Friday, Sept. 9, begins the contact period for college coaches, which allows the coach to spend face time with a recruit and his family at his school or home, rather than on campus. College coaches have a golden opportunity to make a great impression on the student athlete, his family and the people who surround him, but it isn't easy.
For the coach, everything is scrutinized -- how questions are answered, remembering names and important information, where to sit, eye contact, body language, demeanor and tone. And the coaches are often not just meeting the recruit and his immediate family. Coaches must be prepared to meet anyone from the grandparents to the neighbor and be prepared to answer lots of questions.
I had one Big East coach tell me he went on a home visit last year and "there were so many people, they should of had name tags."
"I mean the kid's family members and coach I understand, but this visit was crazy," he said. "The local policeman who lives in the neighborhood, along with the barber and even the pastor of their church were there. Plus, some of his friends and his girlfriend!"
In years past, the purpose of the home visit was to secure one of five important official campus visits from a prospect. However, more and more players are setting up official visits, and even committing, before the contact period even begins. The once-persuasive home visit is almost an obsolete part of the process. Nevertheless, it still has value.
Here is a more in-depth look at three scenarios coaches could be in during this contact period.
When the prospect has already committed
This is the best case for any home visit as both parties are happy and ready to discuss the future. It will also be the only home visit that the player receives because of his commitment. For example, when Arizona coach Sean Miller and staff go to Findlay Prep on Saturday to meet with Brandon Ashley it will be very lighthearted and causal. When Ashley committed it basically began the engagement process between him and Arizona and the two will officially tie the knot when he signs on Nov. 9.
This approach for the head coach and his assistant is one that is less formal and less informative in terms of selling yourself and your school. That's already been done with great success, so now the conversation shifts to their future together. Miller will revisit the academic and basketball plans previously made, especially for Ashley and his future success. By no means will Miller take anything for granted but the tone and pace of the conversation will be more comfortable and each party knows what's expected.
When the prospect has agreed to an official visit
When a coach like Memphis' Josh Pastner takes an in-home visit with an official visit already lined up for the future, like he has with local PF Jarnell Stokes, he is in good shape. The bad news for Pastner is that Stokes is probably looking at taking four other official visits, as well.
It is important for Pastner to cover all his bases, concerns and make sure to stop by the high school to reconnect with the coaches, administration, guidance counselor and anyone else who may be a part of Stokes' life. Remember, in a scenario like this the recruit has been up to the campus at least once and has had countless correspondence with the coaching staff. At this point in time coaches must ask some hard, direct questions. Is there anything that's important to you that I did not cover? If you attended our school what would you want to major in? If a recruit doesn't know what he would major in, odds are he doesn't have as much interest as you think. Likewise, if the prospect and his group don't ask a lot of questions, the level of interest might not be that high.
Some coaches like Pastner even get creative and make a visit to Stokes' home at 12:01 a.m. just to make sure he was the first coach to visit and show how much of a priority the player is.
When the prospect hasn't even agreed to an official visit
The toughest in-home visit for any coach is trying to get a prospect to agree to an official visit. If a coach can't secure a campus visit, then there's a good chance he's not landing that prospect. This is a scenario that new Miami coach Jim Larranaga and assistant coach Chris Caputo are going through with SG Terry Henderson (Raleigh, N.C./Neuse Baptist Christian), SG Melvin Johnson (Bronx, N.Y./St. Benedict's) and PF Demetrius Henry (Miami/Northeast). Larranaga was extremely successful at George Mason but is trying to establish himself in the ACC.
Larranaga won't get a second chance to make a first impression, so he must make sure to explain everything about himself as a coach and as a person, as well as his coaching philosophy, and sell his university. It's important that he know as much as possible about everyone he meets, be thorough and connect with everyone. Some coaches feel it's necessary to have lengthy in-home visits (two hours), while others prefer to be out in an hour. Some do this with handouts or a power point presentation, others with stories and jokes, but in the end all coaches, like Larranaga, are hoping to get the recruit to agree to an official visit and then go from there.
Paul Biancardi, who has been a head coach and assistant on NCAA tournament teams, is the national director of basketball recruiting. He is also one the voters for the McDonald's All-American Game and Gatorade Player of the Year. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.