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 Southeastern Louisiana coach Jim Yarbrough about having a bunch of SEC teams on the non-conference schedule.
Your non-conference road schedule includes trips to Missouri, LSU, Arkansas, and Mississippi State. Which of these four games do you feel will present your biggest test? When you play most of the SEC it is not that easy, but last year we played almost a dozen teams that made the postseason. It will obviously be a challenge and it is never easy to go on the road and play those games. We are going to be whoever we are no matter who we play, so we will try to establish our identity early and stick to what we want to be. If we can compete well it will help us later, but if we get blown out it will be tough to come back from.
You only have one player on your roster who weighs over 205 pounds. What strategy do you use when your team faces a bigger/stronger opponent? We are not powerful but we are not weaklings, so we will try to use our length to our advantage. I think that changing defenses and using our mobility on both ends of the floor will be a key. We also have to stay out of foul trouble.
You lost your two leading scorers from last year in Brandon Fortenberry and Roosevelt Johnson. How will you be able to fill the offensive void left by the departure of these two seniors? We recruited a great deal of shooting and I am very excited about our freshmen. We cannot replace Brandon straight up but hopefully with a couple of players who can give us good scoring punch. I like the fact that anyone with a good look can take the shot, so hopefully we will have a lot of versatility.
What are your expectations for the upcoming season? I expect to compete for a conference title just like every year. We have been stuck in third to sixth place range for a few years and I want us to bounce up and compete for a top spot. It is very competitive but a little more focus and leadership can be the difference. I am guardedly optimistic but we have a learning curve as well.
In the 1996 NIT, as an assistant at College of Charleston under Coach John Kresse, you had a four point overtime loss to Rhode Island. How close did you come to pulling out the win? We did not score well in that game but pushed the envelope to get to overtime. Both teams made the NCAA tourney the following year. Anthony Johnson and Tyson Wheeler were both great players.
In the 1997 NCAA tourney, Stacy Harris scored 22 points in a nine upset of Maryland. How big of a factor was Coach Gary Williams’ decision to bench Laron Profit and Terrell Stokes for being late to a team meeting? Ah, the dreaded 5 versus 12 matchup! I would never second-guess a guy who won an NCAA title. It might have hurt their rhythm a little bit, but we were a good team and came out with a lot of confidence.
Harris scored 25 points in a four point loss to eventual-champion Arizona that snapped your 23-game winning streak (which Kresse called the saddest day in his 33 years of coaching). Where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career? It was a tough loss but it was such rare air for us to be in the round of 32. If we had won that game then we would have played Kansas in the Sweet 16. Since moving on from Charleston, I have had a few devastating losses as a head coach.
What are your memories of the 1999 NCAA tourney ? Your team made a 25-1 run during a seven minute stretch of the second half but fell short in a nine point loss to Tulsa to end your 25 game winning streak. Nothing seemed to go right for us that day. I think we were still unhappy after not getting a higher seed on Selection Sunday. It was great to go back to Charlotte but the air had been taken out of our balloon and we were a little flat. We made a bunch of threes during our comeback and were only down two but could not get over the hump. It was probably as exciting a game as I have ever seen.
Kresse’s 79.7 W-L% remains in the all-time top 10 in Division I history. What made him such a great coach and what was the most important thing that you ever learned from him? He focused on details and organization and had the right plan to compete every day. He was a great teacher of the game and was tough-minded on defense. Working with him was like getting a PhD in coaching. It also seems to have worked out well for my fellow Charleston assistant Gregg Marshall, as he got to the Final Four last spring at Wichita State!