I know that you go out and watch recruits a lot during the recruiting periods. Is it normal for a head coach to go out and recruit as much as you do?
"It is unusual. We get 130 days that we can go out and recruit. I was out more than any of my assistants this past year and it will be the same way this upcoming season. For me, it is very important for me to see the individual recruits. And it is even more important that they see me. I think it is very important for a recruit and the people around him know that the head coach has a vested and sincere interest in him. So, I want to get out as much as my schedule allows me to get out. That way, I not only get to see him but he and the people around him get to see me."
Sometimes, when I see you at high school or AAU games, you may be the only head coach at the game. There may be assistants from other programs there but you are one of the few head coaches. When you talk to those kids on the phone do they notice that?
"They do notice it, but if they don't then that's one of the things that I bring up in our conversation. That's one of the things that we want to win, the head coach recruiting battle. I can tell them that I know that a school came out to watch them and that I know that a certain number of those times it was an assistant coach who came to watch them. In our case, it may be that I watched him four times and one of our assistant coaches watched him once. That shows them how much more we want them than the other program."
I realize that you can watch a lot of game film of a kid and learn a lot about him from that. But what can you learn about a kid by watching him in a game in person?
"You can see the interaction that he has with his teammates and coaches, how he handles a hostile environment. You have the chance to see all the nuances that you don't see on a highlight tape. You get to see their physical makeup. Sometimes on a highlight tape you don't get to see their physical makeup. Are they really 6-5 or 6-3? Are they really 6-9 or 6-7? You also can see how big and strong they are.
"But the main thing about going out and watching a recruit play, it allows me to rely on my own evaluation process. I trust and rely a lot on my assistant coaches evaluation of recruits but at the end of the day I want to have a say-so on who we are and aren't taking. I think that is difficult to do if you don't take the time to go out and look at the recruits yourself."
With you going out so much and evaluating recruits, does that allow your assistant coaches to learn more about what you specifically are looking for in a recruit, whether it be a guard, forward or center?
"It's always a feeling out process. None of my assistants have ever worked for me and we have never worked on the same staff before. I think, after being around me for a year, they know some of the things that I like and don't like."
Was going out recruiting so much, like you are doing now, something that you had planned on doing once you became the head coach at Mississippi State or was it something that developed once you were at MSU a few months?
"I think that comes back to two things. One was that I wanted to be a very visible head coach. I'm not a name coach like a John Calipari or a Billy Donovan. For us to recruit against people like that, I have to be more visible to allow us to be on a more even playing field. And, two, I'm going to show that recruit that I am going to do everything that I can as a head coach to make sure that he knows that we are recruiting him as hard as we can to get him to come play for us. I want him to know that I have a vested and sincere interest in him.
"Sometimes I think what gets lost is the assistant coaches do all of the work as far as going out to watch a recruit play but it's the head coach who is making the decisions about playing time. Due to that, the recruit should have a relationship with the head coach as well as the assistant coach. I want them to feel as comfortable with me as they do with (MSU assistant coaches) Wes (Flanigan), George (Brooks) and Chris (Hollender)."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.