Interview: Cliff Ellis Talks Recruiting

Ever wonder how a head coach handles recruiting during the NCAA Tournament? Well, sat down with 1999 National Coach of the Year Cliff Ellis to discuss how coaches deal with the tournament and its impact on recruiting.

Cliff Ellis began his head coaching career in 1975 at South Alabama. His journey as a head coach took him to numerous NCAA Tournaments, an ACC championship with Clemson, an SEC title at Auburn and even a No. 1 seed in the tournament with the Tigers.

The program builder sat down with and shared his thoughts on being a head coach during the most stressful time of the year and the impact of visibility and the NCAA Tournament has on recruiting. -- Coach, Is There Any Time During The NCAA's Where You Can Squeeze In Some Recruiting?

Cliff Ellis -- Teams that are out of the tournament have the advantage of being there (in person) with the exception of the dead period during the Final Four. If you're not in the NCAA Tournament you have an opportunity to be out there while teams are playing and that can be an advantage to some extent. But at the same time, perhaps it's more of an advantage to be in the hunt and use the television and the exposure of the media and print that you are getting.

Those people are saying ‘I'm here, this is what it's about and we're playing for it.' This time of year you have to use the telephone if you're in (the NCAA's); personally you have to be out there an explaining why you're not. It varies but for the most part teams that are in the tournament doesn't hurt them as much as you might think. -- Can A Recruiting Call Help After A Big Game?

Cliff Ellis A phone call immediately after the game. You tell that kid why you can't be there and if you can call that kid within an hour after that (NCAA) game. You talk about sending a message to that kid who just watched that screen! He's sitting there and he just watched and he's saying man, that guy thinks enough of me to call? I always liked to call immediately after the game was over. Let's do it between here and the bus ride home. Then the other coaches will follow up with the kid and sell it that Coach Ellis called 15 minutes after the game. -- Was There A Situation When An NCAA Run Helped You With Your Recruitment of A Kid?

Cliff Ellis With Marquis Daniels. The 2000 run at Auburn made a difference. It was exposure. -- How Do You Manage Your Staff?

Cliff Ellis I think people handle it in different ways. What I always strived to do is say look, this is our plan. We finish our conference tournament; you're excited and let's take 30 minutes to talk about recruiting. What are we going to get done and you (assistants) handle it. Now you've got to talk to the video people and there's so many things going on. You're traveling and if you're playing on Thursday you've got to be out of here on Tuesday.

There's so many things going on and you've got to be the CEO. There's travel, who's gonna get the video. It's totally new.

You're not in conference play and you're playing Butler. I've got to have the films on them tomorrow. You talk about so many things and you have to have a staff that will get the job done. You're going to be pulled as a head coach to prepare your team, meet the media – and that's your recruiting – because you're going to have to talk to every television and newspaper person that wants to talk. You've got to be available. You have to use that to your advantage and if you're not in the hunt you have to be out there thwarting that situation.

If you're not (in the tournament) you have to be out there telling the guy that we need you and you can help us get there – "You are the star. You're going to be the one that makes it happen here." It's a matter of what hat you're wearing. If you're not in the tournament you tell the kid we need you to be the shining star. You spin it a different way. -- Any Stories About How A Recruiting Trip Might Have Helped You?

Cliff Ellis The fall recruiting season is your nuts and bolts. Spring is the time to fill in with what your needs are. If you're in the Atlantic Coast Conference of the Southeastern Conference, you needed to have hay in the barn in the fall. If you had to go out and sign a bunch of kids (in the spring) that was a tough, tough thing to do. In the spring, as far as immediate needs for the spring yes there are some guys but it all depends on the situation.

What immediately takes me back is South Alabama days. We got a kid by the name of Terry Catledge. We were hot and had come off of playing in the NCAA's and Mississippi State and some state schools wanted him. They weren't in the NCAA Tournament and we were. I made a point to go up there and get involved immediately when I got in and I tried to do that with he and Bobby Lee Hurt. I would go immediatley from Houston, Miss., to Huntsville, Ala., and I went right in there. It turned out we got Terry Catledge. You capitalize on what is there. At that time we capitalized that we were (in the NCAA's), Mississippi State wasn't and I knew they'd be hitting him pretty hard. I made a point to go from a post-season tournament right in there and I think it paid off. -- How Big Is It When A Head Coach Can Get On TV In The Tournament?

Cliff Ellis Plus, plus, plus. Plus. Plus. I did ESPN with John Saunders and Vitale when we were playing in Hartford, Conn. I did that and it was a huge plus. Then, we had the Chris Porter run and ABC asked me to come in and do one of their Sunday afternoon shows and man, you take off and you go. That's free. You're exposed and you can't get anything better than that right there. That's where it's at and these kids want to be a part of it.

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