Recently CHN writer spent some time with Arkansas-Little Rock head coach Steve Shields, whose team won four games in four days to win the Sun Belt conference tournament. Where the Trojans get seeded remains to be seen, but the shot-making ability of senior guard Solomon Bozeman and their five seniors are things opponents will need to account for next week.
Jon Teitel: How do you go from being an all-conference golfer for your dad Gene at Baylor 25 years ago to winning a conference tournament title as a basketball coach?
Steven Shields: I actually started out playing basketball at Oklahoma City University before transferring to a community college to play basketball. My dad tried to get me to come to Baylor right out of high school, but I was a little hard-headed and not fanatical about golf. I always knew that I wanted to coach a team sport.
JT: You had to win four games in four days to get into the NCAA Tournament after losing four of five to close the regular season. How was your team able to turn it around and maintain its focus over the past week?
SS: Despite us losing three games to finish the regular season, we played well in the last two of those losses. We knew that our league was wide open due to a lot of parity, and we had a lot of close games this year.
JT: Solomon Bozeman made the game-winning three pointer on Tuesday night with 1.5 seconds left to get your team to the tournament. Did you think the shot was going in, and where does that rank among the most clutch shots you have ever seen?
SS: I think it ranks pretty high. Solomon has shot the ball extremely well in our conference games, including over 50% from the three-point line. We wanted the 1st good shot that we could get, and he made it despite his defender contesting the shot.
JT: What is it like to have an assistant coach (Joe Kleine) who was an Olympic gold medalist and NBA champion?
SS: It is outstanding. Joe is one of my best friends who I have known for a long time, and he is passionate about helping our guys grow as players on the floor and young men off the floor. He brings an incredible work ethic every day. I had some friends question my decision back in the day to hire him, as they thought a 15-year NBA veteran would not put up with the day-to-day grind but I knew he would do just fine.
JT: You obviously got your birthday gift a day early on Tuesday night, but how did you celebrate the big day on Wednesday?
SS: I took a deep breath and enjoyed the whirlwind! I am not a big birthday guy. I was just happy for our five seniors who have worked so hard and for all of our fans.