Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with SIU-Edwardsville coach Lennox Forrester about facing 2 of his former bosses this month.
You lost two of your three leading scorers from last year (Jerome Jones, Mark Yelovich). How will you be able to fill the offensive void left by the departure of these two seniors? We will have to fill the void by committee but we have a deep team from top to bottom. We will miss those two guys.
Your non-conference schedule includes a pair of November games against St. Louis (coached by Jim Crews) and UC Davis (coached by Jim Les). Will you treat these just like any other game, or is it extra-special to face your old bosses? We treat every game as the most important for us, but for me personally it will be special to face my mentors and friends. You want your team to be ready for every opponent as if it were the Super Bowl. It will be an honor to coach against my two former bosses.
What are your expectations for the upcoming season? Our guys have been working extremely hard all off-season so we want to win games and compete for championships. Hopefully we will play our best every single night and execute the game plan on offense and defense.
You began your career at Parkland College where you were a D-2 All-American in 1989. How good a player were you back in the day, and why did you decide to transfer to Evansville? I am not sure if I was any good, but I played for a really good coach and had a good two years there. I had a nice comfort level with Evansville and Coach Crews: they were 1st class in the classroom and on the court and always seemed to compete for a title.
You ended up becoming a student assistant rather than a player due to some leg injuries, how hard was it to make the shift from the court to the sideline? It was pretty hard because I was in a player’s mode, so it was hard to give up the game due to injury (as opposed to old age). At the same time I had very supportive teammates/coaches who allowed me to help out the team on and off the floor, and it was fun to watch them succeed.
In the 1992 NCAA tourney as an assistant under Coach Crews at your alma mater, Melvin Maxey scored 23 points in a five-point win by UTEP. What was it like to face Hall of Fame coach Don Haskins in the tourney? We were happy to be in Dayton for the tourney. We knew what kind of a legend Haskins was, but Crews prepared us to be in the right position to win the game and it came down to the wire.
In the 2006 NCAA tourney as an assistant under Coach Les at Bradley, Marcellus Sommerville scored 21 points in a four-point upset of #4-seed Kansas. Where does that rank among the biggest wins of your career? It was a big win because nobody thought we had a chance. It was a VCU-type of deal where people thought we should not have been in the tourney in the first place…and then we knocked off a team with a great tradition like Kansas.
In 2007 you were named head coach at SIU-Edwardsville: why did you take the job? It was an opportunity that was hard to pass up: after being an assistant for 15 years I was ready for a new challenge. If I had to do it again I would make the same decision.
In 2008 the program made the leap from D-2 to D-1. What is the biggest difference between the two levels? It was a tough transition but I was ready for it and it made me into a better coach. At both levels there is competitiveness in facing great players every single night: we do not scrimmage D-2 opponents because I know how tough they are! The biggest differences are the financial resources and the talent level.