Jan. 11, 2002
Why don't you play a home and home against the Ragin' Cajuns. The football and baseball games always bring out the fans from both schools, UL has a good, competitive program, playing here would give Tulane some exposure in the area, and many of the student-athletes probably know each other. It sounds like a win/win to me. I'm sure Jesse Evans would cooperate in getting you on the schedule. He comes from Arizona, and I've heard him say on more than one occasion that he thinks in-state rivalries are good for the consumer-oh, I mean fan.
S.F.: I have been a part of Tulsa-Oklahoma rivalries, Georgia-Georgia Tech and Kentucky-Louisville. Here at Tulane when we play UNO it is very similar, it is a neighborhood fight, you can throw the records out the window, because the team that plays hardest is going to be the one that wins. We have a lot of goals with our scheduling, with the primary thing being to prepare us for our conference games. This year we played Centenary, UNO and Loyola in order to build interest in the state. In the future we may play ULL, Southeastern, LSU or anyone else from the state.
Southern West Virginia, where you're from has a rich history in basketball including being the home of Jerry West. Who influenced you growing up in Mullens and why is that area of the state a hot spot for basketball?
Bruceton Mills, W.Va.
S.F.: The state of West Virginia is a great state for basketball, especially high school basketball. It may not be recognized throughout the country, but people in West Virginia know it. My high school, Mullens High School, has won six state championships, and in my coach's 15 years, he has sent over 30 players on to college basketball. The coach at Marshall, Greg White, is also from Mullens. I do not exactly how it started, but basketball in that part of West Virginia is excellent. It is not "ESPN" basketball, but for some reason, a lot of players and coaches have come from the state.
You were 8-3 in your non-league schedule this year, and last year you were 7-6. Do you feel like the team has made a lot of progress from last year? Are you happy with where you are at?
S.F.: I am very happy with a lot of things so far this season, but I am also not happy with a lot of things. As a coach you never want to lose. I had hoped to go 11-0 in our non-league schedule. However, going 8-3 with some big wins, on the road at VCU, against Vanderbilt, against UNO, on the road at Georgia Tech, I think Tulane is on the right track. The guys are starting to understand what our goals are as a coaching staff and they are starting to respond.
I have really enjoyed watching Marcus Kinzer play this year. He looks like he genuinely enjoys the game of basketball every time he goes out on the court. Does that attitude make him easier to coach?
New Orleans, La.
S.F.: Marcus has been a real pleasant surprise for us this season. We knew he could play. He is a pure point guard and he also has excellent scoring ability. However, I thought he would take more time to adjust to the size and physical aspect of the college game. At times we do see that, but overall, he has made an excellent adjustment. As he continues to work in the weight room, I think Marcus has the ability to become a player similar to Jason Gardner from Arizona.
What are your goals for Tulane basketball this year? Do you think the team can make the NCAA Tournament? Is that a goal for you? Or is that more of a long-range plan?
S.F.: My goal is to win Conference USA and advance to the NCAA Tournament. The league is one of the best leagues in the country, but I think we can compete with any team in the league. We have a full roster of players this year, and they are still adjusting and finding their roles with the team. As far as long-range plans, we want to be in the NCAA Tournament every year and compete for a national championship.
Do you think the LSU loss to UNO and Tulane's 16-point win over UNO makes Tulane the top basketball team in the state?
Baton Rouge, La.
S.F.: I think UNO's win over LSU is a great thing for basketball in this state. It shows that there are a lot of good basketball programs in Louisiana. And it also draws attention to other schools in the state. I don't think you can make any comparison between teams based on who they beat and who you beat. The only true way to see who is better is for the teams to get out on the court and play. And even then, from night-to-night, the result could be different. That is the beauty of basketball and sports in general.
How do you think you are a better coach now that you are in your second season in the job?
S.F.: Actually I was very surprised at how much different it was to be the head coach versus being an assistant. Now I know what Tubby (Smith) was doing all those hours in his office. It is so much more than coaching basketball, but the biggest thing is that as an assistant I was making suggestions, now I am making decisions. My assistants can give me information about somebody's academic standing, but I make the decision over what we will do. Our trainer can inform me that a player is physically able to play after an injury, but I make the call on how many minutes he gets. Our media relations guy can suggest an interview to me, but I need to decide if I have the time in my schedule to do that. There is also a major aspect of psychology as a head coach. You have to learn different ways to motivate different people.
Why don't you play more games downtown at the Arena? I think it is a great place for college basketball. Plus you can fit a lot more people there than at Fogelman.
S.F.: The New Orleans Arena is a basketball showcase. It is an outstanding facility and I am very happy that we have access to it. On the other hand, as we build this basketball program and work on expanding our fan base, Fogelman Arena offers us a more rowdy place and a better home-court advantage. Twenty-five hundred people in Fogelman make for an amazing college basketball atmosphere, whereas the same number downtown can seem like an empty building. Our goal is to establish Tulane Basketball as a major entertainment option for people in New Orleans, and throughout the state of Louisiana. When those goals are reached, I hope to see 17,000 fans supporting the Green Wave downtown at the New Orleans Arena.
Who do you see as the best teams in Conference USA? Now that the season has started, have your impressions of any teams changed?
S.F.: That is a hard question to answer at this point. I have watched a lot of teams on TV, but it is really hard to judge a team until you measure yourself on the court against them. Having said that, once again it looks like Cincinnati has really put together a great team. Rick Pitino has Louisville rolling right now and I think they will be right up there with the nation's best soon. Memphis and Marquette have both been ranked nationally this year. Really every team in this league is improving which just goes to prove that it is one of the best basketball leagues in the country.
My son is seven years old and loves basketball. Since I took him to a game earlier this year, all he talks about is the Green Wave. What do you think is the best way for me to help him learn about the game and maybe become a successful player someday?
S.F.: I think the best thing for a young player is to expose him to the game. Bringing him to games at every level, not just college, will show him the differences. I think summer camps are a good option for a youngster to learn the game also. He gets a chance to experience basketball with other children his own age, all learning from experienced coaches and players. I think a big thing is just spending time with him as he learns to play. I was blessed in the fact that my parents and brothers always encouraged me to work hard and get better. Sometimes when I was a young kid, I would get very frustrated with my dad for not letting me win, but now I realize that the most important thing was the time he spent with me playing basketball. It still means so much to me to see my parents in the stands at a game and know they are supporting me. So, I think supporting your son as he plays the game is a key thing, but I would also recommend that you encourage him to explore other sports and activities as well. At that age it is more important to develop a well-rounded child than a star basketball player.