Devin Mann

Devin Mann took over coaching the IR boys’ basketball team last year.

We are family

I got all my players with me

We are family

Get up everybody and play

–Altered lyrics from “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge

You’ll have to forgive Indian River High School head boys basketball coach Devin Mann if he frequently hums the melody from the popular, ageless ditty “We Are Family,” by the Philadelphia-based quartet Sister Sledge.

It is a tune that reflects his coaching philosophy.

“It is important (for me) to create a family-like atmosphere around my program,” said Mann, who is in his third season as the Indian men’s bench boss. “(Our) success is dependent on every person in some capacity. I care about investing in my team as individuals and in their growth as people before looking at them as athletes. To play for me, all I ask is that you care, you give maximum effort, and you have fun while doing so. (And to) work to be better every day, and to learn from our mistakes.”

The Indians have been doing just that, improving from a 3-17 record in Mann’s first season of 2019-20 to a 5-11 mark, including a resounding playoff victory at Laurel last season.

Heading into the holiday break this season, Mann’s men have won two of their five games, and were within a late basket of being 3-3 overall and 1-1 in Henlopen Conference play.

Although IR struggles to attract large numbers of basketball student-athletes, those who play for coach Mann work extremely hard to develop a solid IQ for playing the game.

The Indians have shown tremendous promise this season, as well, winning two of their first three games.

The hoops head honcho frequently draws on his own experiences of having helped coach the 2017 Milford High football team reach the Division II state championship game before losing 14-7 to Delmar. He also helped lead the 2015-16 Buccaneers basketball team to the Henlopen Conference South Division title. That team also won their first two playoff games before losing to eventual state champ Sanford.

“One thing I’ve learned as a coach is the importance of investing in who my kids are, much more than investing in how well they play for me,” said Mann, who graduated from Milford High in 2008 and earned a Business Hospitality Management degree at Howard University in Washington, D.C. “Relationship building is the true key to success as a high school coach. When athletes understand that their coach is willing to fight for them, they will fight for their coach.”

Mann strives to maintain a positive impact on his student-athletes. It is his way of paying forward his own good fortune of having some very special individuals help shape his own life and career in scholastic athletics.

“There are three people who have had a profound impact on me as a coach and a teacher,” said Mann, who served as an assistant basketball coach for the Seaford High basketball team in 2014-15 and as a Milford High football hoops assistant coach from 2015-16 through 2019-19. “B.J. Joseph was my high school basketball coach who inspired me to learn more about the game when I played for him (at Milford High).

“Freeman Williams, a former coach at Caesar Rodney High School, (was someone I watched closely) when I first began coaching,” added Mann, who played football and basketball as a Milford High student-athlete. “I always watched how well he ran his basketball program, and that everything was always in order. Later, I built a relationship with him and he has become my coaching mentor.”

The third person who made a deep impression on coach Mann’s career is Dr. David Carter, an assistant principal at Indian River High School. “Dr. Carter has been in my life since I was in the 7th grade,” said Mann, whose office is located just a bounce pass away from his former teacher and football coach. “He has become my life mentor and is the single greatest motivator I’ve had for the majority of my adult life. I can credit Dr. Carter for (teaching me) so many of life’s lessons, and I’m grateful to be working with him (now).”

As a coach and teacher, Mann stresses to his students and athletes that they can have whatever they want in life. “Literally, whatever they want,” he said. “As long as they are willing to do the work that it takes to make that happen. Everything is attainable, you just have to do what is necessary to accomplish it. Just talking about it won’t make it happen.”

Staff Reporter

Mike is a veteran sports journalist, covering generations of student-athletes in Pennsylvania, Texas and Delaware. He moved to the area in 2018 with his wife, Colleen. His passion for people and sports enables him to honor young athletes’ achievements.