A few weeks back, in the middle of the Pac-10 season, I had the opportunity to interview Joe Pasternack, Assistant Coach at Cal Men's Basketball. Joe is passionately devoted to the program, and to his Head Coach, Ben Braun. As season's end approaches, this conversation with Joe perhaps illuminates some of what drives this program to success.

"> A few weeks back, in the middle of the Pac-10 season, I had the opportunity to interview Joe Pasternack, Assistant Coach at Cal Men's Basketball. Joe is passionately devoted to the program, and to his Head Coach, Ben Braun. As season's end approaches, this conversation with Joe perhaps illuminates some of what drives this program to success.

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Profile in Dedication: Joe Pasternack.

<p class="txt">A few weeks back, in the middle of the Pac-10 season, I had the opportunity to interview Joe Pasternack, Assistant Coach at Cal Men's Basketball. Joe is passionately devoted to the program, and to his Head Coach, Ben Braun. As season's end approaches, this conversation with Joe perhaps illuminates some of what drives this program to success. </p>

GB: So, Joe, how did you get interested in basketball? Where do you get start with this?

Joe: When I was young, I would frequently wonder what I could do when I grew up in the world - and while I began playing basketball at an early age, my dream soon came to be a college coach. It was obvious I was not going to play in the NBA.

GB: You played guard, point guard?

Joe: Guard, off guard. At a tiny school that wasn't very good.

GB: So you started in the fifth grade, and you played basketball through middle school and high school?

Joe: Yes jayvee and Varsity.

GB: And then off to college?

Joe: I went to college at Indiana. By then, I had decided that I wanted to be a coach, so I wanted to learn from coach Bobby Knight.

GB: You were the team manager?

Joe: Yes, I was the team manager, like the one we now have here at Cal. It was very serious business at Indiana; as the manager you review a lot of video, scouting opponents, helping the assistance coaches, the game preparation, and go to every single practice. I was there at every walk through; it was just a tremendous learning experience.

GB: Were you on the court a lot at that time?

Joe: Yes, every day.

GB: Running player drills?

Joe: Passing drills yes, but not actual player drills.

GB: So that gave you the chance to watch a very good coach in action, seeing him do his job.

Joe: I would take notes every single day. I would reduce each day's events to note cards. And every single day after practice I would write down literally everything the coach said, word for word. Then I would watch all the film, and take notes on what I saw there. Then during games, at every time out, when Coach Knight would talk about an offensive or defensive situation, I would take notes on it. It was great that he was willing to let me be right there at the bench during timeouts.

GB: What did you major in at Indiana?

Joe: Business Marketing.

GB: At the Golden Bear Club meeting where you were a guest this last Fall, you spoke about Coach Knight, about how he is not the guy you see on the videotape throwing chairs around. Among other things, you said he has a very positive reputation with his former players. I don't want to put you into the position of defending Bobby Knight across the board, but I would like to hear a bit more from you about him.

Joe: What I said then was that the media portrays him as what they want to show: they replay episodes of him throwing a chair. As far as I know, that happened just one time in his career, but you see it over and over again. So all together might have been half-a-dozen incidents - but you can sit in your living room and watch televisions and get the idea that this was a regular pattern of a lifetime.

GB: So what was Coach Knight really like on a day in and day out basis?

Joe: Well every single day I ever saw him, he was a teacher first and foremost, of the game. For example, just the way he sets up practice to teach the game of basketball, using a "part-whole" method. "Part-whole is like two on nobody, three on nobody, four on nobody, so kids can learn in a small environment rather than the whole, that is 5 on 5.

And he's very very demanding; he likes to say this about himself - that he is an intolerant teacher. He doesn't let mistakes go by without telling you. On ESPN once he addressed this very well, he said his job was not to allow players to make mistakes without letting them know about them. It's not their job to know when they make mistakes; it's his job to tell them and to be their teacher.

As a person he is unbelievably loyal if you're loyal to him. Landon Turner is a former player of his, I think it was in the early '80s when he got in a car accident and got paralyzed before the NCAA Tournament. He was an unbelievable player, probably a lottery pick. And Coach Knight to this day has unbelievably supportive, set up accounts under his name, got donations, and still to this day, 20 years later, he continues to be supportive. That's just some of the stuff. But I can remember, after every home basketball game, there were someone that was paralyzed or someone that was a burn victim bad boy, coming in and meeting coach might be Knight, and Coach Knight going out of his way whether we won or lost, to spend some time with the person.

And probably finally, the thing that really tells who he, is that if you are going to play for him for four years, it is going to be an incredibly demanding experience. But once you graduate, he's your friend for life. He will do what ever he can for you. The average salary of his players who graduate - even back when I was in school there - was over $100,000 (and that's not counting the guys who went to the NBA) because Bobby Knight would support the players and assist them in finding good careers and good jobs after graduation.

They called him "The General". He got his start in the Army, so he does come from a military background where loyalty is number one. There is no other way for him.

GB: What came next after you left to Indiana?

Joe: At the end of my four years, Coach Knight called Coach Braun. I was incredibly lucky that Coach Braun gave me this opportunity - which no one else in America would have done at my age of 22 - to come and work for him to be his video coordinator. He didn't know me from Adam.

GB: But -- the recommendation from Coach Knight must have carried some weight?

Joe: Yes, I guess so - probably it did. But head coaches these days only hire people they know, which is their prerogative. I guess someone gave Coach Braun a chance to be a head coach when he was 23 - so perhaps he took a chance on me. I will forever be indebted to him.

GB: Maybe that attitude also applies to the way that Coach Braun works with his walk-ons?

Joe: Absolutely. I can't think of another coach in America who does what Coach Braun does. One of Coach's biggest strengths is that he doesn't give up on people. And not just players, people, I mean he will give you every opportunity in the world to succeed. That's why I think Sean Lampley is an unbelievable example of that. Everybody talks about McDonnell's All-Americans, and the Leon Powes of the world, but I believe the signs of a great coach are what Coach Braun has done, and that is to get a player that no one was recruiting, except maybe Western Kentucky, bring him in here then literally develop the him into the Pac-10 player of the year and an NBA draft choice. If you had asked any other coach in America, while Lampley was an undergraduate, whether he would be in the NBA, they would have laughed at you.

GB: Perhaps a similar story applies to Ryan Forehan-Kelly, not because he has an NBA career but because his game developed so well over the years.

Joe: No question. Again, Ryan was a walk-on and he ended up starting for us and playing major minutes, helping us get to the second round of the tournament last year as a senior. He's probably one of the best three point shooters in Cal history.

GB: I remember well in the NIT when Coach Braun put Ryan into the game to take a critical foul shot, and Cal fans the world over wondered about that choice. As Coach Braun said later, " Listen, I had complete faith in this guy. I've worked with him a lot, I know who he is, and what he can do."

Joe: That's what I mean about Coach's faith in the guys.

GB: So you started as the video coordinator here. Give me a time frame for this.

Joe: Well let's see. I graduated in June of 1999, and then got started in August of that year. So I became the video coordinator for the 1999 season.

GB: Tell me what that means, being the video coordinator; what are the duties?

Joe: The video coordinator's job is to break down film of upcoming opponents, separating clips of each player, and of each defensive and offensive play and the team uses so that the clips can be used in our team meetings. Also I had to write up scouting reports on every team and give them to the assistant coaches for presentation to the team.

GB: And you did that for how long?

Joe: I did it for 2 years, until about August of 2001, when Coach Ramsey left to go to Michigan and Coach Braun elevated me to the No. 3 slot as assistant coach. Which was last year, so this is my first year as assistant coach.

GB: That was an important promotion.

Joe: It was the biggest the thing that has ever happened in my life.

GB: I think that speaks well for the head coach here.

Joe: It just shows a lot about who he is. If you are loyal to him, he will be loyal to you.

GB: Well I must say that your total devotion to Coach Braun and to the program is completely obvious. Any head coach would have to appreciate that.

GB: So let's talk about coaching duties; as the #3 coach, what is your job?

Joe: Game preparation. That is probably number one: writing the scouting reports and helping with all the game preparation issues.

GB: Who is the video coordinator now?

Joe: Cassidy Raher. So game preparation is my duty, getting the team ready to play the game. I watch all of the games of our upcoming opponent. I give Cassidy numbers as to what clips I want re offense, defense, personnel, and then present the results to the team. He and I develop a proposed game plan for presentation to the coaches, then we all meet as a coaching staff, discuss it, finalize it, then we present it to the team.

GB: I see you running drills, working with players and talking to them. Are there skill areas that you focus on, or certain players that you work with?

Joe: I am in charge of the gold team. They are the ones that get the Blue team ready - they run the opponents sets. So what they do comes right out of the scouting report.

Joe: Coach Reynaud, Coach Wheeler and I all do parts of the game preparation. We divide the games up so that we don't have to do two games in a row on one weekend. That way I can spend a full week studying UCLA, for example, while Coach Reynaud focuses on USC.

GB: UCLA is going through a hell of a tough patch right now, what with their win/loss record, player attitude issues, all the Coach Lavin stuff. As a Cal fan you have to wonder what team is going to show up.

Joe: Yes, it's very scary. You really wonder who will be here.

GB: They could come in angry as hell. Especially if Stanford beats them, they'll be super-motivated, trying to gain some respect. They could also come in and discouraged, down.

Joe: That really is the scary part of coaching. We just have to be prepared for everything.

GB: All of you guys work in recruiting, don't you? Do you each work in different aspects of it? Do you each travel to different sites to watch different players? To meet their families? And does it help that you are a younger guy when it comes to meeting with recruits?

Joe: I don't know about that, I think that the older you are and the more experienced you are, the wiser you are. For me, I am just learning, working my way through the whole recruiting process. It's very very interesting. I've been fortunate because Coach Braun has given me the opportunity to learn all lot about the process. That's just who he is. I've made so many mistakes it's not funny. In everything. In every aspect of recruiting you could name.

GB: But you do not have to define, by yourself, who the Cal program is.

Joe: No, that's right, that's what helps me. The object of the Assistant Coaches is to sell Coach Braun - not to sell ourselves.

GB: So how do you describe Coach Braun to a recruit?

Joe: He is an unbelievable teacher. This is not just me saying this - we can use real examples of what he has accomplished. Anybody can have take a Chris Webber, say, out of high-school - a kid who whether he goes to Central Michigan or to Duke is going to be a lottery pick. He has developed already. But what makes a special teacher, a developer of talent, is someone that can be at Eastern Michigan, and get 8 to 10 players to come to a mid-major school, who aren't very good, who may be too small. And take those kids and develop their talent and make them into NBA draft picks. Coach Braun's has had walk-ons who are now in the NBA. So this isn't a sales pitch, it is just a fact. Earl Boykins, a 5'-5 guy that no one wanted, not Michigan, not Indiana, not Ohio - so he goes to Eastern Michigan and now he's on the front page of The Sporting News.

We talked about Sean Lampley earlier, he just won Pac-10 player of the year over all these other players who are McDonald's All-Americans playing at UCLA, Arizona, and Stanford. And I can go a step further. Take Joe Shipp. Anybody who waits till spring is not getting a lot of offers - and by then UCLA had passed on him, same with Stanford and Arizona. So he comes here, just look at his contributions. If he continues his current level of play, I think he has a real shot at Pac-10 player of the year.

Now that to me is evidence of a real teacher. I don't think Coach Braun's gets enough respect in the national media for the work that he does. We were picked sixth in the Pac-10 and right now we are 12 and 2 with a real shot at the Pac-10 championship.

GB: Joe, you may not be aware that back when the opening for a head coach at Cal first occurred, there was immediate talk on CyberBears about how well qualified Ben Braun would be for the position. A number of our regular visitors were already talking up his candidacy.

Joe: Really! It's very interesting to hear that.

GB: Do you have of any specific territory that you consider to be your main area for recruiting?

Joe: No I don't think so. We'll go anywhere. Europe as you have seen, Chicago, we are getting into right now, even the South though we have not been very successful there yet. And of course California is where we are concentrating right now. We just had some interest from a kid in Portland, so we are not limiting ourselves to a certain about territory.

GB: With regard to Amit Tamir: there is still a lot of confusion around here about his eligibility. The story that has been published is that he has just one more year, but then has a problem because of his age. Do you know if that is right? We're just hoping to get accurate information out there.

Joe: We've heard varying reports about this ourselves, so we don't know exactly what's going on.

GB: So is still being argued somewhere? Between the Department and the Pac-10?

Joe: I'm not totally sure. That's the kind of thing that Coach Braun totally handles.

GB: Could you describe for us how the staff does player evaluations? And how you project a player's contribution to the team?

Joe: We actually have evaluation sheets that ranks each recruit in every category possible. And when we go out and evaluate them, fill out our sheets, and then meet later to discuss them. Everyone on the staff tries to see every player because Coach Braun wants input from each of us. So then we have a staff meeting to discuss and evaluate them.

GB: And then you make a kind of priority ranking board?

Joe: Yes that's right. We try to rank the players both by their abilities and by our team priorities.

GB: One of our CyberBears readers asks how important are your personal relationships with the high school basketball coaches?

Joe: Yes, very important. I think the working relationships with high school coaches are the main reason we got the recruiting class that we did in this last year.

You know, every situation is different. And in some situations the high school coach carries the weight with the player. In others, it's the mother or the father or a brother who carries all the weight. What you have to do as a coach is to first of all find out who that is. Second of all, you have to understand the rules that place limitations on the amount and types of communication that you can have with the kid or his parents.

Basically they don't give us enough time to build a great relationship. So developing a relationship with the coach is very important, and that's something you can do over the years.

GB: To the extent that there is a California focus in your recruiting, when Coach Braun's first came here he could not have had a lot of those good relationships because his experience was elsewhere. But by now he has been here a while.

Joe: Coach's relationships here in Northern California are now very very good. And that's probably the main reason we are getting the players we are getting.

GB: how much time do you spend on the road?

Joe: In the month of April, you are on the road basically every week. Then in the month of July you are on the road all lot, then again in September and October. And of course during the season you are on the road, and you can recruit during the season.

GB: Talk to me a bit about Richard Midgley's development.

Joe: Well Richard, he's just unbelievable. Such a competitor. And I guess he's won the starting guard job here now, and that has not affected his attitudes. Lots of guys, when they learn they are starting, they will let up a bit, relax. But not Richard. For example, yesterday morning, he was working out at 7:00 a.m. lifting weights, after that he was shooting and working on his ball handling. He's just a tremendous competitor, he wants to win and works unbelievably hard.

GB: At the beginning of the season we saw some good scoring ability from him. He was putting it into the basket quickly and easily. In later games this season, he seems to be paying less attention to that, and more attention to distributing the ball.

Joe: Yes, he is looking to get everyone involved. And you know when he has his shot he is going to shoot it -- we probably need him to look for that a bit more now, but when you have three big time scorers on the team, his role is not to be a primary scorer.

GB: A last question for you. How do you feel about the evolution of the team since the early season when it looked to be " a long hard road" ? We can see a lot of improvement since then, but we are just a third of the way into the Pac-10 season now ... so how do you see the team now?

Joe: Well I think that Coach Braun has done an unbelievable job of bringing the team together and making it into a team. We had Eric Bond, we had Richard Midgley, David Paris, Rod Benson, all trying to find their way onto the team and what their roles would be. Coach Braun has done a tremendous job of defining the role for each player and making the pieces come together.

His biggest philosophy is, is there are only two things you can really control, your effort and your attitude. What he emphasizes every day in practice are these principles. For example, against Cleveland State we had to go into overtime against them; since then we've steadily gotten better. That has to be the mark of good coaching that you keep getting better.

GB: Well it's obvious by now that Cal is seriously in the hunt for second place in the conference and has a tough battle coming up against Arizona. Are you willing to make a guess about that game?

Joe: I can't even think about that game now, I've gotta think about USC. I have no idea. Frankly I am scared to death about tonight's game. I had nightmares last night about Desmond Farmer and Eric Craven. I can't even think about Arizona now.

GB: Well of course you are right to keep the focus totally on the next game. You know we all wish you the best and will be in the stands doing our part.

Joe: We're going to need the help.

GB: Thanks, Joe, for spending all this time with us. I think the fans at CyberBears will appreciate your tremendously competitive attitude. Clearly, with this kind of internal intensity, this coaching staff will achieve its goals.

Joe: I'm glad to have spent this time. I check CyberBears regularly and it's fun to see all the Cal fans expressing their interest in the team in various ways.

GB: Then we'll see you on the Internet ....

============

CyberBear Staff Writers regularly visit the CyberBears Insider board, and are happy to discuss any questions you may have about this article or about Cal Athletics.

If you haven't already, subscribe so that you can participate in the CyberBear Insider community - and get access to the premium content across the entire Insider's network.

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GB: So, Joe, how did you get interested in basketball? Where do you get start with this?

Joe: When I was young, I would frequently wonder what I could do when I grew up in the world - and while I began playing basketball at an early age, my dream soon came to be a college coach. It was obvious I was not going to play in the NBA.

GB: You played guard, point guard?

Joe: Guard, off guard. At a tiny school that wasn't very good.

GB: So you started in the fifth grade, and you played basketball through middle school and high school?

Joe: Yes jayvee and Varsity.

GB: And then off to college?

Joe: I went to college at Indiana. By then, I had decided that I wanted to be a coach, so I wanted to learn from coach Bobby Knight.

GB: You were the team manager?

Joe: Yes, I was the team manager, like the one we now have here at Cal. It was very serious business at Indiana; as the manager you review a lot of video, scouting opponents, helping the assistance coaches, the game preparation, and go to every single practice. I was there at every walk through; it was just a tremendous learning experience.

GB: Were you on the court a lot at that time?

Joe: Yes, every day.

GB: Running player drills?

Joe: Passing drills yes, but not actual player drills.

GB: So that gave you the chance to watch a very good coach in action, seeing him do his job.

Joe: I would take notes every single day. I would reduce each day's events to note cards. And every single day after practice I would write down literally everything the coach said, word for word. Then I would watch all the film, and take notes on what I saw there. Then during games, at every time out, when Coach Knight would talk about an offensive or defensive situation, I would take notes on it. It was great that he was willing to let me be right there at the bench during timeouts.

GB: What did you major in at Indiana?

Joe: Business Marketing.

GB: At the Golden Bear Club meeting where you were a guest this last Fall, you spoke about Coach Knight, about how he is not the guy you see on the videotape throwing chairs around. Among other things, you said he has a very positive reputation with his former players. I don't want to put you into the position of defending Bobby Knight across the board, but I would like to hear a bit more from you about him.

Joe: What I said then was that the media portrays him as what they want to show: they replay episodes of him throwing a chair. As far as I know, that happened just one time in his career, but you see it over and over again. So all together might have been half-a-dozen incidents - but you can sit in your living room and watch televisions and get the idea that this was a regular pattern of a lifetime.

GB: So what was Coach Knight really like on a day in and day out basis?

Joe: Well every single day I ever saw him, he was a teacher first and foremost, of the game. For example, just the way he sets up practice to teach the game of basketball, using a \"part-whole\" method. \"Part-whole is like two on nobody, three on nobody, four on nobody, so kids can learn in a small environment rather than the whole, that is 5 on 5.

And he's very very demanding; he likes to say this about himself - that he is an intolerant teacher. He doesn't let mistakes go by without telling you. On ESPN once he addressed this very well, he said his job was not to allow players to make mistakes without letting them know about them. It's not their job to know when they make mistakes; it's his job to tell them and to be their teacher.

As a person he is unbelievably loyal if you're loyal to him. Landon Turner is a former player of his, I think it was in the early '80s when he got in a car accident and got paralyzed before the NCAA Tournament. He was an unbelievable player, probably a lottery pick. And Coach Knight to this day has unbelievably supportive, set up accounts under his name, got donations, and still to this day, 20 years later, he continues to be supportive. That's just some of the stuff. But I can remember, after every home basketball game, there were someone that was paralyzed or someone that was a burn victim bad boy, coming in and meeting coach might be Knight, and Coach Knight going out of his way whether we won or lost, to spend some time with the person.

And probably finally, the thing that really tells who he, is that if you are going to play for him for four years, it is going to be an incredibly demanding experience. But once you graduate, he's your friend for life. He will do what ever he can for you. The average salary of his players who graduate - even back when I was in school there - was over $100,000 (and that's not counting the guys who went to the NBA) because Bobby Knight would support the players and assist them in finding good careers and good jobs after graduation.

They called him \"The General\". He got his start in the Army, so he does come from a military background where loyalty is number one. There is no other way for him.

GB: What came next after you left to Indiana?

Joe: At the end of my four years, Coach Knight called Coach Braun. I was incredibly lucky that Coach Braun gave me this opportunity - which no one else in America would have done at my age of 22 - to come and work for him to be his video coordinator. He didn't know me from Adam.

GB: But -- the recommendation from Coach Knight must have carried some weight?

Joe: Yes, I guess so - probably it did. But head coaches these days only hire people they know, which is their prerogative. I guess someone gave Coach Braun a chance to be a head coach when he was 23 - so perhaps he took a chance on me. I will forever be indebted to him.

GB: Maybe that attitude also applies to the way that Coach Braun works with his walk-ons?

Joe: Absolutely. I can't think of another coach in America who does what Coach Braun does. One of Coach's biggest strengths is that he doesn't give up on people. And not just players, people, I mean he will give you every opportunity in the world to succeed. That's why I think Sean Lampley is an unbelievable example of that. Everybody talks about McDonnell's All-Americans, and the Leon Powes of the world, but I believe the signs of a great coach are what Coach Braun has done, and that is to get a player that no one was recruiting, except maybe Western Kentucky, bring him in here then literally develop the him into the Pac-10 player of the year and an NBA draft choice. If you had asked any other coach in America, while Lampley was an undergraduate, whether he would be in the NBA, they would have laughed at you.

GB: Perhaps a similar story applies to Ryan Forehan-Kelly, not because he has an NBA career but because his game developed so well over the years.

Joe: No question. Again, Ryan was a walk-on and he ended up starting for us and playing major minutes, helping us get to the second round of the tournament last year as a senior. He's probably one of the best three point shooters in Cal history.

GB: I remember well in the NIT when Coach Braun put Ryan into the game to take a critical foul shot, and Cal fans the world over wondered about that choice. As Coach Braun said later, \" Listen, I had complete faith in this guy. I've worked with him a lot, I know who he is, and what he can do.\"

Joe: That's what I mean about Coach's faith in the guys.

GB: So you started as the video coordinator here. Give me a time frame for this.

Joe: Well let's see. I graduated in June of 1999, and then got started in August of that year. So I became the video coordinator for the 1999 season.

GB: Tell me what that means, being the video coordinator; what are the duties?

Joe: The video coordinator's job is to break down film of upcoming opponents, separating clips of each player, and of each defensive and offensive play and the team uses so that the clips can be used in our team meetings. Also I had to write up scouting reports on every team and give them to the assistant coaches for presentation to the team.

GB: And you did that for how long?

Joe: I did it for 2 years, until about August of 2001, when Coach Ramsey left to go to Michigan and Coach Braun elevated me to the No. 3 slot as assistant coach. Which was last year, so this is my first year as assistant coach.

GB: That was an important promotion.

Joe: It was the biggest the thing that has ever happened in my life.

GB: I think that speaks well for the head coach here.

Joe: It just shows a lot about who he is. If you are loyal to him, he will be loyal to you.

GB: Well I must say that your total devotion to Coach Braun and to the program is completely obvious. Any head coach would have to appreciate that.

GB: So let's talk about coaching duties; as the #3 coach, what is your job?

Joe: Game preparation. That is probably number one: writing the scouting reports and helping with all the game preparation issues.

GB: Who is the video coordinator now?

Joe: Cassidy Raher. So game preparation is my duty, getting the team ready to play the game. I watch all of the games of our upcoming opponent. I give Cassidy numbers as to what clips I want re offense, defense, personnel, and then present the results to the team. He and I develop a proposed game plan for presentation to the coaches, then we all meet as a coaching staff, discuss it, finalize it, then we present it to the team.

GB: I see you running drills, working with players and talking to them. Are there skill areas that you focus on, or certain players that you work with?

Joe: I am in charge of the gold team. They are the ones that get the Blue team ready - they run the opponents sets. So what they do comes right out of the scouting report.

Joe: Coach Reynaud, Coach Wheeler and I all do parts of the game preparation. We divide the games up so that we don't have to do two games in a row on one weekend. That way I can spend a full week studying UCLA, for example, while Coach Reynaud focuses on USC.

GB: UCLA is going through a hell of a tough patch right now, what with their win/loss record, player attitude issues, all the Coach Lavin stuff. As a Cal fan you have to wonder what team is going to show up.

Joe: Yes, it's very scary. You really wonder who will be here.

GB: They could come in angry as hell. Especially if Stanford beats them, they'll be super-motivated, trying to gain some respect. They could also come in and discouraged, down.

Joe: That really is the scary part of coaching. We just have to be prepared for everything.

GB: All of you guys work in recruiting, don't you? Do you each work in different aspects of it? Do you each travel to different sites to watch different players? To meet their families? And does it help that you are a younger guy when it comes to meeting with recruits?

Joe: I don't know about that, I think that the older you are and the more experienced you are, the wiser you are. For me, I am just learning, working my way through the whole recruiting process. It's very very interesting. I've been fortunate because Coach Braun has given me the opportunity to learn all lot about the process. That's just who he is. I've made so many mistakes it's not funny. In everything. In every aspect of recruiting you could name.

GB: But you do not have to define, by yourself, who the Cal program is.

Joe: No, that's right, that's what helps me. The object of the Assistant Coaches is to sell Coach Braun - not to sell ourselves.

GB: So how do you describe Coach Braun to a recruit?

Joe: He is an unbelievable teacher. This is not just me saying this - we can use real examples of what he has accomplished. Anybody can have take a Chris Webber, say, out of high-school - a kid who whether he goes to Central Michigan or to Duke is going to be a lottery pick. He has developed already. But what makes a special teacher, a developer of talent, is someone that can be at Eastern Michigan, and get 8 to 10 players to come to a mid-major school, who aren't very good, who may be too small. And take those kids and develop their talent and make them into NBA draft picks. Coach Braun's has had walk-ons who are now in the NBA. So this isn't a sales pitch, it is just a fact. Earl Boykins, a 5'-5 guy that no one wanted, not Michigan, not Indiana, not Ohio - so he goes to Eastern Michigan and now he's on the front page of The Sporting News.

We talked about Sean Lampley earlier, he just won Pac-10 player of the year over all these other players who are McDonald's All-Americans playing at UCLA, Arizona, and Stanford. And I can go a step further. Take Joe Shipp. Anybody who waits till spring is not getting a lot of offers - and by then UCLA had passed on him, same with Stanford and Arizona. So he comes here, just look at his contributions. If he continues his current level of play, I think he has a real shot at Pac-10 player of the year.

Now that to me is evidence of a real teacher. I don't think Coach Braun's gets enough respect in the national media for the work that he does. We were picked sixth in the Pac-10 and right now we are 12 and 2 with a real shot at the Pac-10 championship.

GB: Joe, you may not be aware that back when the opening for a head coach at Cal first occurred, there was immediate talk on CyberBears about how well qualified Ben Braun would be for the position. A number of our regular visitors were already talking up his candidacy.

Joe: Really! It's very interesting to hear that.

GB: Do you have of any specific territory that you consider to be your main area for recruiting?

Joe: No I don't think so. We'll go anywhere. Europe as you have seen, Chicago, we are getting into right now, even the South though we have not been very successful there yet. And of course California is where we are concentrating right now. We just had some interest from a kid in Portland, so we are not limiting ourselves to a certain about territory.

GB: With regard to Amit Tamir: there is still a lot of confusion around here about his eligibility. The story that has been published is that he has just one more year, but then has a problem because of his age. Do you know if that is right? We're just hoping to get accurate information out there.

Joe: We've heard varying reports about this ourselves, so we don't know exactly what's going on.

GB: So is still being argued somewhere? Between the Department and the Pac-10?

Joe: I'm not totally sure. That's the kind of thing that Coach Braun totally handles.

GB: Could you describe for us how the staff does player evaluations? And how you project a player's contribution to the team?

Joe: We actually have evaluation sheets that ranks each recruit in every category possible. And when we go out and evaluate them, fill out our sheets, and then meet later to discuss them. Everyone on the staff tries to see every player because Coach Braun wants input from each of us. So then we have a staff meeting to discuss and evaluate them.

GB: And then you make a kind of priority ranking board?

Joe: Yes that's right. We try to rank the players both by their abilities and by our team priorities.

GB: One of our CyberBears readers asks how important are your personal relationships with the high school basketball coaches?

Joe: Yes, very important. I think the working relationships with high school coaches are the main reason we got the recruiting class that we did in this last year.

You know, every situation is different. And in some situations the high school coach carries the weight with the player. In others, it's the mother or the father or a brother who carries all the weight. What you have to do as a coach is to first of all find out who that is. Second of all, you have to understand the rules that place limitations on the amount and types of communication that you can have with the kid or his parents.

Basically they don't give us enough time to build a great relationship. So developing a relationship with the coach is very important, and that's something you can do over the years.

GB: To the extent that there is a California focus in your recruiting, when Coach Braun's first came here he could not have had a lot of those good relationships because his experience was elsewhere. But by now he has been here a while.

Joe: Coach's relationships here in Northern California are now very very good. And that's probably the main reason we are getting the players we are getting.

GB: how much time do you spend on the road?

Joe: In the month of April, you are on the road basically every week. Then in the month of July you are on the road all lot, then again in September and October. And of course during the season you are on the road, and you can recruit during the season.

GB: Talk to me a bit about Richard Midgley's development.

Joe: Well Richard, he's just unbelievable. Such a competitor. And I guess he's won the starting guard job here now, and that has not affected his attitudes. Lots of guys, when they learn they are starting, they will let up a bit, relax. But not Richard. For example, yesterday morning, he was working out at 7:00 a.m. lifting weights, after that he was shooting and working on his ball handling. He's just a tremendous competitor, he wants to win and works unbelievably hard.

GB: At the beginning of the season we saw some good scoring ability from him. He was putting it into the basket quickly and easily. In later games this season, he seems to be paying less attention to that, and more attention to distributing the ball.

Joe: Yes, he is looking to get everyone involved. And you know when he has his shot he is going to shoot it -- we probably need him to look for that a bit more now, but when you have three big time scorers on the team, his role is not to be a primary scorer.

GB: A last question for you. How do you feel about the evolution of the team since the early season when it looked to be \" a long hard road\" ? We can see a lot of improvement since then, but we are just a third of the way into the Pac-10 season now ... so how do you see the team now?

Joe: Well I think that Coach Braun has done an unbelievable job of bringing the team together and making it into a team. We had Eric Bond, we had Richard Midgley, David Paris, Rod Benson, all trying to find their way onto the team and what their roles would be. Coach Braun has done a tremendous job of defining the role for each player and making the pieces come together.

His biggest philosophy is, is there are only two things you can really control, your effort and your attitude. What he emphasizes every day in practice are these principles. For example, against Cleveland State we had to go into overtime against them; since then we've steadily gotten better. That has to be the mark of good coaching that you keep getting better.

GB: Well it's obvious by now that Cal is seriously in the hunt for second place in the conference and has a tough battle coming up against Arizona. Are you willing to make a guess about that game?

Joe: I can't even think about that game now, I've gotta think about USC. I have no idea. Frankly I am scared to death about tonight's game. I had nightmares last night about Desmond Farmer and Eric Craven. I can't even think about Arizona now.

GB: Well of course you are right to keep the focus totally on the next game. You know we all wish you the best and will be in the stands doing our part.

Joe: We're going to need the help.

GB: Thanks, Joe, for spending all this time with us. I think the fans at CyberBears will appreciate your tremendously competitive attitude. Clearly, with this kind of internal intensity, this coaching staff will achieve its goals.

Joe: I'm glad to have spent this time. I check CyberBears regularly and it's fun to see all the Cal fans expressing their interest in the team in various ways.

GB: Then we'll see you on the Internet ....

============

CyberBear Staff Writers regularly visit the CyberBears Insider board, and are happy to discuss any questions you may have about this article or about Cal Athletics.

If you haven't already, subscribe so that you can participate in the CyberBear Insider community - and get access to the premium content across the entire Insider's network.

= GreyBear, Webmaster

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