Inside Sparta: Knowing the super human 'heavy-lifting' effort that would be required, why did you accept the challenge of the women's basketball head coaching position at SJSU?
Coach Pam DeCosta: When looking at the job at San Jose State there were a couple of things that drew me to San Jose State. The first one is my Athletic Director Tom Bowen and the second was I knew you could stay in-state to recruit. Tom is such a huge motivator and he believes that you can get it done here at SJSU; his passion for State really motivated me to want to turn this program around. I had always said when I become a head coach I want to make sure I go to a place where you could recruit. There are so many good players in the State of California, we don't have to look far to get good kids who fit our coaching style.
Inside Sparta: You inherited a program in name only, with minimal WAC-level basketball talent on the roster and NCAA Academic Progress Rate woes strangling the program and its allotted athletic scholarships. It seems like one of those old Soviet Union five-year or so plans would be necessary in order to rightsize matters. How does a coach go about changing the existing culture and results in a college sports program and how long is generally required?
Coach Pam DeCosta: Changing the culture is always tough. People think the minute a program hires a new coach they are going to start winning right away. You can if the program you take over has had stability and minimal problems in the past. You have to change the "culture" first before you can talk about winning. We as a staff had to deal with a lot of off court issues in my first two seasons. When you are trying to make a change in discipline and philosophy, it's not always easy to get people to buy in to what you are teaching. It's taken two seasons to get a team that understands what means to be at SJSU and that playing here is a privilege not a right. Our current team understands that and they are working hard every day to be the players and ambassadors for a great university. This team is about being successful both on and off the court.
We have had to be very creative in recruiting players because of our APR issues. The problem is when we took over the program, the APR we inherited did not meet the minimum requirement required by the NCAA. When you start with a low APR, you can't have any casualties, our margin of error is zero. We are hopeful at the end of this season that we will have a healthy APR and we can get out of the penalty phase.
Inside Sparta: Please comment on the current status of your stated "goals to achieve" -- "...We need to change the mentality of the community, the campus and the players that being status quo is not ok," "we have to think everyday that we are going to compete for the WAC Championship and play in the NCAA Tournament," "we are going to graduate from San Jose State and excel in the classroom," "we need to make a difference in the community and let people know who we are" -- with the San Jose State women's basketball program?
Coach Pam DeCosta: Going into my third season, my staff and I are very happy where we are with the building process of this program. This will be the first season with our own kids. They are the type of kids who we all love to be around, they all have great character and they are great young women who are growing to be the best students, players, and young women that San Jose State can be proud of. They have done a great job in the community, everything that we have asked of them they have risen to the challenge and given so much energy. This team is well on its way to improving as basketball team.
Inside Sparta: Can you talk about the various members of your latest recruiting class and how would you characterize them as a whole?
Coach Pam DeCosta: This incoming class has been great for us. When we sat down as a staff last season and evaluated the program we knew we had to go out and fill skill positions. We had to find a true point guard, a guard who thinks the game and understands the responsibilities in being a point guard. We also knew that we had to shore up the paint. We had to find a post player who is strong and physical who will play defense and rebound. We also just needed players who could give us more scoring and athletic ability. Rachel Finnegan is the point guard that fits what we were lacking at that position. Samantha Meraz and Marnesha Hall are junior college transfers who bring the talent and experience we needed in the paint. Britney Bradley give us a the added scoring we needed and she is an incredible athlete. Palogi Atoe is another transfer who will give us added scoring from the perimeter, she is also brings a toughness that we haven't had in this program. Alisha Eckberg is a freshman who will be a great perimeter scorer for us. She is a big guard with good athletic ability. We were fortunate enough to get two recruited walk-ons who will give us some depth that we haven't had in the past. They are Liz Johnson at the point and Danielle Keenan at a forward position. This group has done a great job in fitting in with our returning players.
Inside Sparta: There appears to be a greater and greater inroad being made to the local and regional women's prep basketball player community. Of late you've landed Rachel Finnegan out of Turlock, Danielle Keenan out of Oakland and Dominique Hamilton out of Berkeley and someone from the San Jose area come November. What do you attribute that to?
Coach Pam DeCosta: My staff has done a great job in Northern California developing relationships with club and high school coaches. When we first got here, we were so surprised that there hadn't been many coaches or players from the area to visit campus. People had no idea what we could offer them as a student-athlete. It's been great for my staff and I to show off San Jose State!
Inside Sparta: What should fans expect to see when the 2009-2010 Spartans take to the floor?
Coach Pam DeCosta: Fans should expect a team that will work extremely hard on the floor and a team that is committed to being successful.Follow Inside Sparta on Twitter and Facebook
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