Next up on Jon Teitel's interview series of the best coaches by school is former Delaware head coach Steve Steinwedel, who led the Blue Hens to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances and two conference titles. His 1991-92 outfit, which finished 27-4, is considered to be the best team in school history.
Jon Teitel: You played at Mississippi State in the early 1970s. How good were you in college and how did you make the transition from player to coach?
Steve Steinwedel: I was not a great player but I was okay. We had a decent team in the SEC and I started a few games and came off the bench in a few games. My sophomore year I switched from a business major to an education major because I wanted to go into coaching. I started networking with other college coaches while still in school, and I learned that the best way to get your foot in the door was to become a volunteer coach or graduate assistant.
JT: In 1978 you became an assistant coach at Duke after their loss to Kentucky in the title game the previous year. What was it like to be in Durham at that time, and how did Mike Gminski compare to the best players you have ever coached?
SS: We had a team full of very good players, but Gminski was one of the best. We also had Gene Banks and Jim Spanarkel. My first full-time job was at West Virginia and Bob Huggins was there as a graduate assistant, where we first became friends.
JT: In 1982 you were an assistant coach at South Carolina when you had to take over for Coach Bill Foster after he suffered a heart attack in a game vs. Purdue. How close did he come to dying, and how were you able to keep the team from falling apart?
SS: It was unbelievable because it was a nationally-televised game early in our season. Right before halftime Coach Foster asked me if I was feeling sick, because he was worried that he might have eaten something bad during the pre-game meal. I took over for him on his post-game radio show, and we got him to a hospital for quadruple-bypass surgery at 5AM, while Purdue coach Gene Keady and his wife sat with us in the waiting room of the ER. We ended up having a good year, and Coach Foster got better.
JT: In 1985 you were named head coach at Delaware after being one of over 130 applicants. What did it mean to you to finally become a head coach and how did you beat out so many applicants?
SS: It was a dream come true for me. The job I wanted most was at Delaware, but I thought I had a better chance of getting a job elsewhere. It is in a tremendous location as it is so close to so many big East Coast cities.
JT: Instead of a team GPA you set a minimum GPA for each individual player. Why did you do that, and what role do you place on academics?
SS: Academics were the highest priority for me, and the players knew that, even if they did not enjoy the fact that I was a taskmaster. I felt that each player had their own individual potential, and I wanted them to reach that potential both on and off the court.
JT: Your 1992 team went 27-4 including a school-record 20-game winning streak to end the regular season that was the longest in the nation. How were you able to turn a high jumper, a sprinter, and a cricket player into such a dominant team, and was that the best team you ever coached?
SS: It was certainly a unique group, as well as the best team I ever had. We were in the process of building the state-of-the-art Bob Carpenter Center and moving into it the following year. Delaware graduate/ESPN announcer Tom Mees had a lifelong dream of working a Delaware game in the NCAA tourney, but we were not able to make it come true.
JT: What are your memories of the 1992 NCAA tourney (Nick Van Exel had 18 points and nine rebounds in a win by Cincinnati for your old friend Bob Huggins)?
SS: I wish Van Exel had not played, as he was unstoppable. It was a tremendous experience for all of us, so we could have been more prepared. I went to high school in Cincinnati and the game was Dayton.
JT: What are your memories of the 1993 NCAA Tournament (Anthony Wright scored 17 points in a six-point loss to Louisville in Indianapolis)?
SS: I grew up in Indiana and was friends with John Cougar Mellencamp's family, but you would have thought that I was the biggest celebrity in the state. The experience from the previous year's tourney benefited the core of our team a lot, and we felt that we could compete; close but no cigar.
JT: You wrote your doctoral dissertation on the phenomenon of "life coaching". Why did you choose that topic and what is your philosophy about the importance of coaching?
SS: I took a counselor's view of this phenomenon, so I interviewed some people about executive training. There are many parallels between athletic coaching and life coaching.
JT: You are an Adjunct Professor in Community Counseling at Wilmington College and Counselor at Delaware Technical and Community College. How do you like those jobs, and what do you want to do in the future?
SS: I have been at DTCC for 15 years and I really enjoy it. I love the connection with the students, and I see many of my former players who live in the area. I am at the point of my career where I might be ready to step into a new profession: maybe life coaching and continuing to teach at the college level.
Steinwedel is on Jon's list of best coaches in CAA history
Delaware: Steve Steinwedel (1985-1995) 163-121, two NCAA Tournaments, two conference titles, one-time conference Coach of the Year
Drexel: Bill Herrion (1991-1999) 167-71, three NCAA Tournaments, five conference titles, four-time conference Coach of the Year
George Mason: Jim Larranaga (1997-present) 229-142, four NCAA Tournaments, one Final Four, three conference titles, one-time conference Coach of the Year
Georgia State: Lefty Driesell (1997-2003) 103-59, one NCAA Tournament, four conference titles, one-time conference Coach of the Year
Hofstra: Jay Wright (1994-2001) 122-85, two NCAA Tournaments, two conference titles, two-time conference Coach of the Year
James Madison: Lou Campanelli (1972-1985) 238-118, five NCAA Tournaments
UNC Wilmington: Jerry Wainwright (1994-2002) 136-103, two NCAA Tournaments, three conference titles, two-time conference Coach of the Year
Northeastern: Jim Calhoun (1972-1986) 248-137, five NCAA Tournaments, five conference titles, one-time conference Coach of the Year
Old Dominion: Blaine Taylor (2001-present) 188-103, three NCAA Tournaments, two conference titles, one-time conference Coach of the Year
Towson: Terry Truax (1983-1997) 202-203, two NCAA Tournaments, four conference titles, two-time conference Coach of the Year
VCU: JD Barnett (1979-1985) 132-48, five NCAA Tournaments, four conference titles, two-time conference Coach of the Year
William & Mary: Bruce Parkhill (1977-1983) 89-75, one conference title