By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (June 13, 2014) – A year ago at this time Eddie Jordan was a new coach preparing for a new league with a strange roster.
The league will be new again – after spending last season in the AAC, Rutgers officially joins the Big Ten on July 1 – but Jordan’s comfort level now has him prepared for what’s ahead.
The Scarlet Knights’ men’s basketball coach says he has already noticed a dramatic difference during off-season workouts because of his familiarity with the players – and theirs with him and his system.
Scarletknights.com caught up with Jordan today for a quick question and answer session in his office. Here’s how it went:
Q. What has the reaction been to Rutgers being in the Big Ten with July 1 drawing closer?
EJ: “I’ve always said it won’t hit home for a lot of people until they actually see us compete on TV and read about it when start playing in the Big Ten -- but mostly viewing it on TV, seeing us going against Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Indiana. They have to see us competing against those schools. That’s when it is going to be part of the fabric of the thought process. There has been a lot of talk and a lot written about Rutgers going to the Big Ten but I don’t think it will hit home for a lot of people until they see it happen.”
Q. What impact has being in the Big Ten had on recruiting?
EJ: “Recruiting-wise, everyone knows we’re going to the Big Ten. It’s a big selling point. They want to be a part of it – the high school coaches, AAU coaches, the players. But they also want to know if we are going to be competitive. I tell the recruits we’ll be competitive when you come here.”
Q. Have you been pleased by what you’re seeing from the players during their off-season work?
EJ: “The off-season work by the players has been great. I see a huge difference because this time last year they had no idea how I wanted them to play. Now it’s two different planets. They move the ball, they know what to see, they know how to react, they know what I want defensively. Our communication is on the same page. They didn’t know our commands last year, what to say when they had to deal with a screen or a pick and roll or transition defense. Now they know. It’s second nature. It’s a big difference.”
Q. What was the thought process behind putting together the non-conference schedule for this season?
EJ: “Our intention was to get to Madison Square Garden, the Barclays Center, play on TV – obviously we’ll do that in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge against Clemson – and yet still get some home games. Seton Hall is a contract for us for the next eight years. There were some games we had to return. Obviously, we play George Washington (at home). That was a home and home that was agreed to before I was here. So we feel like we met most of our objectives.”
Q. How well positioned is this team when it comes to being competitive in the Big Ten this season?
EJ.: “I don’t know yet. I know what the Big Ten is about. I’ve seen the teams. I know where we are, and we’re going to be young. I know we’re going to take our lumps. That’s just part of rebuilding. Our kids know that. But we also know what we have to continue to address with our players: You keep competing, you stay together, you keep the locker room solid, you give great effort and you keep harmony. That’s been our mantra.”
Q. What’s the status of the assistant coaching vacancy on the staff?
EJ: “We’ve had several people we’ve interviewed. I’m hoping to have someone named before we hit the recruiting trail on July 1. I’ve always said, even when I made the changes, that I was going to be patient to make sure I did this the right way. So I think we’ll have a decision very shortly.”