2020 SEC Men's Basketball Q&A
While coaches are known for helping shape players, sometimes the role is reversed and a player will play a key role in shaping who a coach is. SEC men's basketball coaches talk about a player who has played a role in shaping who they are:
Nate Oats, Alabama - "Will Clyburn was a high school player I had the fortune of coaching. His work ethic outside of practice showed me how much a player could actually improve when they fully commit themselves to becoming the best they can be. He had the greatest one-year improvement of anyone I've coached. He was the Euroleague's Final Four MVP last year for CSKA Moscow and has put him and his family in a great situation due to his work ethic starting back in high school. He's also turned himself into a great man, husband, and father. Now, whenever I get frustrated with a kid, I think back to what improvements can be made if someone actually wants to improve himself."
Eric Musselman, Arkansas - "I have been fortunate to have been around some great players that have helped shaped my philosophy. Players like Avery Johnson, Shane Battier, Pau Gasol, Jason Terry, Shareef Abdul-Raheem, Danny Green, and Jeremy Lin. Each and every player I have ever coached has taught me some lessons to help me coach in recent years."
Bruce Pearl, Auburn - "I've had a lot of players shape who I am over the years. The first point guard I ever coached when I was at Southern Indiana was Tyrone Tate. He was a Chicago high school point guard legend, and he knew more about the game than I did. I was 32 and he was 22, and I was smart enough to listen to him. More recently, the player who has helped shape me is Samir Doughty. Samir made it really clear to me that he didn't want to just be a better player, he wanted to be a better person. That was another great reminder of the responsibility that we have as coaches and the effect we can have on our players' lives."
Mike White, Florida - "Speedy Smith, who was our point guard at Louisiana Tech all four years I was head coach there."
Tom Crean, Georgia - "... Don't ever get away from giving them the individual time and attention they need and crave because they need the reminders of what they are capable of."
John Calipari, Kentucky - "I don't think I can answer that one just because I've had so many players that I've learned from. Whether you're talking about my time growing up and being around and looking up to players that shaped me, my time at UMass, Memphis and Kentucky, or even my time in the NBA, I've been blessed to have the opportunity to work with some of the game's best players. It would be hard for me to single out one."
Will Wade, LSU - "I think you learn through every player that you coach and each of them leaves something with you. I will always remember Greg Pryor who was the first kid to sign with us when I was the head coach at Chattanooga. He started every game for us and was an all-league player. He believed in me and our program before there was much to believe in. Also, a kid Justin Tuoyo who signed with us at VCU and played a season then signed sight unseen to Chattanooga. He believed in us so much it didn't matter where we were. I'm appreciative of all the players that we've had the opportunity to coach."
Kermit Davis, Ole Miss - "To be honest, I couldn't give you one specific player. I've had a lot of great ones over my career, and as we get more experience, they each bring something different. I've become a better listener, taking feedback from the players and letting them have more of an impact on the program both on and off the court."
Ben Howland, Mississippi State - "I have had so many players that have helped shaped who I am. One player that I really appreciate that I coached and really was a joy to coach was a young man at the University of Pittsburgh named Brandin Knight. Brandin after about the first year and a half of playing for me, I came to completely trust him with everything. He was like having an extension of the coach out on the floor. Whenever he suggested things that he saw during games, things that he felt, I had so much confidence and trust in him that I would basically always allow him to do whatever he felt was good for our team. I had that kind of trust with him and that was something that really helped me as I continued on into my coaching career."
Cuonzo Martin, Missouri - "My teammate in college Glenn Robinson was probably one of the better college players to ever compete in the Big Ten. We bonded early. And iron sharpens iron. We battled every day, we won championships together, and I think our relationship helped shape the work ethic and mentality I have today."
Frank Martin, South Carolina - "Douglas Edwards influenced me as much as any player I've ever coached. I was very young when he played for us in high school. He is as smart a player as I've ever coached and possesses a very strong will. Made me understand how important it is that I am prepared to help really good players improve."
Rick Barnes, Tennessee - "I've been blessed to coach so many wonderful players and players who have helped me in a lot of different ways. From a coaching standpoint, I'd say that T.J. Ford was a player who defined to me-as well as any player I've ever coached-the coach-player relationship. He saw the game in a way that really was neat. He had a way to express to me how he saw the game better than any player I've ever coached. Then I think of Kevin Durant. Even with all his God-given ability, he had an incredible passion and work ethic that he played with every day. Both of those guys were so unselfish. They were all about winning. They were all about their teammates-trying to make their teammates become the best they could be. Those guys just saw the game different in some ways, and they were both National Players of the Year. There's a reason for that-not only were they talented, they worked hard. And the most important thing for them was how they could get the best out of their teammates."
Jerry Stackhouse, Vanderbilt - "Dr. J- the great Julius Erving. He was someone I admired as a young person and enjoyed watching while I was growing up. I think he embodies what every athlete should aspire to be, great athleticism, class and humbleness."