Clipboard Conversations: Pat Skerry, Towson

10 Jun

Pat Skerry takes over a Towson program that needed a shot in the arm.

By Justin Young
National Hoops Report

Pat Skerry is the new head coach at Towson University. After successful stops at Rhode Island, Providence and Pittsburgh, the highly respected assistant coach is now jumping into the head coach’s chair this season with the Tigers.

We talk about his team’s new floor, his vision for the job, the CAA, recruiting (which is going well already) and his staff in this week’s edition of Clipboard Conversations.

NATIONAL HOOPS REPORT: Why Towson? What made this job stand out enough to say, ‘Hey, I want that gig.’?

PAT SKERRY: “It’s a great league and it is hard to get jobs. I felt like I had a super job at Pittsburgh working for coach Dixon. I was a head coach when I was 26 at a Division III school before I jumped into Division I and I feel like my background is all about going into places that needs energy pumped into them or where it needs a new roster. This situation reminds me of when I was at Rhode Island. Not that it was bad but when this thing came about I was certainly excited about it.

“We have a great campus, a new A.D., a great recruiting base and in two years we will have a brand new facility which we desperately needed. That’s going to allow us to compete with anyone in the conference. I thought there were a lot of positives.”

NHR: After winning four games the entire season last year, we’ve heard more positive news about Towson basketball in the last four weeks than the entire season as a whole. With your hiring, a splash in recruiting and a new floor certainly helps. How much of your initial push with the Tigers is about positive marketing?

PS: “No question. It starts with good players. Obviously, coach Kennedy is a terrific head coach over his career. I have a good feel for what it takes to be successful at this level and I have the support of our athletic director Mike Waddell. I’m not worried about what happened. I’m moving forward. To me it is all about your relationships. Do they trust you? Do they believe in you? My thing is this – I’m not going to be one of those coaches that says I’m the head coach and I’m just going to coach. I told this people that I’m going to recruit like I’m an assistant. We are going to go out and get the best players we can get and get them to play hard as hell.”

NHR: Let’s talk about this new floor you guys have going on there at Towson.

PS: “Whether is it marketing or outside the box, whatever it is, it is good for us. We have to promote our brand and our name. The floor has given us some good publicity. We are with Under Armour and they do some really creative stuff for us, jersey wise. The new arena is great. The logos, whatever. But we are going to play different, too, now. All of that stuff is all about the changes. That’s what I’m encouraged about.”

NHR: There have been a lot of coaches that have worked for Jamie Dixon that have moved onto head coaching positions after being an assistant for him. What is it about him that allows for that kind of career change for assistant coaches?

PS: “Obviously his track record speaks for itself. He’s incredibly driven. His focus for his system works. He’s had more success than anyone in terms of record in the Big East over the last decade. I think there’s a lot that you can take from him to give yourself a chance to win night in and night out. I kind of feel like I’ve been fortunate to work for him, who’s been the National Coach of the Year. I worked for Keno Davis, who was the National Coach of the Year. I’ve worked for Jim Barron won the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year more than anyone in the history of that conference. And I’ve worked with Tom Herrion, who is one of my closest friends, and he has been successful at Charleston and Marshall. You try to take some things from everybody.”

NHR: Tell me about your staff. Can you talk about each of them and what they bring to the table?

PS: “I had a clear vision to how I wanted to build my staff. I wanted someone who I had worked with and I wanted someone who had been a head coach before. I got that with Kevin Clark. We worked together for three years at Rhode Island. He was a head coach at the Division III level and he recruited me out of high school. He was the interim head coach at St. John’s for a year. He’s a veteran guy that I can lean on with the day to day stuff.

“Then I wanted to get two well-connected guys that can be recruiters. Kenny Johnson comes over from Nike Team Takeover. He’s as good of an AAU coach as you’ll find in the country. They just went 15-0 in the spring AAU schedule. He’s well-respected and a good high school coach. He has his molecular biology degree from Maryland. I’ve known Kenny for a while. I know people have been trying to hire him for a while now. I’m happy that he’s on board. He is really connected to this neck of the woods.

“Luke Murray reminds me a lot of myself from 10-15 years ago, only smarter. He’s a good, young coach. He’s worked for really good coaches in Dan Hurley, Sean Miller, Tom Moore. We became pretty close from his time with the New England Playaz.

“We connected ourselves pretty well from New England all the way down to the Carolinas. Our operations guy, Duane Simpkins is another Maryland guy. He played at Maryland and played at DeMatha. He was a successful high school at St. Albans.

“I’m pumped up about them all. Hopefully they can get some good players so I can fool everyone to make it look like I know what I’m doing.”

NHR: You went to Tufts. Kenny has his degree in molecular biology. The rest of your staff are pretty smart guys. Are you guys sitting in the back of the bus this season talking about dissecting atoms or something?

PS: “I don’t know how smart I am. I think Tufts was pretty easy to get into school when I went there. I think we have a good staff that are intelligent guys. We have to get involved with guys. I think these guys are hungry and get that. I want to be able to have players like that, the kind that have a chip on their shoulders and want to work every day. When you are trying to build something, you have to approach it that way. We have to change our mindsets, our habits. That’s how you build a culture. Our mindset has to be that we are going to battle. We are going to compete everyday whether that’s in practice, with recruiting, in the classroom. We have to do it across the board. That’s what we have to do in our league if we want to win.”

NHR: What’s the overall footprint of the style of play you want to run? What are we expecting to see this year from Towson?

PS: “Hopefully a winning style. Here’s what I know we have to do. In our conference games last year, we gave up 50 percent from twos and we were last in the league in the conference from three. We have to guard, rebound and get tougher mentally. There’s no disputing that. We are going to work on some things that we did at Pittsburgh that allows our guys great freedom and comfort on offense. We’ve got to develop a mindset of getting stops. You can’t be last across the board in those numbers and expect to win.”

NHR: You are driving back from the CAA meetings right now. What did you learn at those meetings?

PS: “I learned we have a big time conference. I left there pumped up and felt very honored that I’m coaching in this league. Then I felt very nervous because there are a lot of great programs and great coaches. That’s the bad thing. The good thing is that we are in a great league. The CAA is going to be a three or four bid league now. Its as good if not better than the Atlantic 10. You’ve had two teams go to the Final Four in the last six years. That’s unprecedented at the so-called mid-major level. You could make an argument that you have a better chance of making it to the NCAA tournament at our place than being one of those bottom three or four schools at a high-major.”

ARCHIVES OF CLIPBOARD CONVERSATIONS

One Response to “Clipboard Conversations: Pat Skerry, Towson”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pitt Blather Permalink » Success Breeds More Interest (and Success) - June 13, 2011

    […] one thing that hasn’t been answered is what it is about coaches hired under Dixon finding success once they get their own program. NHR: There have been a lot of coaches that have worked for Jamie Dixon that have moved onto head […]

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