April 30, 2012
"Well what a great turnout. It's very, very humbling, and I do want to make sure everyone here does have their season tickets already purchased. We're good with that, correct? It's very humbling to be the next basketball coach here at Southern Miss. I can't tell you how proud I am. I want to start by thanking Dr. Saunders for the opportunity to lead this program and continue to grow it into the future. I want to thank General Hammond. Every time that I spoke with the General, I could feel his passion for the University and feel his pride about Southern Miss, and leaving my alma mater wasn't an easy choice. It wasn't, but talking to him repeatedly and talking to others that worked here at the University, and feeling his passion, I knew this was a special situation. I firmly believe it is a special situation and we can do some magical things here in Hattiesburg. I believe that. Again, I want to thank Dr. Saunders and General Hammond and the selection committee as well.
Everything that was forwarded to me, information-wise, the way they handled themselves in the interview was in a first class manner. I would have certainly been disappointed had I not been offered the job, but I would have left there saying, `That group of men, led by General Hammond, was fantastic.' Again guys, I appreciate you very much. It was first class.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention my former president, Dr. Andrews, and my former athletic director at Morehead State, Bryan Hutchinson, for the opportunity that they afforded me six years ago. My former players and assistants that have worked so hard to help get us to this point. I've worked for three great bosses: John Brady at LSU, Leonard Perry, who was actually an assistant this year for Coach Eustachy, and Kermit Davis at Middle Tennessee. All three of those guys were influential and impactful in me being the coach and the person that I am today. I also want to thank some other special people in my life. My mom and dad, my girlfriend Nikki, and I have two little girls back home, Taylor and Grace, who I am sure are watching on the internet as we speak. So, all those people have helped me tremendously to get to this point in my career and I love each and every one of them.
I always said that if I left MSU, it would have to be for a unique and special situation. When you talk about special situations, the tradition, the history, the great coaches and players that have played here and coached at Southern Miss, the championships that have been won, you have to start with guys like Coach (M.K.) Turk. I had a great talk with Coach Turk on Saturday. He spent thirty or forty minutes on the phone with me, just trying to help and encourage me. One thing in coaching, a lot of times, when you're the best coach in the history of the school and the most successful coach in the history of the school, you don't necessarily want people to do well under you. But when you're a secure man and a true gentleman like Coach Turk is, you pull for the next guy and he's done that repeatedly and I know Coach Turk and I are going to have a great relationship and he's going to pull like heck for me to do well. I told him, if he can sign guys like (Ricky Jones and Clarence Weatherspoon), I'm bringing his tail out of retirement. Another guy, when you talk about the NIT championship and two NCAA tournaments, you have to talk about Coach (Lee) Floyd and the job that he did and the success that he had here at Southern Miss and the games that he won and the players that he graduated. Those are big shoes to fill when you're talking about Coach Turk and Coach Floyd. And by the way, Coach Floyd's son can coach a little bit but we're going to try to whip his tail this year. You talk about Coach (James) Green and winning a Conference USA championship, and I've had the opportunity to coach against Coach Green in the OVC. He's a great gentleman and a great coach. He had some very successful years here at Southern Miss and again the Conference USA championship. Then, we get to this year's team and this year's coach, Coach (Larry) Eustachy. You're talking about a guy that at one time was the National Coach of the Year. A guy that led a team to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 21 seasons, won 25 games, those are big shoes to fill. Four great coaches, and of course there have been many others. There is great tradition and great history here at Southern Miss which was so appealing to me. Then, you talk about all the great players - and there's so many that you can't mention them all. A few of them are here today. You have to start with maybe the best player, arguably, certainly the leading scorer in the history of the program: Nick Revon. You talk about Wendell Lander, Ricky Jones and Clarence Weatherspoon. I asked Spoon in the interview process, `Spoon, I don't even need a year, just give me one semester man!' Randolph Keys, Derek Hamilton, Joe Courtney, Darrin Chancellor, and Gary Flowers. I could go on and on about the great players that have played here at Southern Miss. So when you talk about the coaches and the players and the history and then you add to it the community of Hattiesburg and the people around the campus community that I've heard nothing but great things about, it equaled out to one of those special situations that I had to consider. I can't tell you how excited I am and proud I am to be in a special situation and we're going to do some big, big things here at Southern Miss.
Community Involvement. I know it's important. When we were at Morehead State, I said the second most important thing to rally our program or build or program was to have community involvement. There was a feeling of apathy over the program coming off a four-win season. No one was coming to games. It's different here. I'm taking over a program that's coming off an NCAA appearance. Fans are excited. We have to take advantage now and build on that. My staff and I are going to be out in the community. I want to speak to every civic group that I can possibly get in front of. Our players are going to be in elementary schools and middle schools and high schools talking about the importance of education and drug awareness and things of that nature. I will be very, very accessible. If you need me, I'm not a guy that you'll have to call the office four, five, six times and never get a call back. You'll get a call back or an e-mail back from me or someone on our staff where we can help and get our product out in front of the community because we want you to come support us. The best way for us to get you to do that, is to let you touch us and get to know who we are. We're going to have great people in our program, from our assistant coaches to our players, and you need to get to know us. We want you to get to know us. In return, all I ask is that you buy season tickets and fill up Reed Green Coliseum.
I want to talk to you a little bit about my staff. My staff is going to be a young, tireless group. I've got Adam Howard, a young, go-getter and great coach and recruiter. I will have two other guys joining us, one for sure. My associate head coach is involved with the head coaching position at Morehead State. If he doesn't get that job, he'll be coming with me, but you'll like our staff. We're team players. I've had a chance to meet some of the other coaches today. We're going to be at the soccer field. We're going to be at the volleyball games. We're going to be tailgating on football weekends, and all those things to support the other coaches and programs in our department because we feel like by doing that, they'll want to reach out to us and come support our program.
Style of play: It's going to be an aggressive and attacking style of play. Most of you probably haven't seen Morehead State play, but our defense would be similar to Louisville. We're going to press on made baskets. We're going to press on dead balls. We're going to get after people in the half court. We're going to have an aggressive zone. We'll pressure the ball and trap different places with ball screens on the floor to try to create turnovers where we can get out and play on the open floor. Offensively, we're going to play a lot like Kansas. We run a high-low motion, but we ball screen a lot and give our guards a chance to play to draw and kick off ball screens and shoot a lot of threes. It's going to be exciting and fun for you fans and people to come watch. We're going to play unselfish. We're going to play with a toughness and we're going to be a very passionate team. We're certainly going to be classy and sportsmen, but our team is going to be an exciting, passionate, hard-nosed group that will be about toughness and winning. I can assure you that.
I want to talk just a little bit about academics. It's the most important thing that we'll do. It's the most important thing in this group of young men's lives. When I was at Morehead State, in six years, we had 14 seniors come through our program and exhaust their eligibility. Thirteen of those 14 graduated. We fell one short of the goal. With this group of young men, the goal will be simply to graduate each and every one of them. They will be made to go to class. They will be on time, and hopefully now, but certainly if not as time goes along, they will value their education and the importance of their education. We had a great team meeting last night and I spent about 15 or 20 minutes with each guy individually getting to know them a little bit and I think they are committed to that. I really do. Because even a guy I coached at Morehead State, (Denver Nuggets forward) Kenneth Faried who was a first round draft pick, some day at some point in time, the ball quits bouncing. They are going to have their degree to fall back on and that's what I want for these guys right here.
Before I go any further, and I probably should have done this at the beginning, but what Coach Eustachy did last year, first NCAA tournament appearance in 21 years - we did a similar thing at Morehead State having not gone in 25 years - I know how prideful this group of guys is and how much credit they deserve. So, let's give them a round of applause.
When I met with the committee, I said the only thing better than going to the NCAA tournament, the only thing better, is to win that first game, get on the bus after (talking to) the media, and go to the hotel with the band playing, your alums and fans cheering you as you walk in and knowing you get to eat a good meal and get ready for practice the next day. There's not a better feeling in the world and that's what I want these guys to experience. So our goal is certainly to get back to the NCAA tournament and to advance and win in the tournament. Nothing less.
The last thing I want to talk about is our fans. I know we have a great fan base and I was just informed today that we're the only Division 1 school that went undefeated at home in football and in men's basketball. So I haven't had a chance to talk to (Head Football Coach Ellis Johnson) yet, but I'm glad his season is before mine because the pressure is on him. But I do think this. I think that speaks volumes to your support and the fans at Southern Miss. You want to talk about a home field advantage in football and a home court advantage in basketball, it's obviously got to be big time. We want to grow that and continue to improve that. My challenge to you is simply this: we're going to open up our season with our first home game probably somewhere between November 9 and November 20, somewhere in there. The arena seats 8,095 - (to Coach Turk) you probably had it packed a few times, right coach? My challenge to you is to have the gym completely sold out against whoever we happen to play in our first game. I don't want one empty chair. If you come that one time, and you don't like the product we put on the floor and you didn't have a good time and it wasn't an exciting style of play, I hope you come back but I can live with it if you don't. I can assure you that you'll enjoy yourself. You'll love how hard these young men are going to play. You'll like our brand of basketball, and you'll continue to come back and support our team. That's our challenge to you.
Again, I want to reiterate how excited I am to be the head basketball coach at Southern Miss. We're going to have a lot of fun and win a lot of games, and along the way, hopefully a few championships as well. Thank you very much."