Don Verlin Press Conference, Part 2
What is the biggest challenge at Idaho: "It's changing the culture at the University of Idaho. I think we have to establish a winning tradition, right from today. I think that's something that our coaching staff has to take immediate concern with, and I think it's something that we've got to go about it to win the best we can, every day. We've got to come out every day, and we've got to try to win every day. We've got to get better every day. I think that's our biggest challenge, is changing the attitude to a winning attitude."
Will all your players be back next year, or will you assess how your team will look over the off-season: "As I told them today in a team meeting, they're my players now. What we need to do now, from this point forward, is get to know each other better. I told them that today they're all Idaho Vandals, and they're all welcome to come back to the basketball program. But over the next two months we're going to get to know each other better. I'm going to find out a lot about them and they're going to find out a lot about me. And what we're going to do is make what is the best decision for all of us. If there's two or three guys that don't want to be here, then obviously I'll give them their release and they can go elsewhere. And I think I hold that same right. So we're going to sit down and evaluate it – we 're not going to do anything too quick. I'm going to get to know each and everyone of these guys, and hopefully each and everyone of them stay and we can build our program."
How did the team meeting go today: "I thought it went great. I talked to them a lot about how the program was going to work, and what was expected of them, and being accountable, and they were all very attentive. They all seemed to be very happy. I have individual meetings set with them on Wednesday, where I'll meet with them individually. Just very excited to get to know them a little better. I think that's sometimes how you can determine how a guy is going to be in your system, is what kind of character he has.
You've got a lot of experience as a college coach…how would you describe the mood of the players in the locker room today when you addressed them for the first time: "It was good…it was good. I told them a few jokes and they had smiles on their faces. And we talked about the hill that we have to climb and some of those things, but it was good. I said change is always hard – sometimes good, sometimes not so good. But this change is gonna be good, and they liked that. I think the mood was good, and they're excited to get a new coach in here where they don't have to worry about who the next coach is going to be. And they're ready to get to work. They're basketball players, and they want to have direction and they want to go out and play basketball."
How many scholarships are going to be available: "Well, right now the way I figure it there is three, when I counted heads. Now, there are a couple things that could change that. The APR. I've got to get into the middle of the APR with our administration to find out if we're going to be at the full 13, or 12. And obviously keeping the guys eligible that are here now, and the guys that are on line to graduating - making sure that they graduate."
Describe the biggest difference between today and two years ago when you were in the running for this job: "I think those guys [University of Idaho President Tim White and Athletics Director Rob Spear] just selling me that it is better. I think the program made some strides the last two years, I really do. It was just a situation where everything hit at the right time for us, for me. And, it just felt like it was time for me to take a chance. When you can get an opportunity in a [typically] Top 10 conference in America, you've got to take your chance out there and get after it, so that's what I'm looking forward to doing."
What exactly were the sticking points the last time you interviewed here: "I think the one thing that has happened is we do have more money for assistants than last time when I looked at it. The other thing is the schedule. Rob has told me that I will have complete control of the schedule, and that was something that I felt was very important – where I can dictate who we get in on the non-conference games. We hope to build this thing to a place where we don't have to play anymore guarantee games. A lot of the schools in this conference they don't play guarantee games, they "buy in" guarantee games. Right down the road in Boise they buy in teams. And that's what we need to get to – where we are successful enough where we can buy in some teams. And really, the whole deal of it was more of the sales job that Rob and President White did on me. They really impressed me. I think anytime you feel wanted, it makes you feel good. And they made me feel wanted. I think that was the main thing that was different this time than last."
About the interview process with Rob Spear: "We stayed in touch, but nothing formal. I'd see him at the WAC tournament and shake his hand. I walked on the court when we played here at Idaho and I shook his hand. We always kind of had a relationship. Our AD always told me Rob had great respect for me, and thought we really connected. And so, after George was dismissed, Rob called me and said, ‘I want to talk to you about your future,' and that's basically how it happened. I told him I said ‘Rob, we do need to talk about my future, but we've got a basketball game to play.' We had to go to Illinois State to play, I went in and told [Utah State Head] Coach [Stew] Morrill and he said feel free to talk to whoever you need to talk to if that is what you're interested in doing. That's when the conversation started – I believe that was Tuesday – and away we went."
When was the face-to-face: "We didn't meet face-to-face, besides [the game between UI and USU in Moscow]. I had been here before. My wife and I came up here two years ago, we met with the President, we spent time at Rob's house. I told him ‘Rob, I don't need to come up there and go through the interview process.' I'd been there before, I know exactly what it is. I didn't think we needed to do that. I thought we had a good enough rapport, and good enough trust in each other. He'd already kind of done that before."
Have you talked to George Pfeifer: "I have not talked to George Pfeifer. George sent a very nice text to me the other day, which shows the kind of man that he is. He's a good man, there's no question about that. He said he knows this is an exciting time for me and my family, and that he's a Vandal at heart. I'm telling you, it brought a tear to my eye – I've been a long-time coach, and I know these things are hard on people. He said I just wish you the best of luck. So George is a true gentleman, and I firmly believe that. And I respect the things that George did, and I respect him sending me a text. That was very nice of him."
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