Feb. 1, 2008
The Nova Notebook, by Villanova director of media relations Mike Sheridan, appears during the basketball season with features highlighting the men's basketball team. In this out-take we meet one of the new additions to the basketball staff, administrative intern/video coordinator Keith Urgo.
These days, Keith Urgo spends many of his waking hours in a fully appointed video room surrounded by flat screen televisions and the kind of editing and technical equipment that could outfit a small television station. This spot in the Davis Center is very much at the center of Urgo's universe these days.
But it wasn't so long ago that Urgo was worlds away.
Not long after he completed his undergraduate studies in 2002 at Fairfield University, where he had been a walk-on member of the basketball team and a lacrosse player, Urgo was presented with the chance to keep a hand in the game in a most unique way. He was a founding member of an organization titled "Playing for Peace, Inc." His role there took him first to South Africa and then, with six other recent graduates, to Northern Ireland, where he would remain for 18 months.
"It was an incredible experience," he says. "We dealt with kids who defined their friends by what neighborhood they were from or what uniform they wore. It seemed like everyone was identified by their religion - Protestant or Catholic. Some families would not allow their children to play with other children if they were of a different faith.
"It took some time to build a trust. We tried to use basketball to bridge some of that divide. Then to see kids from different backgrounds out on the court chasing the ball, laughing together, was incredibly rewarding."
The organization remains in existence today and now goes by the title "Peace Players International." It was awarded the 2007 Arthur Ashe ESPY Award by the network for its continuing efforts abroad.
Urgo returned North America to join his family's hotel business and to be nearer to his then girlfriend and now wife, Kristy, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. However, his passion for basketball remained strong and he soon found himself back in metropolitan Washington, where he had once played high school basketball at Gonzaga High School. When Gonzaga was looking for a candidate to coach its freshman team and help out with the varsity, Urgo was eager to help.
"My father (Dan) and I always had this bond of basketball," explains Urgo of his father, who had played at Brooklyn (N.Y.) Prep and as a freshman at Fordham University. "I am one of ten children but am the only one who played basketball. That was something my Dad and I have always shared. He knew how much the game meant to me."
His father encouraged his son to pursue his dream. The younger Urgo split his time between coaching and selling real estate. At the end of the year, he faced a decision.
"I was always thinking about the team and what we could do to improve," he says. "There were times when I should have been out checking out a property but I was doing something connected to basketball. I had to give up one or the other and I gave up real estate. I decided to go after a career in basketball."
With that goal in mind, Urgo began networking as best he could. In the fall of 2005, he took time out to visit North Carolina, Duke, and Wake Forest. He would watch practice, take notes, and pick the brains of the coaching staffs afterward. A year later, he took a trip north and stopped in at Temple, La Salle and Villanova.
"I had known (manager of basketball operations) Jason Donnelly from working the Morgan Wootten camps with him," he says. "So when he mentioned to me that there was a position open on the staff last year, I was very interested."
In the spring of 2007 former staffer Andrew Francis accepted an assistant coaching position at Siena College in Albany, N.Y. And while he wasn't a technical wizard, Urgo's organization and passion for basketball helped win him the job.
His timing was impeccable in one sense - when Urgo was hired in October, the Wildcats were preparing to move into the Davis Center. In previous years, predecessors Jason Crafton - now an assistant coach at Navy - and Francis plied their trade in the cramped confines of a tiny room off the Pavilion lobby. The room was not much larger than a closet and barely had enough space for a work station and chair.
"I'm amazed by what those guys were able to accomplish in that space," says Urgo. "I was only in there for a month and there were limitations to what we could do with that equipment. This is so much more efficient. I probably don't deserve all this but I appreciate how much easier it makes doing this job."
Indeed, the capacity for taping opponents for scouting purposes has grown exponentially. All of the video can be fed directly into the cinema located next door or on to the monitors in the coach's offices. There is also a DVD burning machine that makes tape duplication far easier than it was in the past.
With each passing week, Urgo has felt more comfortable with the components at his disposal. It is his responsibility to create not just the tapes used to scout upcoming opponents, but what are known as "Attitude" tapes. Those include highlights of the kind of gritty work - charges taken, deflections, paint catches - that are evaluated in each practice and game by the coaching staff.
"One of the things I try to do when we determine who wins attitude club is to meet with that player and hear what song he feels should be included when we watch the tape as a team," he says. "That helps me get to know these guys a little better and let's them see how much this staff values those `little things" that may not be visible on the stat sheet."
After four months and two-thirds of a regular season, Urgo feels very much at home on the Main Line.
"The staff here is so friendly and helpful," he says. "Everyone has been great and that certainly helps as you are learning a new job. Villanova is such a classy place and basketball at this level is as good as it gets. The people here are really dedicated and you can see how important basketball is at Villanova."
Urgo's path here may have been unique. But it has given him an appreciation for all that he has before him.