You’ve known UNC head coach Roy Williams for about 25 years now. He’s always spoken very highly of your father, so I’m curious how close your families were as you were growing up. I understand that you and Scott Williams were pretty close friends.
“Right. Definitely just because of the relationship at Kansas, our families were close, but obviously for me, what brought us closer certainly was my relationship with Scott. Scott moved to Lawrence when his dad took the job in 1988 and since then Scott and I have been best friends and continue to be best friends today. So certainly that part has made the relationship closer.”
What ultimately led you to attend North Carolina in 1996? Was it that connection with Scott?
“Yes. Scott had applied and decided he was going to Carolina. I had some opportunities to play at smaller colleges out of high school and wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do. I applied to Carolina as well. I knew I wanted to get into coaching, so I talked to Coach Williams about it. What better place to learn than to go to Carolina and learn from Coach [Dean] Smith? I knew I wanted to get into coaching more than playing time or anything like that mattered. So once I got accepted to Carolina, I went ahead and decided to go. It was obviously a great experience. I played JV for Coach [Phil] Ford my first year and then got to play for Coach Smith and Coach [Bill] Guthridge and certainly learned from those guys. I got to see how they ran the program and what Carolina basketball was all about. So, obviously, I was really happy with my decision.”
You knew you wanted to get into coaching even before you got to college?
“Yeah, I did. My dad was a coach before he was an athletic administrator, so there was just something about it. I was always around it and watched practices with Larry Brown with he was at Kansas and Coach Williams when he was at Kansas, so I was just always drawn to coaching. I certainly thought hard about where I wanted to go and ultimately Coach Williams’ idea of going and learning from Coach Smith because of his success at Carolina – he obviously spoke highly of Coach Smith – was what led me to Carolina in the first place.”
How beneficial was it for you to step away from the Carolina style of play and learn different aspects of the craft under Kevin Stallings, who also spent some time with Roy Williams at Kansas?
“Hopefully it will be extremely beneficial to me and my career. Coach Stallings, having worked for Coach Williams at Kansas for I believe five years, is also familiar with the Carolina system, but I think the great thing about my time with Coach Stallings at Vanderbilt is that he is someone who will run any offense or any defense based on what his team’s personnel is. He’s not been married to a style and so I learned different things. At Vanderbilt, we ran a motion offense for a few years. We ran a Princeton-style offense for a few years. We ran a heavy ball-screen offense last year. We’ve always run a ton of plays, so it’s been good. And also scouting and seeing different people in the SEC do different things, I felt I’ve always got a different idea. 'Okay, here’s another way to attack things, here’s another way to do things.' Hopefully that will help me down the road.”
How did the move back to North Carolina come about?
“I saw Coach Williams at the Boo Williams event at the end of April. He mentioned to me that Coach [Joe] Holladay would be retiring and that he would like to talk to me after he had a chance to talk to Coach Stallings. That was the last of the recruiting period in April, so a few days after that, Coach Williams talked to Coach Stallings and let him know that he had an interest in talking to me and things just kind of went from there. I talked to Coach Williams – I can’t remember the exact day at this point – but he said that Coach Holladay was retiring and was interested in talking to me about the position. Coach Stallings and I talked about it a good deal and ultimately thought it was a good move. It was good for me. Certainly being at Vanderbilt for 14 years, I had a great experience there, had a great time there, but I’ve always wanted to get back to North Carolina. Having the chance to work for Coach Williams makes that even more special.”
For some looking from the outside in, they may see a move from an assistant coach position at Vanderbilt to a Director of Operations role at North Carolina as a step down. Why is it not?
“I think it was a good move for me. Again, I had a great experience with Coach Stallings at Vanderbilt and had been there for 14 years, but in some of the interviews I’ve had for head coaching jobs, one of the things that was brought up is, ‘Oh, you’ve only been at Vanderbilt,’ and ‘Can you only work at an academic-oriented institution?’ So I think just wanting to see how Coach Williams does things and just to be in Chapel Hill at North Carolina felt like something that would be a good move for me. When Coach Williams and I talked about the position, my No. 1 concern was that I won’t be on the floor and won’t be recruiting, so that was the toughest part of the decision. But I got past that quickly because, again, I’m really excited to be here and excited to be back with Carolina.”
What are the details of your role? What are the primary things that you’re going to be focused on?
“That’s something that we’re still trying to work through everything that will be involved. I think as the summer goes on more of that will be sorted out. I know some of the things that I’ll be doing is more of an administrative role, obviously. But hopefully the good thing about the position is that you can still have input with the staff. So while I’m not going to be on the floor telling a guy to box out, hopefully I can watch practice and be at the games and have input and ideas that I can share with the staff. As far as actual responsibilities, I think a lot of that stuff is still going to be sorted out. I told Coach that I’m certainly easy; I’ve done everything at Vanderbilt from overseas recruiting - recruiting in Australia and Germany - to carrying food for the tailgate, so anything they want me to do, I’m excited to do and looking forward to it. Whatever Coach thinks is best and is beneficial, I’m happy to do.”
You touched on this earlier, but what’s your long-term goal in taking this job?
“Certainly, I still have a dream of being a head coach, but I think one thing being at Vanderbilt taught me is that in coaching it's impossible to predict what’s going to happen. When I graduated from Carolina in ’99, in the back of my mind I thought I would go to Vanderbilt and be there for a year or two and then move somewhere else. And I was there for 14 years. I’m certainly not coming here thinking I’ll be here for a year or two. I think the best way for me to do it is to just go in and think, ‘Okay, this is where I’m at and I’m going to put all of my energy into being here and whatever happens, happens.’ Also for me, too, just being in the profession, I’m not one of those guys who wants to chase every job and every spot because I think where you’re at is important. I have a family with two kids and we have a third one on the way. I think who you work for and what school you’re at and what city you live in is really important. So we’ll see, but I’m certainly excited to be here.”
You’ve only been back at North Carolina for a couple of weeks, but in what you’ve seen thus far, has much changed around the program since you played for Coach Smith and Coach Guthridge?
“Obviously, I still have to see about how Coach Williams does the day-to-day with practice. Haven’t had a chance to get to that. Certainly the whole concept behind the Carolina family seems to be very much the same, but it is amazing to me how many improvements have been made from how nice the facilities are to how nice the new offices are. For example, Michael Brooker is here working camp and we were talking at lunch the other day about how excited we were when we got new gear and you look around now and it seems like they’ve taken everything from when we were in school to a whole other level. I’m sure it’s like that everywhere. We certainly had it great with Coach Smith and Coach Guthridge. But so far, a lot of it looks the same, but just looks better. As I’m doing camp, it seems like camp is exactly the same camp for the most part, just a few different gyms… It is really neat that the Carolina basketball family and the idea of that has all stayed the same.”