Roccaforte Files: Q&A with new USF assistant
Now I've gone and used up the best (if not easiest) play on words newly available with Stan Heath's hiring of former Lamar head coach Steve Roccaforte as an assistant coach at USF. To make that slightly less flippant, I'll use this as an opportunity to explain that his last name is pronounced ROCK-uh-furt, so the silly headline might actually serve as a handy mnemonic device for Bulls fans.
We were able to speak with Roccaforte for a few minutes on Friday afternoon, and he shared some insights into his strengths, his interest in USF and his recruiting ties in Texas, which are timed well as TCU joins the Big East next year. He's a baseball guy who has been an Astros fan as the local team, but he's excited about catching a Rays game down the road as well. ...
Q: How quickly did this come about once you heard there was an opening on USF's coaching staff?
A: It was a little bit unusual for both of us, because Stan and I did not know each other personally or as friends. We knew of each other. It came together the right way, because of what he was looking for in that position, and what my experience was. That was a big key for me, looking for a job, I wanted to make sure the feeling was mutual, that whatever the job was, that I filled those needs, that I and the head coach would both be comfortable. I like Stan. I know he's a really good person and a really good coach. When we got together and talked, I think everything clicked.
Q: Tell me about the challenge of being a coach in the Big East and what you like about that.
A: I think it's very exciting. Any time you have an opportunity to better yourself and play in the best basketball conference in the country, that is very exciting for me. I've been in several programs over the course of my career that were top 25 programs at a high level. I don't know that I've ever been at this high of a level. I look at what he's done there. I looked at the type of season they had two years ago when Dominique (Jones) was there as a junior. It's exciting to be there right now. South Florida and Stan Heath are on the verge of doing some really great things, and I'm just excited to be a part of that.
Q: Have you had much history recruiting players from the state of Florida?
A: I actually have. We recruited (Amare Stoudemire) when I was at the University of Memphis. Currently on the roster at Lamar, Brandon Davis and Devon Lamb are both from Jacksonville. Throughout the course of my career, I've been there a lot. I've recruited high schools, prep schools, junior colleges in the state of Florida. I've recruited a lot in the South, but I've also had to recruit nationally at a lot of the places I was at -- Tulane, Wyoming and Lamar. We recruited nationally a lot.
Q: Is there one are you think will be a strength or focus for you as an assistant coach at USF?
A: I think Stan Heath is a really good coach. He's a great X-and-O coach, from everybody I've talked to. I had an opportunity to watch them play twice last year. There's really good players in the program. With this recruiting class coming in, that's something that can take the program over the top. I think any time you're an assistant coach at this level, the biggest impact you have to make is in recruiting. There's a lot of good coaches, but I think the name of the game is recruiting. You have to have good players. I think it's a 24-7, 365 job. I've done that for the majority of my career. In order to put him in a position that he needs to be in, then recruiting has to be a top priority. It has to be your main job.
Q: Is there one area that's a home base for you in recruiting, where you've had the most success over the years?
A: A lot of people talk about me recruiting in the state of Texas. I've had good success in the state of Texas. I signed Kendrick Perkins to the University of Memphis. I signed Chris Owens, who was a player of the year in the state of Texas when I was at Tulane. Over the years, I've signed a lot of good players out of there, but I've signed a lot of good players in different states. I'm comfortable doing whatever the job needs to be done. Whatever areas Stan Heath wants us to go to, I'm comfortable doing that. People talk about me and Texas because when I first started out at Centenary College in Shreveport, it was a lot of local recruiting, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi. That was the concentration. Those areas could greatly benefit us at South Florida.
I was a high-level assistant coach for 20 years, and adding head coach for five years, to me just extends what the job is. Having been a head coach, you're very sympathetic to what that position entails. It's a very stressful job, a very lonely job at times. I think as an assistant coach, it's just that. I'm there to assist Stan Heath in anything and everything he needs to do. I know his goals for that program are to be a top 25 program, to win conference championships, to go to the NCAA Tournament and make deep runs. I'm here to assist him in any way, shape or form that he sees fit to do that for this program.