Heath: Calipari recommended new hire Roccaforte
As basketball references go these days, Kentucky coach John Calipari has to be right up there, and new USF assistant Steve Roccaforte got a strong endorsement from his former boss at Memphis as Stan Heath was pondering who to hire for his staff.
"The job opened, and a lot of people, once they knew he had some interest, really raved about (Roccaforte)," Heath said Friday after the hire was announced. "They talked about how good a job he did, how effective he would be as an assistant coach. Cal loved him. He thought he was a great recruiter, a terrific coach. Cal raved about him."
He wasn't the only one, Heath said. Even outgoing assistant Jeremy Cox spoke highly of Roccaforte, who was a Memphis assistant when Cox was nearby at Arkansas-Fort Smith. Marquette coach Buzz Williams, who Heath described as a "very, very close friend" of Roccaforte, called on his behalf, as did several athletic directors.
"I got bombarded," Heath said. "But at the same time, that wasn't the reason I hired him. After I did my homework and had a chance to build a relationship with him over a short period of time, I felt comfortable. That was more important than anything to me was my comfort level, knowing that he was someone who would work well with me and my staff."
We had the chance to talk with Roccaforte this afternoon and will post a Q&A either tonight or early Saturday morning. ...
UPDATE: Turns out Roccaforte and Marquette's Williams are indeed good friends, and a good friend of the blog, Scott Kuykendall (who used to be USF's sports information contact for men's basketball and is now in the same position at Marquette) hooked us up with a quote from Buzz on Roccaforte and his new job at USF:
“Rock’s career accomplishments as an assistant and as a head coach, speak for themselves. Our profession goes so fast that we rarely study the impact of an individual – regardless of his position. We just read twitter and multiple blogs, and too many other opinions, much of which is never factual. If you study Rock’s career stops, you will find that he left every program in better shape than when he was hired. I have great respect for Coach Heath, and his path, but I can confidently tell you, that adding Rock to his staff just made not only their team better, but more importantly, their program better.”
(Interesting, too, to see the rival spellings of "Rock" as his nickname. The local papers in Beaumont (where he worked at Lamar) opt for "Roc," for instance)