March 17, 1986
How would you feel about a career change that involved a pay cut of at least $500,000 annually? Your new job would mean working nights and weekends with little job security. Sound good? Well, Mark Alarie thought it did. Alarie, 36, a former All-ACC forward at Duke, was settling into a career in investment banking when he decided last spring to junk it and accept an entry-level assistant coaching position on the Navy basketball staff. "I don't even know what I make anymore," he says.
After six injury-plagued seasons in the NBA, with the Denver Nuggets and the Washington Bullets, Alarie entered Penn's Wharton School of Business in 1993, earned his M.B.A. in '95 and was soon working at the institutional sales desk of Alex Brown in Baltimore. Sure, Alarie was a budding Master of the Universe, but old college pals are hard to shake, and when he would speak with former teammates Tommy Amaker, Johnny Dawkins, David Henderson or Quin Snyder, they didn't exactly talk Alan Greenspan or growth stocks. They had played together on a 37-3 Duke squad that lost a thriller to Louisville in the '86 NCAA final, and now all—except Alarie—were coaching college basketball.
Big commissions aside, Alarie didn't find a career in finance as satisfying as chasing national championships. He covered the Southeast region of the U.S., talking to clients, traveling and entertaining. "I had pictured a Wall Street life for a long time," he says, "but I didn't really know what I was getting myself into."
Then last spring Alarie read in The Washington Post that an assistant's job was available at Navy. "Immediately, I saw myself there," he says. "It was something that had been tugging at me for a while." His college coach, Mike Krzyzewski, had spoken highly of Navy head coach Don De Voe, who had been an assistant at Army when Krzyzewski was the Cadets' captain. Krzyzewski encouraged Alarie to apply for the job, and last April he was hired. This season Alarie enjoyed teaching soft turnarounds and power drop steps to Midshipmen post players like Sitapha Savane. "I used to study [Hakeem] Olajuwon's moves," says Alarie, whose tutoring helped Navy to a 23-6 record this year. "I can tell some good NBA stories."
Alarie lives with his wife, Rene, and their two-year-old daughter, Isabella, in Bethesda, Md., a 45-mile commute to the Naval Academy. His goal is to become a college head coach. "I didn't take the traditional career track," he says, "but I'm more prepared for coaching than I was for investment banking."