Q: What areas in Chicago State’s program did you find needed the biggest overhauling when you were hired earlier this year?
A: To me, it was the whole culture. I can’t say it was one thing. It was the whole culture. Just changing that mentality that we are a mid-level Division I program and not an NAIA one, which they were a bunch of years ago. That was the big overhaul. We are on the same level as the other Division I programs you hear about. That started when the new president [Wayne Watson] came in. I give all the credit to him in changing the culture of the school.
Q: What are realistic expectations at Chicago Sate?
A: Me being around the Horizon League as a UIC assistant the last couple years, I’m really confident where we’re at today would be the middle of the bunch in the Horizon. Chicago State did beat UIC the last time they met at UIC. When we went over and scrimmaged Chicago State last year, we couldn’t keep score for real, but we left with a 20-point loss. It’s safe to say Chicago State has been better basketball-wise than UIC. It has everything to do with the conference. When it comes down to it, we recruit against those same programs. We had a contract with UIC to play at their place this year and for them to come here next year. Three weeks ago, they cancelled the game. The way it was told to me was that the new coach came went in and said they didn’t want to play the game. The way the contract was structured, there was no penalty. There was nothing we could do. For a team to call in September and give up a home game, there’s something to it. I have no doubt that they were scared they would lose and it would hurt them in recruiting. I have no doubt. They have lost the last two times against Chicago State – the scrimmage and at UIC. Those are the facts.
Q: Four of your first five games are against DePaul, Notre Dame, BYU and Saint Mary’s. What do you expect from your team during that stretch?
A: I expect two things out of those games. First, I want to make sure I have guys who can compete. I just want to compete. The second thing I want to take out of that is I want them to learn what it takes to play against that type of level. I’m already starting to work on the schedule for 2011. We already have DePaul, Wichita State, Oregon State at Chicago State. Craig Robinson is going to come home. I’m in talks with Marquette, Cincinnati and Illinois State. This is just the start. I’m going to recruit guys who can play at that level. As a recruiting tool, the best guys always want to play the best. We want to play the best. When people talk about blue chippers and that and having coached after every level, the blue chippers are in the eye of the beholder. If you look at Butler, how many guys on that team would you say are blue chippers? The coach thought he had blue chippers. That’s in the eye of the beholder.
Q: What’s it like to finally be a head coach?
A: It’s night and day. I’m waking up every day with a smile on my face, praising and thanking God for this opportunity. As a head coach, you’re making the decisions. As an assistant for the last 20 years, I made suggestions. I’m able to come up with ideas and be creative. At the end of the day, I’m the one to make the decisions. Right now, I’m on Cloud 9. I haven’t had a bad day since I took over. A lot of that has to do with we haven’t played any games yet. I’m still undefeated.
Q: Could we see a starting lineup with Carl Montgomery, Jonathan Montgomery and Sean Montgomery?
A: There’s a chance you could see all three on the court at the same time. How strange is that? You have three Montgomery’s, and none of them are related. I tease those guys every day. I say, ‘Some way, somehow, you are all related.’ I’m telling you they’re all from the south suburbs of Chicago, and they all spell it the same way, and none of them are related. All of them can play.