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Interview With Jim Baron

Jim Baron

Interview Conducted 11/5/2008

AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli

AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli

University of Rhode Island head coach Jim Baron has spent his entire career developing his players both on the basketball court and in the classroom.

His attention to athletic and academic success dates back to his four years as a student-athlete at St. Bonaventure University in Olean, N.Y.

Baron, who was named co-captain his senior year, helped lead the Bonnies to the 1976-77 NIT title. His 3.9 assists per game were a team high that season.

Before commencement, Baron was selected by the University Committee as the Ideal Bonaventure Student. The school gives this award yearly to a student or students who exemplify the spirit of St. Bonaventure and the ideals of St. Francis through community service and academic excellence.

He later earned his master’s degree at St. Bonaventure in 1988.

Baron served as an assistant coach at Notre Dame from 1981-87. He learned from Head Coach Richard “Digger” Phelps how to create an infrastructure which allows basketball players to maximize their potential as both athletes and students.

BARON: “We graduated every one of our players. We had Academic All-Americans. We had tremendous student athletes. I’ve taken that equation every place I’ve been.” Continue reading

Interview With Bob Scrabis

Bob Scrabis

Interview Conducted 10/28/2008

Princeton Athletics

Princeton Athletics

Before the 1988-89 college basketball season, the NCAA considered removing automatic NCAA Tournament bids of teams from small conferences.

These teams were generally non-competitive in the first round against their opponents, who were #1 and #2 seeds.

The #16 seed Princeton Tigers of the non-scholarship Ivy League forever changed the thinking of the NCAA hierarchs.

Led by Ivy League Player of the Year Bob Scrabis, the 1988-89 Princeton Tigers nearly pulled off a monumental upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against the #1 team in the nation, the Georgetown Hoyas.

The final regular season game before the NCAA Tournament seeding was the Big East Conference Championship between Georgetown and Syracuse. The Princeton Tigers watched the game on television waiting for the selection show. The Hoyas’ won 88-79 with a pressing defense that overwhelmed Syracuse.

SCRABIS: “When the selection show started, the first game they showed was Georgetown and us. I think we were excited and me being the only senior and captain of the team, I had to sort of keep my composure.”

During practices leading up to the tournament, Head Coach Pete Carril instructed Princeton’s second team to mimic Georgetown’s pressing defense against the starters.

SCRABIS: “They were told just to press us all over the place. We were having all kinds of trouble getting our offense to function against our second team. We knew we had a tough game ahead of us.” Continue reading

Interview With Lorenzo Romar

Lorenzo Romar

Interview Conducted 10/27/2008

Robert Beck/SI

Robert Beck/SI

Lorenzo Romar, entering his seventh season as head coach of the Washington Huskies, has been able to influence many lives through the game of basketball, whether it be through sports ministry or coaching.

Romar and his family grew up in Compton, California, one of the most dangerous cities in America. Street gangs, violent crime, and abject poverty are all prevalent.

Romar and his brother Wayne were able to avoid the allure of street life for teens growing up in Compton.

ROMAR: “Between my parents and sports, those two things kept me from getting involved in anything like that. We just wouldn’t come home if we did something dumb and our parents found out about it. It wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience.”

“Our sports meant too much to my brother and I to get involved in anything that was going to take away from us or not allow us to be as good as we can be.”

Romar received a basketball scholarship to two-year Cerritos College. Wayne signed to play basketball with Sterling College, an NAIA school in Kansas. Continue reading

Interview With Steve McClain

Steve McClain

Interview Conducted 10/21/2008

AP/Isaac Brekken

AP/Isaac Brekken

Steve McClain, now in his second season as Colorado’s Associate Head Coach, has not been a stranger to success throughout his coaching career.

McClain compiled a 157-115 overall record in his nine seasons as Head Coach at Wyoming from 1998-2007. He led the Cowboys to one NCAA Tournament appearance and three NIT bids.

He was noted for his ability to recruit talented out-of-state players to a school that a Chicago Tribune sportswriter once referred to as “The Siberia of Division-I college basketball.”

Larimie, Wyo. is a remote town of just over 27,000 residents. Laramie has long, cold winters and is over 100 miles from Denver, the nearest large city. None of these factors were conducive to landing highly-touted recruits. In addition, few Few Division-I basketball recruits hail from the state of Wyoming.

MCCLAIN: “We tried to go find kids who had a great desire to get a college degree, but were more worried about how they could become a better basketball player, how they could develop the goals they wanted to reach, and they weren’t worried about how big the city was or how the night life was.”

“We had to focus on getting kids that were serious about getting an education and who wanted to play college basketball on the highest level. We didn’t sugarcoat it. We told them exactly how it was, because you’re not going to trick a kid.”

“Once we got a player to Wyoming, we knew we had as good of facilities as anyone in the country. If we could get them on campus, we’d have a great shot to get them.”

McClain’s contract was terminated on March 12, 2007.

When former Denver Nuggets and Air Force Head Coach Jeff Bzdelik accepted the Colorado job in April 2007, he hired McClain as his top assistant. Continue reading

Interview With Cazzie Russell

Cazzie Russell

Interview Conducted 10/21/2008

Bentley Historical Library

Bentley Historical Library

Few athletes can lay claim to having an arena or stadium affectionately named in their honor. Cazzie Russell is one of them.

A legendary basketball prodigy from Chicago’s Southside, Russell arrived onto the city’s basketball scene when he led Carver High School’s Junior Varsity program to the Chicago city JV Title in 1960.

By his senior year, Russell paced Carver High School to the Chicago city title in 1962, averaging over 25 points a game.

As one of the most coveted senior prospects in the country, Russell received offers from over 50 college basketball programs. He narrowed his choices to UCLA, Marquette, Cincinnati, and Michigan.

Cincinnati sent Oscar Robertson, by then an NBA star with the Cincinnati Royals, to Carver High School to visit with Russell.

RUSSELL: “I had a tough decision because Oscar Robertson came to my high school. I idolized the way he played of course because we were the same size.”

Russell visited Michigan in the spring and developed a friendship with his tour guide, freshman Bill Buntin.

RUSSELL: “I was comfortable with Bill Buntin who was my host. As a young player coming out of high school, it was important to feel comfortable with [another] guy being from a predominantly black area.”

Russell ultimately chose Michigan because the basketball program was in a rebuilding stage.

RUSSELL: “It was basically a football school, so there probably wouldn’t be a lot of pressure. That was one of my major decisions.”

Russell led Michigan to three Big 10 titles, averaging 27.1 points per game in his career. He was a three-time AP All American. Continue reading

Interview With Jimmy Tillette

Jimmy Tillette

Interview Conducted 10/17/2008

Getty Images/Doug Benc

Getty Images/Doug Benc

The Samford Bulldogs run a variation of Pete Carril’s Princeton Offense.

And it’s all because 12th year Head Coach Jimmy Tillette doesn’t play golf.

TILLETTE: “I needed something to do in the spring, so when I was an assistant coach [at Samford in the mid 1990’s], I decided I was going to investigate the Princeton system. I spent four or five hours a day looking at tapes. I initially took 99 pages of notes trying to figure out the Princeton Offense.”

“It has Plato’s definition of good judgment, the ability to discern the  difference in similar things and similarity in different things. So many things look the same, but are different, and vice versa.”

Tillette put together 20-30 offensive concepts on transparencies.

However, he ran into difficulties getting in touch with legendary Princeton head coach Pete Carril. During his coaching career, Carril refused to consult with opposing coaches about the Princeton Offense due to concerns that they would work to implement defenses designed to stop it. Continue reading