Recently, Miami University staff writer Peter Marx sat down with new men's basketball head coach John Cooper to talk about the upcoming 2012-13 season.
Cooper comes to Oxford after serving as Tennessee State University's head coach for three seasons. He led the Tigers to their first winning mark in more than 15 years (20-13 overall) and just missed out on making the NCAA Tournament, losing to Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament final.
Cooper also has experience as a associate head coach and assistant at Auburn, Oregon, South Carolina and Fayetteville State. He takes over for long-time Miami head coach Charlie Coles, who retired after last season.
Q: You were able to turn around a Tennessee State program that had been struggling for a long time. You inherit a Miami program that is coming off a down year. What are your keys to success for the program?
JC: First, it starts with people. You need good people. Besides that, when I say good people, from the staff to the kids you are recruiting, there has to be a vision and there has to be a plan.
Anytime you come into a situation that, per se, hasn't been maybe been as successful in the past few years, you have to make sure you take the vision and the plan and make sure everyone understands that. It starts at the foundation.
What you try to do is make sure the culture is right. If you go back to Tennessee State, probably the most important thing that we did - Tennessee State obviously hadn't had the success through the years that we've had here at Miami - but the most important thing was establishing the culture. At the end of my first year, that was the one thing we wanted to be able to say was that was we had established the culture as to how we would go about our business and how we would go forward, and I think that point came in my first year in January.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish at Miami this season? And where do you see the team fours years from now?
JC: When you talk about goals, certainly we have team goals. We want to win the MAC. We want to win the MAC tournament. We want to play in the NCAA Tournament. So, those are goals, which always stay there and are the things that we are striving to do on a year-in, year-out basis. So, when you come into this situation, a new situation, first let's establish the culture and then also to make sure at the end of this year that we look back and say that our program is in a better place and that we are going uphill and not downhill, meaning that we are continuing to get better and building. Does that mean we are going to win 25 games? I don't know. But does that mean at the end of the year when I take a look at this group and what they were able to accomplish, I want to make sure we are maximized in where we are. I will only be able to see that at the end of the year, but make no mistake about it; the goal is to win championships.
You look, four, five years down the road, I would hope that we have gotten to the point where people won't say we have a good team, but they'll say we have a good program, meaning that - I always say this - teams can have a good year, good programs are always competitive even when you lose five or six seniors.
Q: You run a much different style of play (more up-tempo). How do you think this year's players fit into that style of play?
JC: I really believe this, when you give kids direction and guidance they are really flexible in what they can do. That's part of youth. They just don't know any better in many ways. I think it's when you get a little bit older that you get more ridged in your ways. I think we certainly have the pieces to play the style we want to play. Now, the question becomes: how soon can this group adjust to that? We just have to work to change the habits and change the thought process. Hopefully our team will take that on and enjoy the change.
It is a faster pace now, but there is a price to be paid to play faster. You have to be in shape, you have to be committed and you have to be ready to share some minutes because you have to have some depth if you want to play that way.
Q: You've spent only a limited amount of time with the team so far, but what are some of the biggest positives you've noticed?
JC: We have a good group of kids first and foremost. I think they've really tried to make the adjustment to our staff. They've really opened themselves up to something different and I really appreciate that.
But one of the things that stands out is that I think you have some versatility in areas and so hopefully we can use that to help us. But if you ask me right now, 'Do you know what your calling card is going to be?' I couldn't tell you right now. That's still going to take some more time, but I do think we have the possibility of having some depth.
Q: You have a lot of guys that were role players in the past. Is there anyone specifically that is going to have to play a larger role this season?
JC: The two leading scorers are gone, so there's not that guy that averaged 14 points last year, who you know that's expected to make that big jump to 17, 18 points. Do I think there are some guys that are capable of doing those things? Absolutely.
I'm not quite sure where we'll get it (scoring), but you look at guys like Quinten Rollins and Jon Harris, who played extended minutes last. So you have those two guys, and you have Will Felder who's coming back. You've also got Bill Edwards and Allen Roberts. You've got some makings there for a good jambalaya, a good mixture of stuff, but you don't know where it is and how those seasonings will blend together.
Q: What is the one thing that excites you about Miami basketball?
JC: The potential. It really does.
The opportunity of mixing academics and athletics at such a high level, I think we have great potential here. It's just a matter of getting the right pieces and the right formula. I don't think it would be something that's out of the box to look down the road, who knows maybe 10 years from now, and look at the program and hopefully have had really great success in that time span. Are there things that we have to do better from an athletic standpoint? Absolutely. Are there things we have to do better as a department? Absolutely. Show me some place that doesn't have to do things better and I'll show you a place that's sliding.
I think the potential is here. I think the brand is there. When you say Miami, people know what you are talking about. People understand what kind of place it is, what kind of school, what kind of degree it offers, the alumni base and the pride they have in the school are all things that are really exciting. If we can tap into that, then I think we have a chance to do something special.
Be sure to get a sneak peak at the 2012-13 RedHawks by reserving a spot for the Third Annual BBQ & Basketball event at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17 at Millett Hall. (Click HERE for details)
Also coming up for women is Basketball 101 presented by Luna Blu Salon and Spa. Get the scoop on hoops with Coach Cooper and his staff at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 24. (Click HERE for details)
And don't miss out on a minute of the action this season! Miami has 13 games in Millett Hall on its regular-season docket, seven of which are weekend games. Buy your tickets today by visiting or calling the Miami Athletics Ticket Office at 513-529-4295 or click HERE.
Miami University Men's Basketball 2012-13 Season Ticket Prices:
Youth Reserved (Under 18): $110
Miami University Faculty and Staff: $150
Senior Citizen/Young Alumni: $165
Adult Reserved: $180
Courtside Seating: $325
*Available with a specified Red & White Club level of giving