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Troy Tonsil ’08 is trying to temper his excitement as he welcomes the men’s basketball season. 

But the first-year head coach of Dominican University’s program can’t help but feel pure jubilation every time he thinks about the Stars’ upcoming campaign. 

Tonsil, a Dominican alum who’s been part of the university’s athletics department for more than a decade, is living out his dream as the program’s head coach. 

“I am really excited,” Tonsil said in the countdown to the season. “It’s every guy’s dream, if you want to get into coaching, to coach your own program— but not only your own program, the program that you were a part of. There are probably not enough words in any language that can precisely categorize what that means for me.” 

As a student at Dominican, Tonsil played on the men’s basketball team from 2005-08, becoming a key part of the most successful three-year stretch for Stars basketball in the last two decades. 

Tonsil then became an assistant coach with the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in suburban Aurora following his graduation from Dominican. He also held a coaching position with Chicago’s Kenwood Academy High School and became the director of a noted basketball camp in Pennsylvania. After receiving his master’s degree in sports management from Northern Illinois University in 2012, Tonsil returned to Dominican for a part-time role with men’s basketball under former longtime coach Mark White. 

Tonsil became the team’s assistant coach in 2016, comparing the opportunity to “a dream come true.” He added that his decade-plus on the Stars’ bench helped him “gain a lot of experience and start seeing things from a coach's lens.” 

In addition to his time with the men’s team, Tonsil also has held coaching duties at Dominican with the women’s basketball program and both men’s and women’s tennis. Tonsil, who is the first Black head coach in program history, also assumed the role of the athletic department’s coordinator of diversity, equity, and inclusion in 2021. 

The Stars opened their season against Knox College. Dominican entered the campaign with a 26-man roster, Tonsil said, noting it’s one of the deepest teams he’s seen the program have in recent memory. “We bring back a lot of quality, experience and maturity,” Tonsil said. “I’m excited about that because this is a group that has seen the lows of the lows … and now I want them to be in the clouds, to be able to see the highs. I’ve seen the work that they’ve put in to be successful.” 

In addition to the Stars’ depth, Tonsil also believes the team’s diverse roster will contribute to their success. 

“One of the things that I’ve always liked about the men’s basketball program is we’ve always been one of the more diverse teams—not just in our school, but in our conference,” Tonsil said.

“I’m really excited about the diversity of our program. Our program is probably as diverse as it's ever been this year and I think that’s going to go a long way. You can’t help but gain perspective or learn from people with the group that we have.” 

Goals for the team will develop as the season progresses, but Tonsil and the Stars enter the year with a clear message in mind: expect success. 

“I think the expectation is, at its core, to hold yourself to a higher standard,” Tonsil said. “Now, more than ever, if you are being involved just to be mediocre, then this isn’t the program for you.” 

Tonsil knows there will be challenges in his rookie season at the helm, but he’ll look to his longtime coaching philosophy to guide him as he navigates the new role. 

“I believe that you can learn something from everyone,” Tonsil said. “I think that really shaped me as I pursued my individual goals and really got into coaching. I truly believe that’s how you get ahead: learning from people you interact with.”