Kerry Keating, 31, was hired as an assistant basketball coach June 4th, completing UCLA's basketball staff.
BRO: Just to get the fans familiar with you, give us a short resume on your career.
Keating: I actually started coaching when I was in school. It started when I began going to camp with my Dad at the Five Star camp. I'd go hang out with him at summer camp and be around all those guys – Fratello, Hubie Brown and Pitino. That lineage at Five Star was incredible before they changed the rules and the coaches weren't allowed to work in the summertime. When I was deciding where I wanted to go to college, I really wanted to go someplace where I could learn from the head coach. I drove down with my father from New Jersey and we went to Duke, Virginia, Wake Forest, Carolina…and through his relationships I had known those coaches. I really wanted to go to Carolina and be involved somehow, because their guys had a way of working their way onto a staff.
But then I spoke to P.J. (Carlesimo) and he offered me a chance to be on his staff, more or less. Not just sit in the office and have desk and a phone, but actually work with the staff by being the video coordinator – which nowadays is a paid position and part of the staff. Then it was just someone they needed to get to do it. I ended up going to Seton Hall, close to home – it was a great opportunity. And because P.J. had a relationship with Coach K, I started working camps at Duke and forged a relationship with those guys – Mike Brey, Pete Gaudet and Tommy Amaker. I ended up doing that three straight summers.
I also kept working the Five Star camp and that's how I got my first job when Dave Odom and Jerry Wainwright, who were fixtures at Five Star, saw me working there. I was right out of school, twenty one, and Coach Odom created an administrative slot for me. I was at Wake for a year, had a great experience, and then a coaching position at Vanderbilt opened.
I was at Vanderbilt for a year and I loved it there. I made a lot of good friends, I met Buzz Peterson there and I could have seen myself living there for a long time. But a position opened at Seton Hall and I couldn't pass up the chance to go back home. I stayed there for three years and then Buzz Peterson asked me to come work with him at Appalachian St. We won forty four games in two years and then Tulsa came calling and we went there. We were there for one year, won 26 games and the NIT title and then ended up going to Tennessee. I stayed in Knoxville for two years.
BRO: What was your reaction when Coach Howland told you he wanted you for the job?
Keating: It didn't really hit me full force until I came back after here after the interview and was getting organized and everything. Late one night I went to eat on Gayley and put a UCLA sweatshirt on – it kind of' sounds corny – but I was walking around, and I realized I was wearing UCLA on my chest. I think it hit me right then that I was here. I was telling Coach, even growing up in New Jersey, and coaching east of the Rockies, I mean, it is still UCLA. My Mom is going to send me this folder I had when I was a little kid. It's this light blue folder with a Bruin sticker on it. She still has it and found it in the basement. I was a basketball fan and I loved Carolina and UCLA, because when I was raised they were winning. My Dad has a Final Four ticket from St. Louis with Bill Walton's signature on the back. It's just like, you know – it's UCLA. It's hard to put into words, but it's the highest aspiration – that's the epitome. The best college basketball program in the country. And when Coach told me I could work here, I was doubly excited that I would be working for him. He is a big time person, teacher, and a proven winner. When I was here for my interview, he was doing workouts with the players. I was just thinking to myself, "This guy is unbelievable." This is another coach I can learn from, who is very different from Buzz in his approach, but still trying to do the same thing. Win. And they've both been successful for a reason.
BRO: You've only been here for a few days. Any initial impressions of the program?
Keating: Because I was in transition, and school was ending, I didn't have a chance to really work with the guys. But I saw coach working with them and I think I've talked with most of the team. I haven't really had a chance to formulate an idea about our team yet.
BRO: Has Coach Howland given you specifics as to your job duties – your role in practice, game preparation, scouting, recruiting – or will that be worked out over time?
Keating: I'm sure that's probably going to be worked out, but I know that we're both of the understanding that, because of where I've been and what I've been doing over the last five to six years, my main focus is going to be recruiting.
BRO: How different do you think it will be recruiting at UCLA? How will you have to adjust your recruiting philosophy at UCLA?
Keating: My philosophy has been to just outwork the other guy. So no matter what the level is, it's all going to come down to that daily effort, and the relationships you keep are a result of that effort. It will continue at UCLA, and there will be different kids we're going to be recruiting. For one thing, there are the academics – they're at a different level here than at some other places I've been. For another, we will recruit the best players in the country. Not to say that other places aren't trying to do the same by getting good student-athletes, but with the resources here, you have a real chance to get them.
BRO: Some coaches don't really like the recruiting aspect of the job, but you have a reputation as a tireless recruiter. Is that something you enjoy doing?
Keating: I enjoy doing it, and I think it's where my personality fits. I cherish my relationships with people. I've been fortunate, or blessed, that since I was thirteen years old, I knew I wanted to coach. I love it – I think recruiting, and scheduling, are the two things that keep a college basketball program afloat. Who you're playing with and who you're playing against. Recruiting to me is really about relationship building. I still talk to guys that I recruited at Seton Hall, Tulsa, and Appalachian St. I'll be friends with (Tennessee Sophomore) C.J. Watson forever – I'll be friends with his family forever. When you start recruiting guys – when you start building a trust and a bond with them – go into their home…there's been some effort put into raising those kids to that point. Someone has to trust you – that you're going to give them the right environment to help them as they become adults.
BRO: With the timetable in recruiting sped up, how early do you feel you need to recognize a recruit and be showing him attention (within NCAA guidelines, of course)?
Keating: I think UCLA is going to get the attention of those kids all the time. But I do think that you have to be careful about the rules pointing you in a direction that is going to force you to make early decisions on those kids. They still have to prove themselves as sophomores and juniors. It's a matter of organization. The reality is they're out there playing now and you can go see them in the summertime. You're going out technically to watch the next class and the class behind that. But if you're organized and on top of who you're watching for the immediate future – and you take care of that – you'll create time for yourself to watch the younger kids. We're recruiting for 2004 and 2005 right now but, of course, you have to look at 2006 and 2007. Because, before you know it, 06 and 07 will replace 04 and 05.
BRO: What people have had the biggest influence on you in terms of your philosophy of basketball?
Keating: My Dad and Jerry Wainwright. Jerry was a machine at Wake. Even without the technology and computers and all, he was still on top of it. He taught me about people, recruiting, appearance, follow-up. Before I had a chance to formulate my own opinions about how to do things in this business, those were the guys I turned to. And P.J., of course, because I spent a lot of time with him and his assistants. All the guys I've worked for have been great people, with great character. However, no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. And I really learned more from their mistakes than I have from their successes. Because their successes were all trying to go to the same place – win their league, win a game in the tournament, win a postseason game. But when they failed at that, I wanted to be around and realize what the result of that was and why that happened. How can I avoid that? That situation is going to come up for me and I want to make sure I handle it the right way. And along the way, the failures have occurred less and less.
BRO: How would you describe your philosophy of basketball?
Keating: P.J.'s defensive philosophy had a big influence on me. We held teams to 37, 38% field goal percentage. We worked on defense every day. There were no restrictions at the time as to how much you could practice every day. We had four hour practices, two 2-hour sessions. We did over-the-top on screens every day, we did defending the flash every day and we did stance. I remember the first practice; we just stood in a stance for five minutes. He had an idea of how to play defense. It was tough and it was hardnosed, it was man-to-man, but times where he'd teach zone. He was flexible, but he was rooted in a man-to-man defense. And his offense was the high post offense. Oddly enough, here I am at UCLA, where the offense came from. We did the high post shuffle cut, the whole version, the opposite post duck in, weakside flash - everything.
BRO: What are your goals for the UCLA basketball program? Where do you see the program 3-4 years from now?
Keating: My goal, personally, is to help us win. My
philosophy as an assistant coach has always been to do everything humanly
possible, to work as hard as you can to make the head coach successful. Because
if the head coach is successful, someone is going to realize that there's other
people helping him do that – and obviously that's the assistants. Specifically,
there's a standard set here. Coach Wooden set that standard and now it's time to
get back to that. The name UCLA still commands respect. That has been a
difference already in the 2-3 days that I've been here. The phone calls that
I've been making to people that I dealt with before – it's amazing how much
better those calls are now that they are made from Westwood.