pro in waiting | Better
than par | End
of a great match
| Advantage Scholten
no place like home
by some of college basketball's legendary coaches, new top hoop Frog Neil
Dougherty is ready to lead his own program.
Dougherty, you're not in Kansas anymore.
into your tenure as TCU's 18th basketball coach, your computer still won't
print. Your new assistant coaches are still learning what video equipment
is available. The final member of your staff came aboard the last day
of the recruiting period.
But you know
where the paper clips go. Middle shelf in the supply closet next to the
because you knew where your boss at Kansas, Roy Williams, kept his, which
is one reason he hired you in 1995. You knew it then because Eddie Fogler
kept his paper clips in the same place at Vanderbilt and South Carolina
when you worked for him from 1989 to 1995. Fogler and Williams both knew
it because their mentor, former North Carolina coach Dean Smith, famous
for his meticulous organizational structure, stashed them there, too.
All of Smith's disciples do.
is, you know how successful college basketball programs operate. You've
seen how Hall of Fame coaches run practices, analyze opponents on tape
and convince great high school players -- and their parents -- that these boys
will be better under a coach's care than anyone else's.
And TCU is
convinced you've soaked it all up and are ready for your turn as the head
no question I'm a product of the environment I've been around," you say,
still settling into your barren, wood-paneled office. "I've been fortunate
to be around great coaches like Roy Williams and Eddie Fogler and play
for a brief time under Coach K [current Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski] at
West Point. I've been exposed to great systems, great people and great
ideas. What I intend to do is bring that with me. I've told people, 'I
hope you enjoyed watching the University of Kansas because I intend to
bring that here and make it TCU.' "
Horned Frog faithful are counting on -- a sort of KU South, where recruits
stay four years and graduate, fans know the players' signature moves and
the rest of the country has the TCU game circled on the schedule.
knows he has his work cut out for him in some areas. Attendance at Daniel-Meyer
Coliseum last season lagged to just over 4,000, smaller than the student
section at Allen Field House in Lawrence.
not worried. He's a master recruiter, having signed eight All-Americans
at Kansas -- while entertaining their little brothers and Grandpa at the
same time. Dougherty plans to bring some of that magic to Fort Worth.
Only here, the "living room" is a 250-acre campus and city of half a million.
to establish a program that is successful over time, ownership has to
be widespread," said the 41-year-old coach. "My mission is to get everyone -- the
university, TCU fans, Fort Worth and players -- to believe that my program
is their program. It's a program that represents the TCU community, not
just an implementation of Kansas basketball."
he's winning over his team.
they're not renting for two or four years. They're buying. It's a purchase.
They get to keep this program, this experience forever," Dougherty explained.
"That's how I want them to treat the TCU basketball program, like a first
car or first home."
staple of the Smith-Williams-Fogler system that Dougherty brought to TCU
is player mailboxes set up in the basketball offices -- not as a place to
leave memos, but as a system to see his guys every day, even in the off-season.
So when parents call, he knows what their sons are up to.
was on the road recruiting during his first month on the job, Dougherty
let his returning seniors design the team's uniforms. And at the end of
the season, they'll get to keep them -- just like they do at Kansas.
they play by his rules.
not to be late for anything. Not to miss class. Not to miss tutor appointments,"
Dougherty said, ticking each off on a finger. "It's an effort to mold
them into my understanding. They're learning reliability, responsibility
and accountability and it's building leverage for them. The more they
do what I ask, the harder it will be for me to say no to them. I want
them to get their coach over a barrel."
style because that's his upbringing. The son of an Army officer in Leavenworth,
Kan., he learned discipline early.
an understanding of always driving toward a goal. There was an understanding
of being realistic but keeping a focus on what you want to do," Dougherty
recalled. "Be prepared. Be confident. I don't know if it was my father
or the military background, but it put me in position to have a deep sense
of pride, to be very competitive, to be a very analytical, thinking person.
Those were the traits Dad talked about."
learned much from his high school coach, Bob Knoll, who would drive around
Leavenworth once or twice a day checking gyms and outdoor courts to see
which of his players were working on basketball.
"If he didn't
see one of us," Dougherty said, "we knew there was a good chance he would
call that evening and say, 'I didn't see you. Are you still serious about
playing basketball here?' "
never got called.
He was always
playing, even slipping out between lifeguard shifts at the city pool to
get in a pick-up game. He was afraid of disappointing the coach even more
than his parents.
want to let him down. I didn't want to be one of the guys he didn't see
when driving around," he said. "My friends and I would ask each other,
'Seen Coach yet today?' It was a thought that was always on our minds."
It's a lesson
still lodged in Dougherty's memory and one he tells his own children and
youths at basketball camps. Finding motivation in playing for someone
else -- a parent, a teacher, a high school coach or a wiser, older gentleman
from the neighborhood -- is a good substitute when the will is weak.
would play in another team's arena," Dougherty remembered, "Coach had
us pick out someone we did not know from the crowd and play as though,
by the end of the game, that person would think, 'Wow. That kid gave all
he had.' "
players will do the same.
admits he has much to do in Fort Worth before fall, but he is pleased
to be a Horned Frog. Other universities have tried to woo him in seasons
past, but he passed. This time, TCU was a right fit.
my name would surface for a job, I asked myself if I would want to live
there. For TCU, the answer was a big, big yes," Dougherty said. "I looked
at the program and saw it going into a new era and I could go in transition
with it. Also, TCU as a university really fits me. I really enjoyed Kansas,
but 7,000 versus 28,000 is more my personality."
He also knows
that by living in basketball-rich Texas, he won't have to travel far to
find players or snatch them from "someone else's backyard," as he is known
to say. There will be plenty to go around and he will get his share.
I can reach high school coaches and players and let them know something
very exciting is happening here," he said. "They don't have to abandon
the state any longer to find good basketball."
it, Coach. There's no place like home.
Dougherty at email@example.com