The Tim Welsh Interview: Part 3

Friar Insider is pleased to present the Tim Welsh Interview, a conversation with the Head Coach of the Friars and being made available to fans of Providence basketball subscribing to FI. This interview, which included over an hour of discussion, answered questions on a variety of topics, many which have been frequently asked by fans of the program.

Some of these topics include insights and opinions on issues that Coach Welsh has never discussed at length before.

Due to the length of interview, the transcript has been broken up into segments. This is the third and final segment, which focuses on the Coach's thoughts on the challenges of evaluating and recruiting players, recruiting foreign players, the impact of facility upgrades, the key to sustaining consistent success, and the importance of the new Big East and value of television exposure for promoting the program.

This is a rare opportunity to get a glimpse at the coaching philosophy and decision-making process of Coach Welsh, and addresses issues of both the past and the future. Friar Insider is very appreciative of the time that Coach Welsh took to answer these questions for the fans of Providence College basketball. We hope you all enjoy this feature.

The Tim Welsh Interview - May 31, 2006 (Segment III)

S.H.: Coach, when you're recruiting players, do you have to research their background and character more today in an attempt to predict how they might react to adversity at this level?

Coach Welsh: Yeah, but I think we've always tried to do that...we've always tried to do it to a certain level but the rules now make it harder. You're only allowed a very short amount of time with these kids.

S.H.: Is that part of the problem, that the NCAA has reduced the number of contact days with players?

Coach Welsh: Absolutely. It's that and the phone call situation too. Listen, I'm not into calling kids 52 times a week, but once a week is tough, it's a tough thing....you don't get to know these kids well enough. Now what about these kids that you find in the middle of the year? Sometimes you find these kids during the high school basketball season, they're seniors, they didn't go play AAU ball, or they were hurt, or they were in summer school....whatever reason.

You've seen the kids; they're all out there every year, and now you've got to start recruiting them in February and March. And how well do you get to know them by signing day in April? How well do you actually get to know them? You can't even visit with them until after the Final Four. You can't even make contact with them. So, you can talk to them on the phone, you can ask their coach about them. What coach is going to say "Oh yeah, this kid is a jerk, or he's late for practice every day..." Unless you really know the coach or the people involved in the school...I mean, we may be recruiting a kid from Chicago or anywhere. He may be a good player, and he looks like a nice kid but...

We've had kids fool us before. I had one young man, and we recruited him as a junior, he came in for Midnight Madness. He came with his parents, he had the polo shirt on and press khakis every time we saw him. The parents, the whole thing, the whole thing. He turned out to be not a good kid...Turned out not to be a good kid. He got here, and he was a nightmare. A nightmare. I don't know what else we could have done in the recruiting process...I mean, besides getting an apartment next to him, going to school with him and hanging out with him on weekends...

So it's tough, but we're all in the same world though… all the coaches. We're all in the same world, and you see it all over the place. You see guys leaving, you see guys kicked off teams. Knock on wood though, right now, I think we have the best group of kids off the court that we've had and hopefully, talent wise, they're going to come through too.

S.H.: People seem to have picked up on that, that this is a good group. That's why people have asked: Has there been a conscious change in the recruiting philosophy where you're really making an effort to go after kids that really want to be here and really are solid citizens as much as good players? Maybe it's luck.

Coach Welsh: Well, you're always trying to do that; But...now, let's say for example, you've got two guys...You've one really good kid who's like a MAAC conference type player, or a lower level. And then you've got another kid who you're not quite sure of, but you know he can play in the Big East....Hey, we've taken the kid who we know can play in the Big East. We've taken him, and he's come out OK. And we've had some of those kids in recent years, and they've helped us win a lot of big games here.

The group that we had a couple of years ago, when they first got here, we had a lot of managing to do with that group; the group that graduated and went to the tournament two years ago. We had a lot of managing when those kids were young. For example, Sheiku Kabba didn't show up when we went to go play at Alabama, when they were number one in the nation...because he didn't like his minutes in the Richmond game the night before. We played Richmond on a Thursday night, we won the game by 25 points, and he started and only played 17 minutes. We went to the airport the next morning to fly out to play Alabama, who was #1 in the nation, on the road, on ESPN the next day. He wasn't there, he went home... He was po'd about his minutes. We had a lot of managing to do. But you know what, he ended up OK.

He graduated, and he ended up really helping us the following year, his senior year, when we were good. But, he went to 5 high schools...Marcus went to 3 or 4 high schools. So, they didn't come in here with halos...they were from tough backgrounds, they had tough upbringings. But, they came here, they seized the opportunity, they loved the school, they graduated, and they helped us get to 2 NCAA tournaments in 4 years. So, it's not a perfect science, and you want to try and find that good player who's a good kid too...through hard work and some luck as well. Knock on wood, this group will step up to the plate now. They've shown they're good kids and now they have to show they're a good team and grow into what other guys have before them.

S.H.: The Projo, either this morning or yesterday, reported that you may be making a trip to Israel to scout some players, according to Kevin McNamara?

Coach Welsh: Yeah, well maybe he is, not me. I'm not going to Israel...not anytime soon at least...

S.H.: Ok, I must have misunderstood that.

Coach Welsh: We're recruiting some foreign players still... we're looking at them, but at this late point, we're not sure, but we're looking at some guys. We're looking at tapes, we get tapes. I mean, when you have scholarships available, you've got to keep looking...always. You never know when that tape will come across your desk and it's Steve Nash...and if you don't look at it, and you don't pursue it, you won't get him. It's a needle in a haystack, and it's a long shot that we'll sign anybody this late, but we could.

S.H.: Have the NCAA changes regarding the eligibility of foreign players made the recruitment of foreign players that much more difficult than it was when you got guys like Laksa, Anrin, and Kotti?

Coach Welsh: Yes. Well, they were basically OK because they weren't playing for those club teams where they would be getting paid. Most of the time, to get a foreign guy now, he's had to have come over here first...he has to come over here as a youngster and play in the prep schools or go to high school over here. There are some cases, in some nations, where they don't have club teams at the high school level where guys are getting paid to play. The only way you can have a guy come over is if he played on a club team where no one else got paid to play. Most of the good players, at age 18, are playing on some sort of good club team. But, there are some cases, in some different countries, where guys are not getting paid, or are in leagues not getting paid, and we're looking at some of those guys right now.

S.H.: With the projects for renovating the Dunk and constructing the new strength and training center on campus finally under way, how soon do you think that you and your staff can turn these facility upgrades into recruiting assets?

Coach Welsh: Well, we're trying right now. I think this year it's already helped. When we recruited guys like Brian McKenzie or Ray Hall, or even Jeff Xavier, the first thing we did when they came in here was show them the model of the new facilities. We show them the new Dunk, the fitness center...we're already selling it. It's going to be a few years until it's all completed but it's already going to be better next year; we're going to have a video board. It's already going to be better than it was.

S.H.: So you really think it's already helped?

Coach Welsh: Yeah, I think it already has helped. I really do. If you're just sitting here and nothing is happening, then you're going backwards. So, when I brought Brian's family in here and I laid all the plans out of the all the facility upgrades, they said "this place is really moving forward." And when I bring recruits over to the new dorms... there are a couple new dorms on campus; and I show them different things like the new fine arts center...I think they see that it's a college that's moving ahead and a program that's moving in the same direction.

S.H.: We all have heard how Providence has lost out on some high targets in the past based on facilities, where if these projects had been taking place then, things might have been different.

Coach Welsh: Well it's very, very important...and I've talked with Father Shanley and he knows this and he's been very proactive. Give him all the credit on the fitness center and the upgrades as we move forward. He understands that college shouldn't be like...and I read his quotes how college shouldn't be like the Taj Mahal or a resort. But, he also understands where our competition is and this year, we brought our development people and Bob Driscoll and they went around and toured some of these facilities. Bob and I really wanted to reach out to some of our people and bring this back to the President's Council, and bring this back to our Athletic Council and the Board of Trustees and show them...Show them what Marquette has, show them what Pittsburgh has. They haven't seen St. John's yet, but they have a brand new $23 million dollar facility. This is what we're trying to fight against, and if it comes down to 1A or 1B, at the end of the day, you're selling the heck out what you have, but you may lose a recruit because of some of these things unless you are improving things as well.

When I got here, Pittsburgh was drowning a slow death, and they had a heck of very good coach. Ralph Willard...I respect him as much as any coach in the country, and he was struggling because he was trying to swim in the Atlantic Ocean with a little raft with a hole in it and you can't do that. As soon as they upgraded things...Now Ben Howland is an excellent coach, great... he proved it this year...and Jaime Dixon is an excellent coach. But, I think Ralph's right there with them...They did a lot better than Ralph did though because I think of those facilities, obviously.

Pitt never went into New York and got kids like they get now, or on the east coast. That's what it's all about, getting players. We lost Ronald Ramon to them, and deep down, I know it was a tough decision for him, because he had relatives here and everything else. Yet, at the end of the day, that facility shines bright in those kids' eyes. But, in the mean time, we try to overcome it in other areas and I think the kids we have now can sell our program as well as anything.

When Brian McKenzie came in for a visit, we had him over to my house with the team. I looked from afar and I saw the interaction and I said to my staff, "We're going to get this kid. He fits in." I mean Weyinme, Geoff, they all knew each other. They're well liked kids from New York with good personalities, personalities from New York, and everyone knows them. Brian is the same way and hopefully, he's going to help bring in the next wave of good players. So you've got to build and bring in good kids, and they'll help you bring in other good kids.

S.H.: Talking about building, conventional wisdom says that coaching stability is a key to building a program and achieving success and consistency. In the last 6 years, PC has seen some highs points and some disappointing times as well. What do feel still needs to happen for the Providence program to achieve more consistent success from year to year rather than say a top 12 ranking one year, then struggling again.

Coach Welsh: Well, there's no question that every year, you've got to have a good recruiting class and if you skip a year, you're going to have some problems. For one thing, the junior class has really hurt us the last couple of years. There really wasn't much in our junior class. For whatever reason, whether we didn't get kids...whether we didn't get a Ron Ramon and we took somebody else instead... There are a few other names I could throw at you...and you go after one guy and you lose him, or maybe you go after the wrong guy. That's happened too. I think you've got to be consistent and bring in some solid players every year.

Now, bringing in a Rudy Gay and Emeka Okafor every year, we're not going to be able to do that. But you've got to bring in three or four good ones; where they get better every year...and as a group, you all get better. So when some guys graduate, the next group moves into their spot and are ready to take over. I think most recently, that's why we struggled last year, because there was nobody there in that junior class be it Dwight, Jeff Parmer, or others....I don't how much they might have been able to help us win, but they either weren't there, or they weren't good enough...For various reasons, there was nothing there in that junior class to help us get over the hump this year. So hopefully, that will be avoided and I don't see that happening to us again but that one class really hurt us.

S.H.: The news coming out of the Big East meetings seems to bode well for an excellent Big East television contract and the continued unity of the sixteen team Big East. Do you expect that the forthcoming television contract will get the Friars more TV exposure as well as secure Providence's future in the Big East as currently constituted?

Coach Welsh: Yes, I can only hope. Obviously, we were disappointed this year with the lack of TV coverage compared to the rest of the conference and I did voice that. I know our fans like us getting on TV but it's even more important for our program. Our fans can get most of the games locally, but it's more of a national exposure issue with recruiting. If you're going to recruit in Chicago or in Ohio, or D.C., you've got be on television, you've got be talked about a little bit, you've got to be up on the burner.

These young kids we have now, that guy #3 up on the wall (Ryan Gomes), he really helped us get these young kids. He really did, because we were on national TV a lot. Even when he was a senior, and we weren't that good, we were on TV a lot because of him. That helped us get Weyinme, and Geoff, and Sharaud. They knew who Providence was. Sharaud Curry knew who Providence was because of Ryan Gomes and because we were on television. So those are things that we need to continue to push for to get on TV more and the new contract is only going to help us in that regard.

The exposure of the conference is going to huge for all the teams...the Connecticut's and the Syracuse's are always going to have the marquees unless we come up with another Ryan and hopefully one of these kids will be another Ryan in terms of getting us exposure and getting us back to their level for a period of time. Then the key is to stay there but we will have more exposure; there's no question about that. I think Michael Tranghese put to rest a lot of the split talk that had been out there and spoke to us about what the league needs to do to move forward and not break up in five years and first thing is TV is handing us a TV contract that's beyond belief.

Now these schools are saying "Do I really want to pull my football school just to create an all football league?" I don't think they can afford to do it. I think it was beyond anyone's imagination how great this league really could be. Everyone talked about it, but then it really grasped people, not only in the northeast, but across the nation... it grasped people as this great league...and you can't lose New York, or Philadelphia, or Washington...and that's what would happen if we broke up. I didn't see any hint of that at all. I saw a lot of smiling faces, even from the football athletic directors. Money talks for those guys, especially...and it's the bottom line to their Presidents. We've got a great league right now and it's just going to keep getting better and better.

S.H.: When the Big East is doubling up the ACC in NCAA bids, I would imagine it's awfully hard to walk away from that sort of successful conference.

Coach Welsh: Well that's the other thing too, you're saying OK, we got eight bids...and then you've got the ACC saying "Wow, we only got four? The Big East got eight?" Some people said that it was going to be our demise when those schools left but I think we're going to keep moving forward.

S.H.: Thanks for taking the time to meet today, Coach. Best of luck to you and the team.

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