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 Southern Utah coach Nick Robinson about how he will replace a pair of 15-point scorers.
You lost both of your leading scorers from last year (Jackson Stevenett/Damon Heuir) who averaged more than 15 points. How will you be able to fill the offensive void left by the departure of these 2 seniors? We have six returning scholarship players and six incoming scholarship players. We lost a lot of scoring but I believe we have guys who want to step up and take their place. If we have multiple guys contributing each night, we should be able to fill that void.
Your non-conference schedule includes games against Cal, UNLV, and San Diego State, which of these three games do you feel will present your biggest test? I think each of our games will be a test in its own way. Cal and San Diego State are road games, but all three of the teams you mentioned have top-25 potential so they will all be a challenge. One of the things we struggled with last year is winning on the road so we want to be challenged early and often.
What are your expectations for the upcoming season? I want us to improve on what we did last year. We have a young team, especially on the perimeter. Overall we will just take it one game at a time. I expect us to be a tough-minded defensive team that does a great job on the boards and hopefully we will have a little more tempo offensively.
You got a bachelors and a masters degree at Stanford, how much importance do you place on academics? Academics is a big part of our program: mandatory study hall, incentives for certain GPAs, etc. We want to compete both in the classroom and on the court.
You played for Coach Mike Montgomery at Stanford, what makes Montgomery such a great coach, and what is the most important thing you ever learned from him? His preparation and attention to detail is what makes him an extraordinary coach. We were fortunate to have some good teams, and he had a big impact on me as both a player and a coach.
In 2004, your game-winning 35-footer over Andre Iguodala beat Arizona at the buzzer, preserved your undefeated season, and was nominated for an ESPY. Did you think it was going in, and where does that shot rank among the highlights of your career? First of all it was a great game: Josh Childress hit a three in the corner to tie it up and we thought the game was heading to overtime. Once I let it go it definitely felt good, but you never know. It was the most memorable game of my college career as well as a fantastic team win en route to a #1 ranking and a 30-2 season.
You served as a team captain during your junior and senior seasons: what is the key to being a good leader? Leaders come in different molds, but I just tried to lead by example by giving 100% effort and holding people accountable. To be honest we had so many good leaders that any one of us could have been a captain.
In the 2008 NCAA tourney as an assistant under Trent Johnson at Stanford, Brook Lopez scored 30 points including a baseline leaner with 1.3 seconds left on Mitch Johnson’s 16th assist of the night in a one-point overtime win over Marquette. How were you and the rest of the staff able to keep the team focused after Johnson was ejected in the 1st half for walking onto the court to argue a foul call? The players rallied around that particular moment, when you get to that point in the season everyone is simply focused on surviving and advancing. It was an unfortunate loss based on the ref’s decision, but we gave a hard-fought effort all the way to the end.
You were hired as head coach in 2012 – why did you take the job, and what is the biggest lesson you learned from your 1st year as head coach? Coach Johnson had prepared me after working for him for the previous five years, and I felt it would be a great fit for myself and my family. As a first-year coach there is a lot to learn, but I had great mentors along the way to help me navigate the ups and downs.
You became the first Big Sky team in over 40 years to win its first three league games during its 1st season in the conference: how were you able to make such a smooth transition after coming over from the Summit League? I was not a part of the Summit League but it is great to be in a competitive league like the Big Sky with great players and coaches. It helped to have two of our first three games at home, and we competed hard throughout the year. We were fortunate to get into the conference tourney in our very 1st year.