Catching Up With Tim Buckley

Marquette held media day for the men's basketball team last week and's John Dodds sat down with assistant coach Tim Buckley who returns to the Marquette staff...

John Dodds: Tim, welcome back to Marquette.

Tim Buckley: Thank you, it's great to be back.

John Dodds: You left after the 1999-2000 season, you went down to Ball State, and tell us what you have done since.

Tim Buckley: I was the Head Coach for Ball State for six years, had three Presidents, three Athletic Directors, so it was very adventurous and then last year I was an Assistant Coach at the University of Iowa with Steve Alford, so I have had some really good experiences since I left Marquette and at the same time very excited to be back here.

John Dodds: I have covered the program for 30 years and one of the most memorable things any Assistant Coach has ever said to me was by you on Senior Day in March 2000. I asked you to "tell me about this Wade kid down in Chicago," and you said, "John, I don't want to puff the kid up too much, but I saw him make three dunks that Vince Carter probably couldn't make."

Tim Buckley: Yeah, I remember watching him play in the State Tournament that year. I had called Coach Crean during one of the games that Dwyane was playing in because he made a play that I saw Mike Finley make when I was coaching at Wisconsin (assistant to Stu Jackson), and you could kind of see some of those characteristics. Obviously, I thought it was a great match for Dwyane to come here and to be coached by Coach and the coaching staff and to be in this environment. And obviously, it's really one of those things where you sit back and you feel very proud of the fact that you have a young man that has done so much more than just the basketball as far as inspiring people here at Marquette and even throughout the United States. It was really neat to have him come back for Marquette Madness and just to show his affection toward the University and the basketball program.

John Dodds: When I had my old radio show back in 1999, you came on as a guest a couple times. Coach Crean had just assembled his staff and I was trying to learn more about his philosophy on his coaching. At the time, what impressed you most about him was the additional attention to off court issues such as how to market the program to the season ticketholders, how to get the students involved….?

Tim Buckley: You know the one thing about Coach is he is very good at multi-tasking and I remember when I was here that first year, he did a thing called "Coffee, Crean and Donuts" and I think six students showed up. Today, I think there are 5,000 in the student section. It's what I told (Athletic Director) Bill Cords and Father Wild when I saw them at the Final Four – Coach included me in a lot of those things, which was very special for me – and I told them this is what he saw before any of us could even see it. I thought he built the program for that moment and he's continued to do that and that's why I think the program has continued to thrive.

John Dodds: At the recent dinner in Chicago, Tom Crean gave you credit for finding Dwyane Wade. Were you the first one to market to him or recruit him when you first got here? How did that transpire?

Tim Buckley: Well, I think for the assistant coaches, we're out on the front lines and so we are always trying to gather information, talk to the people whom we trust that are out there. I knew his high school coach who actually had great influence on Dwayne in his life and has helped Dwyane get to where he is today. The more we watched him the more we felt like he would be a good fit here, but I also think that that first recruiting class was very good. Scott Merritt and Terry Sanders and Odartey Blankson, they were a very good group of players and people and, obviously, the parts that they put in after I left (for Ball State in 2000) were very key to that run also to go to the Final Four. Darrin Horn and Dwayne Stephens, they had as much to do with putting everything together as anybody. Coach wants you to have ownership in every area, so everybody did a great job of recruiting and doing what they needed to do to help secure those key commitments in that first year. That was really the foundation for where Marquette is going.

John Dodds: You continued to have impact about four years later when Marquette lost a big recruit to North Carolina, Bobby Frasor. There was big disappointment. But people started telling us about this recruit, a point guard out of Indiana, and then there was a referral from you. Tell us about that.

Tim Buckley: Well, when I left, John, I never left my ownership of the program and so I always tried to help Coach in any way that I could and one of my assistant coaches (Ball State) did a great job of unearthing Dominic James when he was a freshman in high school. So we saw Dominic play and we offered him a scholarship. About midway through his sophomore year, he got to the point where I knew we couldn't get him at Ball State and so I talked with Coach about it, and I said, "Here's a guy that we can't get that you guys need to definitely be on." We continued to recruit Dominic and at the same time notified them that there was a really good player down there, and they did a great job with him and evaluating him and again it was one of those things where it was another special match here at Marquette.

John Dodds: I guess it was back to the future with another Marquette player, Maurice Acker. Tell us about his recruiting. At Ball State, you recruited him out of Hillcrest High School. His teammate, Jerel McNeal, went to Marquette, Acker went to your Ball State team. What did you like about him?

Tim Buckley: Well, the one thing I love about point guards, for me anyway, is I love the ones who can take coaching out of the equation. They are the guys who can make plays and they are the guys who can do things and see things that maybe you can't orchestrate from the bench, and Maurice is definitely one of those kinds of guys. The one thing I have noticed about Maurice the more I watched him play was he could get into trouble with the basketball, but he always got out of trouble and there aren't many guys who can do that. With the way we played at Ball State and with what we play here at Marquette, the "pick and roll" is such a big key to our offense, he's a guy who really does a great job in playing pick and roll basketball.

John Dodds: What should we look for this year with Acker? How has he improved since he was the MAC freshman of the year or MAC newcomer of the year?

Tim Buckley: He was the MAC freshman of the year. We had lost 18 points per game, after our best player tore his ACL the second game of the season for the second time. We played three freshmen quite a bit and I really appreciated the way they went about their work. Maurice had to be a leader. We had to give him the ball right away and he had to take over for our player who got hurt. We lost eight games by six points or less. If we had had those 18 points, it probably would have made a little bit of a difference. I thought Maurice did a great job at carrying the team whether it was with his scoring or his passing. In the areas that I see him here getting better at is he has obviously gotten much stronger and he's shooting the ball at a far more accurate rate than he did for us because he's been in the gym and he's been working on it. I think he adds something to the program in terms of his quickness, his ability to push the basketball. The two areas where he's got to continue to focus on are defending and talking and communicating, and I think he's getting better and better in those areas.

John Dodds: You started with a great coaching staff back in 1999 – Darrin Horn (Western Kentucky) and Dwayne Stephens (Assistant, Michigan State). Now you've rejoined the MU staff again. How has your role changed, if any?

Tim Buckley: I felt this way the last time that I was here. Those guys have become very dear friends since that time we were together with Darrin Horn and Dwayne Stephens. I feel the same thing with this staff too and I think the biggest thing first and foremost is that you have to be egoless and you have to be willing to sacrifice and you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to make Marquette basketball great. It's not about I signed this guy or this was my guy or I came up with this strategy. It's all about what the end result is and it's all about making Coach Crean a better Head Coach because he obviously has a lot of things on his plate that he has to do. I think this group works very well together including our Director of Basketball Operations, Jason Rabedeaux. We have three guys who are former head coaches. The last time I was here I thought I knew what Coach was going through, and I had no idea what he was going through as a Head Coach. So, now having been in that chair I feel like I can anticipate a lot better and I can try to keep things off of his plate that maybe in the past had to get to his plate because I would not have been aware of how to maybe handle it, to assist the head coach. Now that I have been in that position, I feel like I can help him with that.

John Dodds: During the game, only one coach can stand up and yell at the refs. What are the roles for the assistant coaches? Do you divide it up, saying I'll help you on the defense or I'm going to concentrate on one player, or I'm going to signal this or how do you not get in the way and how do you choreograph and plan what you're going to do?

Tim Buckley: When we were in Canada, Coach did a great job of rotating us with responsibilities and as the season goes on, obviously the guy who does the scouting of the opponent is going to be very key in what the opponent is doing. I think the other two guys are going to have to be very good at identifying mismatches, taking a look at what's working, what's not working. I think the other thing too that the head coach is not always aware of because he is going to be emotional. Whatever head coach you are working with, he is going to be emotional because of the game and the intensity. So, as an assistant coach, I don't think you can be emotional. I think you've got to do a great job of analyzing the game, analyzing the situations, keeping him abreast of foul situations, time outs, time in score, rotations, just different things like that that can assist him and make him better in what he's trying to do with getting the team into a position where they can be successful on the court. I think now after I have been a head coach it's amazing how much the game slows down for you as an assistant coach while you're sitting on the bench and you're trying to carry out those responsibilities.

John Dodds: Welcome back and good luck this season.

Tim Buckley: Thank you. I appreciate it, John.

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