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Season Preview: CHD sits down with Northern Kentucky coach Dave Bezold

To prepare for the tip-off of another great year of college basketball, CHD is reaching out to coaches and players around the country to get the inside scoop on what we can expect this time around. Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Northern Kentucky coach Dave Bezold about having John Calipari and Roy Williams on the schedule.

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With just one senior on your roster (Chad Jackson), is this team built to win now or do you think this is going to be a rebuilding year? We never make excuses because we are young. We are going to try and win every game.. Chad is going to redshirt this year so people could easily write us off, but I do not want my guys thinking that way.

Your non-conference road schedule includes trips to Purdue, Kentucky, and North Carolina. Which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? All of them but for different reasons. Purdue will guard the hell out of us, while the Wildcats and Tar Heels will have more size and athleticism than we do. They will be tremendous tests but they will all help us become a better team. When you play games on the road you get to grow up as a team. Our schedule has to help promote our brand across the nation, as not a lot of people know who we are.

What are your expectations for the upcoming season? We hope to be competitive in every game and try to find a way to be over .500 in the conference and possibly get a CIT bid.

You played basketball at Viterbo College where you were team captain as a senior. How good a player were you back in the day, and how did you get into coaching? I was an okay college player, but we faced some good teams that had some great players (such as Wisconsin-Stevens Point star Terry Porter). My dad was a coach, so I have always felt comfort from being in a gym.

You spent 14 years as an assistant coach at Northern Kentucky under Ken Shields (the winningest coach in school history). What made him such a great coach? What is the most important thing that you ever learned from him? He was such a great manager of people. It is so important to treat people the right way. He broke the stereotype of “nice guys finish last”, while teaching me about X’s and O’s as well.

What are your memories of the 1996 Division II tourney title game. Sherick Simpson had 24 points and 10 rebounds in a seven point win by Fort Hays State, thus becoming the first school at any NCAA level to finish 34-0)? We were just pinching ourselves because we could not believe we were there. A number of our kids could not sleep the night before that game.

In the 1997 Division II national title game, Kebu Stewart had 18 points and 21 rebounds in a one point win by Cal State Bakersfield after Andy Listerman missed a five footer at the buzzer. Did you think that Listerman got fouled? Where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career? Andy got hit, but they did not call it so I guess it was not a foul. We also had a great look on the previous possession but came up a little short. That game will haunt us because we were so close. I was actually thinking about the game yesterday; not so much the final shot, but a timeout late in the second half when one of my players asked me how to defend a ball-screen. I remember giving him my advice and later feeling like it was my fault when the opponent came off a screen and made a three point shot.

You were a two-time conference COY…as the school’s women’s tennis coach. What did it mean to you to win such outstanding individual honors? Which sport is harder to coach? Those awards are completely because of the players you have. When I took the tennis job I did not even know how to keep score! I treated the tennis players like we wanted to be the best, so I found some tennis people who taught me how to recruit tennis players and we went on to win four straight league titles. It meant a lot because our kids invested a lot in our program, and it has helped me a lot in basketball. If our kids got a t-shirt they thought it was the greatest thing that ever happened. Basketball is harder to coach because if you can recruit a great tennis player then there is not much strategy involved beyond that. While it is a bigger challenge to bring five players together as a team.

In 2004, you were named head coach at Northern Kentucky. How did it feel to follow in the large footsteps of Coach Shields? It was humbling and really scary at times. I remember my very first day because people kept coming in and asking me questions.  I did not understand why they could not just answer the question themselves; until I realized that they needed to get my approval for everything! I got baptized real quick and it was daunting at times, but Ken was a great resource because he was still here.

In 2012 your program made the leap from Division II to Division I. What is the biggest difference between the two levels of play? Size is the biggest difference. There are tremendous teams in Division II, but you might only have three or four kids with a huge body, whereas in Division I teams will have 13 guys who look like men.

JonTeitel