New Varsity Coach to Lead DLS Basketball Program


Denarryl Rice is ready to work.

As the new DLS varsity basketball coach and head of its program, he recognizes the significance of his role and is eager to get started. 

“One of the first things I want to establish is the tone of hard work,” he said, “and to be able to have the image that nothing is given to us; we have to work for everything we’ve got.” 

Rice (who also goes by D.Rice) is well aware of the high level of competition for which De La Salle is known: “I understand what I’ve been given, and that I will be working with the top players in the top league and the standard of excellence that DLS holds.”

Athletic Director Dan Rohn said he has great anticipation for Rice: “We are excited to have Denarryl as the new head coach of our basketball program. He brings his passion for both the game and coaching to our student-athletes. 

“He understands our high level of competition and the standard of excellence that are major parts of our program, as well as the DLS community,” Rohn said. “This is a new beginning and we look forward to having him on our team.” 

There will be a meet and greet with Rice and his staff at 6 p.m., Tuesday, June 11, at DLS for incoming freshmen and current DLS players, parents and all student-athletes who may be interested in playing.

At 41 years old, much of Rice’s life has been encompassed by basketball. “Basketball is and has been very much at the forefront of my life since I was a child,” he said. “I have been blessed to play college and professionally at a high level,” including in Turkey, Romania, Dubai and Slovakia. 

He discovered he had a passion for coaching at age 19, followed by hosting his own basketball skills/development camps at age 22. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher of the game,” he said. “And still to this day, I am a student.” 

He has had several mentors, and learned from some of the best, he said, including NBA legends Walker D. Russell, John Long, and the late Earl Cureton. Rice also served as assistant basketball coach at North Farmington High School, Farber Jewish Academy and won two CYO division championships as the varsity girls’ head coach at Orchard Lake Our Lady of Refuge from 2017-19. 

Jay Shunnar, assistant coach at Cleveland State University, has known Rice for several years, especially during his time as assistant coach at North Farmington High School.

“He has a lot of drive and is a very caring individual,” Shunnar said, and added that Rice will bring more than just his coaching experience to De La Salle. “When you’re slotted into these positions, you have to care for the kids on and off the floor. 

“His drive really separated himself with how he will lead the program; he is a great leader of young men. I’m excited for DLS,” added Shunnar, who is also friends with former DLS varsity basketball head coach Gjon Djokaj. 

“I know the qualities Gjon has and D.Rice has similar qualities,” he added. “D.Rice has always been a grinder, first guy in and last guy out.

“This is the type of guy that DLS is getting and that’s the type of person you want in your program. There is a lot of pressure which is never easy, so it’s going to be a tough act to follow with Gjon… but D.Rice is a great person to do it.” 

And Rice is ready for the challenge. He stressed the importance of several goals he has in mind for his players: “I want to teach these young men about leadership, and to be a positive influence on and off the court. We are always learning, trying to evolve and to elevate.” 

Not only is Rice ready to embrace the DLS community, but he is also committed to be a mentor to his team, and “to continue to establish De La Salle basketball as one of the powerhouse programs in the state and to continue to build upon what Coach Gjon Djokaj has left behind.”

Starting out at DLS will be an adjustment, perhaps tough at times, but Rice is more than prepared for what is ahead. “I want to teach these young boys how to become young men,” he said. “Life is bigger than basketball… I say that all the time. I want to send them off the right way and to teach them to be accountable, to be prompt. These are the things that they will be able to take with them and follow them through life.”

Rice said he will be tough on his players, but plans to bring “a fun, exciting, energetic uptempo style of play that also brings defensive toughness every night while sharing the ball and playing the game the correct way.”

This, he added, “is a brand of basketball that fills the seats for both youth and adults.”

As the oldest of 7, Rice takes great pride in leading by example for his siblings, especially in his new role as varsity coach. Being a huge family man, he looks forward to the brotherhood and bond that will be shared and displayed on and off court, he added, and “most importantly, an opportunity to lead and help change lives.”

“My family has been nothing but super excited and enthused for my new journey,” he said. “I have no doubt it won't take long to spot them in the stands by how loud they will be cheering.

“It's a bit of a risk jumping from zero varsity head coaching experience to the best league in the state,” Rice continued. “That instilled toughness and heart which comes from my mother, who some years ago the doctors said wouldn't have long to live.

“But with strong faith, her resilience, and determination to keep fighting, she is still here today as strong as ever,” he added. “Seeing her fight for her life and coming out on top pushes me and motivates me every day to be the best version of me and strive for greatness.” 

That is the mindset he will bring to De La Salle. “As a coach who will instill toughness, structure, discipline, and a relentless work ethic,” he said,  “… that will be demonstrated and displayed on the court.”

Rice promises it will be a fun experience this upcoming season “with a style of play that has students and fans on the edge of their seats. Win, lose or draw…we all will work to get better every day! Night and night out, De La Salle basketball will be very much alive! 

“The winning tradition will continue.”




New Varsity Coach to Lead DLS Basketball Program
  • Athletics News
  • Basketball
  • CHSL