Interview: Brad Bates

Friday afternoon Vandymania talked with Brad Bates, Senior Associate Athletic Director, about the search for a new head coach for the women's basketball program.

Vandymania: Before we get to the coaching search itself, I have a couple of questions that the fans have asked me to ask you. First, there's been talk about a team trip to Europe this summer. Is that still happening?

Brad Bates: I would say that it's not secured completely, but it's very very likely. The reason for that -- we did this for the men -- the NCAA limits these foreign trips, and you can only do it once every so many years. Whenever you have a new coach on board that gives you extra time that coach can spend with the team. So really it plays out to our advantage this year, and the fact that we already planned it really helps the whole process along.

Vandymania: Will there be fan packages offered like on the last trip?

Brad Bates: My guess is that it'll be very similar to the last trip, so the answer to your question is "yes".

Vandymania: Have you gotten any definitive word about any other staff departures yet?

Brad Bates: Nothing definitive, so at this point we really don't know.

Vandymania: Specifically, about Pete Gaudet. I think he was on the radio saying unambiguously that he is not a candidate for head coach, and obviously assistants are at the discretion of the new coach. But has any consideration been given to a position outside of the coaching staff?

Brad Bates: Well, I would say that we have great respect for Pete, and all options have been discussed internally, yes.

Vandymania: I think when they asked me to ask the question, it was partly about making a statement. Pete is so well thought of, not just among players, but among fans. Everybody's saying, "Let's have car washes to help keep Pete here."

Brad Bates: He is sooo good, and such a great person. No ego, and he's just everything you would want in someone representing your institution. How's that for an elaboration?

Vandymania: That's exactly how the fans feel. I think fans think highly of all the assistants, but there's something special that you can't deny about Pete.

Vandymania: Okay, now about the search. How do you go about getting a new coach? What's the first step?

Brad Bates: Well, it varies depending on the state of the program. In this case obviously we have a very successful program. Jim and his staff have done a very nice job of setting the foundation for whoever comes in to really take that and run with it. There are a lot of very good things that are in place. . . . So our job is to find the person who matches that context and can be a nice complement to all the things that Jim and his staff have created. And so really the first thing we have to define what it is you need.

Vandymania: Who's involved in doing that? Do you have a search committee?

Brad Bates: The search committee is really Todd Turner in consultation with the Chancellor. One thing that you have to keep in mind is that if this doesn't work out in five years with any coaching position, the person who is going to be held responsible is Todd Turner.

Having said that, he will consult regularly with the Chancellor, and he will involve various people affiliated with the university including the student athletes on the team, which he did within 24 hours of Jim's announcement and he's also met with Ashley and Chantelle since then and will stay in touch with them to get feedback from them. Obviously as administrators we have an impression based on our knowledge of and our workings with that program, but we're not student athletes, and they certainly bring their perspective on things which will be helpful to us in identifying who the next coach should be.

Vandymania: At this stage of the process, how far have you gotten in defining the profile of who you're looking for?

Brad Bates: Oh, I think in terms of defining who we're looking for, I think we did that relatively early. I think we have a pretty good handle on that. Let me step back for a second. What we want to do is move as quickly as we can, but we want to be patient enough to be sure that we get the right person. It doesn't do anyone any good to not get the right match. And so in terms of the process, once you define what you're looking for, then you identify which candidates fit within that definition. And that's kind of where we are. Once you define those people, then you reference them. You check every aspect of them that you can.

Vandymania: When you say "reference them", that implies that there's already a list of names. How do you go about finding those names?

Brad Bates: Well, a variety of ways. You ask the students. All of them were recruited. All of them had official visits with coaches. Some of them have been coached in international play. You ask the previous coaching staff for recommendations. You talk to commissioners. You talk to other coaches that you know. You talk to people at USA Basketball. You talk to people that you know and trust enough so that their recommendations and suggestions are valid. And you're going to see a pattern of names that appear and re-appear in those conversations. And once there's a pattern of names that emerge, that helps narrow the list down, and then you start scrutinizing those particular people. And so you use your contacts -- whether they're athletic directors or schools in the league or commissioners or former student athletes -- you use all available resources to try and do as thorough and comprehensive a background check as you can.

Vandymania: And that's happening before any of these people have gotten any kind of contact?

Brad Bates: It doesn't do anyone any good to have contact if they're not going to be a viable candidate. In fact it can hurt the process, and it can hurt the candidates because if their names are linked publicly, their own students are asking them, "Hey, what's going on, we saw this in the paper." If you ask me, that's one of the major differences between faculty and coaching searches, is that the media scrutinizes it so much that sometimes they'll just flat out guess at names.

Vandymania: Do you have any sense that sometimes because they're under pressure because that's what people want to hear, they just kind of ask their buddy for some names?

Brad Bates: No question. And if I were a reporter, I would probably speculate as well. I think that's part of the job. But as soon as that happens, that creates different pressures for other people. And sometimes the names that are thrown out there are never even in the candidate pool. And so those people have to deal with issues that they normally wouldn't have to deal with. People that are in the candidate pool obviously when they're contacted, they have to deal with that as well. But once you accept the responsibility of communicating with Vanderbilt or other institution, you know that's a possibility that's likely, and at least you can anticipate a little better than if your name is just thrown out there.

Vandymania: Have you also had people from the outside who are interested in the job contacting Vanderbilt?

Brad Bates: Sure. Yes. Really there are two ways that happens -- people directly applying for the job and the second way is that people nominate other people for the job.

Vandymania: So at this point you've got a pretty good idea of who's out there and what the patterns are?

Brad Bates: Yes.

Vandymania: So now would it be fair to say that right now you're in the background checking phase?

Brad Bates: Yes, I would say that we're still thoroughly checking all backgrounds.

Vandymania: About how big a list did that end of being? In the general ballpark?

Brad Bates: Let me answer that this way. Vanderbilt is a unique place. And, as I said, defining the context in what we need can limit the pool. You're looking for people who you think have experiences that will fit into the definition of what we're looking that. When you do that, once you consider all the variables -- Vanderbilt's a top level program, they've got great players returning, they're in the SEC, they've got an admission standard that people probably need some experience with, there's an academic rigor that a coach can have a more significant learning curve if they don't have some sort of experience with that -- so once you include all those variables, you probably narrow it down to a list of about 15 people I would guess.

Vandymania: And then Todd would sit down and figure out a priority -- who to make the first phone call to?

Brad Bates: My guess is -- I haven't sat in with Todd and the Chancellor having their conversations -- but my guess it's probably something like that.

Vandymania: Well, at some point there's a first phone call made, not like 15 letters go out at once?

Brad Bates: Yes, absolutely. And again I don't know in this particular case because we're not there yet, but in some cases you'll prioritize and make those calls. In other cases, you don't have a priority so you just collectively call and make contact and see if there's interest.

Vandymania: The first contact goes to the athletic director?

Brad Bates: Yes, the etiquette is that you ask the athletic director for permission to visit with the coach.

Vandymania: So that would normally be the first thing a reporter would do, to call around to athletic directors or SIDs to see if they've been contacted?

Brad Bates: Right. And then they decide whether or not to tell you whether they've been contacted. But you're correct. That's exactly what they do.

Vandymania: So you don't really know which way it's going to go in this case, whether there will be a batch of phone calls going out to ask for interviews, or whether they would go with some kind of priority sequence, because that's something somebody's still deciding.

Brad Bates: Right, somebody above me.

Vandymania: At some places it seems like they line up four or five people for interviews, and there's no indication given out of which who's the top candidate, like the second scenario you mentioned where's there's a batch with no priority. So if there were spies all around, watching who's going in and out, if you saw somebody coming in and you were sure it was the first person coming in for an interview, there would be no way of knowing whether that was a first priority candidate?

Brad Bates: That's correct. A lot of times, it's just as simple as trying to work out people's schedules and what fits best. So, yes, if someone bumped into someone on campus, that doesn't necessarily mean they're the highest priority.

Vandymania: In the world of faculty searches, these things can go on for months. But here, once somebody comes to interview, it comes a lot quicker, it seems like usually within a week or so.

Brad Bates: There's a sense of urgency about it. You have a certain group of students who are anxious every moment they don't have new leadership. The other thing you've got to remember is that the competition is utilizing and capitalizing on days. For example, our assistants are continuing to conduct individual workouts. Until our assistants accept a job at Ohio State, they're still under contract with us, so they're still employees at Vanderbilt and they're still working with our students.

Vandymania: I talked with Lori Alexander [strength and conditioning coach for the women's basketball team as well as several other women's teams] the other day, and she says they're part of the permanent athletic staff.

Brad Bates: Yes, the supporting people are safe. In most cases, there isn't any change in that regard. In most cases the supporting staff -- unless the coach really comes in and makes a strong case to bring somebody else in. In this particular case, we have support staff people that we really think highly of. So even in the extreme example of a new coach coming in and wanting to bring their own person, I don't see a lot of flexbility in doing that. Kris Mack [trainer] is very good, Garry Gibson [senior academic counselor] does a great job, Lori Alexander is very very good at what she does, Tammy Boclair [media relations for women's basketball] is very good, and those people are well thought of throughout our department.

Vandymania: In terms of the timeline, does the end of the semester and the coming of Maymester have any influence at all?

Brad Bates: Yes, sure, because those students are going to start scattering at the end of finals. So if it's at all possible, we're going to try to have a coach in before then. Sometimes you can't control that, but, yeah, our preference would be to get someone in. Top Stories