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Stan Heath Interview
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courtesy Arkansas Sports Online

Stan Heath Interview

Arkansas Sports Online caught up with Coach Heath on May 7th. We had been on his list since the day he got the job. The sports information department at the University called us the week before and told us Coach Heath would be in Little Rock for a Bank of America event. We did not get the time we asked for but were grateful for the opportunity to visit with Coach Heath. We found him to be outgoing, optimistic, enthusiastic, and calming all at the same time. What has been said about him lighting up a room is absolutely true. You can tell he is really enjoying himself. Coach laughs a lot, and we really had a good time with him. We were not able to get to some of the more difficult questions we had for him because we were interrupted. Hey, the man has a schedule to keep. Coach Heath has already made his mark with his signing of Kendrick Davis and Eric Ferguson. We hope you enjoy our conversation. By the way, we've got a winner in Coach Heath.

Tell us about your family.
Well, there is my wife, Ramona, and my two boys, Jordan and Joshua. Jordan is ten, and Joshua is seven. They love basketball-love sports. They've been very, very supportive because we've been going through transitions not only this year but also last year. And we get a chance to see each other once a week right now. We'll have Mother's Day, and I get to see my wife and see my mother. My mother and father live right outside of Detroit, Michigan. My family will move here in June. My kids still have to finish school.

What are your general perceptions of Arkansas and Arkansas people thus far?
They've been warm. They've been genuine and very welcoming. I can tell they love the Razorbacks. There's a tremendous amount of support for, not just basketball, but for the University of Arkansas as a whole. I can tell that there's going to be a lot of excitement when we play games in Arkansas. The following is unbelievable-for a coach and for the players, it's what you want!

What role did your wife play in your decision to come to the University?
She played a big role! I couldn't have come here without her (laughing as he often does). I wasn't about to leave my wife now. You know… we look at this as a partnership. I don't make major decisions without her input and her blessings. I also include my mom and dad on major decisions as well. But she [my wife] loved Arkansas when she came down here. She's been around the different environments of college campuses and basketball atmospheres and she kind of knows… she gets a feel for people in general. She knows if they're good people or if they're people you don't want to be around… and she felt very comfortable when she came down here as well.

What did you have to consider in making the decision on where you would be coaching next year?
To be honest with you, after our season ended at Kent State, I wasn't looking for a job. I wasn't looking to move. It just so happened that this job was open. Once we had a chance to come down here and visit Arkansas and meet the people and meet the players on the team as well as some of the former players on the team, we just fell in love with the place. We felt that, as a coach, you want to have an opportunity to be at a national program that has a chance to be successful all of the time. Arkansas was one of those few jobs that we really felt like-hey, this is a place we can stay for a long time, and we can accomplish some dreams that we have.

How did you feel about having to leave Kent State and the relationships you had built there with players and staff?
It was really difficult. To start a job in one year and have a storybook season and bond and have those relationships that we had formed-it was difficult to break away from that. What helped a lot was the players… I had personal relationships with all of them. They just said, 'hey, coach, that's a great situation, and you really need to go there,' and they also said, 'hey if you want me to come, I'll come with you.' (laughing)

What was the biggest attraction about your decision to come to the UA?
I think coaches are really in the business of educating young men, but you also have the chance to be a voice. Arkansas puts you in a position to be a voice, to make positive changes, and maybe affect some lives-that was the attractive part about Arkansas-and what made it impossible to turn down was the opportunity to be in this environment. You can just tell… you can go to any place in Arkansas, and you can just tell that the whole state embraces the University's basketball program. And that's special. It's different. I mean, I loved Michigan State, but there was also Michigan. In Arkansas, it's Arkansas. I love that.

Tell us a little bit about Tuesday, March 26, beginning at around 9am.
Well, Tuesday was really a day that I thought I was going to have a chance to go play some golf and relax a little bit. My athletic director called me and said the University of Arkansas wanted to talk to me. He gave me permission to do so. I had an opportunity to do so right away because Coach Broyles called me, and, man, he just has a bubbly voice. He's really energetic-quite a salesman. But what was really impressive was that he called me at around 10 o'clock, and we originally talked about meeting at the Final Four and getting together. I told him that I just really didn't want to go through a long drawn-out process-that I'd just like to come take a look. And he asked me when, and I said, 'well, whenever is available.' So he called me back about half an hour later and said, 'ok, we're going to have a plane pick you up at around 2 o'clock. (laughing) Can your wife come?' And I said, 'yeah, let me call her up,' and the next thing you know, it's 2 o'clock, and we're on a plane headed for Arkansas. So I could tell he's a go getter and a mover and a shaker-he's quite a guy.

Contrast the difference in the attention you received from the time you accepted the head job at Kent state and the next 48 hours versus the same time period with the UA.
Boy, that's a tough question but a good question. At Kent State, I inherited the job from the head coach, Gary Watters. Obviously, he had done an outstanding job and had built the program up-when he took the job, and I think there were some hurt feelings-a lot of guys had lost a father figure. It was a situation where I had to rally the troops, get to know them, and build the relationships. That was kind of the starting block there. The people there were a little unsure of what direction the program was headed. I was kind of tested because I hadn't been a head coach, but there was excitement and there was enthusiasm about it. And in some ways, I feel like it's similar to this situation. Obviously, coach Richardson had built the program-and coach Sutton had done a great job as well. Arkansas had won a national championship, which really put the program at an extremely high level, and that's where people want the program to be. I can tell that the coaching change brought about some feelings of uncertainty, and people didn't know what direction the program was going to go. When I came here, I just felt like my job number one was to get the relationships going with the players. Number two is to get to know the people of the state of Arkansas-any fences that need to be mended, then that's what we do. It's not going to be an overnight process. It's not a sprint; it's more of a marathon. I definitely think that we're setting ourselves at a good pace, and I think we're starting to move things in a direction that's going to be good for everybody.

Have you begun to feel the pressure associated with the head coaching job at the University of Arkansas?
Not really. I think what you'll find with me is that I'm a real grounded person. I love basketball. I think basketball is a game where you can educate young men. It's a great livelihood, but there's more to life than just basketball. I try not to get too high. I don't get too low. And I also know that when you win, everybody's with you, and when you're not, they're not always with you. But I don't worry about those things. The pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself because I'm very competitive. I want to win. I want to put forth a team that everyone's going to be proud of and happy to be associated with, but it takes work, and it takes time.

Is there a difference in the day to day operations between here and Kent State?
Yeah. I was pulled to some degree with the different things I had to do at Kent State, but it's three times more here. I'm spread out a lot more and have to be in a lot of places in a short amount of time. So from that standpoint, it's more demanding; it's more taxing on my time, but I wanted the job, and that's just the deal.

What was it like in Atlanta after having just been named the head coach? (He laughed.) We heard you were being referred to as a rock star.
Seemed like I was doing interviews in the elevator. Every time I ran into somebody, it was like, 'hey coach! We're interested in your positions.' Oh, it was overwhelming in some ways. You'd be surprised. I know in the state of Arkansas, a lot of people love Arkansas. But I go to Atlanta, and, no matter where I go, it's-'hey I'm from Arkansas… hey coach, good luck I'm behind you, I'm rooting for you.' It's hard for me because, in some ways, I like the attention, but I really would rather just stay to myself and do what I'm supposed to do. But I'm just learning to deal with those things.

Have you even had a chance to slow down and take some time for yourself since the phone call on the 26th?
No (laughing). Not at all. I got a chance to play golf yesterday, but I couldn't play the whole nine. No. I haven't, but I'm okay. I'm just looking forward to when my family moves down. That will make it easier for me.

Can you tell us a little bit about your conversation with Nolan before you accepted the job, and did he offer you any advice or encouragement?
Well, he did say that if they offer you the job, you definitely should take it. And it's a good job. Outside of that, he was pretty good. He said, 'I watched your team at Kent, and you did a nice job. I was really happy for you. I was pulling for you.' He just said that there were some things he has to do, and it would never be anything against me, and he wished me well.

What was it like talking to someone who many think is a coaching legend?
I did a lot of listening. He's been through a lot of things, and he's definitely a guy who's done a great job building the program and leaving a tremendous legacy. I hope when all is said and done, that the positives will be remembered.

Many believe that Nolan may have caused some damage with the remarks he made at that now infamous press conference. What can you do to repair some of the damage or the hurt feelings?
Well, I don't know if that's my job. All I can do is coach my team, prepare for the season, and do a good job recruiting. If negative things come up, then obviously, we have to address them. But I'm not going to dwell in the past. The only thing I can do is move forward and sell our program and sell what the University of Arkansas has to offer.

One of the criticisms aimed at Coach is that he did not build relationships with high school coaches in the state of Arkansas. There was speculation of an icy relationship with Coach Flan here at Parkview and Coach Richardson. How do you plan to develop relationships within the high school ranks here in Arkansas?
Well, I have no comment obviously because I'm not sure what Coach Richardson's relationship was with the coaches in the area. That could be for different reasons. But I have no idea what that was-I'm sure there are as many positives as you could say there are negatives because that happens with anybody. But I'm going to have the same approach that I've always had and the approach I've learned from the coaches that I've been around. I have an open armed welcome for all of the high school coaches in the state of Arkansas. I want to do everything that I can to let them know that the players they have in their program are guys that we're going to be looking at. And if we feel like it's a good situation, then we hope that they'll give their players their blessing to come to the University of Arkansas. And we're going to work real hard to make sure we don't leave any stones unturned-that we find the guys who can be successful at Arkansas.

Talk about your coaching and recruiting philosophies.
I start with recruiting-I really believe in the "inside out" approach of starting right in the back yard. If there are guys here that can help us, those are the guys we want first. From there, we try to hit the surrounding areas and branch out from there. I also really feel that Arkansas is one of those programs where you can go nationally and you can knock on some doors, and people will have interest because of the history and the tradition. Basketball-wise, I want a team that's competitive-a team that's going to play hard. I believe that to win championships, you have to play defense, you have to rebound. Offensively, I like to play in the open court where guys can play an exciting brand of basketball and create. But I also know that you have to have fundamentals. You have to execute. We do a lot of skill development. And those are all of the things that I revolve my program around.

Coach, one last question… it's an ASO tradition. Coach, your last name is Heath. What is your favorite junk food?
Heath Bar.
05-22-2002 03:27 PM
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