The Dunk City Podcast

One on One: A talk with USC assistant athletic director Mike Swets

June 20, 2023 USCBasketball.com Season 1 Episode 3
One on One: A talk with USC assistant athletic director Mike Swets
The Dunk City Podcast
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The Dunk City Podcast
One on One: A talk with USC assistant athletic director Mike Swets
Jun 20, 2023 Season 1 Episode 3
USCBasketball.com

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Do you ever wonder what it takes to manage a top NCAA basketball program? USCBasketball.com had the pleasure of sitting down with Mike Swets, the USC Assistant Athletic Director for Basketball Operations, to get an inside look at the world of college athletics administration. From his journey as a high school player to becoming a key member of the Trojans program, Mike shares insights on the various roles within the program, including managing team travel, coordinating daily schedules, and acting as a program liaison.

The offseason is often overlooked in college basketball, but it's a crucial time for operations staff like Mike. We delve into the six-month offseason process, from recruiting to preparing for the upcoming season, and discuss the importance of technology and networking with other operations staff around the country. Additionally, Mike gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the complexities of building a college basketball schedule and the recruiting strategies that have made USC a successful program.

Finally, Mike shares his top three memorable moments since joining the Trojans, talks about the significance of basketball analytics and scouting, and his aspirations for the USC basketball program in the next decade. Don't miss this engaging conversation that offers a fascinating perspective on the inner workings of college athletics administration and the dedication it takes to succeed.

The Dunk City Podcast is the podcast of record for the USC basketball community. You can find all episodes at DunkCityPod.com, USCBasketball.com or on Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon. Contact us at USCBasketball.com@gmail.com.

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Send us a Text Message.

Do you ever wonder what it takes to manage a top NCAA basketball program? USCBasketball.com had the pleasure of sitting down with Mike Swets, the USC Assistant Athletic Director for Basketball Operations, to get an inside look at the world of college athletics administration. From his journey as a high school player to becoming a key member of the Trojans program, Mike shares insights on the various roles within the program, including managing team travel, coordinating daily schedules, and acting as a program liaison.

The offseason is often overlooked in college basketball, but it's a crucial time for operations staff like Mike. We delve into the six-month offseason process, from recruiting to preparing for the upcoming season, and discuss the importance of technology and networking with other operations staff around the country. Additionally, Mike gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the complexities of building a college basketball schedule and the recruiting strategies that have made USC a successful program.

Finally, Mike shares his top three memorable moments since joining the Trojans, talks about the significance of basketball analytics and scouting, and his aspirations for the USC basketball program in the next decade. Don't miss this engaging conversation that offers a fascinating perspective on the inner workings of college athletics administration and the dedication it takes to succeed.

The Dunk City Podcast is the podcast of record for the USC basketball community. You can find all episodes at DunkCityPod.com, USCBasketball.com or on Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon. Contact us at USCBasketball.com@gmail.com.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to the Dunk City podcast Change direction by back down for the first and final round, life and the second.

Speaker 1:

For the Illinois And the second.

Speaker 2:

It is a Trojan Tundra. USC is on to the sweet 16 for the first time since.

Speaker 1:

Welcome back to the Dunk City podcast. I'm your host, chris Houston. I'm doing a solo podcast today, but with a very special guest. It's USC assistant athletic director for basketball operations, mike sweats. Mike has been with Andy infield since 2016. He handles team travel arrangements, he manages the program's budget, he works on the Trojans non conference schedule, he coordinates the daily schedule and oversees the team of student managers. He also acts as the program's liaison to the many other departments within athletics, as well as the rest of the campus community. But, as you'll find out, he does a whole lot more. Welcome to the Dunk City podcast, mike.

Speaker 2:

Happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1:

Now you are no doubt one of the unsung heroes of the Andy infield era. You know you've been at USC since 2016. You've been a part of 161 wins during that stretch, and it includes four tournament appearances. What have been five if not for COVID, should have been six if not for some bad luck. Take us back to the start of your journey and tell us a little bit about what inspired you to make a career out of college basketball and how that culminated with you ending up working for Andy infield.

Speaker 2:

Sure, sure, yeah, it starts. You know, back probably back in high school Was a, you know, never the best player on the team by any stretch, but I just love basketball a lot And my playing career was done at the end of my high school career. And so, looking into college, it was trying to find a way to, you know, stick around and just kind of be around sports. And so when I went to college, i went to Boston College, i actually started writing for the paper. My freshman sophomore years I was the assistant sports editor for the Heights. The local student newspaper covered the pretty much every team in the athletic department my first year And then, you know, just just still had that itch to be around basketball specifically And I had worked camps all through all throughout high school and kind of through my one of my assistant high school coaches, got connected with the SID at BC who connected me with the staff, kind of had a little bit of a tryout work to their camp And then by my sophomore year they brought me on to staff as a manager.

Speaker 2:

I spent three years as a manager at Boston College working for Al Skinner, graduated in 2009. After that was lucky enough to connect with with Kino Davis down the road of Providence College for two years as a graduate assistant And in my first year there, while I was working with with the team, one of our assistants, pat Scarry, was assistant coach my first year, left to go to Pittsburgh my second year And then at about nine months later, after my second year I was finishing up. My grad school is about to graduate And Pat got the got the Towson job down in just north of Baltimore. Towson University was in the CA at the time, still is, and, although it looks a whole lot different than it does now, got on there as the video coordinator for one year with a really great staff And after the first year the ops who was in place, dwayne Simpkins at the time left to go take an an assistant coaching spot at UNC Greensboro and was lucky enough to kind of be in a right place right time and elevated to ops.

Speaker 2:

Did that for four years. Funny to think about it now because Dwayne is is now the newly minted head coach at American University in DC. We shared an office for a year, one of the best in the business. You know still drawn that time fondly and all the you know that I took in working with him and learning from him and that whole staff and and after four years there, you know, kind of got connected in a in a on the recruiting chair trail with coach Enfield and the job opened up. We had some mutual friends, got connected and and the rest is history. And been here the last seven years and about to go into year eight.

Speaker 1:

Wow. So you just kept grinding and kept working hard and kept connecting with people And now here you are. You're a key part of one of college basketball's hottest programs. You have a great title now assistant athletic director. Is that what I believe for basketball operations?

Speaker 2:

Yes, yep, yeah, was was fortunate enough to you know, do a lot of, do a lot of good things here and be a lot of part of a lot of great teams over the last six years and had some discussions you know with, with coach and in our administration, about you know how I can continue to impact the program positively and continue our you know rise over the last six years at the time And so you know things worked out great and I'm very appreciative of of the roles that they've allowed me to take on and and, and here I am going to kind of quote unquote, year two of of that.

Speaker 1:

So are you still looking to become a basketball coach, or would you say that you are now firmly on the path toward a career in athletics administration?

Speaker 2:

Definitely on the tracks of athletics administration, got into this kind of thinking. I wanted to be a head coach and, you know, as I navigated the business over the last 10, 12, 15 years kind of learned a lot about myself and what my strengths are and and and what I really like to do and how those are best suited to, you know, helping run a program. And I found that that a lot of that is on the administrative side, the supports, the support side, and just just being there to kind of help everything run behind the scenes. So I kind of transitioned, you know, from day one thinking I wanted to be a head coach to less about coaching and more about, you know, the administrative path with, with how to how to be able to support a program.

Speaker 2:

That's that's, you know, doing good things and trying to. How can we be better than the day we were before? So Right, just trying to help this program and coach and, in our assistance, our student athletes in any way I can, but from behind the scenes. I think they you know it's really their work We want to, you know, want to have shine and they've done such a tremendous job over the last seven years that I've been here. But really you know from where coach started in his first year to now is incredible to kind of be a part of a small part and watch it grow.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, someone who used to be in the seat that Dave Tuttle now sits in in the SID chair for USC basketball. I totally commiserate with that. you know that great feeling of being a support person and being behind the scenes and just seeing people come through and developing. It's pretty exciting.

Speaker 2:

It is. It's you know, it's you get to know these people off the floor. You know the student athletes off the off the court who they are, is, is you know kind of kids when they come in and men when they leave, and to see them fulfill their dreams, to see them fulfill their goals. you know whether it's here afterwards playing professionally or or entering the workforce And it's you know. a lot, of, a lot of really special stories have come through here the last, my last seven years.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, definitely a great feeling. Now there have been a ton of changes since you've arrived, So what does USC do differently now as compared to when you first got there?

Speaker 2:

Well, i just I think it's. You know we've developed that culture of, of, of winning, and coach built it. You know, from the first couple years they went through. You know some ups and downs and maybe it didn't show in the wins, losses, but they brought in the right kids. You know Jordan McLaughlin is, is, is one of the all time greats here.

Speaker 2:

You know, both as a as a student athlete and as a person and and just building the program the right way and it's success was never going to come overnight. And I think Jordan sophomore year they was, they broke through and made the NCAA tournament and coach's third year and and just building off that. You know success kind of leads can lead to more success and being around good people and Jordan attracting the right, right teammates. And you know, after him and in Elijah Stewart was Chamezi Metu and Benny Boatwright and and then it just kind of blossomed. And you know, first it was, you know, making the tournament was the goal and then it was making it at every year and then it's advancing and so now just that kind of that launch pad that that was set up and over the first couple years is built the foundation for, you know, to kind of attracting the type of student athletes here at the with the USC community and and you haven't really high expectations.

Speaker 2:

I don't think there always was high expectations every year. And you know, now we're kind of at the point where we're expected to make the tournament, we're expected to advance and and that's really great to see. You know, building that and being a part of that and and expectations are good. You know everybody wants expectations and so you know being a part of a winning culture and a winning program is is a testament to you know, the kids that we have here on the program now, the coaches, but but you know everybody that's been a part of that and help build that over the last. You know for me seven years but really coach over the last decade.

Speaker 1:

Well, yeah, it's been really exciting to see that growth of the program. You know there's a saying in sports that programs kind of take on the personalities of their head coach. So as an outsider looking in, this seems to be the case at USC. I see some even killed teams that still like to have fun. Is this generally a fair assessment, or has every team been different in your view?

Speaker 2:

You know every team has a little bit of a different feel to it based on you know who, who the, who, the, what. You know what the roster looks like, who are your older guys, their personalities, but you know coaches and field has such a steadying hand about him and where you know he doesn't. When things you know maybe you lose a game or two in a row, it's not. You know the the it's, it's not the end. You know you, you don't get too low. You win a couple games. You know you enjoy those victories but you move on and and try to get the next one and so just trying to stay even keel and and you know, pushing that forward. You know, game to game, celebrating your successes but moving on and and focusing on the next game and and you know I think that's really helped just just be being level headed and and you know where we want to get to and it's a journey. It's. You know one game doesn't make or break a season and and so it's it's. You know team.

Speaker 2:

The team in November doesn't always look like a team in March. I think we proved that this past year. You know where we started with a loss to Florida Gulf Coast to open the season and you know people probably had some questions about how how good this this team could be, or how good that team could be last year. And you know, to the kids credit, our staffs credit is just okay, it happened, move on. How do we get better from it, how do we learn from it? and and how do we build a resume for March? and you know, here we were on selection Sunday in March and and heard our name called and so I think you know this was past year, was probably a testament to taking a day by day, getting a little bit better every day, building on the day before and, you know, not looking past to what. You know, what we did or didn't do, and looking forward and and and making the tournament for a third year in a row for sure.

Speaker 1:

This past year's team was really interesting to watch, from that slow start and then developing over the course of the season, getting Vince back, trey white developing into a quality player, boogie Ellis developing into a star. Definitely an entertaining team to watch. Okay, let's talk a little bit about basketball operations.

Speaker 2:

Let's what is your typical day like during the offseason really kind of depends on where we are in the offseason. You know it's if soon as the season's done, it's kind of you turn the page a little bit. You know there's there's, there's guys leaving but there's also a new group coming in, there's new, whether they're incoming freshmen, whether they're transfers. You know the recruiting process. I think with the advent of the portal has really increased what recruiting looks like following the course of the season and so our attention turns to that a lot. You know that's off campus recruiting for by the staff, official visits on campus. You know, then, once you kind of formulate in what your incoming class is going to be look like and now it's time to get them acclimated to to campus, you know where they're going to. You know when are they going to get here, when are they finishing high school, getting them through the medical clearance process, getting them set up. You know everything from getting their emails to their schedule, to where they're going to live to.

Speaker 2:

You know taking a summer class and kind of being, you know, really invested in acclimating to campus and finding their finding their way, because you know, sometimes it's for for some guys it's it's it's really easy.

Speaker 2:

Some guys you know need a summer, and I think that's really great about what we have in the summer now is to take a summer course, understand what college life is all about. You know what do teachers expect, what the game looks like, how fast it is. You know change of pace in terms of on the floor. You know what does an individual work out look like, what does a team practice look like, and so by the time that the fall starts and and training camp runs run, you have six, eight weeks under their, under their belt and and you can really hit the ground running. So the summer is a great time just to kind of get to know each other, figure out what your team is going to look like and get on the floor, off the floor, who the personalities are and and who's going to kind of begin to take some of that leadership role and and so you know after they're on campus and going through a workout. You know then we're kind of the summer. July almost feels like a like training camp a little bit.

Speaker 2:

You still got to schedule every day with practices, classes, weights, tutorings. You know maybe you're watching film, all that stuff, so that you know, by the time they get to the first day of school, some of that stuff's old news and by the time you get to the middle of the summer and that's that's. You know, full steam ahead, the schedule comes out. You start to know what your nonconference going to look like. You find out where you're going to go in conference and then now you start to kind of do a little bit of advanced research on, okay, are we where we staying, what hotels, what meals might we want to look at? you know what flights, how we getting there, when are we getting there? is it a day early? is it two days early? are we changing time zones? do we need to practice here then leave, or do we need to leave the practice there to kind of get acclimated and stuff like that. So you're kind of building out what your seasons going to look like and and as you get closer to that season and more details are known, not just game dates, but you know, tip off times. That's kind of the final piece to the puzzle that allows you to put everything into place of of of how you're going to get from point A to point B and and back.

Speaker 2:

You know I joke a lot about it, but you know sometimes it's it's nobody knows. You know, nobody knows what the support staff or operations role does until the bus doesn't show up on time. Right, so you know if I can stay behind the scenes and make everything run smoothly. That's the goal. And so you know, over the six months of the offseason, what does it look like? probably recruiting, acclimating those guys to campus, full on workouts. Schedule comes about, putting that schedule together in terms of your logistics, how to get from point A to point B, and you know there's some other things in there with with related to budgets and projections and things like that, and how you're going to spend some of your money and all that.

Speaker 1:

So it sometimes you wouldn't think it, but sometimes I feel like the offseason is busier than the season now, are you one of those ops guys who sort of commits everything to memory right away so that when coach infield ask you things, you have information right at your fingertips, like, for instance, he wants to know what building one of the players has a class in and you can suddenly produce that? or do you have to refer to some some notes on your on your iPhone or are on on a piece of paper somewhere?

Speaker 2:

you know it's.

Speaker 2:

I try to commit as much to memory as possible just because having some of those answers at the fingertips can can, can you know, answer some questions right away.

Speaker 2:

But you know, technology is a beautiful thing now with with these apps and all the information that you can keep on there, so sometimes it's just a click of a button and pulling up a guy's schedule on the, on the you know the communication tool we use and and getting answered in seconds. So it's a little bit of both. Try to try to know, kind of, where everybody is on a daily basis and you know, can we start a little bit earlier in a workout or do we need to start a little bit later? or hey, you know, want to take this guy to lunch and you know kind of feel, feel him out where he's at and see how he's doing and stuff like that. When does he get out of class and you know where's it going to be, maybe I can meet him on campus and stuff. So little bit of both in that, and technology is certainly made that easier. But you know, the more more stuff you can kind of be prepared for and be proactive about as opposed to reactive, definitely the better great so.

Speaker 1:

So as far as setting up travel and rain, you know, accommodations on road trips how much of that is kind of crowdsourced from other ops guys around the country. You call some of us a hey, what's where's the best place to stay in in, and how much of that is well, i'm going to do my own research and try to find something sure, a little bit of both, you know, certainly when you know, in conference travels kind of writes itself a little bit certainly.

Speaker 2:

You know, coach has been here for a decade now. I've been here for seven, so kind of fall into a little bit of routine, what you like, what you don't like, and and so in some ways the conference season takes care of itself, you know, but more than on conference, where you know, have you been in the area before? if you haven't, i try to give give a few different folks a call and maybe it's an opponent, maybe somebody's there at the school that we're going to go play at, and you know, hey, where'd you stay? where'd you fly into? you know what's the closest airport? did you take the guys out to, out to eat? where'd you go to eat? and the event that the facilities not available for practice did you go practice somewhere else is there.

Speaker 2:

If you're going to a particular area that you've never been to before, they're kind of some cool team activities that might be worth it for the guys, and so you try to pick people's brains a little bit.

Speaker 2:

And because you know if we're going to go to, you know, you know wherever the game might be scheduled. I've probably, you know, somebody else has already done it, and so to try to try to. You know, reinvent the wheel doesn't make a whole lot of things, so try to get a little bit of an idea from others of what that looks like, what's what people have found success in, what they like, what they didn't like, and then, you know, make sure it fits, what we want to do and and you know how we like to travel and what, what you know what we want to do and how we travel and things like that. So little bit of both in terms of of, like you said, crowdsourcing information, but then, at the end of the day, making sure that it works. It's doing what it works best for us and and just in making sure that it's setting us up for success.

Speaker 1:

Are home games just way, much way easier than than the road games, as far as from the operations standpoint.

Speaker 2:

Yes, probably just because you know at home we've got so many, so many additional folks that are here in your corner and are Doing a few things behind the scenes that maybe people don't see. Certainly, at home We have our full team of support staff with us, our GAs, our managers That really do so much for the program. That doesn't really get seen. A whole lot kind of happens before the doors open, before you know fans start to get in pile into the arena and and certainly long after everybody leaves at night. And so you know going on the road isn't always just showing up at point a or point b and and Having everything laid out out to you Because you still got to kind of navigate. You know some uncertainties and some You know maybe some unfamiliar areas.

Speaker 2:

So at home I think just you know many hands makes light work and you have your full complement of support staff with it and you're in the comforts of your You know just of being home. You know You slept in your own bed the night before and you have your office and for the guys They can go back and forth and and have their little routine and you know you when you go on the road And some of that might get a little out of whack, and so There's, there's definitely merits to both about you know what? what is a little bit more complicated, less complicated, but it each has its own advantages, i'd say right.

Speaker 1:

Do you guys still stay at the Valley River in when you go to Oregon?

Speaker 2:

We, we do not, we do not actually haven't stayed there, have not stayed there since I've arrived here at At USC, and actually I think they didn't stay there the year before, but I've, i've, i've heard it only in whispers and in memories. Certainly, the, the, the, the couple of the good times that were, you know, a couple of successful trips up to Oregon, where they came back with a couple of wins.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, i think I almost got kicked out of that hotel one night, but that's a whole other story. So what is your favorite road trip in the league right now?

Speaker 2:

a favorite road trip. Well that's. You know you got so many cool cities. You know I get the question a lot and I'm almost not sure I'm gonna get feels a little bit like I'm, like I'm I'm skirting the issue, but I kind of like, like them all.

Speaker 2:

I certainly think I favor the trips where, from a logistical standpoint, where you don't have to fly from from one game to the next, you know, just because that presents a couple of issues and you know, colorado, utah, and in Washington, washington State, you've got the weather and You know, gosh for bit we've run into a flight delay or flight cancellation, had to kind of scramble and find some last-minute accommodations every now and then and flight Diverting to a different airport, and so that presents a little bit extra challenges from my, my standpoint.

Speaker 2:

So You know, if you kind of rule out some of those Oregon leaves, kind of the Oregon, oregon State trip, stanford, cal, and then Arizona, arizona State, so Each of those are have their Probably make it a little bit easier, just a bus from point A to point B, and and less, let's a little bit less to worry about from my standpoint. So I probably split them into that, that those two different groups, if you will, and and You know selfishly from a from my standpoint, a little bit of a logistical standpoint They're a little bit easier to deal with absolutely, absolutely.

Speaker 1:

Tell me a little bit about the rest of support stat that you work with and how their roles intersect with yours.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we, you know we've got a great, great group of staff. I mean it's work Both code, you know, on the coaching staff and in our support staff and you know, for my role specifically touching So many different departments on campus. Really I rely on them so much for information, for getting things done and And and just just kind of helping the day-to-day. You know we have great relationships with our academic department. Heather Bell, marisa Salmon, diego, kevin Bollin do an exceptional job with the guys. You know, just being there for them, supporting them academically. We've had an incredible track record with our academics and guys graduating and and Graduating on time. And you know, if if it wasn't for them and their relationship you know we have with them, that would be, i think that'd be a lot different. So you know, credit to those, to our group Of academic support. You know Denise Kwok too, who has really been with us. You know from the time Andy got here and Just the support they give and and to our guys and in the relationship we have with them. And you know everything to our trainer, john Yonamine. Certainly he's guys in absolute stud and what he does he's a hero but You know, just kind of goes about his work. And you know, part of this Acclamation process is getting these guys, you know, from appointment to appointment and setting it up. And you know, and then behind the scenes, with, with all of our preparation in season out of season on, you know self-scouting, opponent scouting, kurt Karris, desmond Farmer, just being around for our guys and and You know Kurt's an animal in the video room and if coach wants to see something, he's got it ready, pulled up at his fingertips and you know what do they do against this, or how do they, how many times they run zone, or do they press, or do they how do they handle the ball screens? Kurt's, kurt's got all that information at the fingertips. If, if coaches watch you know five, six, seven games, Kurt's probably watch nine, ten, eleven, twelve games, just just being prepared and being ready.

Speaker 2:

You know, kind of goes back to your earlier question. You know How much of it is. Let me go back and check and how much of it is answers on the spot and and Kurt's really great with that and Just being prepared from a, from a video standpoint, a scouting standpoint, both on ourselves, what are we gonna run? What are they the other team gonna run? How are they gonna guard us, stuff like that.

Speaker 2:

And then you know I alluded to it earlier but we just have an exceptional, exceptional group of student managers. We are really fortunate We've got it's an older group. They've been, they've been with the program for for three and four years That you know. They, they take so much off my plate in terms of just kind of Really thinking ahead, being proactive, doing kind of things without, without even me needing to to ask you know what the situation is or what, what You know what challenges we're gonna run into. They, they're, they're two steps ahead of me sometimes, which is Is invaluable to to the success of our program.

Speaker 2:

And you know, when we go on the road there, they're up, you know they're the first ones up in the morning, they're the last ones to to turn in at night. And just because they've got you know we've got so much to do and and Make sure everything runs smooth so that when the you know coaches get coaches, do an athlete show up, you know they're focused on winning and they're focused, they're there to win a basketball game and and that's all they need to do And they don't need to worry about X, y and Z. And so you know all of us working together. And it's not just, not just, you know, within the basketball program. It stems to facilities. It stems to, you know, all different parts of campus that are really truly invested in the success of our program And I think just the winning culture on the court is a testament to them and how it allows coach infield, into Into our staff, to really focus on on basketball and not have to worry about any of the other stuff.

Speaker 1:

Great. So when a recruit comes on an official visit, what role do you play and how does the staff sell us see?

Speaker 2:

Well, it's kind of depends on where The the recruit is coming from, you know, do they? how are they getting here? Do they need flights? Is it a car service? Are they driving themselves? Are they local? Are they out of state? Who's gonna come with them? working within our compliance? Are, you know, hand-in-hand with our compliance department To figure out, you know where, what we can do and who's coming with them?

Speaker 2:

and you know, do they have younger siblings? and You know what rules can that we need to be aware of? and You know so. How are they getting to campus? Where are they staying? Where are we gonna eat? You know who their host is gonna be, making sure that the different appointments that they have, you know, with different people on campus mesh and gel, and so trying to figure out how to put all of that together. And it's kind of like a game of Tetris a little bit. You know, when are they gonna sit down with coach? When are we gonna watch some video? When are we gonna tour campus academics housing? You know when are they gonna get a little bit of downtime? you know this can't just be a go-go-go-go-go, and even though we have, you know, a limited amount of time with them. You know when can they have a few minutes to you know for themselves and just kind of talk as a family and how things are going and Come up with questions. And you know stuff for our staff that we can, you know we can answer. So You know, certainly we, we We're, you know we're very fortunate in that. You know we, we feel like we're other programmers that are really healthy spot. You know we're winning consistently.

Speaker 2:

Guys are fulfilling lifelong dreams and and Making it to the next level, drafting. You know there's there's three, there's three programs in the country that have had a draft pick The last three years and that's Duke, kentucky and USC. So you know every, every young Ballplayers dream is to play in the NBA one day and you know we're setting them up for success. And you know the guys who are not in the NBA are having great, great careers overseas and So being able to kind of keep those relationships with the guys and and see all their successes for life after USC and Certainly when you come to USC academically, it's not a four-year decision, it's a, it's a lifelong, it's a 40-year decision because of the relationships that That kids are gonna have and make, you know, with their teammates, but just with their, with the rest of the student population here, everybody who you know, who is, you know, in classes with them, is, is is looking to and striving to. You know, turn pro and in Whatever you know they're, their passion is.

Speaker 2:

And it's not just you know. You may not be athletics, it might be Cinematography here, or communications, or in the business world, real estate and and so the you know really some of the relationships that they can make While they're here on campus, both within the athletic department and then outside the athletic department, with the greater campus community is invaluable. It's really hard to put a you know, really hard to kind of See just how. You know what the impact that that makes on a student athlete in the. You know the short time that they're here.

Speaker 2:

So you know, certainly you know being part of a winning program, the ability to play basketball long after they're gone here from USC And no one setting them up for success beyond their career, brown their basketball career. So Making sure that they have a great experience here on campus, making sure they have a great experience in their professional career and then making sure that they're set up for success beyond their professional career, so we think we've got a great You know situation in that three pronged You know phases of life, so to speak USC, basketball after USC, and then you know whatever's next after you know when basketball is done. So I think focusing on those three things is is is kind of what we we strive for in in in recruitment, and You know whether that's an incoming freshman or transfer or graduate transfer the program's recruiting just seems to be getting better and better over time.

Speaker 1:

This last year's class Was arguably your best that you guys have signed, currently ranked, i think, number four by the services. How much of that is just? you guys are a better program over the years. Or how much of that is you're getting better at communicating Just? what you told me all these things about, about letting people know that, hey, this is what we have to offer. This is everything you just described was very cohesive, very sound, very logical and, i thought I think, very appealing. And is that something that you hone over a period of time? And now you've got the pitch down and then, combined with the success on the court, this makes you a really formidable recruiting force.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, i don't think we set out to try to recruit players based on their rankings And so I think this class, being one of the higher rated classes we've had, is more of a byproduct than an actual goal. We look so much of who a player is off the court, almost as much as who they are on the court, and so do we strive to say, hey, we need to look at, do we look at rankings first? No, it just that's kind of more of a byproduct of our evaluation. Rankings are nice but they're not the end, all be all And certainly and it doesn't necessarily translate to success.

Speaker 2:

So what I think winning has done for us here at USC is kind of broadened the spectrum a little bit for us in terms of who might be also interested in USC and becoming more of a national brand. I think is winning has done that because people want to be a part of winning programs and make the tournament and go far in the tournament and be able to play beyond USC. So the class rankings are good but at the end of the day they don't necessarily, it's not a given and that's going to translate to success. So we really try to kind of focus on the intangibles, the character of a young man, his life away from basketball. And so if they happen to be really talented players that have a higher ranking, that's great, but we're more focused on the character of an individual, who they are off the court, on the court.

Speaker 2:

Do they want to be a part of the USC community? How do they fit in with our current team? whoever's going to be returning or whoever we're bringing in, and so it kind of all. It's a little bit of a game of Tetris in that respect. In terms of building a class, how many people do you need to bring in? Sometimes it's only one or two in a year and sometimes it's four or five. So it really kind of depends on a year-to-year basis of what the team looks like that's going to come back and how do we fill in those gaps with the right people and who people we think are going to be really good teammates who are also pretty talented.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, i think one of the things that backs up what you're saying is the fact that a lot of the guys who are really highly rated in this class and some previous classes, you guys are on them very early, before they had reached their lofty heights. I think Isaiah Collier was. He was a five-star, highly rated guy but he wasn't the number one player, i think when you guys were going after him And I think other guys like Silas Demery, who didn't stick with you guys but an Arrington Page, i think when you started recruiting them they were lower down and they moved up, and so it's pretty clear you're not chasing rankings, that you're actually basing it on the fit and the scouting.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, i mean you look at guys like D'Anthony Melton, i think you know D'Anthony Melton was probably on nobody's top 100. But you know, we recruited him from the start and from, you know, early on And he fit with our program. The type of kid he is, he's got one of the best smiles in the you know I've ever been around and just a genuinely, you know, great teammate and wants to win and wants to do the little things. And Kobe Johnson, you know is going to be a returning captain for us And probably wasn't, you know, all that high on the rankings but came in as a freshman and, you know, waited his turn a little bit, didn't get a chance to play as much as certainly he wanted to, and then really, really dialed in and had an incredible sophomore campaign and were expecting him to be an integral part of our team this year.

Speaker 2:

And so you know, rankings, you know rankings are nice but you know a lot of times there's, you know, for whatever reason there's somebody doesn't get ranked as high as maybe they should. And so you know you get a guy like Kobe Johnson who is just a consummate team player and a winner And he does things the right way. He's got a great attitude and he just he brings people with him. That's the type of player he is And I have no doubt he's going to have a long, long career after USC, because he plays the right way and he does the right things.

Speaker 1:

And that's why I think both Melton and Kobe are two of the fan favorites over the years for USC. But let's switch gears now for a second to out of conference scheduling, which you also are a part of, or handle according to your bio. What goes into that on your end and what's been the philosophy to date, and how will that change, if at all, going forward as USC moves on to the big tent?

Speaker 2:

Sure, you know scheduling is definitely a collaborative effort. You know, coach Enfield Chris Capco is our associate head coach, is really instrumental in our scheduling process And you know I take a lot of cues from him and just kind of try to support him really whenever possible in that scheduling. You know building a schedule, i should say, and every year is different because you know what does your team look like. Have you, are you a little bit older or maybe you're younger? You know not only scheduling games, but when do you schedule them, where are the games that are going to be played, who are you going to play? You know every quad ones, quad twos I know that's kind of like the buzzword now And when it comes to tournament time and building that resume of how many opportunities did you have, and but I think first you take a look at you know kind of what your team, you know what you think about, you know your team. Are you going to be older? Are you going to be a little bit? you know, younger? Have you got guys who've been through the wars before? You know, and then it's just kind of building it from there.

Speaker 2:

Sometimes there's multiple year contracts, so there's some games that are already kind of scheduled for you. So you know you take for Auburn, for example, we're headed to Auburn, but that's been scheduled for a couple of years. So that wasn't really something that we had to factor in. You know you work around that But some of the stuff is maybe already laid out for you. Especially the MTEs nowadays are probably scheduled three, four years ahead of time.

Speaker 2:

So anytime you kind of go into an off season to build your schedule, some of the pieces are already there, You know. And then you look for, you know, try to figure out what you need from there. Is it a quality opponent? Is it a neutral site game? If you already have a high profile series that's on the road, maybe you want to have an offset that with something that's at home. Certainly our schedule is kind of in a changing landscape of you know, because future, with the big 10, that presents different opportunities for the non-conference. But you know, just kind of putting all of those things together and figuring out what is going to set this team up, the particular team that you have up for success early on, success in preparing your team for conference season And then ultimately for putting yourself in the best possible position when it comes time for postseason play.

Speaker 1:

Right. Well, it's being widely reported that USC is going to be playing Gonzaga in Vegas on December 2nd. Is that something you can confirm?

Speaker 2:

We're in talks with Gonzaga, still waiting on a couple of particulars. Don't have anything set in stone yet. So you know there's active and active ongoing conversations. Gonzaga wants to play the game, we want to play the game, but you know there's no contract that signed just yet.

Speaker 1:

Okay, this is the last room we're going to ask you about, and that is that both USC and UCLA are investing in a kind of shared Midwest campus that will be used to store equipment year-round and house student athletes on the road trips and have some practice in academic facilities. Is there any legs to that?

Speaker 2:

Great question And I have not been told one way or the other. You know we're still waiting to hear on what the big 10 schedule might look like. You know, is it is we go out there and play a couple of games? Are we going to go out there and play a single game? How often are we going to go? There's a lot of questions still to be answered And you know, i think right now we're probably still just focused on our last season in the Pac-12 and going out on the right node and hopefully competing for a Pac-12 championship and beyond.

Speaker 1:

Who's the first big 10 basketball ops guy you're going to call to get the lowdowns on big 10 travel?

Speaker 2:

That's a great question, you know, i don't know. I don't know. You know, certainly we practiced at Ohio State when we were in Columbus for the NCAA tournament, and so Dave Eggelhoff and I had some good conversations, you know, just from being around. We practiced at, practiced there one of the days and got a chance to see their campus a little bit and, you know, had some informal conversations both ways about what it's like to come out to LA and and then what it's like to, you know, play the in the big 10 every night.

Speaker 1:

Right, how was the planning for the Europe trip going?

Speaker 2:

Great. We're really excited about it. We're obviously we're going to Greece and Croatia in the early part of August And, you know, similar to 2019 when we last went overseas. It's coming at a really great time Just with the roster that we have and the guys we have coming back and some of the new, new guys that we can acclimate to campus And it's going to give us a leg up. We're going to get 10 practices ahead of time, so the basketball piece will be accelerated. So by the time we get to the first official practice in late September, we're going to be two, three steps ahead of where we normally would be.

Speaker 2:

You know, and then mostly I'm just looking forward to getting over there, kind of turning off the phone a little bit and just kind of be invested with the group that we have, getting a chance to know the freshman and the you know DJ as a transfer, you know, on a better level, more personal level, and you know what makes these guys tick and just kind of, you know, being around them and investing them as people away from basketball.

Speaker 2:

And you know we're going to go over there. We're going to play three great games against older competition, but getting a chance to kind of get to know these guys even better, just away from the court, is really the great part about these opportunities, and for some guys who have never been out of the country, it presents a really cool life changing moment. You know, getting the passports for the first time for a couple of these guys is just like a, is a life milestone. And you know, going that, going across the Atlantic ocean and you know, visiting cities that we've never visited, seeing sites that you read and you read about in the history books and on TV and in movies, is going to be a really, really cool experience And I'm sure it's one that the team's never going to forget.

Speaker 1:

I was on that trip four years ago when you played in Barcelona and then also just outside con in very hot, cramped gyms in front of friends and family. Very small affairs. Do you think that maybe, given the hype of this team, that there might be some more spectators in the crowd this go around?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, we're going to play. We're actually going to go to Athens and just do. we're just going to kind of get acclimated to the time zone and just spend a couple days sightseeing and seeing all the history and just immersing ourselves in that, and then headed over to Mekinos and to spend a few days there and we're actually play two games over there and because, just kind of like you said, that Mekinos has one of the few gyms in Europe that's air conditioned, so it's going to have a little bit going to be a little bit cooler.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, they don't believe in air conditioning over there.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so we're that's going to be a good piece for us and then we'll finish up the trip and into Broughnick and Croatia and play one game over there and get a chance to explore.

Speaker 1:

King's Landing.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yeah, for the games. Game of Thrones folks, yes.

Speaker 1:

Another great city.

Speaker 2:

Just get immersed in that culture as well and play our final game.

Speaker 1:

Cool. So, looking back, describe to me your top three memorable moments since you've been at USC.

Speaker 2:

I will say I will say probably. Obviously our run to the Elite 8 was pretty surreal, you know, just as growing up as a you know somebody who'd never been a part of a second weekend team and I know it was a little bit different that year with COVID and whatnot, but you know, playing inside of it. It's hard to kind of describe the feeling of walking out and playing inside of a football stadium and just the imagery that that is and just the stakes. You know we were the. You know, one game away from the final four, i think is certainly something we'll never forget.

Speaker 2:

Probably the first year my first year in 2016,. 17, when we made the tournament, we were one of the last teams in. We ended up playing in the first four. We were down 15 at halftime, stormed all the way back and to beat Providence, to head over, and then got on a 3am flight to Tulsa that night and turned around and played SMU two days later and to beat them basically at the buzzer and, to be right, you know, to play three games in five days was a whirlwind and my first year here and it was just an incredible, incredible experience in that regard. And then you know, after that, you know, maybe playing Arizona for the Pac-12 championship in Vegas in 2018 was a really cool moment just in terms of you know the you know the on court experience that I've been able to, you know, fortunate to be a part of here at USC.

Speaker 1:

So you guys are prime for a big season, kind of like back in 2018, when you guys are top 10, you guys probably be ranked around there somewhere in the top 15. What kind of steps is USC taking to try to try to draw more fans to Galen Center this year? Well, i think probably just.

Speaker 2:

You know we've got a great opportunity, like we talked about with the, with the foreign tour, and so we've got a chance to get some folks excited a little bit earlier than normal with some of our new players and seeing some kind of game film. You know, highlights and stuff like that. You know, in August is is going to be a little bit different, because normally your first, first kind of experience of a season is in November and we're going to have a chance to to kind of expose our team a little bit early to you know, some of the new guys that you know freshman, graduate, transfer of what this team can look like and ultimately become down the road in March. And I think our success over the last couple of years has people have started to take notice. And then our incoming classes is going to complement our returning pieces really well.

Speaker 2:

Dj Rodman is an older guy. He's played four years of college. He's got one year with us only, unfortunately, but he's going to be seamless. People are going to love watching him play and both sides of the ball. And then the incoming class of Isaiah Collier, arrington Page, brony James and Brandon Gardner. They all bring something different to the table, like you said, i think the class is rated pretty high. But I think that will help have fans kind of take notice. But just combining the excitement of a new class with the returning group that we have and going to Europe has got people talking about the program a little bit more than maybe they would in a normal year.

Speaker 1:

Very true. So how much do you guys rely on basketball analytics and scouting and assessing other teams and players and your own team of players?

Speaker 2:

Sure, It's a give and take a little bit between personal evaluations what you see with your own eye and statistical analysis and what the stats say. And I think it also kind of a little bit of how do you like to play, Stats are great, and offensive rebounding percentage is great and defensive transition is great. But sometimes it's a give and take. You can't always have both, focus on both and be really good at both, And so I think part of I said that to say that statistical analysis is a little bit about knowing which stats work for you and how you like to play and how you like to scout, Because certainly stats can only tell you so much, They don't tell the whole picture.

Speaker 2:

And so the eye test they're evaluating watching film there's no substitute for that And I think stats lend credence to that and lend good backup data to that and kind of can help you make informed decisions. So we kind of have a happy marriage here of just the eye test and watching what we see every day, both for us and an opponent, versus what the data says, and kind of figuring out how that works to get how they work together and putting us in the best possible position for success.

Speaker 1:

Back when I was at SC, working there during the Pete Carroll football run, basketball was almost an afterthought in the minds of not only USC fans, but to me a little bit. The administration of USC has always had this reputation as a football school, and this was a longstanding problem that I think really affected the ability of the program to compete at the highest levels. That's why I started USCBasketballcom to try to kind of build a ride or die online fan culture around the program, and now, though, there seems to be way more support, way better facilities, way more focus on getting basketball right. You've mentioned it all before about how all the great support you guys get, and it's, you know, it almost seems like night and day compared to how it used to be, and that's a, you know, a great testament to what you guys have done on the court and just how you've run the program. But if you had a magic wand and you could do something to make things even better, what would that be?

Speaker 2:

That's a, you know that's a great question.

Speaker 2:

You know I think we're, i think we're trending in the right direction. You know, as an athletic department in all areas, i know we just unveiled kind of the the plan, the plan of the future, with new facilities and and better resources for our student athletes and and putting them in the best possible position to succeed in an environment that they're supported you know, from. You know, in that 360 holistic approach, you know, whether it's as coaching staff, whether it's, you know, our nutrition department and and how they fuel on a daily basis to sport, psych, to academics, to, you know, to to athletic medicine and, and you know our facilities is, i think, just that continued growth that we're really seeing and and across across the athletic department. It's, it's there's no better time to be a part of of the athletic department as a whole And and I think you know all sports are going to benefit from that vision that that you know that that is kind of being promoted here in the last few days of of what the future of USC athletics holds.

Speaker 1:

Just a couple more questions and we'll we'll get out of here. What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in college basketball?

Speaker 2:

Number one piece of advice I would say is don't get caught up in in comparing, you know, somebody's path to how they got from point A to point B with how somebody else should do it. You know there's there's so many different ways to advance in this business. There's so many different end games in this business, like we talked about a little bit earlier. You know there's folks that that want to be head coaches. There's folks that want to be just kind of lifetime assistant coaches. There's folks that want to be in the administrative role or, you know, college or or the professional ranks, and so there's there's no one way that's that's leads directly to success. There's there's a million different ways, and so the way I got to my position at my point in my career might look totally different than the next person that that you know comes along or or you know there was some folk. Some people have a manager background, some people have a playing background High school, college, small college, overseas, aau So there's there's no one way to kind of set yourself up for success, i think doing what makes sense for you and feeling comfortable in that and running your own race and, you know, knowing that hard work will pay off and success will come, you know, for those who put in the work and the time and and, when opportunity knocks, taking advantage of it.

Speaker 2:

So I just think that just not getting caught up in and saying that you know the way I did it is going to is the right way to do it for for somebody else because it may not be, and this was the, this was the path that that I took and I thought was best for me, and and what thought would, would, would lead me to be most successful. And that doesn't mean it's it's it's it's it's best for somebody else, and that's okay. You know, and, and you're not supposed to be at point A by this age or point B by this age, and and so just being comfortable in the race that you're running and and doing, you know what, you putting the work in and and and doing what you feel is best for you, and and and going from there.

Speaker 1:

Well, 10 years from now, where do you envision yourself?

Speaker 2:

Ask myself that every single day Hopefully I'm still here at USC being able to, you know, continue to elevate this program and and bring it to new heights and support our student athletes to their goals of, you know, playing professionally and and having long careers and and seeing guys come back and graduate that leave early, or, if they they stay all four years, get their degrees and and, you know, be better versions of themselves and and see them become really successful people on and off the court, and that that's what's really truly special about you know, this, this profession is, is watching guys grow and when they don't even know they're growing, and and seeing that, you know, from the time they step on campus to the time they leave. So hopefully I'm still doing that here at USC and in in 10 years.

Speaker 1:

Over the years you've displayed perhaps the most eclectic personal style of anyone on staff. You've had your beard, which you have again now. another year you grew your hair out and then you put into a bit of a man bun. Sometimes you wear glasses, other times not, and I think the last time I saw you on TV you were a little bit more conservative, but now I see you got your beard back. Is there a method to your style madness? and what kind of ensemble can we expect this year, when it's possible, usc basketball is going to be on more screens across the country than ever before.

Speaker 2:

Well, that is a that's a good question. I get bored kind of easily And so I go back back and forth with the beard and nod and and with that. So it's just kind of kind of how I'm feeling It could be gone tomorrow. I could wake up and say, hey, this is time for a change. And, and you know, my, my, my family comes from the, my mom's side of the family is in the clothing business.

Speaker 2:

So it's kind of from an early age kind of enjoyed that, that, that that piece of being around, with how I got to, got to look up to my cousins and and be around the family And and so I just tried to, you know, hope that can bring a little bit of a different flavor because we're, you know we're, we're coaching basketball and we're we're we're having fun and and you know it's, it's I've truly been blessed with the ability to to be around such good, good, you know, coaching staffs and student athletes and programs And and so you know, part of it's not just not taking myself too seriously And and part of it is just is just kind of enjoying, enjoying the day to day.

Speaker 1:

I think I'm going to go back and check out what USC's record is, with with or without beard or with or without hair. Anyway, hey, mike, thanks again for being on the Dunk City podcast, thanks for being a friend of USCBasketballcom, and, on behalf of Trojan basketball fans everywhere, please wish the team the best of luck as it prepares for the upcoming season.

Speaker 2:

Well, i appreciate you having me and you know certainly appreciate all your support and and you know we appreciate it as a program and and you know the coolest thing ever is is to be able to to go out and play in front of your own fans, whether that's at home on the road, and see some familiar faces, and you know see the see people in the Cardinal and Gold. You know whether we're in in LA or or, you know, or on the road or at a neutral site or in a hostile, hostile environment, and so you know, appreciate all you do for, for for USC athletics in general, and we're looking forward to a great year.

Speaker 1:

Everyone is and we. We really appreciate you taking the time.

Speaker 2:

Awesome. Thanks so much, chris, i appreciate you.

Speaker 1:

And we appreciate you for spending more time with us on the Dunk City podcast this week. Let's turn it into a hoops habit. Follow us on all the major streaming platforms or stop by USCBasketballcom for a listen. Otherwise, set a reminder on your phone, block up some time on your iCalendar or just put a sticky note on your fridge and be sure to come back again for our next pot. As the season gets closer, we'll be sure to talk about the USC basketball news and information you care about. Thanks again, everyone, and fight on.

Career Path in College Athletics Administration
Offseason Operations and Logistics
Road Trip Logistics and Staff Management
Recruiting Strategy and Philosophy
Building Basketball Schedules and Planning Trips
USC Basketball Program and Future Plans
Basketball Coaching Style and Growth