UW-UNLV Q&A

Matt Youmans covers UNLV men’s basketball for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and he answered five questions I had for him on Saturday’s game wt Wyoming.

Is the return of Heath Schroyer to Laramie a big deal down there with him or the team, or is it more for us in the media to bring up? Has Schroyer talked much about coming back? It’s not a big deal. Of the three assistants hired by Dave Rice, Schroyer was sort of the afterthought to most UNLV fans. Justin Hutson brought the reputation as an excellent recruiter and defensive coach from San Diego State. Stacey Augmon obviously is one of the Rebels’ five all-time greatest players, and he has the experience as an NBA assistant coach. Schroyer’s teams at Wyoming never really earned the respect of UNLV fans. But Jerry Tarkanian praised the hire of Schroyer from the start, and I will say Schroyer has been a very good addition to the staff. He’s a high-energy guy who gets involved in practices and on the sideline in games. Schroyer has not talked much about the Cowboys, but he did say recently he’s not that surprised by their success because he recruited several of those players and felt he was always short-handed there because of injuries. The Rebels’ coaches will downplay the Schroyer theme heading into this game. But if they win, you can bet on some players saying something like, “We really wanted to win this one for Coach Schroyer.”
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UW-New Mexico Q&A swap I

As I did during football season, I hope to do question-and-answer swaps with beat writers that cover Mountain West men’s basketball. Since Wyoming opens leauge play with New Mexico Saturday, I got with Mark Smith of the Albuquerque Journal and we both exchanged five questions and answers.

The following are my questions for Mark, who by the way is one of the best in the business, and his answers. See Friday’s blog for my answers to his questions.

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Schroyer to UNLV; football tix going fast

It didn’t take long for former Wyoming men’s basketball coach Heath Schroyer to land on his feet.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Tuesday that Schroyer has been hired at UNLV by new coach Dave Rice, and an annoucement will be made Wednesday. Both have known each other for a long time in the business, but have never worked together. Schroyer and Rice are close with BYU coach Dave Rose.

Any thoughts on this? I personally didn’t see Schroyer landing a job this fast in the MWC. Should make UNLV’s trip to UW next season more interesting.

Speaking of Schroyer, here is a story on ESPN’s Andy Katz on how process went in his firing and how Larry Shyatt is getting a second chance to coach the Cowboys.

http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/blog/_/name/katz_andy/id/6430776/larry-shyatt-gets-second-shot-wyoming

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Kevin Duffy of the blog “Duffy Hoops”Duffy reported on his blog Tuesday that prep prospect Kelvin Amayo out of New Jersey did not visit UW Tuesday as other Internet websites reported earlier in the week. Duffy said Amayo may or may not visit UW at some point.

No news on any player signings today from UW. Still waiting on paper work for post Leken Ajayi, and waiting on decisions on others. Still a couple of weeks left in this spring signing period.

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The latest count on season tickets sold for UW football is 7,862 as of Tuesday morning. It was at 6,500 less than a week ago. The 7,862 is 3,000 ahead of last year’s pace, and 1,120 more than two years ago when Texas played in Laramie.

Obviously, the Sept. 24 home game with Nebraska is driving much of this, but it looks like UW will have no problem reaching its goal of 10,000 season tickets.

By the way, the record for most season tickets sold in a season is 8,336.

A quick note on single-game ticket sales for the Nebraska game: ticket request forms will be sent May 2 to the Cowboy Joe Club’s Golden Spur and Silver Spur levels. CJC members in its top three levels — Simpson, Scholarship and Coaches — have already received their request forms.

English expects defensive improvement

Wyoming’s first season with a 4-3 defense was challenging to say the least.

UW allowed 30.3 points, 205.8 rushing yards and 351.8 total yards per game.

Eight starters return, including virtually everyone in the two-deep along the defensive line and linebacker. Three new starters need to be found in the secondary.

With a year of the 4-3 under the players’ belts, defensive coordinator Marty English’s top goal for the defense is simple, yet complex.

“Last spring was changing the defense and getting used to it. Now we want to start perfecting it, advancing it and growing with it,” he said. … “It’s not a new defense anymore.”

English said getting players to realize why mistakes were made and how to correct them will be emphasized this spring. So will having some players learn multiple positions.

For instance, a player like sophomore outside linebacker Devyn Harris may also learn to play in the middle in nickel situations so UW can utilize his athleticism in passing situations.

Look for senior Tashaun Gipson to see time at both cornerback and safety this season depending on the opponent and situation. He did that some late last season.

“It’s a challenge I’m willing to accept,” he said. “I feel like I’m a versatile player I feel like I can line up anywhere on the football field and make things happen.”

English said junior defensive tackle Kurt Taufa’asau is a player that “has got to show up and step forward.” Taufa’asau redshirted last season after transfering from New Mexico Military Institute.

English would like to find out where freshman Mark Nzeocha of Germany fits best, at safety or linebacker. At 6-3, 220 that should be fun to watch.

Linebacker Korey Jones and safety Luke Anderson — both junior-college transfers — can go a long way to securing starting jobs with a good spring. So could redshirt freshmen Darren White and junior James Caraway at cornerback.

And, English said UW will look at more ways to bring pressure other than with the front four. UW had 20 quarterback sacks in 12 games last season.

“In each situation we’ve got to figure out how to get our best 11 athletes out there to help us make it work,” English said.

I will have top five points of emphasis for UW football this spring in Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com. Would love to hear yours.

Also see my column in Thursday’s papers on the next big challenge for UW interim men’s basketball coach Fred Langley. It could be more daunting than when he took over last month for Heath Schroyer.

Coaching search update; Langley quotes

I received a “no comment” from Kansas assistant coach Joe Dooley when I asked him for an interview threw an e-mail. Former Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt declined my interview request this morning.

Not surprising.

Many of you many have seen this already, but here is a good read from my colleague Ed Graney a great columnist at the Las Vegas Review-Journal on potential UW coaching candidate Dave Rice. http://tinyurl.com/4cpcaeb

One person on Twitter asked me if UW fans could stand having a BYU assistant as its next coach. Rice has been at BYU for five years with current cach Dave Rose. Some of you have already commented on this, but I would love to hear more.

Here is the bio of another name that has surfaced as a candidate: North Texas coach Johnny Jones: http://www.meangreensports.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=9107&SPID=564&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=1800&ATCLID=67779&Q_SEASON=2010

Thoughts?

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UW interim coach Fred Langley held a teleconference with the media Thursday morning, about 15 hours after it lost 68-57 at New Mexico.

On a letdown coming off the New Mexico game

“You’re always a little concerned that you might backslide, but we’re not going to have that. The expectations are really, really high for this group. We’re going to keep moving forward to represent the University of Wyoming and the fans the best we can.

“I think we need to raise our expectations. I think we need to raise the bar. I think coming (off the New Mexico game) it’s a natural that guys  going into practice are going to be a little banged up and want a little time off. As a coaching staff we’re going to raise the expectations higher.

“I want today to be a great day, and today is going to be a great day one way or antoher or we won’t have a day.”

On  UW’s improved defensive play the last three games

“Early on we played a lot of match-up zone because our basketball IQ wasn’t high enough to understand some of the rotations we needed to do.

“Our basketball IQ risen the last month. We’ve raised the bar and getting into people. We’re not letting the officials dictate the game. We’re going play how we play. If that means  we’re fouling, then we’re fouling. We’re going to try and do what we do to take them out of their stuff.”

Langley said one player who has really improved his defense is junior guard Francisco Cruz.

What’s changed for you the most since the firing of Heath Schroyer Monday?

“I’m a huge film guy and that hasn’t changed. The only thing that’s changed is this right here (talking to the media).”

Langley also pulled out a surprise at New Mexico to help his players deal with a tough crowd and the obvious adversity that’s hit the team. See Friday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on that.

Langley talks

Just talked to Wyoming interim men’s basketball coach Fred Langley. He and the Cowboys arrived in Albuquerque a couple of hours ago for Wednesday’s game at New Mexico.

The first question I asked him was how he and the team’s mood was after head coach Heath Schroyer was fired Monday.

“The toughest thing for everybody is we know how great of person Heath is and how much he cares and still cares about this team and this staff,” Langley said. “The feeling is mutual. That’s what makes it tougher on everybody.”

Langley said the team was told Monday afternoon, and both Schroyer and athletic director Tom Burman talked to the players. After about a two-hour break, the team met again Monday night and then practiced for about 1 hour, 15 minutes.

“That’s what you do when you have adversity, you get knocked down and you get right back up,” Langley said. “If this is the worst thing that happens to these players in their lives then I think it will probably be a good thing.”

Langley talked more about keeping this team together and focused than specific game plans for New Mexico. He also said there is no new news injury-wise heading into the game.

I also asked Langley if he would be interested in this job full-time. He said he would comment on that at a later time, but not now.

“It’s about the players and this game’s always been about the players,” he said. “You do what you have to do to get their mind set right. I think you cut the stuff we do in half and add some wrinkles so they can focus on playing hard rather than having a specific game plan.

“We’ll have a game plan, but it’s more about us right now and our mind set of how we approach (this game).”

For more from Langley, see Wednesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com

Burman talks about coaching search

Here are some highlights of Wyoming athletics director Tom Burman’s teleconference Tuesday following the firing of men’s basketball coach Heath Schroyer on Monday.

Burman said prior to the season Schroyer asked for a performance evaluation at the midway point of the conference season. Last Saturday’s 59-56 loss at home to Colorado State marked the first game of the second half of league play. UW is currently 8-15 overall, 1-8 in the Mountain West and has lost six straight.

“It just became clear that changes were imminent and I was concrend about the negatively surrounding the program,” Burman said. “The distractions that were occuring for coaches and kids. I just felt like rather than walking around in egg shells for the next month, if this thing was going to happen we might as well deal with it right now.”

After a 69-62 home loss to No. 7 BYU last Wednesday, Schroyer mentioned a couple of times about the negativity surrounding the program. Maybe that was based on his talk with Burman about the program, and a precursor of things to come? The BYU game marked the end of the first half of the conference season. Here is the blog post I had after with Schroyer’s comments after the game: http://wyomingcowboysblog.com/2011/02/02/schroyer-talks-about-negativity/

Burman said he will talk with UW President Tom Buchanan in the next 24 to 36 hours to make sure they are on the same page as far as what they will look for in a new coach. Burman also said UW will hire a search firm to do much of leg work in screening potential candidates, and will also form an small, in-house interview committee.

Here’s what Burman had to say on a few other items:

On what kind of candidates UW will look at:

“We want to take a hard look at seated Division I head coaches and highly successful assistant coaches at high-level programs. We want to look at coaches who are not coaching today. I’m a believer that there are situations where a coach may have been let go by another school and two or three years later he’s prepared to be a head coach today. We don’t want to exclude everybody. But I would say that would be a priority focus.”

A source told me this morning that former Laramie County Community College men’s basketball coach Rodell Davis, who is currently an assistant at Providence, is interested in the job, or even to be on the new coaching staff.

On the financial package for the new coach:

“We’re going to be significantly more aggressive financially than we were with coach Schroyer. We’re in a much better financial position today than we were four years ago. When you look at the top half of this league, you’ve got a few coaches making above and or near $1 million. That isn’t going to happen at the University of Wyoming.”

Schroyer made between $350,000-$400,000 in his total compensation package annually.

Will interim coach Fred Langley will be a candidate?

“I haven’t talked to Fred about whether he’s going to apply for the position. The situation is this, anyone can be a candidate for the job. If he chooses to apply for the job, it’s his choice. Right now Fred is 100 percent focused on those young men and trying to get them where they can do the best they can over the remainding part of the season.”

Not exactly a glowing endorsement, is it?

On if this hire needs to be a “home run” to re-energize the fan base:

“In the short term the answer might be yes, but we’re not going to allow ourselves to think short term. That’s where you get yourself in trouble. We’ve got to prodcuce a good product that people are excited to see and they’ll come back. We’re not hiring to make a press conference.”

On whether a coach will be named before the end of the season:

“It would be highly, highly unlikely.”

For more on this, see Wednesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com

Thoughts on Schroyer being fired

Can’t say it was surprising to hear Wyoming fired Heath Schroyer.

But the timing was surprising as UW pulled the plug on Schroyer late Monday afternoon.

Athletics director Tom Burman told me last season at about this time, and as recently as a couple of weeks ago he would wait until the end of the season to make a decision on Schroyer, or at very least evaluate where things stand.

It’s safe to say that Schroyer would have been fired at season’s end if the team continued its losing ways. UW is 8-15 overall, 1-8 in the Mountain West and has lost six straight. Even if UW won out I don’t know if that would have saved Schroyer’s job.

But something happended recently to change Burman’s mind to let Schroyer go now. What that was remains a mystery. Maybe he will tell us during a teleconference Tuesday at 11 a.m.

What do you all think of the timing of this firing? I know many of you have expressed that you wanted it done sooner than later? Now that it’s done, what do you think?

I tried to get a hold of numerous players tonight, but all I got was voice mail. Will be interesting to see how they react here on out.

I liked Schroyer and liked what he tried to do. His best years were supposed to come with strong sophomore and junior classes. Injuries derailed some of those goals, and perhaps poor judgement and decisions as well by Schroyer and even Burman when he extended Schroyer two years back to a five-year contract after a 19-14 record in the 2008-09 season.

Burman has fired three coaches with three years left on contracts — Schroyer, former men’s hoops coach Steve McClain and football coach Joe Glenn. Not a good precedent to set, but in Schroyer’s case Burman hired him.

Fred Langley will coach the team the rest of the season. He’s been Schroyer’s top assistant since both arrived in March of 2007. How do you think he will do? Do you think he can get this team to play any better?

Funny thing is, despite home losses to No. 7 BYU and Colorado State last week by a combined 10 points, UW played some of its best basketball in those games — at least defensively. The after-the-game handshake between Schroyer and CSU coach Tim Miles was longer than normal with some dialogue, and Miles came out and defended Schroyer to the media saying Schroyer needed more time with all the injuries he’s had to endure.

Perhaps the CSU game was the do-or-die game — beat your rival at home and live to see another day, or lose and hit the road.

But if that was the case, then why would Schroyer be on the Monday MWC coaches teleconference like normal? Schroyer was on the call and it was business as usual. There was no hint in his voice that something like this was going down.

Several names have been thrown around as possible replacements for Schroyer. See Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for some names I believe UW should and will look at, and for more analysis on this firing.

MWC coaches back Fisher for national award

One of the more interesting questions and answers on Monday’s Mountain West Conference men’s basketball coaches teleconference was if fellow MWC coaches thought San Diego State coach Steve Fisher deserves to be considered for national coach of the year. Fisher’s Aztecs are 22-1 overall, 8-1 in the MWC and sixth this week in The Associated Press top 25.

All of the coaches asked supported Fisher, which is what you would expect. Here’s what Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer said:

“No. 1 he’s a special human being. He’s a great guy. The thing that coach Fisher did and was given was a lot of time. His first three or four years they really struggled. The last five years they’ve been really good. He’s got them rolling and they’re going to be rolling for a while.”

“He’s got my coach of the year vote, for sure.”

Interesting comment about given a lot of time.

Fisher is in his 12th season at SDSU, which is the entire life of the MWC. In his first six seasons, the Aztecs went to one NCAA Tournament, one NIT and finished .500 or below four times. In Fisher’s last six years (and his sixth has yet to be completed) he’s won no fewer than 22 games. The Aztecs have been to two NCAA Tournaments and three NITsin the last five years, and will make it to their third NCAA Tournament in six years.

Schroyer is in his fourthyear, has finished above.500 once, has never finished above .500 in leauge play and has been to one post-season tournament — the CBI. Was this an indirect way of saying he needs more time at UW to get things going in the right direction?

Another interesting item about Fisher: He’s never won a conference coach of the year award. Even when he was at Michigan in the 1990s when he led the Wolverines to back-to-back NCAA Tournament championship game appearances.

‘That has to be the biggest travesty I’ve ever heard in my life,” Colorado State coach Tim Miles said.

See Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more from Monday’s teleconference, and for a preview of Tuesday’s Wyoming-New Mexico women’s basketball game in Laramie.

One fan wants Bailey as next hoops coach

Got an interesting e-mail from a Wyoming fan named Mike Welper this morning. His top candidate for a new men’s basketball coach for the Cowboys is former UW great Marcus Bailey. He even started a Facebook page on this that is garnering a lot of supprt and attention.

He sent letter-to-the-editor style of attachment with his e-mail. Here is what it said:

Cowboy Fans,

Many people consider me to be the biggest and most optimistic Wyoming fan there is. Therefore, I believe it is time for the University of Wyoming and Heath Schroyer to part ways. The wins are few and far between, we are setting the wrong kind of records, and attendance at home games is terrible.

Therefore, the question arises, who should be the next coach? If all the information that I am hearing is correct, we have some limitations in who we can hire. 1) We don’t have the funds to go after a big name coach. 2) If we try hiring an assistant coach from somewhere, fans will not buy into the program right away. And what is to say that the new coach will have the same results like Schroyer 3) The program needs to make an instant splash so it can bring fans to the games and start generating excitement back to the program throughout the state.

If fans can think of one name that stands out in Cowboy Basketball history over the last ten years, what would that name be? MARCUS BAILEY!!! I see Marcus Bailey as a low risk, high reward coaching candidate. He doesn’t have any experience but he has played for UW and understands the program. He fits a lot of the qualifications that we need 1) Without any experience, he wouldn’t require a huge sum of money, 2) Marcus Bailey would bring excitement back to the program and fans would come out to support him because he is a Wyomingite and fans would like to see him succeed. 3) If he is successful, chances are very good that he’ll stay here instead of looking for a job at a bigger school.4) He understands the pride and history of Cowboy basketball and will work to restore it. 5) If Marcus Bailey doesn’t fair well after a few years, then let him go.What do we have to lose?!

Steve Alford wasn’t an assistant anywhere before he became head coach and look at how successful he has been. What do you think?

Well, what do you think?

Marcus’ brother Jeff sent me an e-mail today saying there seems to be a lot of support for this. Bailey is in Laramie taking some classes at UW and getting ready to apply for medical school. Bailey has never been a college or high school coach, but he sure could play the game. Personally, I would love to see Bailey back with the program in some capacity. As the head coach (assuming a change will be made) is a stretch.

But Jeff told me if UW showed serious interest, Marcus would certainly listen.