College Basketball's Best Coaches
CollegeHoops.net is lucky to have access to some of the best coaches in college basketball. As part of our preseason interview series, we thought it would be appropriate to ask these basketball minds about the best things that their team and college basketball has to offer.
Steve Alford: New Mexico
We continue this month long Q&A Series with Lobos coach Steve Alford, who has reached 9 postseason tournaments in a 13 years at the D1 level. Coach Alford was kind enough to take time out of his busy preseason schedule to answer questions for CollegeHoops.net:
CollegeHoops.net) What will be the best strength of this year's team?
Steve Alford) Our biggest strength this year will be our guard play. We are very deep and talented at the point and shooting guard spots as well as out on the wing. Chad Toppert was No. 2 in the country in 3-pt. FG% last year (48.0%) and he has the highest career percentage in Lobo history (45.7%).
Sophomore Jonathan Wills continues to improve in his second year in the program. We went 14-3 last year in the 17 games he started in the shooting guard spot.
Sophomore Dairese Gary will be one of the top point guards in our league this season. He started 28 games at the point last year and his 105 assists were more than any Lobo had posted in the previous seven seasons.
Tony Danridge and Roman Martinez are both very versatile wing players. Tony was supposed to be one of our top players last year but he had a season-ending injury right before the start of practice. He is 100% healthy now and could be an All-MWC player in his fifth year in the program. Roman is very savvy and knows how to play basketball. He played a lot of forward for us this year, but he can also step out and hit from long range. He gives us a solid performance every time he steps on the floor
We also have three excellent newcomers in freshmen Nate Garth, Phillip McDonald and Curtis Dennis. Garth is a very fast and athletic point guard. His speed and vision are the best parts of his game. Dennis is a big guard who can play on the wing while McDonald was one of the top prep players in the state of Texas last season. We are very excited about what they will bring to our program.
CollegeHoops.net) Are there any weaknesses that concern you?
SA) The one area I am concerned with is our youth in rebounding the ball. Daniel Faris is our only returning post player for the second year in a row. He continues to improve and is one of the top big men in our league, but we are very young in the post. We have three very talented freshmen in Will Brown, A.J. Hardeman and Kem Nweke. Kem was in the program last year as a redshirt, and obviously none of these guys have played college basketball yet. They will all be great players in our program, my only concern is our youth in the rebounding positions.
CHN) Who will be the biggest leaders on this year's squad?
SA) We are counting on our three seniors – Chad Toppert, Daniel Faris and Tony Danridge – to all be leaders on our team this year. They each lead in a different way, but all are very effective in our program. Tony is not as vocal as Chad and Daniel, but he leads by example. Tony doesn’t cut any corners in the weight room or practice and our younger guys see that and learn from it. Chad’s leadership is shown through his hard work. He has built himself into one of the top shooters in the nation (No. 2 in the NCAA in 3-pt. FG% last year at 48.0%). Guys see that Chad’s hard work is paying off and it reinforces what they are doing. Daniel is the most vocal of the group. He helps to set the tone in practice and workouts. He is also the only returning post player we have so he helps the younger post guys during drills and practice.
CHN) Tie score, with just a few seconds left … who will be your go-to guy in those situations?
SA) I don’t want to give away too many of our plans before the season even starts. I will say that I am excited about the fact that we will have a lot of options for that situation this season.
CHN) What's the best change you've made in your coaching style in recent seasons?
SA) I don’t know that I have changed much in recent seasons. What I do try to do is learn as much as I can each year and apply that to my coaching style. I try to take the experiences I have gone through and apply the lessons learned to how I approach the job at hand. Hopefully, that has made me a better coach and will continue to do so in the future.
CHN) If everything goes according to plan, what's the best case scenario this season?
SA) Our goal is to win the Mountain West Conference and get into the NCAA Tournament. After that, we want to be in a position to advance as far as we can in postseason play.
CHN) Any last words to New Mexico fans?
SA) We just want to encourage as many people as we can to get out to The Pit and see a game. The Pit is as good a place to see a college basketball game and be a part of the atmosphere as any in the country. We want everyone to be there in their Lobo red and help us sell out every game this year.