Dr. Oliver Eslinger was named Head Men's Basketball Coach for the California Institute of Technology in the fall of 2008. "Doc" came to Caltech after an exhaustive national search with more than 120 applicants.
Doc's vision for the Caltech men's program is clear: create a competitive team with the world's most brilliant student-athletes. With a commitment to conditioning and defense, a focus on fundamentals, and an exciting offensive system, the Beavers look to establish a record of success on the court just as they have done in the classroom. In only a short time, the program has invigorated the community with an intense and motivating atmosphere, an unprecedented annual alumni event, glamorous senior nights, Caltech's first-ever Midnight Madness, and the inaugural 110 Rivalry game. Faculty and administrators have served as honorary coaches and individual players have reached outstanding milestones.
In seven seasons at the helm of the Caltech program, Doc's squads have made significant progress. In his initial season, with six graduating seniors and no incoming recruits, the Beavers competed valiantly and made strides to be competitive. They witnessed another 1,000 point scorer (Travis Haussler), and were the host school for the SCIAC Ducey Award winner (Matt Dellatorre).
Eslinger's inaugural recruiting class (2009) was the first of its kind as several players came to Caltech with quality high school basketball experiences. Mike Edwards was heavily recruited and did not disappoint as he set a Caltech record for 3-pointers made in a season, and became one of the top scorers (18.8 ppg) and thieves (1.8 spg) in the SCIAC. Point guard Collin Murphy set the stage for his career as he calibrated the offense for Tech and finished among the league leaders in assists (2.0 apg), steals (1.4 spg), and rebounds (4.1 rpg).
With virtually no key players returning from his first year ledger, the 2009-10 unit was the youngest team in the nation; 11 freshmen and just two juniors competed for playing time. Eight frosh started at least two games, and all first-year players received meaningful minutes. The typical starting rotation included four freshmen and one junior, Ryan Elmquist, who topped the conference in blocked shots with 50 in 25 contests. Caltech, for much of the season, led the SCIAC in opponent 3-point field goal percentage defense and set historical program marks for team field goal attempts and blocked shots. Furthermore, a legion of players were named to the NABC Honors Court and the inaugural SCIAC All-Academic Team.
With a solid structure in place and another influential recruiting class, the program began to turn the corner in Eslinger’s third season. Starting one senior (Elmquist), two sophomores, and two freshmen, the Beavers became stronger: They won a handful of games during the non-conference slate.
The Beavers competed with every team in the SCIAC and were involved in some heart-breaking losses (by one point, two points, four points in overtime to the team that won the conference, and six points twice). Caltech finally broke through and made history on February 22 when it topped Occidental 46-45 in the last game of the season -- the first conference victory for the program since 1985.
The improvement in performance has been remarkable since Doc’s arrival. In 2006-07, two years prior the Eslinger era, Caltech averaged 28.8 turnovers and just 28.1 rebounds per game which resulted in 46.9 points and a -40.8 margin of defeat. Just four years later, and in Eslinger’s third campaign, the Beavers cut the turnovers in half (14.0 per contest), upped rebounds (32.7 per game), and averaged 58.2 points per outing (-10.2 scoring margin). Caltech’s assist to turnover ratio climbed from .3 to .83.
Progress continued in Eslinger's fourth season as Caltech won five more non-league games and set program records for 3-pointers made (158) and attempted (535). The Beavers achieved other milestones, including 95 points scored in a road win at West Coast Baptist and the first out-of-state NCAA win in history at Macalester (MN).
In season five, his first recruiting class was finally senior laden. The six veterans helped to fortify a changed culture, an enhanced environment, and an ultracompetitive program. The team set more program marks, including most points scored in a season (1514), most field goals attempted in a season (1393), most assists in a game (23), and most steals in a game (16). Alex Runkel set a game record for steals with seven. Edwards became the school's all-time leading scorer with 1581 cumulative points. He and Murphy played in every single one of their 100 colleigate games.
Season six looked quite different -- with no seniors and just four returners -- and featured the first win against a Northwest Conference opponent as Caltech beat Willamette in the Beavers' season opener. Paced by a heavy recruiting class, Caltech became bigger and more athletic than ever before. A number of freshmen made immediate impacts, entered program Top 10 lists, and helped Caltech set season records for most points scored (1547), most field goals (576), most field goal attempts (1441), offensive rebounds (309), and blocked shots (94). In March of 2014, Caltech embarked on its first international tour when it traveled to Spain to sightsee and play four club teams from Catalonia. The Beavers went 3-1 on the trip.
Season seven was ground-breaking as the Beavers beat three conference opponents in consecutive home games during the month of February. There were also a number of close contests, including a string of three overtime games against non-league opponents that saw Caltech win the third. Program records were set for most rebounds (886) and blocked shots in a season (96). Caltech led the SCIAC in free throw percentage (.706) and finished third in blocks and rebound margin. Junior swingman Kc Emezie was named second team all-conference, SCIAC Athlete of the Week, and Bennett Rank DIII Stud of the Week. Bryan Joel was honored as the Ted Ducey award winner and Andrew Hogue, who achieved the 500-rebound career mark and led the league in total rebounds, was a SCIAC Athlete of the Week in December. Hogue (free throw percentage) and Joel (3-point percentage) finished their careers as two of the top shooters in program history. Junior Rob Anderson was named to the Allstate NABC Good Works Team for his outstanding contributions to sustainable energy.
Caltech won more NCAA games in 2010-11 and 2011-12 than it had in 50 years and produced a number of awards along the way. Elmquist graduated as the most decorated player in Caltech history (No. 2 on the Caltech scoring list, No. 1 in blocked shots, No. 1 in free throws made). He was named D3hoops.com All-West Region, CoSida Academic All-District and received the SCIAC Ted Ducey Award after leading the league in blocked shots and finishing second in scoring. Freshman Todd Cramer led the SCIAC in assists (4.9 apg) and set the Caltech record for most helpers in a season (123). Edwards finished third in the league in scoring (14.8 ppg) and in the top 13 in six other categories. Freshman Mike Paluchniak led the league in minutes played (37.0 mpg).
In 2011-12, Edwards led the team in scoring and was named to the all-conference team, while freshmen Bryan Joel and Andrew Hogue were two of the top first-year players in the SCIAC. They each entered Caltech's top 10 for a season in 3-point field goal percentage. The following season, freshman Kc Emezie finished tenth in SCIAC points and field goal percentage. Edwards repeated as an all-conference selection in 2012-13 and later became the first Caltech basketball player to go pro when he signed with the Pee Dee Vipers in South Carolina.
Eslinger’s Caltech squads have set more than 70 team and individual records the past six seasons.
Eslinger spent the six seasons prior to his appointment in Pasadena at MIT, where he served as associate head coach and the program's top assistant. Out east, Doc was responsible for all phases of the MIT program, including practice and game preparation, on-the-floor coaching, scouting, recruiting, scheduling, video editing and exchange, travel management, budget facilitation, alumni relations and facility coordination. The Engineers in Cambridge compiled an 87-73 record during Eslinger's run, one that began in 2002. Records were set for the only post-season appearances and two tip-off tournament championships in team lore. In 2006, the program achieved the most wins in its 105-year history (21-9).
Nearly every season with Eslinger on staff, MIT ranked nationally in the top 10 in field goal percentage defense, scoring defense, rebounding margin or free throw percentage. Doc served as a coach for the 2006 team when it traveled to Taiwan and won the Kainan Invitational International Tournament Championship. He was instrumental in developing MIT's two most decorated basketball players -- Jimmy Bartolotta and Mike D'Auria -- who were named D3hoops.com All-Americans, ESPN the Magazine Academic All-Americans, and NEWMAC Players of the Year. In Bartolotta, Eslinger recruited and coached the eventual lone Jostens Trophy winner from the Institute who was later named D3 Player of the Year. Doc also helped develop the Institute's only two NEWMAC Rookies of the Year, plus 14 NEWMAC all-academic team members.
In 2006, he received an MIT Gold Award for his service and dedication towards the department's advancement, and two years later was named head coach for the 2008 NEBCA All-Star Game.
Eslinger made the trek to Cambridge after previously serving as Head Coach at Boston University Academy and as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Bethlehem Central High School in Delmar, NY. He stays actively involved in camps and clinics at all levels, making significant contributions to Bentley, Harvard, Boston University, Boston College, Rising Star, Crossover Sports in Shanghai, China, and the Matt Lottich Life Skills Basketball Camp in the Bay Area.
In addition to his coaching positions, Doc has worked as a sport and performance consultant, has contributed writing to ESPN, ClipperBlog, NBA.com, Basketball Coach Weekly, and HoopSpeak, and produced his own blog, Doc's Head Games. He is also a member of the ESPN Forecast Panel. He is a founding faculty member of the Community Charter School of Cambridge (MA) where he served as Director of Athletics from 2005-08, and he serves on the advisory boards for the Youth Basketball Coaching Association (YBCA) and MOCAP Analytics. In 2011, Eslinger initiated Doc's Basketball Academy, a summer basketball camp for youth and elite high school players. In 2013, he organized the SoCal Senior Showcase, an annual all-star game for Division II and III players.
Eslinger is a 1997 graduate of Clark University in Worcester, Mass., where he was a starting guard and majored in psychology. He earned his doctorate in counseling psychology and sport psychology from Boston University in 2002 upon completion of his dissertation entitled "Mental Imagery Ability in High and Low Performance Collegiate Basketball Players".
Follow Eslinger on Twitter: @docsheadgames.
Ed.D., Boston University, 2002
Ed.M., Boston University, 1999
B.A., Clark University, Worcester, Mass., 1997
Bethlehem Central High School, Delmar, N.Y., 1993
Head Coach, Caltech, 2008-Present
Assistant / Associate Head Coach, M.I.T., 2002-08
Head Coach, Boston University Academy, 2001-02
Assistant Coach, Bethlehem (N.Y.), 1997-98
Caltech Player Milestones:
21 Academic All-Conference
20 NABC Honors Court
3 1,000-Point Scorers
3 500-Rebound Club
3 SCIAC Ted Ducey Awards
1 Academic All-District
1 Allstate NABC Good Works Team honoree
Caltech's all-time leading scorer
The first All-West Region player in history
The first pro basketball player in history