Salt Lake Community College has never had a losing season, in any program, ever.
For such a strong record, one might point to Athletic Director Kevin Dustin as who to give credit to, but he is quick to point to something else: a vision.
“You have to create a culture, create an atmosphere; I always hesitate to say I’m a good leader because we all lead in this department, to have a successful program everyone needs a voice, a vision,” Dustin says.
The vision for Dustin was not to become an athletic director. Growing up in northern Utah, his goal was always to be a coach. He chased those dreams by becoming a head coach at Skyview High School for their women’s and men’s teams. Dustin spent a majority of his life coaching basketball until finally he hung up the clipboard as an assistant at Utah State.
That wasn’t the end, though; he made some calls and ended up the athletic director at SLCC, which he compares to taking over the Spurs in their prime.
“There was nothing to ‘rebuild’ when I got here; everything was running smoothly, and my job was to not mess it up,” Dustin says. “Athletics is constantly changing; lay down for a second, take your eye off the prize for a moment, and just like that — you’re behind.”
While it may appear otherwise, an athletic director doesn’t just sit in the office with occasional meetings with the coaches.
“A lot of my job is obtaining tools, so our student-athletes can succeed,” Dustin says.
Dustin makes it very clear that the institution is doing its part for the athletics department, but emphasizes he must do more.
“President [Deneece] Huftalin understands the importance of athletics to a college. If you have a president who doesn’t [understand] that can make this job very hard. My responsibility is to call up some of the very generous people who donate to us and show them that our program is helping young people and that they can help young people by giving us more resources,” Dustin says.
There are several ways SLCC helps student-athletes and is a selling point for this small community college in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“We see ourselves as a place a player can come to develop,” Dustin says.
It isn’t that the athletes SLCC gets aren’t talented physically and academically, many of them are. More importantly, the athletes SLCC obtain are driven.
“Rather than sit on the bench at BYU or Utah your first year, why not come here and improve your game and get picked up by one of these great institutions, like Oklahoma for [SLCC forward] Kur Kuath after year one?” Dustin says.
In addition to the athletic side, one of the biggest parts of Dustin’s job is dealing with budgets.
“I meet with our accounting department on a regular basis and they are really helpful in giving me the information I need to make good decisions,” Dustin says.
Coaches aren’t hard to motivate. According to Dustin, coaches are just wired to be competitive, so when it comes to recruiting, he leaves most of the heavy lifting to them, but that shows a larger part of Dustin’s job as a delegator.
“If I give my coaches a job to do, they are going to do it really well, because they want what’s best for our school,” Dustin says.
That’s why he believes turnover can be so poisonous. If every coach is always looking over their shoulder, the quality of play from a team can go down, but that isn’t the most important thing to Dustin.
“The reason we are really here is to improve the lives of students and to put them on the right track,” Dustin says.
He can only remember a handful of students from SLCC who have ever gone pro, and that’s not because of the college: pro athletics are by nature super competitive, and Dustin wants to give his athletes a backup plan.
“If I can send students out of here with a quality education and a path they can follow to become productive members of society, then I have done my job,” Dustin says.
Dustin is a focused, yet pleasant, individual. When asked about leadership, he shies away from the question. The question is not what makes a good leader for him, it’s how he can make good leaders.
Instead, he hammers home the vision for SLCC: “To be an inclusive, diverse, and successful environment for Student Athletes to succeed.” That vision is working well with athletes from all over the world who call SLCC home.