St. John's coach Steve Lavin and Hofstra coach Mo Cassara spoke at length about the new NCAA men's basketball recruitng rules which were detailed in this story. So much of what Lavin and Cassara could have been used but due to space limitations, could not make it into the story. Here is more on the new recruiting rules from both Lavin and Cassara.
St. John's coach Steve Lavin:
On what his approach was to the new rules:
My training and wiring is such that I move at a very deliberate pace, almost tortoise-like in my philosophy or style. I think out of necessity because I knew we were going to sign, before these rules went into effect, we were going to sign these two mammoth classes. It just from a practical standpoint it made more sense for me to focus on the task at hand which was to sign two consecutive strong classes because if we didn’t do that I wouldn’t have a job anyway and then the new rules wouldn’t have an (impact).
On how he expects to handle the first days under the new rules:
Move in a deliberate manner and we’re not going in, because we’ve been in a vortex of the 2011 and the 2012 classes, we’ve been so focused on these two classes and we’re careful not to get ahead of ourselves and worry too much about what’s down the line and yet I was aware the new legislation was coming in but at the end of it we haven’t set out a strategy of ‘let’s take advantage of these rules’ the first three weeks or the first month or two months or even the first year.
On the speed with which he’ll approach recruiting early on:
Like a good poker player I want to sit back and kind of access what’s going on. This is where we have the advantage. Next year right now we’re only going to have one scholarship (…) unless someone goes pro early which we’re always prepared for or somebody eliminates themselves, there’s always a potential transfer, but we have the luxury now to move at a deliberate pace.
On the pros and cons of the new rules:
I think it will help from the standpoint there’s more opportunities to connect through texting, through the additional phone calls, through visits to campus earlier in their high school career. I think for coaches the best part of the new rules is you’re less likely to unintentionally stub your toe and commit secondary violations. That’s first and foremost the most positive aspect of the new legislation is coaches are less likely to commit violation unintentionally. Then naturally having more access is something coaches have pushed for in terms of being able to communicate with the prospects and their families at an earlier stage and more frequently is another step in the right direction but I think it would be a mistake to assume that more access automatically will create better results in terms of recruiting. It can also expose. If you’re not strong at communicating, that’s not strength of yours – I think it could expose certain coaches who aren’t comfortable interacting with young people or coaches who don’t have strong interpersonal skills with people could feel put out or be an awkward experience for them. It’s a mixed bag.
My own approach will be to move deliberately and at a tortoise pace and continue to focus on the quality of the communication and to drop in and try and build a relationship and a report based on authentic connection. No matter how often you speak, either you can communicate in an authentic way and be effective at establishing relationships and report or you can’t, whether you get 10 calls a week or two calls a week.
On what he expects the first minutes after midnight on Friday to be like:
It might be a bit of a disappointment like Y2K. I think the challenge is you don’t want to for the new legislation and for the kickoff of this because that will marginalize I think the credibility of your basketball program.
It always comes back to balance and showing the appropriate degree of enthusiasm but being mindful of not wanting to come across as a carnival barker or a used car salesman and being respectful of the people you’re recruiting and their families. To me there’s some land mines out there with the new legislation and that’s why I’m taking the conservative approach.
On where he’ll be at midnight Thursday night into Friday:
I’ll probably be watching CNN, Anderson Cooper or who’s on in that 12 slot.
On one-and-done players being heavily recruited for two or three times as long as they’ll play in college:
The ironies are deep. But because what motivates me to coach is relationships with young people and that goes for during the recruiting process, while they’re playing for me and then beyond. (…) There’s not a player that I’m not in communication with. To me that’s the best part and that would be one of the things with the new rules being in play that is a positive. It does start the ability to connecting with a young person at an earlier age and also more frequently and as long as you’re mindful of having a balanced approach in your communication I think that’s something that’s good. There are some ironies there in terms of your point, you may be recruiting someone for longer than they actually play for you. I’m close with almost as many players who didn’t come to play for UCLA or St. John’s.
On recognizing while he may not be as aggressive early on, other coaches will be:
I think that’s why for me, my personal, it sounds like Kung Fu or something, to me right now quiet waters and less is more and no move is the best move. I think, and again I have faith in the more enduring dimensions of St. John’s in terms of what we present. That those will be the more important elements as opposed to the frequency of texts or calls or twitter.
Hofstra coach Mo Cassara:
On what he thinks of the new rules:
The thing that I think now is kids don’t want to talk on the phone. I don’t want to talk on the phone half the time. I communicate with all my friends on text, or Facebook or on twitter and that’s kind of the way that we approach it from a basketball standpoint. This is the way kids communicate; we’ve got to be on that.
On what he and his staff were doing in the opening hours to engage recruits:
What we did was we put all our time leading up to that to our A-list for 2013 into this Front rush database. A lot of that was over the last few weeks. Over the course of last night into now who’s responding, who’s getting back to us, who’s engaging us a little bit and we’re hitting Facebook, we’re hitting twitter, we’re hitting emails.
On why he wanted to start the process at midnight:
It’s almost like you don’t want to be outdone. As a coach it feels like you’re in a game, it feels like you’re back out on the court and you don’t want somebody to outdo you or you don’t want somebody to outwork. It was another kind of challenge, another opportunity to say ‘hey we’re out in front of this thing’ and that’s how I want people people to think about Hofstra. I want them to think about our staff that way, I want them to think about me that way. One of my bgi things as a head coach is I want every recruit to feel like they know me. Some head coaches are not like that. I think that that’s a really, really important factor now in recruiting kids. I spend as much time as the rest of my staff does. ... I think that as a coach gets your adrenaline going. You start getting some texts back and then boom! I’m hitting the kid on Facebook and trying to hit them with a couple of different avenues. We try to really prioritize that with the kids we’re recruiting.
On what he thinks about the new rule:
I was excited because I think the way technology has changed now, when they originally change d the rule you used to get charged for text message and then now there’s no different than an email it’s just a different button. I’m excited because I think the NCAA did a great job of really realizing what works. I think this is a really good rule for kids, I think it’s a good rule for coaches and I think it’s a changing landscape that we’re on.
On what he’s looking for in recruits:
We’re looking for fit, character, talent and probably in that order. We feel like we’ve got a good nucleus here and now it’s about fit and that’s why I think we have to spend so much time to getting to know these kids.
On the high numbers of transfers around college basketball:
I think it’s a troubling thing in college basketball right now. I think this is part of that new vehicle to get to know kids earlier to start to really get to know what they’re all about and build a better relationship and find the better fit and be more selective.
On any negatives he sees to the new rules:
I think in some ways it could be too much. It could be too much but at the same time we as coaches have to be realistic too. Whether it’s a friend or a spouse or a family member or boyfriend or girlfriend, you just can’t text (endlessly). If we do a good job of understanding what’s too much, that can be a really good thing.
On what he did in the morning after the initial wave was over from the night before:
I saved a handful of kids and I sent them at 6 a.m. so my text message was “I wanted to be the first coach to text you this morning, not last night” a few of those probably got a chuckle out of that.
On whether he will look to fill all available spots each year:
I’m of the philosophy to try to always have a scholarship available because somebody may come along that isn’t in our net. This is the first time since I’ve been here where we will have 13 guys on scholarship this fall. That allows you the ability to redshirt a kid, different options. I’m of that balance.