It’s a new day for Stanford Basketball.
Coach Jerod Haase just completed the hiring of his coaching staff, and the 2016-17 Cardinal is now officially under new leadership. This is a good thing. There was a lot of speculation about which directions Coach Haase might go in assembling his staff, and we have a group wholly new to Stanford, hoping to usher in a whole new day.
For some perspective on the new staff, we talked to Stanford Radio Analyst and Chronicler Emeritus John Platz about his first impressions on Coach Haase, his staff, and the hiring process.
1. What are your initial thoughts on the assistant staff?
I have not had a chance to meet any of the staff members, although I hope to do so soon. I’ve been announcing Stanford Basketball long enough to have been on the air not only when Jerod Haase was playing at Cal but also when Jeff Wulbrun was an assistant at Cal during his seven-year run under Lou Campanelli beginning in the mid-1980s. Many people know the important role Coach Wulbrun played in Jerod Haase’s life during that 1992-93 season in Berkeley, and it says a lot about both men that their relationship has remained strong for more than a quarter century and that Coach Wulbrun is alongside Jerod in a coaching capacity all these years later. You want coaches who are strong in the “relationship department”, and it would seem that these two coaches are that.
2. Many are making a big deal out of the lack of a "Stanford" connection on the staff. How big a deal do you think that is?
I know the arguments “pro” and “con” as far as having a “Stanford connection” on the staff. Speaking purely from a Stanford fan’s perspective, sure, it would have been great to see a familiar face on the bench. But as I have come to better understand college coaching and what makes a successful coach—and particularly at Stanford—I believe that it is critical that a head coach surround himself with people with whom he is comfortable, who are a “fit” with the various skill-sets needed on the staff and who can best help the head coach execute his vision for program success. It seems to me that Coach Haase has followed this approach in hiring—for example, an assistant (Adam Cohen) who has worked at schools with highly selective admissions such as Harvard and Vanderbilt. If program success is the head coach’s number one objective, as surely it is for Coach Haase, then it would be odd if he didn’t have “comfort level” and “fit” and “skill set” as his primary criteria in building out a staff.
3. What would you say are the top priorities for Coach Haase this summer?
There are probably several key priorities for Coach Haase and his staff this summer. I imagine the list would look something like this: (i) the existing roster players--educating them as to the new schemes, establishing the culture, setting expectations, building cohesiveness on and off the floor, integrating the newly-arrived freshmen; (ii) recruiting, which is ALWAYS a summer priority; and (iii) thinking about increasing enthusiasm for Stanford Basketball obviously within the team but also among the boosters and fans. Coach Haase is a smart guy who played intense, hard-working, passion-filled basketball, and he brought a lot of that effort, intelligence and passion to each of his previous coaching positions. I believe that what happens this summer for Stanford Basketball—and thereafter—will reflect a lot of those personal characteristics.
4. How does this Stanford team become an NCAA Tournament team, from a coaching perspective?
Currently, for all except maybe one or two schools in the Pac-12, it really is a daunting task to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. There are good teams and good coaches everywhere you look in this conference. It’s not easy to get to a place in the top third or top fourth in the standings. To get an NCAA bid, a number of obvious things are needed: good players, players playing with focus, luck on the injury front, a good finish in conference play. By having a good finish, I mean not only finishing high enough in the standings but also having a good second half of conference play and getting the bulk of your wins in that stretch of games—in other words, having momentum into March, peaking in March, that sort of thing. I think Coach Haase and his staff have these things very much in mind.
5. Have you met Coach yet? What are your first impressions of him in person?
I was able to meet and spend a few minutes with Jerod on the day of his public introduction at Stanford. I was impressed with him. He talked a lot about the concept of “fit” and why he believes that he and Stanford are a good pairing as far as coach and school. He was pretty transparent about his time at UAB, his time as a player at Cal, who his coaching mentors have been and what his coaching philosophies/schemes are. A few global takeaways from our first meeting: Coach Haase is an excellent communicator, he is very enthusiastic about the opportunity to coach at Stanford, he is realistic about the challenges and he is very determined for the program to have success.