Fifteen years ago, a young shooting guard named Jerod Haase was dismayed to find that Stanford coach Mike Montgomery, who had been recruiting the South Lake Tahoe native to play at his dream school, never made the final offer that would have brought him to Stanford.
Haase would instead commit to that school across the Bay for a year before finishing out his college career at Kansas.
Fifteen years later, Haase still has the “pink envelope” that Stanford sends out to all of its prospective athletes and keeps all of his recruitment letters from Montgomery tucked away in a folder that he’s kept with him in moves from Berkeley to Lawrence, Chapel Hill and Birmingham.
When Stanford basketball brought Haase to The Farm for his first interview to fill Johnny Dawkins’ vacated coaching position, he brought all of those materials along. When Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir relayed that information to Montgomery, who was consulted in the search, the retired Stanford coach was regretful.
“That’s the one that got away,” he said to Muir.
He may have gotten away 15 years ago, but in a happy turn of fate for all involved, Haase and the Stanford program have finally been reunited when the former was named the 18th head coach in Stanford men’s basketball history.
“[Montgomery has] always said really nice things about me, but that’s probably his way of making me feel better about not offering me a scholarship,” Haase said with a laugh.
“This is a situation where I have a second chance at something very, very special. The goal right now is to take advantage of that opportunity and build something the best we possibly can.”
All that said, Haase’s introductory press conference on Monday on The Farm was hastily called together and didn’t yield too many details on what he plans to do with his coaching staff or his roster (Haase, in fact, only met the team for the first time this morning). After a presser as full of buzzwords (“good fit,” “attack mentality”) as much as it lacked in specifics, many more questions than answers remain as to how the Jerod Haase era will begin for the Cardinal in the coming weeks.
Here’s what we don’t know yet:
What the coaching staff will look like: Haase is going to immediately hit the recruiting tail for now before he heads to the Final Four in Houston to network with potential assistant coaching candidates that he’s reached out to. Current Dawkins assistants will join him there to network as well and make their own decisions. Haase hopes to have a much clearer picture of what his coaching staff will look like when he gets back from Houston.
Who will be back: Point guard Christian Sanders, who missed the end of the season due to suspension for violation of team rules, and NBA prospect Rosco Allen, who is projected to be drafted, will sit down with Haase in the days to come and decide what the future will hold for them. Luckily for Stanford, Haase has long-standing connections to both Sanders and Allen: Sanders attended a few of Haase’s camps, while Haase was involved in Allen’s recruiting to UNC when he was an assistant for the Tar Heels.
Who will be recruited: Haase was supremely noncommittal when pressed about whether or not he would honor the recruitments of the prospects that Dawkins was pursuing before he was let go. Rightly so, too, because he’s bound not to talk about players that haven’t yet signed with Stanford.
All he would say about the matter was: “The relationships and conversations I’ve had with recruits so far have been very, very positive.”
And here are a few of the things we do know so far:
He’s not happy with the status quo: One of the points that Haase touched on several times throughout the afternoon was that he believes that the Stanford team, like him, should have a “pit in their stomach” like he does when watching the Final Four, because he knows that with the talent this team has, that’s what this roster should immediately be striving to achieve.
Haase, a proud product of the Roy Williams coaching tree, holds dear one of Williams’ favorite sayings: “Be led by your dreams, not pushed by your problems.”
“One of the things I’m going to do is explain what it’s like for the guys that haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament,” Haase said. “Explain what it’s like to cut down nets and win championships. We’re going to be led by our dreams.”
Moreover, he emphasized the fact that he’s not just all talk: He is supremely proud of his track record that he believes shows him as a proven winner.
“I’m 41 years old and I have 25 championship rings.”
He will try to instill his “attack mentality”: Haase didn’t delve into too many specifics about what he means by his “attack mentality,” but keep in mind that this is a guy who wrote a book called “Floor Burns” about his time at Kansas, named after the stat that the Jayhawks’ coaches began to track due to Haase’s continual all-out effort in diving for balls.
“When I was a player, I was known for an attack mentality with everything I did. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that attack mentality is part of our culture and part of our program.”
Basketball-wise, that translates to a more forceful tempo on both sides of the ball. Haase strongly prefers to play man defense (he showed a man look around 80-85 percent of the time this season at UAB) and will coach his team to aggressively pursue turnovers.
“We’re going to be smart about it,” he explained. “I’m not going to say we’re going to deny every pass at half court or press the entire time.”
On offense, he wants lots more ball movement. “Unselfishness” was a word that came up several times and was a trademark of Haase’s teams at UAB: The Blazers finished third in the country behind just Michigan State and Stephen F. Austin with 18.4 assists per game this year.
He hasn’t yet had a chance to evaluate the Stanford roster and will fine-tune his specific in-game strategies in the weeks to come based on what he sees – but those core tenets of Jerod Haase basketball will stay the same in his time on The Farm.
He will plunge headfirst into the Stanford community: In his time at UAB, Haase prided himself for “thinking outside the box” to get student involvement with the basketball program and student attendance at games to rise – which is a shot of energy that the stagnant Stanford program desperately needs right now. He would go around to the student common areas on game days to hand out flyers and tell students personally to come out to games.
He was also the driving force behind a supremely successful tradition at UAB that became to be known as “Hoops on the Haasephalt,” the highlight of homecoming week in which the basketball team put on a ridiculous display of showmanship with lights, stages, competition and all the like.
It was big; it was bright; it was ridiculous; it was spectacular. That kind of enthusiasm and initiative might be exactly what the doctor ordered for Stanford’s ambivalent student body.
“I’ll do everything and anything, I suppose within reason, legally, to engage the students and the faculty and everything else,” Haase said – somewhat jokingly, but mostly seriously.
He joked about using his three adorable kids to guilt students into coming, among other, more serious ideas that he is coming up with – and he says that people might come at first for the flair, but they’ll return because of the more exciting brand of basketball that he hopes to instill on The Farm.
“This is a comprehensive approach to building our excitement. I know and everybody knows the best way to get people excited is to win basketball games and do it the right way. But there’s a lot of steps in between that we can do.”