Q&A with Coach Giannini Part I

La Salle Explorer head coach Dr. John Giannini chats with Explorer Hoop Report in a two part series covering the past, present, and future of La Salle basketball. What can we expect from this year's team and the future of the La Salle basketball program?

Explorer Hoop Report had a chance to chat with La Salle University men's head basketball Coach Dr. John Giannini recently and he shared his thoughts with us in a two part question and answer session.

EHR: Please give us your thoughts on the Canadian trip. Did the trip give you all you hoped it would when you planned it?

Coach Giannini: The trip was the perfect activity at the perfect time. We only had 4 practices before leaving. We were trying to teach a new system and have a lot of guys who have never played. I felt our first game and the first half of our second game looked like a team that had a very long way to go. After that I thought we looked a lot better. In my first year we lost some early games and looked bad with the majority of the team being inexperienced. We improved a lot from our first game to our third game and had other improvement spurts and finished the season as a solid A-10 team. We were then far better going into next season. We must repeat this process. Canada will hopefully allow us to be ahead of schedule and in 5th game form on Nov. 18th instead of 1st game. That is a huge difference for a new team.

EHR: As an assistant at Illinois, what impact did Coach Lou Henson have on your coaching career and where you are today as a coach.

Coach Giannini: Coach Henson was always fair, always treats people well and is super mentally and physically tough. I was able to watch him run a #1 ranked program and take a team to the Final Four. I saw the focus he gave players and coaches while also handling endless media and university responsibilities. He is a role model as a kind person, a loving family man (Mary traveled everywhere with us), a manager of a program and a great coach. He gave me the chance to be affiliated with something great which made me attractive to Rowan which started me out as a head coach. If he didn't give me that opportunity I may not have had a chance to be a head coach. Ironically, that great Illinois team in '89 had all 5 starters between 6'6 and 6'7.

EHR: You have coached at three different levels of college basketball, what are the biggest differences coaching at Rowan, Maine, and La Salle with respect to building the program, recruiting players to that program, and sustaining success at those programs?

Coach Giannini: Rowan at the time was an absolute gold mine. NJ had no DII programs so if a kid was not going DI or transferring from DI we could get him. Also, out of state costs were low then and we had great players like Terrence Stewart (E&S), Keith Wood (Chester), and Chuck Grasty (Abington) from the Philly area. We just ran things like a DI program and had a lot of success. Maine was the complete opposite situation. There were years where there were no DI players within 4 hours. We had the northern most and most remote campus in the East and a very non-diverse state. We recruited the great New England Prep league, New Jersey, Canada, Europe, Mid-West and Southern Juco's and some high level transfers. Our top players were capable of being good in the A-10. At La Salle, the talent within 2 to 4 hours of campus is the most talent rich area in the world. As long as we do not "settle" for lower talent or character in recruiting we will build and sustain a strong program. Sometimes fans want to see commitments coming, but I have never felt anything more important than taking whatever time and effort is necessary to get the right players.

EHR: With the abundance of newcomers on the team, who do you look to provide the leadership and guide the younger players through the rigors of college basketball?

Coach Giannini: Mike St. John, Sean Neal and Darnell Harris will provide leadership. All three are hard workers, good students, responsible off the court, mature, experienced, and highly motivated and will speak out for what is best for the team. I think they will do a great job.

EHR: In a couple of words for each, please describe your freshmen class and what they will bring to this year's team

Coach Giannini: They are all long, athletic, versatile and pretty interchangeable. They will create mismatches with guards who can post and smaller, quicker forwards who can make some shots away from the basket. They are good defenders and as a group they can rebound because they are all 6'5" and bigger. They are also good in transition. Rodney is best in transition and in the post, and penetrates. He will get to the free throw line a lot. Ruben is an excellent ball handler and playmaker. He can be a good shooter. He and Rodney are good defenders. Kimmani is extremely consistent, very productive and very versatile being pretty good at everything. Brian has been slowed by tendonitis, but is very tough and can score inside and outside. He is feeling better and we are counting on him. Yves has also been in the training room, but should be fine. He is very athletic and plays with tremendous effort. He wills himself and his team to be successful and fits in with great versatility defensively as well as offensively.

EHR: With the increased depth of your team, will that affect how you coach this year's team compared to previous teams that may have had less overall depth?

Coach Giannini: Our style of play will be very different. We will be much faster and more aggressive and will use more players. I am not a system coach that keeps things the same. I prefer to play the way that best suits each team. Our first year we had to play all zone with only 7 players. Last year we were a solid man to man team with a couple more players. This year we can try to create more turnovers and can switch on screens a lot more defensively.

Stay with Explorer Hoop Report as we will bring you Part II of our Q&A session with Dr. John Giannini, men's head basketball coach at La Salle University, as well.

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