USF men's basketball coach Stan Heath has completed his staff with the hiring of assistants Eric Skeeters and Jeremy Cox. Times staff writer Greg Auman had the chance to talk with both Monday. Here's the interview with Cox, who has been an assistant under Billy Gillispie at Texas A&M and Kentucky, but got to know Heath when he was head coach at Arkansas-Fort Smith while Heath was at Arkansas.
GA: To start, just want to ask how you came to be a match with South Florida and the opening here.
JC: I've known Coach for seven years now. I was at a junior college in Arkansas when he was there at Arkansas. I think it was a 45-minute drive gym to gym for me. I got to know him, spent a lot of time watching his practices, went to a lot of their home games and spent a lot of time in Fayetteville. Really enjoyed watching his program develop, had a good relationship with his staff, with Dan Hipsher, Oronde Taliferro, Rob Flaska, Ronnie Thompson.
All of us had a real good working relationship. We'd come up in the summer and our guys would play against their guys. My last year there, we had a kid named Sonny Weems who Coach signed at Arkansas. He got to really see our program, how we did things, how we treated our guys. We shared a lot of ideas. Believe me, we were taking a lot more ideas than they were taking from me, but it developed into a good healthy relationship that lasted through when I went to Texas A&M and Kentucky.
I really liked him as a person, thought he was a great guy and a very good basketball coach. He really knows how to recruit a basketball team, not just players, but a team. If you watched what he did at Arkansas, what he's doing here is really impressive to me.
GA: Had you known much of South Florida, in terms of knowing the school?
JC: I don't know as much as a lot of folks, but my first year in coaching was 1992, and I was a grad assistant at Wyoming. Tommy (Tonelli) and I actually talked about this, because he was here with (then-USF coach) Bobby Paschal. We played them in a tournament at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. They had (Radenko) Dobras and them here, and we had a very good team at Wyoming, but they drilled us. They beat us like a drum. I was really impressed with them. I was intrigued from that day on, always kind of watched them, through Paschal's years, the Seth Greenberg years and (Robert) McCullum's. I've always watched, and just remember because it was one of the first true beatings I ever took in coaching. You think of playing in Tampa, Florida, it's a catchy place.
GA: Eric Skeeters was saying you've got the foundation of a good sales pitch just in playing in the Big East, playing for USF, living in Tampa.
JC: There's no question, and the other thing is Coach Heath. If you have a guy who can go into any household in America, you just feel good about him. You've got a great city, a great university, and the best basketball conference in the country, with a coach who's won a national championship (as an assistant), been to three Final Fours, proven as a head coach. You have a whole lot to sell.
GA: You've recently coached in the Big 12 and the SEC. How will it be different in the Big East?
JC: I have to be careful how I answer this. The SEC and Big 12 are wonderful leagues, great conferences, but when you speak of the SEC, it's definitely built on football. The Big 12, with Texas and Oklahoma, is still football. They play great basketball in both leagues, and they play great football in this league, but the Big East was built on basketball.
I think kids associate the Big East with basketball. The Big East has done a really good job of selling their conference as a terrific basketball league. It has a great tradition, even as young as it is compared to the other leagues. We all grew up in this generation with the Big East.
GA: Where did you grow up?
JC: I'm originally from Colorado, went to high school in Wyoming, in Big Eight country. With ESPN, we all grew up with Big East basketball on Big Monday.
GA: Who are the coaches who have shaped you the most as a coach?
JC: My dad (Neil Cox) was a high school coach, a fantastic coach. Your father always develops your personality as much as anybody, for all of us. He gave me my personality, and Coach Gillispie's personality as a coach is very similar to that. Guys like Benny Dees at Wyoming, who was a terrific recruiter and taught me so much initially. He was fantastic. My junior college coach was a terrific basketball coach, and not a lot of guys will ever know how good a coach he was because he was a junior college coach. His organization, his teaching methods, they influenced the way I was as a head coach as much than anything. His practice planning, his organization was fantastic.
GA: You've only had a weekend here, but what have you seen from this roster already?
JC: The biggest thing is they seem like really good people. That doesn't surprise me, with Coach, because he surrounds himself with good people. I think their bodies surprised me — the guards like Dominique (Jones) and Chris (Howard), they have big, physical bodies that can really compete in this league. They've improved their size, and I think that was the biggest thing that surprised me, their physical stature. Most importantly, I think they're really good kids.