FARGO, N.D. — Tom Bird always has had a game plan when it comes to basketball.
First it was as a cerebral guard playing for his uncle, Randy Harris, at Lee Academy where he once went 24-for-24 from the free-throw line in a game and was a semifinalist for the state’s Mr. Basketball Award as a senior in 2007.
Then came the urge to go into coaching, initially with volunteer stints back at Lee and more recently at the college level, first at Thomas College in Waterville before a job last winter as an assistant video coordinator with the University of Florida women’s basketball team.
Now the 24-year-old Bird is ready for the next chapter in the pursuit of his ultimate goal — a Division I head coaching job.
Bird was named the new women’s basketball director of operations at North Dakota State University on Wednesday, and he will join head coach Carolyn DeHoff’s staff beginning July 29.
“We had a nice pool of candidates with different skill sets for this position. Tom’s time spent last year under Amanda Butler at Florida as their assistant video coordinator sparked the interest of our staff,” said DeHoff in a press release.
“Through the process of getting to know Tom we were encouraged by the pieces he could bring our staff from both an administration and video coordinating position.”
In his new job Bird essentially will do everything but coach and recruit, with his responsibilities to include arranging team travel, lodging and meals, coordinating the team’s community service efforts, and working with the team’s academic coordinators.
“It’s all the behind-the-scenes stuff,” said Bird, who has been spending the summer with family back in his hometown of Lee. “It’s like being the athletic director for the women’s basketball team.”
North Dakota State is a Division I program that competes in the Summit League, which includes the likes of the University of Denver, Eastern Illinois, Oral Roberts and and Western Illinois — and the Bison’s non-conference schedule for the 2013-14 season includes a game at the University of Maine slated for Thursday, Nov. 14.
“My ultimate dream is to be the head coach of a Division I program,” Bird said. “My original thought was to be a video coordinator for a couple of years and then be a director of operations for two, three or four years before getting a job as an assistant coach.
“I’ve told myself that in the next 12 to 14 years I hope to become a Division I head coach somewhere, and after being a video coordinator for one year before taking my new job, I’m a year ahead of schedule right now.”
Bird made his collegiate coaching debut with the women’s basketball team at Thomas during the 2010-11 season before graduating from the Elm City campus in May 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in sport management.
He subsequently emailed every NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball program in the country with the exception of Ivy League schools in search of landing a job as a graduate assistant.
There was only one catch — he didn’t want to continue going to school, which is a prerequisite for most graduate assistant positions.
The same was true at Florida, but Bird instead was offered the chance to serve as one of the Gators’ three assistant video coordinators for women’s basketball last winter, and he jumped at the opportunity.
Among his duties were organizing film exchange for all conference opponents and creating a virtual playbook of all practices and games, both offense and defensive plays.
“I had zero video experience before I went to Florida last year, but I learned so much while I was there,” said Bird.