John Introduced As Head Coach
April 9, 2002
ATHLETIC DIRECTOR MITCH BARNHART:
'It's been enjoyable to go through a process and land on a guy who reminds me a lot of what I went through when I was trying to find that first breakthrough job. I went through a lot of jobs trying to become an athletic director for the first time, and I had the opportunity to go through those searches and want it badly enough to keep trying. This is a guy who has paid his dues, been through Division I basketball for 15 years and worked at his craft to the point where he is ready to take on his own program and have some fun. That's what it should be about - get to a point in your career where you get to have a little bit of fun and enjoy the fruit of your labors in a profession that you truly enjoy.
'We started this search process about 12 days ago, rather unexpectedly, but nevertheless we jumped enthusiastically into it looking for some people who would embody the five principles that our program is all about. We wanted to have somebody that was first class, we wanted someone who had great integrity, we wanted someone who would have a total commitment to our student-athletes in any way, shape or form - that they would encourage them to graduate, that they would make sure that the off-the-court experience was a quality experience, we wanted to make sure they had an understanding of what it meant to run a program fiscally and be responsible for that end of it, and last but not least, we wanted to have someone who understood a championship-caliber performance.
'We made literally hundreds of phone calls, worked at it over the last 10 to 12 days and talked to a lot of people all across the country, all the basketball gurus - everybody's getting involved in it nowadays. We came up with a guy we think embodies all those qualities we were looking for. Jay John is a wonderful example of a guy who worked extremely hard to get where he is. He's what Oregon State athletics is all about - blue-collar hard work, a great work ethic, tremendous integrity, and that never-say-die attitude.
'We talked to him two years ago, and quite honestly didn't feel he was quite where we wanted to be to be our head coach. Over the past two years we've gotten to know him a little bit through our relationships in the Pac-10, and that's what this business is - it's a relationship business. We've watched him develop as a coach, we've watched him develop and get ready to take on a Division I job in the Pac-10 conference. He comes from an established program that has a championship-level performance, he has an outstanding working knowledge of the Pac-10, he knows it up and down the coast as well as anyone in this conference - he knows the coaches, he knows the athletes.
'He's very familiar with our current team, having recruited many of them to play. He has recruiting ties not only nationally, but most importantly on the West Coast, where we tend to get most of our student-athletes. He's developed and coached quality big men, you can look up and down his resume at the people he's coached and brought to the game at Arizona. He's coached them and coached them well, so I think he'll have a huge impact on our team in that area. Most importantly, he's mentored under some of the best coaches in America. Obviously, Lute Olson - the name speaks for itself, Barry Collier, one of the great young coaches in America, and ties to other coaches across the country. He's learned the game from the best and he brings that to Corvallis, and we're excited about that.
'He's familiar with our state, having lived here twice, we're glad he's living 40 miles up the road from where he used to live. That will be a good thing. Most importantly, he embodies a tremendous work ethic, which is what our department has been about since we came here four years ago.
'Our president (Dr. Paul G. Risser) is up here as well, he said no speeches today, but he's up here to be supportive and without him we have no chance to be successful here at Oregon State. President Risser has been extremely supportive of intercollegiate athletics here. With that, I'd like to take the opportunity to introduce our new basketball coach and welcome him to Oregon State University, Jay John.'
'I'm glad everybody is as excited as I am. I am truly honored and proud to be part of the Oregon State community and Oregon State basketball. It goes beyond words for me. There are some people I need to thank for believing in me and giving me this opportunity to lead the Beavers back to the Pac-10 Tournament and the Pac-10 championship and on into postseason play. I want to thank Dr. Risser for believing in me, Mitch Barnhart, (senior associate athletic director) Bob DeCarolis, (associate athletic director) Greg Byrne, (faculty athletic representative) Dr. Robert Frank, (football) Coach (Dennis) Erickson - who was delightful for me to meet the other day. He had me laughing like crazy, I'm excited to work with a legend such as Coach Erickson. I see the massive potential for Oregon State University, and he's already set the blueprint - he's made it easier for anyone coming into this program, I truly believe that.
'I also want to pay my respects to Coach (Jim) Anderson and Coach (Paul) Valenti (former OSU head coaches in attendance), I'm well aware of the Oregon State tradition. Included in that certainly is the gymnasium we play in (Gill Coliseum) and Coach Ralph Miller. I'm from Tucson, Arizona, and the WAC and the Pac-10. When I was in college, I knew I wanted to coach and I was looking for role models. Here comes Oregon State with this absolutely phenomenal, wonderful team for me to watch and learn from. The names (Ray) Blume and (Mark) Radford and Steve Johnson - I've never forgotten those names and the impact they had on me as a young coach. I would drive to Phoenix to watch the Beavers play, I'd get in the car with some friends and drive to Los Angeles to watch the Beavers play. They had a huge impact on my life.
'I got out of college in '81 and knew I wanted to coach. I got involved in high school coaching and knew I wanted to coach in college. I went to the Final Four in Albuquerque in 1983. Prior to doing that, I didn't know how to get into college coaching, I just thought, 'How do you start this?' It's a relationship business, and people say 'It's who you know.' I didn't know anybody, so I figured what I'm going to do is get a resume together and send it to some of the coaches who I think are the best in the business, and I'm going to drive to Albuquerque and I'm going to meet them all. One of the resumes I sent was to Coach Miller, and I was determined I was going to find him someplace, somewhere in Albuquerque and I was going to go up to him and tell him how much I admired his program and I'd do anything I possibly could to come work for him. I found him, and he pretended like he knew who I was and pretended that he'd actually got my resume, and I appreciated that. He spent five minutes with me, and he said, 'Son, for you to walk up to a total stranger and tell him you want to work for him shows me you've got some desire, and if you keep at this thing and keep meeting people and be good to people along the way, learn the game and learn how to teach the game, and don't forget where you came from, then maybe somewhere down the line some good things will happen for you. For my staff, we appreciate that you feel we play well and how we operate and do our business, and we wish you the best. Here we go, 19 years later, there's no way I could have imagined I'd be sitting here in front of the Oregon State people and boosters ready to lead this program.
'But it goes with my philosophy and what I feel as I approach work with this team, and leading this program, and that is day by day, you do the best you can. I try to put some objective measurements into everything we do, so I can evaluate things from one day to the next. I have three components in that: No. 1, were we unselfish? No. 2, did we play as hard as we could? No. 3, did we execute the game plan? And No. 3 implies that we have goals. That applies to the classroom. We build on that, we set some objective measurements there, we evaluate how we go day by day and we just build. We put the building blocks together one day at a time. I look at my career, and I feel that's what I've done. I've had faith with my work ethic and how I've handled myself in recruiting, in coaching, in relationships - and always remembering where I came from, that eventually some great things would happen for me. And here I sit with one of the greatest things that's ever happened for me.
'With that, I want to introduce my family, because without my family ... I have the best coach's wife in the world, my wife, Lisa. I have two of the biggest fans in the world, and they understand it because I reciprocate that - I'm their biggest fan. My son Tyler, who's 14, and my son Trevor, who's 6.
'I'd also like to thank Coach (Lute) Olson, for giving me an opportunity to be back in the Pac-10. I've learned a lot of things from him. In my past, I've been involved in programs that were building and growing and I'm very comfortable in that situation. But when I got to Arizona, I learned to win and to stay winning, and not be afraid of anything, and understanding that the fundamentals and basic things are what pull you through tough situations. That preparation for leading this program - not just to start winning a little bit, but then to take the next step - I think I've had an unbelievable experience with the mentors I've had throughout my coaching career. I'm honored to have had a chance to work for him, I'm honored to have a chance to work in the Pac-10 for Oregon State University.
'In kind of closing, some things I feel that are real critical to me. My attitude towards every day that we work here is that we will concede nothing to anybody. I'm not in awe of anybody that's in along this West Coast, this program has one of the best traditions in the history of the NCAA, a tremendous number of All-Americans, a tremendous number of victories and championships, and that's what we aspire to. Myself and my staff and our team - we are all part of something that's far bigger than us. I feel that when we take the floor, we take the floor keeping in mind all those who have come before us and laid it all out on the line for Oregon State University. We're playing for those guys. When we accomplish something, we can think we belong up there with those guys.
'We're going to bring our work ethic, we're going to bring our energy level, we're going to compete and we're not going to back down from anybody or anything. I really believe these guys are great guys, my team. In watching them and competing against them, I see guys who will do anything a coach wants to do to win. As a coach, I can't ask for anything more. They're solid people, and I'm overjoyed to have a chance to coach them.
'There are some other intangible things regarding the team that I'll get to work with. I'm going to bring in a staff that will be the best in the Pac-10. I'm excited about these guys, they're great guys and they're going to bring great families and great energy to the Corvallis community. Our families will serve as great role models for the student-athletes we coach. Obviously, we have intangible things - taking care of recruiting, firming up the schedule - things of that nature. We're in a great conference, and we want to do our part in this conference, we want to raise the level of play and get in position where we're competing for the postseason every year. Certainly that's the goal and the hope of everyone in the administration and our fans and supporters throughout the State of Oregon.
'With that I'll close by saying 'Go Beavs!''
(You talked about having goals and being objective - what are your immediate goals, considering Oregon State hasn't had much success in the past decade?) 'My immediate goals are to recognize that we have to set a framework for what we have to do every day to get where we want to go. To just sit there and say 'We want to be there' with just a wish list is not going to work. There is no other option for us than to do our job. It's my job as the head coach to let my players know, and the people on my staff and the other people directly related to our program know 'This is your job, do your job.' We'll live with the outcomes. That's how we're going to build, we're going to will ourselves to doing this. Collectively, with the energy level the guys have and the unity they have, we'll build a will that will allow us to overcome things and push through any barriers, and we will build this thing.'
(OSU's last Pac-10 championship was 1990. Where do you see this team in five years? Do you see another banner, or is that too specific to ask?) 'I think that's pretty specific to ask. But once again, I have great confidence in our players, I have great confidence in my leadership and staff. We're not going to be in awe of anybody in this league. We're going to recruit to win, then we're going to go compete. To sit there and say, 'We're going to have the banner-hanging ceremony in 2005' - I don't know that. But I know what we're going to do every day, and I know it's going to work because the fundamental things always work. If you have good people in your program, they'll find a way to be successful. If you have good people on your coaching staff, they'll find a way to be successful. That's what we're going to do every day, 24/7. Whenever it happens, it happens, but we're going to get this thing going in a direction we're all going to have fun with.'
(You spent a few years in Eugene. What did you take from that job that will help you?) 'If you go back through my resume, we've gone coast-to-coast a couple times. In terms of being here and living in Eugene a couple times, it gives me a broad base - it improves my visibility. I've got relationships in the Northwest, is what I'm getting to. I'm familiar with the area, the area coaches, the AAU coaches and high school coaches, and guys of that nature are familiar with me. Being involved with the Pac-10 for six years now in my coaching career, it gives me a familiarity with the area. I know what the programs are doing from a game-preparation standpoint, I know what we need to be able to do to win. From that standpoint, it's a smooth transition for us.'
(You saw this OSU team last year score 55 points in the first half against Arizona in Tucson. What type of tempo or style of play, when you look at the roster you're inheriting, do you favor?) 'I've been a part of programs that have played extremely fast and tried to score in the 80s. There are certain principles in coaching you try adhere to, and my feeling is you try to play as fast as your talent will allow you to play. It's exciting for the fans, it's fun for the fans, it's fun to coach, it's fun to come to practice and do those things all the time. That's what we do. To sit there and say what the timetable is to lead the nation in scoring, I can't do that.
'But we have skilled guys on our team. I believe in multiple-possession games, if you have skilled guys on your team that can score, let's let them use their skills. Let's find the right framework to use our skills. When they have the best shot you can get, then let's take it. We understand our teammates and part of what we'll do is get our relationships and our unity and those things with our teammates together, and they'll be able to recognize when their teammate is shooting and we'll go get the rebound. But I believe in a multiple-possession game, and if you've got people who can score let's give them opportunities to do what they can do. Let's play the game where we take it to the opponent, we're the aggressor, we attack with such great energy we have them on their heels, and they have to counter us and we're already up on the deal. That's my feeling - we'll be the aggressor and go at it with our enthusiasm and intensity and all those things. That's part of what I'm saying - we'll not concede anything to anybody, and we're not in awe of anybody, and that's how I plan to play.'
(Why are you prepared for the head coaching job now better than you were two years ago?) 'I go back to fundamentals. I go back to the basics. I went through that experience and I learned a lot from it. What I gained from that experience was a real good professional friend, and that friendship has grown to be more than a professional friend, and that's Mitch Barnhart. We stayed in touch over the years and he helped me. I said, 'Give me some feedback on my interview the first time' and he did. That was good for me, and at the same time we kept working at Arizona and I kept working to become a better coach. I kept working to do things, and we accomplished those things. Those are wonderful things in my past, and now I'm a Beaver. I'm excited to do that, and I have a good vision of where this program needs to go and how we need to do it, and from that standpoint I've just got more experience.'
(You've been described as a 'player's coach,' and last year the player-coach relationship broke down in a couple of instances at Oregon State. Can you speak to that?) 'With regard to how anybody wants to describe how I am, I'm a fair guy with incredible integrity and my vision is to have our student-athletes have the best student-athlete experience they can have. None of us ever gained anything that was worthwhile without going through some adversity. If you communicate with kids, you have to have a relationship off the floor as well as on the floor. We have players in this program that want to excel, they want to achieve, they want to be part of something. They want to represent those guys in the banners, they want to be part of that. They want to be thought of, when they leave here, as their little niche of the legacy. Regarding those relationships, we work at those. Once again, I say, 'Do your job.' The kids will have no problem knowing when Coach John is having a good time and when we're all in this together having fun, and when it's time to work. That's my job, to establish those boundaries. We have good people, they'll find a way to be successful. We have good people, and we'll be able to do that because these guys will realize that myself and the coaching staff, we're in it together. I'm there to serve them, I'm there to help them achieve their goals, I'm there to help them have the best student-athlete experience they can have.'
(To Mitch Barnhart, what sort of feedback did you give Jay John? And to Jay John, did you get frustrated watching younger men get their chance at head coaching jobs ahead of you?) Mitch Barnhart: 'We just kept in touch. We watched him grow as a coach. I had a chance to watch him up close and personal on the sidelines many times over the past two years. We stayed in touch just in hallways and locker rooms, I watched him at the conference tournament this year and watched his interactions with his coaches and players, and how active and involved he was. Then you go head-to-head with him in recruiting circles and you begin to realize how many contacts this person has up and down the coast and how he's thought of. Then people in the media from different markets, when you get into a search like this and his name pops out, you find out again how highly thought of he is and how hard he works at his craft. I think sometimes with the people who put the glitz and the glamour out there we lose track of the people who have great work ethic and have given unbelievable effort to get where they are. That's what this guy has done. He's given and worked and rolled up his sleeves, not afraid of those things, and made a name for himself in a variety of assistant coaching circles waiting for his opportunity to give it a run. Not only is he deserving of it, but he's very capable of it. People closest to him, the mentors he's had in this business, have certainly given him an endorsement in conversations over the last week allow him to have that expertise and sit in front of you today.'
Jay John: 'Part B. To be concerned with whether someone got their chance before me would be contradictory to how I've tried to live my life and grow professionally, which is, I've got to take care of what I can do. I can't keep score because something else goes on, that's not the way to get anything done. That's out there on the wish list thing rather than taking care of what I can control. I don't keep score on that. I'm just honored to have the chance to be here, and that the administration believed in my ability to run this program. That's all I care about, and now all I care about is my guys, my players, my managers, and everybody else that's involved in my program to make this the best thing we can make it.'
(You have a reputation for working with big men. How did that come about?) 'I've been in college coaching for 19 years, and you pretty much learn to do everything. I was this tall when I was 12, so I went from being center and the grade school giant to ending up a shooting guard, all in the same body and watching guys pass me. I learned to play the game at all different positions. The advice I got from a lot of coaches when I got started was, 'Learn how to teach the game.' That's what I've done over the years. At other places I've coached the big guys, at others I've coached the perimeters. At Arizona, my job was to coach the big guys, and that's what I did. It's fundamentals, and I think the combination of big guys in this program is as good as there is in the Pac-10. I truly believe that. I'm looking forward to working with those guys, as well as all of them, because meeting the guys a short time ago - you look at the eye contact, you look at the nods - you know these guys want to win, you know they want to compete, you know they want to get better. You know they want to win. I told them, there's no option. We will do this. We will win. We will change the way we think and think like winners in all we do.'
(What area will you have to grow personally and professionally to be a successful head coach?) 'I think some situations will emerge in which I say, 'We need to do that differently next time.' But it's about personnel, it's not about calling a timeout with a minute to go. It's about your personnel, it's about the people in your program, it's about the things you do day to day to be successful. That's administration of the program, as well as when you're on the floor. The secret to this isn't Xs and Os - you need to know that, and I've been trained with and worked with guys who are Hall-of-Fame people, so I have confidence in that - but what I can't coach in a game is if a young man misses a couple of shots he knows he should have made, and he hangs his head, and as he hangs his head he's got four other guys running back down court and now we don't have our defense set. That's a personnel thing. We have to compete, and we have to play the game because the game keeps moving. That has nothing to do with me being an assistant coach or a head coach, it has to do with what we do in practice and how we live our lives as a team.'
(Historically, this has been a very difficult building for opponents to come and play ... ) 'Tell me about it.' (In past years, it hasn't been that way consistently. What do you need to do to restore that? Is it just winning?) 'We're Oregon State University, we're located in Corvallis, and we're going to have a legion of alumni and friends of the program that extend well beyond here. These people care about Oregon State basketball. It's more than just me saying 'We'll put a product on the floor, and it will be better' and they'll come. My family and myself and my staff and their families will become involved in the fabric of the community. We're going to play a style of play that will be fun for people to watch. My guys are going to be on the floor, they're going to have floor burns - if they don't have floor burns, I'll look at their knees and say, 'What's going on?' just like I do with my own boys. 'Where are your floor burns? You're not playing hard enough if you don't have floor burns.' It's going to be something where people come and say, 'They gave it their all. They fought like crazy and I like the way they play and I like what they do.' You get good kids into the community and they say, 'I like these guys.' Young kids run into our players in the supermarkets and they go home and say 'I met so-and-so, and he's a nice guy.' All of these things are about the community's team, and this is what we are - we're the community's team. From that standpoint, I think people will appreciate us. We will present good people to the community, we'll play hard, we have talent, we'll play well. It will be a fun thing, and then people will want to come because it will be an event.'
(You know the personnel here. This year at Oregon State, if you had been the head coach, would you have played differently in terms of the style?) 'That's an impossible question for me to answer. I know when we prepared for Oregon State, we had the utmost respect for their ability. The way the games went, that's just the way they went - I can't explain that. Down in Tucson, we all know what happened. It's a whole different deal now. As the head coach, we'll do what we can with the players we have. It's me now, it's our program, and we'll play basketball in a way everybody is happy with.'
(Will you make an effort to get Jimmie Haywood back in the program?) 'At the present time, we have a roster full of guys who are currently Oregon State Beavers. I met with those guys today, anything that may happen down the road, at this particular time I can't respond to that. I know we need to have players, we have scholarships available, and I want to put together the best team I can for 2002-2003. That's where my focus is right now.'
(Are you free to say who will be on your coaching staff yet?) 'No, I'm not.'
(You mentioned you had some open spots - who are you looking at? Are you looking at using those in the late signing period?) 'Once again, there are people I have in mind. There are phone calls and people I've talked to, I've been doing this recruiting business for a long, long time. I know there are players out there, I know there are people who would be excited about this opportunity and from this day forward, now that I'm officially the head coach at Oregon State University, we'll move toward getting new recruits for the program.'(Have you contacted the recruits who've already signed?) 'At this time, I haven't had contact. Contact has been maintained on a steady basis by Mitch Barnhart. Obviously, those are the things I need to do in terms of this transition. I want to be in touch with each of the recruits and there families, and as time allows to go up and visit with those recruits and their families. At the same time, I want to be able to find time where I can go and meet the parents of our current players so everybody has a chance to have an eye-to-eye relationship begun and I can give to them my thoughts what we're going to do. I do plan to be in touch with everybody.'
(Are you a defense-first or offense-first coach?) 'Bad offense leads to bad defense. If you're going to go on the road, you can't just outscore people to win. You have to have some foundation to your defense so the other team just doesn't come down the floor and think 'We can score on them any time we want.' If you let players believe they can go and score on you any time they want, ultimately, that's what they're going to do. There has to be some accountability for guys getting back on defense and backing up there teammate. We're going to do both, and we're going to play it hard as all get-out. We're going to do both and we're going to go up and down and what I envision in the course of games is that everybody in the stands will have the chance to look at the opposition and say, 'We've got 'em. We've got 'em and they're on their heels because we've just overwhelmed them with the way we play.' Defense, offense - people can describe me any way they want. We're going to play multiple possession, we're going to get up and down the floor, we're going to defend hard and we're going to play hard and people aren't going to want to come up here and play us.'
(You said your players aren't going to be in awe of anybody. Does that begin with the McKale Center?) 'Absolutely. It's important in a game. It's not a seven-game series. You go and the guys in the locker room look at each other - 'I got your back, you got my back, this is what we do, this is how we play' and we play. We don't go there and say this is supposed to happen, or that's supposed to happen. You just play. I have some basic fundamental philosophy things, and the top of that list is humility. Your strengths and weaknesses - play to them. Understand what you are, who you are, what you can do, what you don't do as well, and play to those strengths. I think that's what our team is going to be about, and we'll walk on the floor ready to play.'
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