Coach Brian Gregory enters his second season at the helm of the USF men’s basketball team. With hard work and discipline, he anticipates stacking yet another block onto the foundation that he started building last season.
For Gregory, the only way to continue building the USF men’s basketball team is through constant high-energy days on and off the court.
“If the coaches and myself aren’t bringing it, it’s hard for the guys,” Gregory said. “The good thing for us is that we have a team that plays with a lot of energy and intensity. Practice for me has to be intense, has to be fun.”
Teaching is important to Gregory. He learned how to impact lives growing up in Mount Prospect, Ill., from his parents, who still live in his childhood home. Gregory knew that leading people in a positive way was going to be a life-long road for him to travel on, impacting young people’s lives, just like his parents.
“I come from an educated family,” Gregory said. “My father was an educator, my mother was a counselor. I grew up watching my parents change people’s lives.”
He took his background in education with him throughout his own scholastic career.
After averaging 17 points and seven assists per game during his time at Hersey High School, Gregory went to the Naval Academy, played on an Elite Eight team, and had the chance to play with NBA Hall-of-Famer David Robinson.
“When I got to the Naval Academy I realized I was in a very special place,” Gregory said. “There are very few things that happen on a daily basis that don’t go back to something during my one year at the Academy.”
Gregory transferred to Oakland University after his freshman year at the Naval Academy where he graduated with a degree in secondary education. Gregory’s attention-to-detail teaching philosophy took shape at Michigan State under Jud Heathcote and alongside the current coach Tom Izzo.
Gregory finally got a chance to put his passion for teaching to use.
“I owe Jud [Heathcoate] everything,” Gregory said. “He gave me the opportunity of a lifetime.”
The preparation, work ethic and intensity that Gregory was surrounded by at Michigan State were the key components, he said, that build long-lasting success. Gregory speaks to his players about a way of living life on and off the court.
“If we do things with a disciplined lifestyle, that’s not just in practice, that’s everywhere, it’s going to give you a good chance to be successful,” Gregory said.
Gregory won a national title at Michigan State in 2000. He moved onto Dayton as the head coach in 2003 and coached in the NCAA tournament twice, winning an NIT title in 2009-2010. Before taking the job at USF, Gregory coached for five seasons in the ACC at Georgia Tech.
Gregory has a young team. The squad has only four upperclassmen and nobody in the program has been with the team for more than 16 months.
He calls this year’s roster his “first class and a half of recruits.”
“Those guys like LaQuincy [Rideau], T.J. [Lang], Justin Brown and David [Collins], those guys that said yes to us in the spring when we got the job, that’s a unique group,” Gregory said.
Gregory is hoping to build the foundation of a sustainable program that he says, “special young men are a part of.”
“The next class with Xavier [Castaneda], Mike Dorr, Madut [Akec], and Rashun [Williams], those guys said yes without any proof of what we were doing was going to work,” Gregory said. “Those guys are special because they bought in sight unseen.”
The Bulls do have some experience to mix with the youth. Lang, a redshirt senior, seeks his first action in a Bulls uniform after transferring from Auburn, playing in 87 games in the SEC.
David Collins returns this season as the only player from last season to average double digits in points with 10 points per game last year. Gregory and the Bulls expect Collins to help carry the offensive load this season. Collins “is not allowed to pass up an open shot,” according to Gregory.
In an office on the other end of the Yuengling Center, USF coaching legend Jose Fernandez has been keeping up with Gregory’s efforts.
“[Gregory] has won everywhere he’s been…he turned Georgia Tech around and he’s going to do the same thing here,” Fernandez said. “I think he’s really had the opportunity to recruit his guys…right now, people have just got to be patient.
The Bulls continue to build and lay the foundation for the future, one block at a time. Gregory knows his young team will put their hard hats on and get to work.
“I have been through this before”, Gregory said. “When the first recruiting class gets to be juniors and seniors, then you’ve put yourself in a position to take a really big step.”