Q&A With Coach Kearney
With this being your first head coaching position,
what do you consider the biggest challenges?
“I think that possibly it’s all of the things that I need to be involved in as I run the program, to make sure I take care of all the day-to-day operations, being very involved in recruiting and all the other aspects. But I can never lose sight of the fact that I have to coach this team first, and it is certainly a very talented and experienced team. I can’t lose sight of that. I have a good friend who actually put that saying on his desk in a phrase that just said, ‘coach this team.’ I’ve tried to mix and match all of these different things, but I actually do look forward to starting practice. I can’t just push everything else aside, but that has to be my first priority. To just coach this team.”
What makes Holy Cross a special place for you to be the coach?
“Throughout the entire interviewing process, and even when I first learned that the position might become open, what struck me the most was that I think the two institutions, the one that I left at the University of Notre Dame and Holy Cross, mirrored each other in the combination of high character young men, high academics, and the importance of athletics within the school. I think that’s really what drew me to here was the opportunity to coach these young men in a very competitive situation in a program that, if it isn’t the top program in the Patriot League, it’s probably one of the top two or three.”
How do you describe your coaching style?
“I’ve learned a lot over the years from a number of people, and I think that probably the thing that has struck with me most was how certain coaches handle people. I think Mike Brey is great at communicating with players and I think that’s something that is always going to be very important to me. He would use a phrase that he would want to coach like he would want his son or daughter coached, and I think that’s a heck of a thing to live by. I think I will be very demanding, but I also think that I will be understanding at the same time, and for the most part be a guy who will be in a position to give confidence to the guys on the floor and make sure we’re the most prepared group when we go out there every night.”
Along with Mike Brey, who have been some of the other big influences on you as a coach?
“I think that a gentleman by the name of Bill Foster, who I worked for at Northwestern, was a great influence to me in my earlier years, along with my high school coach, Bud Gardler. Again, I think there’s certainly a lot of different ways to do this, different X’s and O’s and all of that certainly has its level of importance, but I think how you treat players and how you communicate with players is even more important as kids have changed over the years, especially even in the last 10 years or so. It doesn’t mean it’s the only approach, but for me I think it’s the right approach, trying to move together with our group, with our staff and the guys on this roster towards winning a championship.”
Who are some of the players you’ve coached over the years that have left the biggest impressions on you?
“I think I’ve had a number of guys over the years. We had a point guard at the University of Delaware named Brian Pearl who was actually like a missing link to a group that we had there, and he helped that team to two championships and two NCAA tournament appearances. He just had great drive and determination. Another player at Delaware was Mike Pegues, who went on to become their all-time leading scorer. He was an undersized post player, but he had great skill and a quiet determination as well. Several guys over the years at Notre Dame also come to mind. Chris Quinn was a great guard who is now in his fourth season with the Miami Heat. More recently, Luke Harangody was the Big East Player of the Year. Again, he is a little bit of an undersized guy and a little bit of an underdog, but just a hard worker who really just competed so hard. There are also many things I’m impressed with about this group here at Holy Cross, how these kids really compete and play hard. They’re extremely well trained, they play hard and I know they want to win. I think those kinds of guys make programs successful. I’m thrilled to work with these guys, but also look to recruit guys just like them for our future successes as well.”
What type of student athletes are you looking to bring into this program?
“I just touched on it: guys who are like the ones in the program currently. Guys who want to compete in the classroom, and guys who also want to compete on the basketball floor and win championships, to put additional banners next to the ones that already hang in the Hart Center. Guys who feel that they can be very successful at both ends of the court, who are willing to not only put the time into either improving themselves physically or improving themselves as basketball players, but who can also fit in the locker room and understand the common goal of chasing a championship. Guys who sometimes realize that they may have to defer to other players, but can define a place where they will help this group and this team go after championships.”
What are your thoughts on the Patriot League as you head into your first season?
“Over the years I was at Notre Dame, I think we played every program with the exception of the Naval Academy. I was always impressed with the skill level of their players, how hard they played and how determined they were. Even more so than remembering certain individuals of those teams, it always stood out how well those teams were prepared and coached. I realize we’re not just playing against good players in this league, we’re playing against excellent coaches, many of whom I’ve known for 20 or 30 years now and have great respect for. Regardless of where teams are picked in the preseason poll, I know that home or away there will be no easy games, and I look forward to that competition.”
What is your philosophy on scheduling?
“Scheduling certainly is an art, and it’s not the same at two places. I think that you really have to find the right balance of challenging teams with great competition, but also being in a position to gain some confidence along the way. How you schedule early in the season is certainly very important, along with mixing in both home and away contests. That’s really a dance that you do throughout the season as you try to build your own schedule, and there are other factors that come into play, but it’s really important what you do with your schedule. You want to put your team in the position to play in some unique venues, but at the same time you want to have a good balance so that your team is best prepared when the Patriot League regular season rolls around in January.”
What impression do you want to leave on people when they come and watch your team play?
“I think that I would want people to feel that we were very well prepared and very well coached. I also want people to see that the guys on the floor are enjoying themselves while they’re playing. I don’t want guys to be so uptight that they can’t make a play or can’t make a shot. They should be excited when we make a good play. If someone takes a charge, we will have guys going over to pick them up. There will be a great camaraderie on the floor and within our group, where these guys love playing together. They should love playing the game and have a lot of fun playing it. That’s what I would hope people would leave the arena thinking.”