USF freshman guard Josh Heath knew even as a child that playing for his dad was a possibility, but he didn’t give it too much thought until it was time to decide where he wanted to play college basketball.
When Josh did make the decision, he went about it like any other player.
“Before my senior year began, I called him over the phone and told him,”
The relationships between a coach and player and father and son are powerful bonds, and coach Stan Heath and his son Josh get to experience both.
Though that type of relationship could be rewarding on a basketball court, the relationship could also clash or overlap. However, this is something Stan said he has some experience in dealing with the situation.
Stan was an assistant coach at Bowling Green University while Jim Larranaga was the head coach and his son, Jay, was a player. Watching the two balance their relationship on and off the court was a good way for Stan to learn how to handle his own son playing for him, he said.
But so far, Stan said Josh has made it easy.
“He doesn’t want anything different, anything special,” Stan said. “He makes sure he stays in basketball mode when we’re out here. I think he does a great job of separating the two.”
Before Jan. 9, Josh hadn’t seen any game action, so their interactions were mainly limited to practices. But with starting junior point guard Anthony Collins out with a knee injury and the team in need of someone who could help run the offense, Stan had an idea of what he should do.
The idea was put into action with the vocal
support of senior forward Victor Rudd.
“It was during the course of the game, I think during the second half when Rudd looked over to me and said ‘Hey Coach, we need Josh in there,’” Stan said. “I thought that showed some confidence from his teammates that they wanted him in there, too.”
Josh dished out five assists in 19 minutes and made one of three shots. Being that it was his first collegiate game, some nerves were to be anticipated.
“Josh has been good all year in practice,” Rudd said. “When coach was thinking about playing him I told him it was a good idea.”
Rudd was so enthusiastic about having a point guard in the lineup he even thanked Ramona Heath, Josh’s mom, for letting
“I’m happy Josh is playing,” he said. “I’m glad Ramona let me borrow him for my senior year.”
Josh thought he played decently, but his father had more encouraging praise for his first game.
“I thought he helped us a lot,” Stan said. “He’s got that calming demeanor. I thought he settled us down; he made some really good plays. He had five assists. It was his first game on the road and I thought he was terrific.”
Without Collins, several players had been playing out of position and it had resulted in a 1-4 record before Josh began playing. Now, Josh figures to become the distributor and run the offense, which will allow junior guard Corey Allen Jr. to go back to a scoring role at shooting guard.
“I thought we saw what we’ve been missing from earlier in the season where Corey was part of our offense,” Stan said. “Just sliding Corey over (to
shooting guard), I thought that gave Corey a lift, gave us a spark and we were able to do that with Josh out there on the floor.”
Stan said he believes Josh will not only play well for the team, but help give it the lineup stability that it has been in need of all season. He coaches Josh on the floor, but didn’t give him any fatherly speech or impart any wisdom to him.
“I let his mom handle all the advice stuff, I just try to coach him,” Stan said.
While Stan sticks to coaching his son and spoke highly of his minutes on court, there’s still one thing about Josh that Stan can’t help but to critique — and he said it isn’t out of
“Other than his haircut, I’m good,” Stan said.
Unlike his dad, who sports a clean-shaven head, Josh adds inches to his height with a ’70s-esque Afro.
But with Collins still out on injuries for the time being, the Heaths will see how their relationships are tested now that Josh is in the lineup. Josh and the Bulls will play at home in the USF Sun Dome on Saturday at 5 p.m. against No. 19 Cincinnati.