Courtney's background is impressive. Named Associate Head Coach at George Mason in 2002, he had been with Head Coach Jim Larranaga for ten years, first at Bowling Green, and then, for the past nine years at Mason. And of course, Larranaga is well-known to Friar fans. The long-time head coach graduated from Providence in 1971, after scoring 1258 points for the Black and White.
"Coach Larranaga told me that Providence fans are extremely passionate," Courtney told Friar Insider. "He said that the tradition at the school was very strong and that PC basketball was the biggest show in town."
Still, leaving a place after working with someone for as long as Larranaga and Courtney worked together, can be tough. "It's tough to leave. We had a special relationship. After all that time, you learn a lot about the other person. It's been fun. We had only one losing season in ten years, and that was our first year at George Mason, when we inherited what was there. But going to the Big East is big to me. It's a chance to compete in the best conference in the country."
Interestingly, Courtney and Tim Welsh did not have much of a history prior to his interview. "I didn't know Tim that well," Courtney said. "I knew Steve (DeMeo) and Phil (Seymore) from the recruiting trail and I knew Bobby Walsh a little. Tim and I had a lot of common acquaintances. His agent is down this way, and a few of our common acquaintances spoke highly of me and recommended me, and it kind of went from there."
One of Courtney's roles at George Mason was calling the defenses during games and coordinating defense in practice. Last season, the Friars struggled defensively, and this certainly seems like an area where Coach Courtney's expertise could help. "I've been the defensive coordinator for the past nine years," Courtney remarked. "But whatever Tim wants me to help him with, that's what I'll do. My job is to get players to give their best, that's what all assistants do. And whatever they need me to do is what I'll do." Courtney assisted with all aspects of the program, including recruiting, practices, individual player workouts and game preparation, and worked with the guards.
Certainly, Courtney's biggest job will be to get out and recruit. And he has done very well in that aspect. Of Courtney, Tim Welsh said in the school's press release: "He helped Jim Larranaga build George Mason into one of the top teams in the Colonial Athletic Association. Bill is a strong recruiter and has an excellent ability to teach the game of basketball."
"I'd like to think that I can recruit any place," said Courtney. "When we first got to George Mason, we couldn't get our foot in the door in Washington, DC. So we had to go out of the area at first. We were fortunate to steal some guys who could have played at a higher level. We got a highly recruited kid out of Canada, and some others, and we started winning, which helped us get into DC.
"I've recruited all up and down the East Coast and the Midwest. The important thing with me is establishing good relationships with kids and their families. Providence does things the right way. They take care of their players academically. It's huge to be able to look Mom in the eye and tell her, we're going to graduate your son if he works hard.
"We always set our sights high in recruiting at George Mason. One of the kids we were after was Folarin Campbell, who I knew Providence was after and a number of big time schools were after. I told Folarin, ‘No one is going to recruit you harder than me. You're going to see me at every game.' It's all about establishing those relationships with the kids."
Courtney was a fine player in his own right. A 1992 graduate of Bucknell University, he ended his career with 1499 points, was a two time Patriot League selection, and was fifth on both the scoring and assists list at Bucknell. "I was a lead guard, but I averaged twenty points a game," said Courtney. " I did whatever had to be done to win. As a player, I absolutely HATED to lose. I've gotten a little better as a coach, because I learned that you can't always control things, but I did whatever it took to win because I hated losing so much."
After graduation, Bill played for the Philadelphia Spirit in the USBL, and did some high school coaching. In 1994, he played in Hong Kong where he was the league's most valuable player, and had some truly interesting life experiences. "Playing in Hong Kong wasn't as crazy as living there," Courtney said. "One time we went out to eat, and they had a big circular table that spins around. They brought out the main dish, and it was duck – with the head still attached. I ate a lot at McDonald's!"
Having recruited a number of Providence targets while at George Mason, Courtney is very familiar with PC's incoming freshman class.
"Geoff McDermott is a jack of all trades, a very versatile player. He brings toughness and versatility to the program. He'll probably see a lot of playing time this year. Weyinmi Efejuku is a big guard who can do a lot of things, he's very strong, and I think he'll be a help guarding perimeter people. Sharaud Curry is what I call a push point. He adds a different dimension and can put pressure defensively on the other guys.
"Jon Kale is an absolutely terrific player. I recruited him hard for George Mason. I thought we had a chance, but I remember getting a call from (St. Andrew's coach) Mike Hart telling me that Providence had offered, and I thought, Damn, because I knew then that we weren't going to get him. He's going to be really good. He's got a great attitude and work ethic."
There's no question that Bill Courtney brings a great attitude and work ethic, as well. "There'll be some carryover with some guys that I was recruiting," he said. "I always tried to recruit five or so guys who were above our level. I'm going to put my hard hat on and hit the ground running."
Which will, undoubtedly, please Friar fans to hear.
BILL COURTNEY NEW ASSISTANT COACH
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