In February 2020, David Arseneault Jr. talks to the team during a timeout at a game in Darby Gymnasium.
David Arseneault Jr. ’09 had some big shoes to fill. His father, David Arseneault Sr., best known for inventing the Grinnell System, had been the men’s basketball coach at the College from 1982–2018, before retiring and handing over the reins of head coach to his son.
“My old man’s my best friend, he was the best man at my wedding. My passion for the game of basketball comes from him and it’s an honor to have the opportunity to follow him,” says Arseneault Jr.
Known for its shot-gun style of play, the Grinnell System has been the core of the team’s strategy since its inception, and Arseneault Jr. continued that methodology after accepting the position. Hot off a stint as the head coach of the Reno Bighorns, the Sacramento King’s D-League (now G-League) affiliate, he appreciates how the Grinnell System is focused on getting as many players on the court during a game as possible.
“The majority of the shots we take are 3-pointers and we play with an internal shot clock of 14 seconds. In any given game we are going to play with 15 to 17 guys, maybe even 20 in uniform. We really try to maximize player participation.” Knowing that students come to Grinnell for a full academic experience drives this concept. “They’re not coming solely to play basketball. They’re coming to get a great education. They want to have fun playing the sport and all those things go into the way that we try to play.”
The Grinnell System has been utilized on other teams at a variety of levels, bringing with it a certain notoriety. It’s not uncommon for their opponents to have the largest crowd of the season at the games when matched up against Grinnell. “I’m not sure if the fans are cheering for us or just want to come out and see what the heck this is all about. But it does give our guys the opportunity to play in front of a crowd, which is a wonderful experience.”
Getting recognized at the grocery store or local restaurants is common for coaches of small-town college teams. But when you grew up and have lived in Grinnell for over 30 years, it brings a higher level of responsibility and recognition.
“Grinnell as a community was a wonderful place to grow up and to raise a family,” says Arseneault Jr. His wife, Rachel Arseneualt ’10, also works at the College in the Office of Admission, and they have three children, Izzy, Jackson, and Luke.
“But the community, and the relationship that the community has with the College is tremendous and creates an awesome family-friendly environment from a basketball perspective. We get incredible support.”
Whether checking in to see how the team is doing or attending games, the support of the Grinnell community is deeply present, and goes both ways. “The College does a great job of staying connected with the community too. Whether that’s free admission to games or sponsoring local events or organizations, I know a focus is really placed on support of this great town.”
Come out and cheer on the men’s basketball team for their final home conference game of the season on Wednesday, February 9 at 5:30 p.m., followed by the women’s game at 7:30 p.m., in Darby Gymnasium. Admission is free to all attendees. Masks are required.
Content and pictures courtesy of Grinnell College