Ever since he retired as a professional basketball player, Andrew Fields hoped to coach a college team.
The Atlantic City resident, who played basketball professionally around the world for years, has extensive sideline experience.
He spent time as an assistant coach with the now-defunct Atlantic City Seagulls of the United States Basketball League and at Holy Spirit High School.
In recent years, Fields has done volunteer work at camps, including the C. Vivian Stringer Basketball Clinic and the John Chaney/Sonny Hill Basketball Clinic.
But Fields, 54, dreamed of running a college team of his own.
"(Coaching) is something I've always pursued. This is my first love. If there's something that I'd wish to make a career out of, that'd be it," Fields said Thursday in a telephone interview.
His dream became a reality Thursday, when he was named the new men's coach at Atlantic Cape Community College.
"We really liked his poise, his maturity," Mike Rennick, senior manager of athletics at Atlantic Cape, said Thursday night. "I think he's going to be a good imfluence on the players there."
Fields checks for collegiate coaching openings regularly on the NCAA's website and applied for the Atlantic-Cape position when he heard about the vacancy.
"It's something I really fell into," Fields said. "People locally said I should put my resume in and see what happens."
Fields starred at Atlantic City High School, from which he graduated in 1975. He then played for coaching legend John Chaney at Cheyney State University. Fields led his team to the NCAA Division II championship in 1978 and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
He was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1979 but never played in the NBA. He instead spent 18 years playing in other professional leagues, including stops in France, the Philippines, Netherlands and Switzerland.
Rennick said it also helps that Fields knows the southern New Jersey basketball landscape well.
"He's local. He really kept his local ties even though he was in Europe," Rennick said. "He's just been like a local presence. People knew him around (the Atlantic Cape) campus."
Fields, who also works for the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, said he looks forward to returning to the game as a coach.
The Buccaneers struggled last season, going 1-21 under Will Wareham in his only season as coach. Rennick said that Wareham's contract was one year and was not renewed.
Field said he wants to turn the program into a winner but also to share his experiences with his players and help those talented enough to move on to four-year programs.
"I want to pass on a lot of what I've gone through as a student athlete," he said. "Try to maximize their abilities so that a school locally or around the country can see their potential as well as their athletic ability."
The Buccaneers start their season Nov. 5 at home against Hostos Community College (N.Y.).
(Staff Writer Charles Schroeder contributed to this report.)
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