Just a month into his tenure, the new men’s basketball coach, Stan Heath, in his first interview with the Oracle since being hired, discusses everything from recruiting and hiring a coaching staff, to his predictions for the NBA Finals.
Oracle: What have you been up to since becoming head coach on April 4?
Coach Stan Heath: Almost immediately after the press conference, the next day I was on the road going to events to see coaches or on the phone. Recruiting is a non-stop process and is the lifeblood of the program. So you have to really work at that. It’s been morning, noon and night to jump-start our program.
O: Is recruiting your favorite part of coaching?
S.H.: It’s an important part, but the most enjoyable is really the interaction with your players. I’ve always said your most important recruits are the guys you have on campus. You have to make sure you do a good job of coaching and developing the team. That’s the most rewarding and enjoyable part, because you get to see the difference you make in someone’s life.
O: What was your first impression of the team here at USF?
S.H.: I think they’re eager to get better, to learn the things we want to teach them and the style that we want to play. I think they’ve bonded together in a lot of ways. In the small amount of time we’ve had together in the gym, I’ve seen a lot of work ethic, and they’re really buying into the things that we’re working on.
O: You’re still trying to fill your coaching staff. What do you look for in an assistant coach?
S.H.: The staff is so important. When I got my first job (at Kent State), I was very fortunate because I hired some very good coaches, and it worked out. As I move forward, I realize just how important your staff can be and how much it can make your program. Right now, when I’m formulating a staff – and it’s about 80 percent complete now – it’s almost like a jigsaw puzzle. You want to find guys who can bring good things to the program and assist in different ways. On the court it could be someone who is really good with our big men or someone who can work with the guards. Off the court you can have someone who is really good at scouting and recruiting. You have to have guys who can multi-task and find guys that have different strengths and put it all together.
O: How does it feel to have an opportunity to build a young team in the Big East?
S.H.: We have to roll up our sleeves and go to work. I feel very confident that we are going to get the job done. Every day I have a smile on my face because I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity and to have a team that can
compete at the highest level. It’s not going to be easy because there are some great teams in our conference, but I think the future is bright.
O: You haven’t completed your non-conference schedule yet. What do you look for when making up the team’s schedule?
S.H.: Balance. I think it’s really important for our team, especially where we are right now, to have some tests in non-conference (play), but also have success where we can build confidence. We want to play against teams with different styles and will test us to prepare us for conference play. We also want to play some games that are attractive to recruits. We want play against opponents to create national exposure.
O: How interested are you in playing games in the St. Pete Times Forum?
S.H.: I do have a strong interest in playing games in the Forum. I think it’s healthy for our community, and I think it’s important to connect with St. Petersburg, Clearwater, as well as the southern part of Tampa. I think at different times of the year – whether it’s winter break when students are gone – it’s a great opportunity to play in a different venue. I think it’s really attractive to potential recruits who want to see something really impressive. There are a lot of pluses to it.
O: What was it like watching two of your former players, Jason Richardson (Michigan State) and Ronnie Brewer (Arkansas), face each other in the playoffs?
S.H.: There is a lot of pride to see those guys out there and fulfilling the goal that they had. Jason has been in a difficult situation (in Golden State) because they didn’t have a lot of success before this year. Jason being an intricate part of that is awesome. Ronnie is going to have a bright future in the NBA. He’s learned a lot with (the Utah Jazz) and has a great coach in Jerry Sloan. He’s getting a little bit of time here and there and it’s great to see.
O: Have you spoken with either of them since coming to USF?
S.H.: When I took this job, Ronnie was one of the first guys to call and congratulate me and we had a great conversation. I haven’t talked with Jason much. I try and stay away from those guys when they are in the middle of their season. When the summer months come, that’s when we have a lot more communication.
O: Who’s your pick for the NBA Finals?S.H.: Oh, I have to go with the (Detroit) Pistons. I’ve never wavered – they’ve been my team since childhood.