Jon Teitel's "Coaching Greats" Series: Cal Poly's Jeff Schneider

April 28th, 2011
In the most recent installment in his "Coaching Greats" interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with former Cal Poly head coach Jeff Schneider, who led the Mustangs to a conference title in 1996 and won seventy games over five seasons. Coach Schneider, who is now CEO/President of the Big Shots, sent a son (David) off to William & Mary where he became one of the best players in school history.

Jon Teitel: You were an All-American at Washington Irving HS (where Schneider became the only two-time West Virginia High School Player of the Year ever) but lost to Logan in the 1977 AAA state title game. Do you consider yourself to be one of the best high school players in West Virginia history? 

Jeff Schneider: I was fortunate to be the only two-time winner of the Player of the Year award.  We had a really good run when I was in high school, and we got on the map once we made it to the state finals.  I am very proud of those honors. 

1980 NCAA Tournament (as a player at Virginia Tech)

JT: You scored nine points in a four-point overtime win over Western Kentucky. How were you able to hang on for the win? 

JS: It was an amazing game.  There were not a lot of games on TV back then but we were on TV...and down by 21 at halftime.  It was WKU coach Gene Keady's last game before he went to Purdue.  We came out strong in the second half and tied it up to force overtime.  Dale Solomon did nothing in the first half but ended up with 22 points and 11 rebounds. 

JT: You scored 12 points (6-8 FG), but Isiah Thomas had 17 points and seven assists in a nine-point Indiana win. Could you tell at the time that Thomas was going to become a star? 

JS: He was phenomenal.  Growing up as a coach's son I had run a lot of Coach Bobby Knight's offense and defense.  I got to play against some great players like Ralph Sampson, Larry Bird and Darrell Griffith, but Isiah was the best point guard I ever saw. 

JT: In the summer of 1982 you were drafted in the 5th round by Houston but did not make the roster. Did you consider it to be a success (due to getting drafted) or a failure (due to not making the team)? 

JS: I ran into former All-Star Bob Dandridge a few years ago and he said that I would have a better chance of making an NBA roster today because there are so many more teams now.  I wish the three-point line was in play back then.  I took a lot of deep shots and was a 50% shooter, which not a lot of guards are. 

JT: What are your memories of the 1984 NCAA Tournament as a graduate assistant at VCU under JD Barnett (Rolando Lamb made a jump shot at the buzzer for a one-point win over Northeastern despite 31 points from Reggie Lewis on 15-17 shooting from the field, then Rafael Addison scored 24 points to lead Syracuse to a win in the next round)? 

JS: We had three amazing assistant coaches: Tubby Smith (now at Minnesota), David Hobbs (former Alabama head coach), and Kevin Eastman (now an assistant with the Celtics).  Jim Calhoun coached Northeastern and they led the nation in rebounding despite not having a guy over 6'6" because their starting five all played above the rim.  Northeastern set a record that night by shooting 75% in the loss, as we only shot 69%.  Barnett and Calhoun are both great defensive coaches but neither one could stop the other that night.  Lamb made a turnaround shot to win it, and we all jumped on top of him in a pile.  Pearl Washington just dominated the Syracuse game. 

1994 NCAA Tournament (as an assistant for Tubby Smith at Tulsa)

JT: Gary Collier scored 34 points (12-13 FT) in a ten-point win over UCLA that saw your team take a 29-point lead in the first half. How on earth were you able to dominate a team that would win it all the following season? 

JS: I think that game had a lot to do with UCLA becoming champs the following year, as it was a real embarrassment to them.  My dad did not watch the game. Once he saw the score he assumed that the Bruins were just blowing us out!  We were terrific offensively. This was before people knew who Tubby was.  Collier was a 6'3" power forward, so even after the game UCLA coach Jim Harrick still probably would not have recruited him! 

JT: Lou Dawkins made a three pointer with six seconds left to clinch a two-point win over Oklahoma State in Oklahoma City. Was your team out for revenge after losing to the Cowboys by double-digits earlier that season? 

JS: It was a big rivalry.  They were crushing us at halftime, as "Big Country" (Bryant Reeves) already had a double-double.  I asked Tubby how our own kids would guard us, and he said that they would double-team us, so we did just that.  We left Scott Sutton wide open and double-teamed Big Country, who scored only two points in the second half. 

JT: Eventual tournament MOP Corliss Williamson scored 21 point in a win by eventual champion Arkansas. Did you get the sense that the Razorbacks were going to win it all, and what was the reaction like when you got back to campus? 

JS: We had played them earlier in the year without Shea Seals and they only beat us by two points in overtime.  They played a 2-3 zone defense and just dominated us by forcing us way out of the paint.  We had to get there really early because President Clinton was attending the game! 

JT: In 1996 you won a conference title in your very first season at Cal Poly. How were you able to come in and be so successful so quickly? 

JS: When I got there we had only sold about 12 season tickets, but we just got on a roll and it became fun to attend the games.  We went from 100 people at our home games to 3,000 people almost overnight.  We played Tubby's system of just pressing on defense and running on offense.  The effort our team put in was amazing.  Hall of Famer Jerry Lucas came to every one of our games and said we were the hardest-working team he had ever seen. We would just jump on people. 

JT: Your teams at Cal Poly were consistently among the best in the nation in scoring and three-point shooting. What is the secret to three-point shooting, and do you believe that a good offense beats a good defense? 

JS: Some of it is that I recruited players who played like me and were good shooters.  If I did it over again, I would probably play more zone defense and use a Princeton offense with a lot of back cuts...but I would still shoot the three.  If you look at the school record book, that is when all of the records were broken. 

JT: You had a 100% graduation rate at Cal Poly for guys who played four years. How important were academics to you? 

JS: It is a top-level academic school so we valued that and took pride in having everyone graduate.  I am sure that guys went on to be successful, even if they did not like all the study hours that we made them put in! 

JT: Your son David played basketball at Brophy College Prep in Phoenix and was later named CAA Men's Basketball Scholar Athlete of the Year at William & Mary, and is currently playing professionally in England. How proud are you of all his success, and how do you think he is going to do as a pro? 

JS: David was a low SAT guy but developed a tremendous work ethic.  He was probably the highest scorer that Brophy had at the time, then scored 1,500+ points at William & Mary.  He played as hard as anyone could play, and could score 14 points per game no matter where he played.  Unlike a lot of players who know all their opponents David did not know a lot of the guys he played against, but statistically he was as good or better as a lot of them.  He is averaging double figures in England and just goes out and plays for a team that wins a lot of games.  David probably learned from those Tulsa and Poly teams because they played so hard themselves. 

JT: You currently serve as CEO/President of Big Shots, where your Skills Academy teaches fundamental skills and techniques for players of all ages and hosts nationwide tournaments. What makes your academy different from other academies, and how important is it for players to participate in tournaments where they can get exposure to coaches? 

JS: I used to do more training but my main focus now is on tournaments.  I cannot think of anyone else who has been a player/assistant coach/head coach, has a recruiting service, and runs his own events. My entire career has prepared me to do this.  The NCAA is talking about getting rid of July events but that is crazy because July is the cleanest time of the year. There are 200 coaches and the NCAA at each event!  As a college coach if you go to an event with 500 teams and 5,000 players, there are probably at least 30 guys who are good enough to play at a school like North Carolina.  You can see them all over the course of two days, whereas it would take about two years to go around the country and see them all on your own.  I think my own kids got college scholarships due to the exposure they got from playing in summer tournaments.  The recruiting advantage is TV. For example, the reason the SEC has won five straight NCAA football titles is because they split billions of dollars from their contract with CBS.  LSU is not getting top recruits because they are attending Les Miles' football camp! 
Coach Schneider is also on Jon's list of best coaches in Big West history.

Cal Poly: Jeff Schneider (1995-2001) 70-84, 1 conference title
Cal-State Fullerton: Bob Burton (2003-present) 134-112, 1 NCAA tourney, 1 conference title
Cal-State Northridge: Bobby Braswell (1996-present) 219-199, 2 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles, 3-time conference COY
UC Riverside: John Masi (1979-2005) 462-269, 6-time conference COY
UC Davis: Bob Williams (1990-1998) 158-76, 4 conference titles, 1 D-2 title, 1-time national COY
Long Beach State: Jerry Tarkanian (1968-1973) 122-20, 4 NCAA tourneys, 4 conference titles
Pacific: Bob Thomason (1988-present) 381-277, 4 NCAA tourneys, 5 conference titles, 5-time conference COY
UC Irvine: Pat Douglass (1997-2010) 197-191, 2 conference titles, 1-time conference COY
UCSB: Bob Williams (1998-present) 217-170, 3 NCAA tourneys, 5 conference titles, 3-time conference COY