DeaconSports Interview: Rusty Larue

This past week, DeaconSports sat down with new Wake Forest assistant basketball coach Rusty Larue to discuss his new role with the Demon Deacon basketball program.

Michael Jennings: How hard was it for you to leave Forsyth Country Day?
Rusty Larue: It was hard. I would not have left for just any position and getting to go back to Wake was the one it took for me to leave. The players and coaches at FCDS have worked extremely hard to build a championship caliber program and leaving those kids was not an easy decision.

MJ:Having your own kids going there had to make it even harder for you.
RL: Yes in some respects. My oldest son probably would not have wanted to play for me anyway because we are a lot alike. I will miss them coming into my office and just sitting there while I worked but getting a chance to stay in the area helps a lot.

MJ: What do you think will be the biggest adjustment for you going from FCD to Wake?
RL: Probably the recruiting simply because it is a new process for me. Having Dino and Jeff there will help make the learning curve much shorter because of their experience in that area. I have a good reputation among the private school coaches, and public schools also to some extent, so that will help in the transition also.

MJ: Now being a coach on the Wake staff will force you to relinquish your Rusty League connection. How many changes will there be?
RL: Very little. Justin McClendon, my assistant the past several years, will take over and have the same locations, sponsors, and set up that we had. It may even be better because the Wake players will be there again and High Point, Elon, and UNCG will send most of their players also. With the new rules from the NCAA in effect, the FCD team will not be playing because then the coaches couldn't come and watch because they are considered prospects.

MJ: You will be able to watch if no high school players play?
RL: Yes, as I understand it.

MJ: How does being a former Wake player help you in recruiting and player development? RL: It should help tremendously. I have "been there, done that" as far as the Wake Forest experience and playing pro ball goes. I understand what benefits and requirements it takes to play for Wake Forest and can communicate that to the kids. While things have changed since I was in school, Wake is still a special place that is a small school with a family type atmosphere that a lot of kids are looking for. Also I have played with most of the Wake players in the summer league and they know my competitiveness and personality so the adjustment will not be as big as with a brand new coach they don't know. It also has given me insight into them as well and though it might have been in a different capacity, I think they know that I expect a lot from myself and will from them as well.

MJ: When you can go out to physically meet the recruits in July, will the fact that you have had a little time to assimilate your responsibilities be a benefit for you?
RL: Definitely. By then I will have had time to study the landscape, pick Dino, Jeff, Mike, Walt and Dave's brains some and hit the ground running.

MJ: Does that first time you go out cause you any pause?
RL: Actually I can't wait. Being in the gym watching basketball, for a basketball junkie like me, there is nothing better. Getting the chance to see some recruits and evaluate them will be very exciting for me and I relish the opportunity.

MJ: Back in March when you were a fan and not on the staff, you watched this Wake team really struggle in their last two games. Did something stick out to you as to why they played so poorly at the end?
RL: It seemed to me that perhaps the excellent chemistry they displayed earlier was a little off and things just didn't mesh like they had the rest of the season. Every team has periods when they don't play as well as they can and unfortunately for Wake and the fans, ours was at the end of the season instead of the beginning or middle part.

MJ: Do you think that Wake's style of fast paced play hurt them in the end?
RL: Not really. They played the style that the players were most effective at much like my team did at FCD. They knew jump shooting was not their forte so they used the running game in order to try and create numbers advantages to score quickly. Teams late in the season determined that you had to make Wake play 5 on 5 and not give them any easy buckets and without consistent perimeter shooting, it made it very difficult for Wake to overcome so late in the season. I know this, to a man the players and coaches took those losses very hard and learned some things about themselves in the process. Like all good coaches and players, myself included, I am sure they would admit that they could have done some things differently and will be better for it in the future.

MJ: Do you think that some of the criticism that Wake played little structured offense is unfair?
RL: Yes I think the criticism is unfair. Sometimes the offense looks bad because perhaps the execution was not good. All teams have set plays but you have to have players execute them properly and adjust on the fly and that is sometimes very difficult to do under pressure for young kids.

MJ: With teams' talent being so close in college basketball, doesn't the difference really come down to chemistry and coaching?
RL: Well chemistry is HUGE. As for coaching, I am a believer in the old saying that you win or lose with "Jimmies and Joes, not X's and O's". Getting the players to buy into your system, and to execute it, is one of the hard parts about coaching. Having said that, all the coaching in the world can not make up for a big disparity in talent but good coaching can help you win a few games and Wake did win 24 games last year.

MJ: If you could tell DeaconSports fans only one thing that is your strongest suit, what would it be?
RL: I think my strength oddly enough is in the X's and O's. I think I have a great grasp of seeing things happen on the court and determining what to do and how to compensate for what the other guy is doing.

MJ: So you are ready for the challenge?
RL: Absolutely, I am really looking forward to it. As the new guy, Rusty gave cautious but honest answers to the questions and has an engaging style many will find attractive. He is really proud of his Wake Forest heritage and wants to make it the best program in the country, and feels it can be. He realizes there are many things he needs to learn but feels with his playing background along with his coaching skills, he will be a great asset to Coach Gaudio and the program. I think he just may be right!

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