William McCormack

Yale men’s basketball Director of Basketball Operations Rey Crossman is departing Yale to pursue an opportunity outside of college basketball, he announced on Wednesday night.

After joining the Bulldogs before the 2018–19 season, Crossman served on the Yale staff for two years. He carried a notebook on the bench in each of the 60 games he coached. At first, head coach James Jones had him track special statistics. Crossman took note of the number of kills the Bulldogs logged, or the number of times their defense recorded three consecutive stops (their goal was at least six a game). Other times, Crossman said he marked down figures that other coaches on the staff might have found helpful late in the game. 

Soon into his first season in New Haven, the notebook’s role evolved. Like the basketball coaching whiteboard that typically occupied his other hand on the Eli bench, his notes served a tactical purpose. But Crossman began to supplement the statistics with other observations, not only about Yale’s opponent or play but also about his suited coaching peers sitting next to him on the bench — Jones, associate head coach Matt Kingsley and assistant coaches Justin Simon ’04 and Tobe Carberry.

“I started taking notes about everything,” Crossman said. “Anything that came to mind. I was able to continue to improve and understand what I should be looking for and what I should be writing down from coach Jones talking at halftime or the other guys on the staff … As a coach, you want to try to write down as much as you can because again, you’re trying to learn and give your team as much as you can to win games or to perform at a certain level. That notebook kind of grew as time went on.”

Now, after 60 games of observing, contributing and “trying to be a sponge,” Crossman will take all he has learned into a new role. In a phone interview Thursday morning, Crossman said he is unable to reveal the details of his next step but told the News it will still involve basketball.

Crossman served as an assistant coach at Skidmore College for three years before joining the Elis. (Photo: William McCormack)

Yale won Ivy League titles in both of Crossman’s seasons in New Haven. His first season resulted in a NCAA Tournament berth after the Bulldogs defeated Harvard in the Ivy Madness championship, while COVID-19 abruptly ended his second season on the staff. Crossman served as an assistant coach at Skidmore College for three years before joining the Elis.

“To be quite honest, to have the opportunity to be a part of a program like Yale and to learn and understand the standards and the excellence and everyday routine that it takes to perform and win — I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Crossman said. “It was a hard decision to move on because of those things … I know what it takes to now run [something] successful, and it doesn’t have to be a basketball program, whatever the case may be. But I’ve seen it done at the highest level, and I’m very thankful for that.”

The past few months have given Crossman a chance to ponder where he seeks to make an impact, and he referenced the onset of COVID-19 and America’s persistent struggle with racism in his Wednesday announcement. If Yale had moved on to Ivy Madness and another potential NCAA Tournament appearance in a world with no pandemic, Crossman said he doubts he would have found the time for reflection.

But of course, there was no conference tournament, no March Madness and no student-athletes to coach this spring. Crossman said he views the extra time as both a blessing and a curse.

“I just wanted to give thought to everything that was not only going on for me as an individual, but what was going on in our world,” Crossman added. “And I came to the conclusion that, more so now than ever, our youth need guidance. They need mentors. They need people to give them positive insight … Obviously at the college level, you have your 15 guys and you can influence kids to a certain extent, but I thought that for me, I wanted to do it on a much broader scale.”

Crossman talks to the team as it begins a timeout at Brown in January 2020. (Photo: William McCormack)

For Crossman, basketball facilitates mentorship. He said he gets the most out of whoever he’s working with when he’s able to teach and interact through the sport.

Crossman and guard August Mahoney ’23 both hail from the greater Albany area in upstate New York. Mahoney first met Crossman when the latter was an assistant at Skidmore and through his AAU program, Albany City Rocks. A couple months after Mahoney’s commitment to Yale in June 2018, Crossman started his first day for the Elis and was in his second year when the 6-foot-4 guard enrolled.

“Coach Rey was great as a DOBO [Director of Basketball Operations],” Mahoney said. “He was always someone I could count on for honest feedback and advice and that he’d always be there to get extra shots or anything if needed.”

Crossman’s father, Herb Crossman, served as head coach at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons in Schenectady, New York, and as Rey recruited peers in the Albany area to join summer tournament teams, he began to consider coaching for his own career.

“I just wanted to give thought to everything that was not only going on for me as an individual, but what was going on in our world. And I came to the conclusion that, more so now than ever, our youth need guidance. They need mentors. They need people to give them positive insight.”

Rey Crossman

At the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in exercise science in 2015, Crossman served as a student manager for the 49ers’ men’s basketball team. Following graduation, he earned a spot on the Skidmore staff in October 2015. The Thoroughbreds went on to make two Division III NCAA Tournament appearances during his time in Saratoga Springs, New York, where Crossman also helped recruit guard Noah Meren to the program. Meren logged a double-double when the Thoroughbreds visited Yale during the 2018–19 season and transferred up to Brown and Division I basketball following the season.

Crossman had worked a couple summer elite camps at Yale before getting the Director of Basketball Operations position after former DOBO Chris Vincent departed for a spot on the junior college Miami Dade staff in 2018. As is typical for the position, Crossman’s responsibilities at Yale were exhaustive. He called himself an “all-time secretary.”

“He’s done a lot for our program behind the scenes,” Jones said. “Doing all the little things… You don’t notice them until there’s a problem, but Rey really worked hard to try to make my job and my assistant coaches’ jobs easier, and that’s always a big help.”

Jones said Crossman’s duties were “endless.” He helped coordinate travel and managed flight, hotel and bus arrangements. He worked on scheduling games and practices. He set up Keemotion, which is a video technology Yale uses to film practices. He helped manage the team’s Instagram page. And on top of everything, he thought about hoops too, watching film and helping the team prepare for opponents.

Crossman, left with the notebook in his right hand, joins the coaching staff in a huddle at home against Brown in January 2020. (Photo: William McCormack)

Because of a University-wide hiring freeze through June 2021, Yale’s next DOBO will need to be a volunteer coach. Jones said Yale became the last team in the Ivy League to get a paid DOBO position this past season, and added that Crossman’s successor will not be able to earn a salary because of the hiring freeze, which only permits “rare exceptions that must be approved by the provost, senior vice president for operations, or the dean of Yale School of Medicine,” according to the April announcement from University Provost Scott Strobel.

Crossman, meanwhile, is eager to help kids and families in his next role after making the tough decision to leave Yale and Jones’ staff.

“I think the ultimate goal is for us as individuals to perform at our highest level and allow ourselves to use our gifts and our passions to obviously help ourselves, but help other people, especially in a time like this where there’s so much going on,” he said. “You would hate for the world to look and be how it is in 20 years. It takes people, one at a time, influencing others… I feel like that’s what my talent is — to build relationships and motivate and cultivate positive things.”

Yale went 45–15 over Crossman’s two seasons with the program.

William McCormack | william.mccormack@yale.edu