Jon Teitel's "Big Dance" Interviews: LIU head coach Jim Ferry
Jon Teitel: As coach at Adelphi in 2001 you started the season 31-0 despite having only 5.5 scholarships before losing to Tampa in the Division II NCAA Tournament. How does that season compare to this season so far, and what was the reaction like when you got back to campus?
Jim Ferry: I think it is a pretty similar story. We had a phenomenal group of kids at Adelphi. A lot of them were at our championship game this week, which was very special. I use the Adelphi experience to tell my current group of players that we have a chance to do something special. I have a "one game at a time" mentality and both groups really bought in. To see the whole student body storm the court the other night was really special. I probably celebrated more in 2001 because I was younger. In 2011 I just step back and watch everyone else celebrate. Winning a title and building bonds among your teammates is nothing you will ever forget. After we got back to the Adelphi campus we were treated like heroes, and the excitement now on the LIU campus is amazing.
JT: Earlier this month you were named NEC Coach of the Year. What did it mean to you to win such an outstanding honor?
JF: It is great, but I am not a big awards guy because there is so much work from the entire staff that goes into it. The administration has given us time to develop the program, and the players have also been great.
JT: Conference tournament MVP Jamal Olasewere scored a career-high 31 points in your team's three-point overtime win over Robert Morris in the title game. How was Olasewere to play his best when it mattered the most, and what was the feeling like in your locker room afterwards?
JF: Jamal is a warrior, sometimes to a fault (as he had two big turnovers down the stretch), but he came right back into the huddle to apologize and then helped us win in overtime. He made jump shots, got offensive rebounds, etc. He was just a monster. The locker room was ecstatic, as these guys love each other. It was as fun as I dreamed it could be!
JT: Your other star sophomore Julian Boyd was the 2009 NEC Rookie of the Year, but had to take a medical redshirt last season due to a heart ailment. Were you worried that he would never be able to make it back onto the court, and how much of an inspiration has he been to your team this season?
JF: It is an unbelievable story...but he is an unbelievable kid. He came in and dominated as a freshman, and then had to deal with a life-and-death issue. It really did not look like he would ever play again, so I just planned on moving forward without him. I had personal experience with something like that, as I lost a teammate back in the day who passed away at age 22. Julian called me in July to tell me that he was cleared to play, and we were both excited. Once we got him back we knew that we had a chance to be a great team. To see him have the year he did (first team all-conference) was great. We grew closer last year after bonding around him, and he goes after it every day in practice due to the urgency of knowing he came close to never having that second chance.
JT: Your team has won 13 straight games. Do you feel like your team is playing its best basketball of the season right now?
JF: I am not sure but I know we have been challenged tremendously down the stretch, which has made us better. We have stepped up and handled everything that has been thrown at us, and we have a lot of confidence due to our depth and versatility.