Jon Teitel's "Coaching Greats" Series: Milwaukee's Rob Jeter

December 23rd, 2011

In the latest installment in his "Coaching Greats" interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with current Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter. In his seventh season at the school, Jeter has led the Panthers to a pair of Horizon League titles and an NCAA Tournament in 2005. The Panthers are currently 9-4 on the season with a 2-0 record in conference play.  

Jon Teitel: Your father Bob is a member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, your uncle Tony played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and your brother Carlton was your basketball teammate at Wisconsin-Platteville. Who is the best athlete in the family, and do you credit at least some of your success to genetics?

Rob Jeter: I am very proud of my family and the success that so many of them have had in sports and life. Family is very important in shaping who you are and pushing you to become successful in life, and I am no different. I give every member of my family credit for making me who I am today.

JT: At Wisconsin-Platteville you went 102-16 in your four seasons playing for Coach Bo Ryan. What was it like to play for Coach Ryan, and what makes him such a great coach?

RJ: There are so many different things that make Coach Ryan successful. You could say it is his work ethic, his preparation, his knowledge of the game, his attention to detail, his relationship with his players, or many other things. He put us in a position to be successful and he demanded excellence and accountability from us. From the first day of practice we worked on the things that we needed to do to become better basketball players and to win games. We continued to do that every day and it paid off in the end.

JT: You were captain of the 1991 team that averaged almost 100 points per game and won the Division III title. What did it mean to you to be named captain, and what did it mean to you to win the title?

RJ: It was an honor to be the team captain. I certainly did my best to be a leader for our team and to help push us to be successful. Winning a national championship is very special and to share it with all of my teammates and coaches made it even better, plus we had such great support from the campus and community. Platteville is a very special place and to win the national title with all of those people behind us was tremendous.

JT: After graduation you played professionally overseas, where you led the Portuguese national league in scoring. What did you learn from the experience, and how did it compare to college basketball?

RJ: Anytime you get to go out on your own into another country you learn a lot of lessons. It was a great experience to see some of the culture, to get to meet new people, and to experience what basketball is like somewhere else. I enjoyed it tremendously.

JT: After retiring you spent four years as an assistant to Coach Ryan at Wisconsin-Platteville, where you won two more Division II titles. How did winning a title as an assistant coach compare to winning a title as a player?

RJ: Every championship is different. As a player you are out there on the court making plays but as a coach you can look back at how players developed and learned lessons over time. I was fortunate enough to be a part of a great tradition of winning at Platteville as both a player and a coach, and all of those memories are extremely special.

JT: What are your memories of your trips to the NCAA Tournament as an assistant coach under Ryan at Wisconsin?

RJ: As a coach you probably do tend to remember every game you are a part of in some way but it is hard to go back and break down every moment of all of those games. I have a lot of tremendous memories of my time at Wisconsin and of the players and fans that really supported the team. We were fortunate enough to enjoy a lot of success and get the chance to play deep into the tournament, but we also worked very hard to be great during the regular season and compete for Big Ten championships. We are all especially proud of finding a way to win the Big Ten title in our first year at Wisconsin. You do think back to some of the great moments: the great road wins at places like Michigan State and all the great home wins in front of the great Badger fans at the Kohl Center. We had a lot of great players come through and they all played a very important role in building what has become an incredible tradition of winning at Wisconsin.

JT: You were hired as head coach at Milwaukee in 2005 and your team won the conference tournament in your very first year. How were you able to come in and have so much success so quickly?

RJ: I was fortunate enough to have a great group of players and coaches to work with in my first year. It was exciting because it wound up being a chance for me to finally coach a lot of guys that I had recruited to Milwaukee when I was an assistant coach. To see players like Adrian Tigert and Chris Hill (players who signed with us the first time around) playing at such a high level on the national stage was very exciting and rewarding. It was a tremendous group of people and players and a great season to be a part of.

JT: In 2009 you won a bronze medal as an assistant under Coach Ryan for Team USA at the World University Games in Serbia. How devastating was the one-point loss to Russia, and which player impressed you the most (Talor Battle, Robbie Hummel, other)?

RJ: The World University Games was a great experience. The talent around the world is very, very good. Probably a lot better than we realize many times. You can learn a lot from watching how those players play the game and the skills they put to good use. Of course we went there to win the gold medal so it was disappointing to get knocked off. However, at the same time I think all of the players and coaches learned a lot and have become better basketball players and people because of the experience, and that is important too.

JT: In 2011 you swept Butler in the regular season, lost to Northwestern in the first round of the NIT, and were named Horizon League Coach of the Year. What do you think your team learned from last season that can help you this season?

RJ: When you look back on things and how we did it, it was a very special season. It was not that we started off badly, but we certainly did not start off great either. Our inability to play consistent basketball early was a big concern. Once we really started to play at a higher level we were able to really put it together and string together some wins. To start that late run by winning at Butler and then finish it off by sweeping a league weekend in OH (something that no one else in the league did) showed that we really solidified some things late in the year and got results.

Jeter is also on Jon's list of best coaches in Horizon League history.

Butler: Tony Hinkle (1926-1970) 558-394, 1 NCAA tourney, 3 conference titles
Cleveland State: Kevin Mackey (1983-1990) 142-69, 1 NCAA tourney, 2 conference titles, 2-time conference COY
Detroit: Bob Calihan (1948-1969) 306-237, 1 NCAA tourney
Green Bay: Dick Bennett (1985-1995) 187-109, 3 NCAA tourneys, 2 conference titles, 2-time conference COY
Illinois-Chicago: Jimmy Collins (1996-2010) 218-208, 3 NCAA tourneys, 1 conference title, 1-time conference COY
Loyola (Chicago): George Ireland (1951-1975) 318-255, 4 NCAA tourneys, 2 conference titles, 1 NCAA title
Milwaukee: Rob Jeter (2005-present) 110-93, 1 NCAA tourney, 2 conference titles, 1-time conference COY
Valparaiso: Homer Drew (1988-2002, 2003-2011) 356-288, 7 NCAA tourneys, 8 conference titles, 4-time conference COY
Wright State: Ralph Underhill (1978-1996) 356-162, 1 NCAA tourney, 1 conference title, 1 D-2 title, 1-time national COY
Youngstown State: Mike Rice, Sr. (1982-1987) 75-67