OU strength coach sold on Capel

OU basketball strength coach Dary Rich talks about his decision to stay at Oklahoma over Indiana. (Photo by Lisa Hall)

Oklahoma basketball strength and conditioning coach Dary Rich made somewhat of a surprise decision recently when he chose to stay in Norman, rather than accept an offer from Sooner head coach Kelvin Sampson to join him in Indiana.

Rich, a former player himself at Alabama, has spent the last two years running OU's strength and conditioning program under Sampson. And he talked about his decision and the future of Oklahoma basketball with James Hale and Bob Barry Jr. Wednesday morning on the Sports Animal.

Below is a transcript of the interview.

On why he chose to stay at Oklahoma over going with Sampson to Indiana

Rich: I don't know if it was any one thing, it was a combination of things. It was a great opportunity to go with Coach Sampson. I think part of it was just the lure of Indiana. The other lure was a pretty substantial raise. But when it came down to it, it was just the relationships with the kids here, the opportunity to work with a young coach and a young staff that I think is really going to do good things here.

I didn't know Jeff. In talking to Joe C. during the transition, I told Joe I would like the chance to at least visit with the coach when things happen before I totally buy in at Indiana. I've only been doing strength and conditioning now for about five years, but I coached actually for seven years prior to that and I know most of the guys in the business. So, I kinda felt like we would end up hiring somebody that I had some kind of connection with.

And it ended up that I'd never met Jeff at all. So, after visiting with him and talking with him about the things that he was planning on doing with the program, and the way he was going to play and the fact that there wouldn't be anybody around, unless Coach Hoffman is obtained, I thought that I could be a good bridge here.

I'm excited about the opportunity. I think they're going to do great things.

On his impressions of Jeff Capel

Rich: You know, I couldn't tell you how happy I am right now with the way things are going. The kids are extremely excited. They're working their tails off and they're doing it with a smile on their face.

I think Mike Neal, obviously, was one kid that knows regardless of who the coach was, was going to play. Maybe (David) Godbold to some degree and Nate Carter, but still their roles bounced up and down. Mike Neal, I think, was the only guy who had solidified himself to the point that regardless of who was brought in he's pretty much penciled in, because he's proven he can do it at this level.

I think for the other guys, it was a chance to re-establish themselves or maybe even establish themselves for the first time. Guys like Taylor (Griffin) and (Longar) Longar, who were frustrated on and off this year with their role and playing time or various things, it's just like the light has clicked on with them.

You come up here at 10 o'clock at night and Nate Carter's out shooting or Longar's in here working on stuff. The attitude around the program right now is just tremendous. It's exciting to see.

On the role of a strength and conditioning coach in a basketball program

Rich: My role, I don't consider it as important as what the coaches do. I know sometimes people look at it that way. I think we're all just a finger on a hand. But there's no doubt the way the game is going athletes are getting bigger and stronger. If your kids can't keep up with that, you're not going to succeed at this level.

Look at the teams in the Final Four. You had LSU's team with Big Baby (Glenn Davis), Tyrus Thomas and Tasmin Mitchell. They've got great athletes. UCLA's got great athletes. Everybody's got big, strong guys. The key is to get your guys as big and strong as you can, but at the same time you've got to increase their athleticism.

If Taylor Griffin, at 230 (pounds), has a 36-inch vertical,and he still has a 36-inch vertical at 240, that's great. If he hits 245 and he all the sudden he's got a 32- or 33-inch vertical, then that's too big. There's a balance of how big guys can get and still perform athletically, and that's the balance we're trying to find with each kid individually.

On if the importance of the off-season summer program for a basketball player is as important as it is for football

Rich: I think the summer is extremely important for basketball players. Our training in the weight room is very similar. We'll use a lot of explosive exercises, olympic movements. The summer time is a time when basketball players can make their biggest strength and weight gains.

The thing that separates football and basketball in the summer is the conditioning aspect of it. Pretty much in the summer, basketball guys will play pick-up and only condition enough to keep a good baseline. While football when they get into July, they're looking at four weeks away from actually starting practice. So they're running and conditioning obviously is amped up, where ours won't start until we get back into school when we'll have about six weeks before October 15. That's when we really ramp up our conditioning.

It's similar in some degrees and different in others. But the summer time, for basketball players, is where they can gain weight, gain strength, get in the gym and work on the things that they don't get to work on as much once practice starts. It just like coaches have always said, teams are made in the winter and players are made in the summer.

I think that's especially true in our sport.

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories