washington.
``I missed it,” Becker said.
So Becker jumped at the chance to join Steve Howes’ staff at Catholic after Howes replaced Lonergan – who went to join Gary Williams’ staff at Maryland.
He was there for two years before Lonergan called about the director of operations gig.
``The rest is history,” Becker jokes.
But if a spot hadn’t opened up after two years as a full-time assistant, Becker isn’t sure how much longer he would have been able to survive with a wife and two kids on ten grand a year.
Vermont AD Robert Corran handed Becker the interim tag after Lonergan got the GW job this past offseason, but few figured that Becker had a legitimate shot at the permanent job.
``I was shocked when they offered me the job,” Becker said. ``I went home and told my wife that I had good news and bad. The good was that I got the job and the bad was that I probably had no leverage after the way I reacted when they offered it to me.”
Now Becker’s paycheck reads a little different than a few years back. His salary is $170,000 now and that 1994 Toyota Camry with 200,000-plus miles that he was unable to drive on the highway because it shook too much has been replaced by a brand-new Honda Accord.
``This is unbelievable,” Becker said. ``It’s better than the best-case scenario.”