Hennigan playing for a different winning team

Now he is in the professional world of basketball operations and, though not playing hoops as often, remains involved in the game.,College basketball fans from Emerson’s junior and senior classes will probably recognize the name Rob Hennigan. Just two years ago, the guard established himself as the Lions’ all-time leading scorer, tallying over 2,000 points in his four-year career.

Now he is in the professional world of basketball operations and, though not playing hoops as often, remains involved in the game.

After graduating in May 2004, Hennigan spent the 2004-05 NBA season as an intern in the basketball operations department of the San Antonio Spurs.

He said he has had little direct contact with the players, but did get to go to the NBA Finals last year. He said he cherished the experience to see the franchise take the crucial steps to get its second championship in three years.

“I feel fortunate to be part of this organization,” Hennigan said.

Hennigan, who was a broadcast journalism major at Emerson and a three-time GNAC Player of the Year, was hired in July as the Spurs’ basketball operations assistant.

“I absolutely love what I’m doing,” Hennigan said, calling his opportunity “the golden ticket in the Willy Wonka Bar.”

The Worcester native, a Division III All-American in his senior year of college, attributed his success to many people, including family and his Emerson teammates, as well as several others who have encouraged him.

Hennigan praised Emerson men’s basketball Coach Hank Smith, who has been at the helm since 1994.

“The basketball program, the current players and the alumni all share this link, and that link is Coach [Smith],” Hennigan said. “He does a great job of staying in contact with people.”

Smith himself was complimentary about the star small forward, referring to him as “a basketball machine” during an interview.

Smith recalled a stretch when Hennigan scored 47 points while only having the basketball in his hand for three minutes, and also added that Hennigan was a solid passer with defensive quickness.

In addition to his athletic prowess, Smith noted that Hennigan was a tremendous student with an academic record strong enough to be named to the Academic 2004 All-American Third Team. The division recognizes men’s basketball student-athletes from Divisions II and III schools and from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

One of Smith’s current players, senior William “Jay” O’Connell, remembered Hennigan as an “infallible” player who had “a very secret sense of humor off the court.” With Coach Smith on the court, O’Connell said, Hennigan was quiet and serious and immediately established himself as a leader in practices and games.

“He had really great poise and carried himself very responsibly,” O’Connell said. “He had a great balance of fun and business style, and he was the best shooter I’ve ever seen and played against.”

With him in San Antonio is his fianc