The First 30 Days

Light up and blow out the candles because Trent Johnson has now been on the job as head coach of Stanford Basketball for 30 days. The month flew by in a hurry with the flurry of recruiting activity, but there has been more happening behind the scenes. To get a look at what the first month has been like, and what kind of man is in the job, read on for an exclusive Bootleg Q&A with Coach Johnson.

ME: People can envision the recruiting and work with the team you have had to do since you were hired, but how much administrata has taken up time as well?
TJ: First of all, I have been real fortunate in the sense that I left a really good situation at Nevada, with Mark Fox and David Carter; Mark is now the head coach there. I left a really good situation to an even better situation with Eric Reveno, Tony Fuller and Russell Turner - who we could lose. And also L.J. Hepp. I have been here before, but I didn't have a really good feel for all the administrative stuff. I was mostly busy with trying to get players. But that still helped. The first 30 days for me have been mostly trying to get a feel for the players. Listening and trying to get a feel for what direction I need to go for subtle adjustments. Then there is recruiting, which is a timely and important thing. Kids just finished up their junior year of high school, and the recruiting process is sped up a little bit. Kids are making decisions before the summer of their senior year, for where they want to go to school. There is a pretty good class out there academically who can meet Stanford's admissions standards but who also can play basketball at a high level. When I say 'high level', I think it is unfair to high school kid regardless of where they are to project as great college players just because they are great high school players. But there is a good nucleus of kids who are admissable here and have a lot of talent. That's it. Weights and the weight room - John Murray went over to the Warriors and we have a new weight coach. But there are 24 hours in the day and I need about four hours of sleep. I'm enjoying being busy. People ask if I'm excited to be back, but there is work to be done. I enjoy being busy. We have our own camps going on here - 400 some-odd kids in a given week. I've been back to Reno a couple times. My son graduated high school. I have a daughter who is a track & field athlete at Arizona State. Two weeks before Coach [Montgomery] broke the news that he was leaving, she ruptured her patella tendon in a dual meet and had to have surgery for that. I have been back to Phoenix a couple times to see her. I saw my wife at the press conference, and then a week ago when she was out here looking at a house - which I don't care about. Don't care about a house. I don't want to sound like a broken record, but all I care about is what is here. Keep the wheels on. Patience is not a good virtue for me. I wish I could fast forward a few months to October and have everything done. Getting reacclimated to everything around here, watching tape from last year, bringing closure to the guys I left. It's ironic about two of the best players in the West in this draft. One was Josh Childress, best player in the Pac. The other is Kirk Snyder, best player in the WAC. One played for me; one played for Coach. Similar type systems. Both are about to go top 15 in the Draft. It's been an eerie march all the way through."

ME: You mentioned time with the players, but you got here just before finals for them and had maybe a handful of workouts to observe. What was your priority with those limited opportunities?
TJ: My priority was to try and get as much a feel for them as I could individually, with their skills. And just to talk to them. Any time there is change, in this case going from one of the best coaches in college basketball - if not the best - you need to be able to listen. Give them the understanding that everything is going to be okay. Maybe not to the tune of 30 wins and not to the tune of playing for a Hall of Fame coach. But I tell them this is all about you guys. Good players make good coaches - I really feel that. Also establishing lines of communication.

ME: Given so few workouts, how much were you able to soak up with their abilities?
TJ: We just get a feel for them physically. For me watching a kid on TV is different from looking at him in person. Let me get a feel for Danny Grunfeld's quickness, or lack thereof. Let me get a feel for Chris Hernandez' strength, or lack thereof. Ability to shoot the ball. There are a lot of guys who can shoot the ball really well, and one-on-one or skill development. Then the lights come on and you go, 'oh boy.' There are other guys who look bad in drills, then the lights come on and you say, 'oh my God, he looks good.' I can't give you too much, Eubanks, because bottom line I don't know enough. Some guy from Athlon asked me what I think about the Pac-10. C'mon, I was in the WAC all last year. I watched seven or eight Pac-10 games last year, and almost all were Stanford.

ME: How much time in this first 30 days have you had to spend in staff meetings? There has to be a lot to talk about with the assistants, from recruiting to the team.
TJ: We're pretty much on autopilot. Eric Reveno is an institution around here. We - me, Eric, Tony and Russell - have had a lot of conversations about recruiting, which is first and foremost, and of course camps. There is plenty of time to sit down and talk about the basketball part in August, but right now our main energy is in recruiting. It was players, finals, players in the program, then recruiting and then the camps. Everything else is secondary - where you live, etc. You just have to prioritize.

ME: How much of a blessing has it been to walk in and have the staff intact?
TJ: It's been really helpful. It is always helpful in so many ways.

ME: On the flip side, when you come in and have so many pieces in place, but is it a challenge to bring your own style and ideas in that environment?
TJ: It depends on what my way is. Having been here before, I understand all that. There will not be wholesale adjustments; it wasn't broke. Coach is Coach and I'm me. The challenge is every day making sure what is best by the student-athletes and moving on the from there. Somebody has asked me about pressure following Coach, but that isn't a challenge. Nobody puts more pressure on me than myself to do my job every day. It is an honor for me to be sitting here; it is not pressure. As coaches we have opportunities to speak for groups and conventions; there are doctors and lawyers in the audience. That is pressure.

ME: You came in a few weeks after the end of the last evaluation period, and after the last calling period. Have you been anxious for the new evaluation and call period?
TJ: I'm always anxious when I get a chance to go watch kids play. The majority of the kids we're recruiting, I've had a chance to see them play. When I was at Nevada, I watched a ton of kids play. The only difference was I watched and saw and said, 'well, there is no chance to recruit him here.' But I'm really excited about it.

ME: Do you like to make sure you are one of the two guys out there on the road?
TJ: I want to have my hands on everything. I like watching kids play. I like doing my job. We're all going to evaluate, but I'm one of these guys that sweeps the floor. For example, I remember when I was here with Coach before that there would be kids in the next game or next two games we couldn't recruit. I told him I'm going to stay and watch because I love to watch. I can't wait. It's interesting - my daughter's is July 15 and my son's birthday is July 18. I wasn't able to celebrate their birthdays when it meant anything until I was a head coach, and by then they didn't want me around! I'm going to be watching guys play and loving it.

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