As the calendar has turned to August, Siena assistant coach Tobin Anderson and the rest of the coaching staff are now shifting into the next phase of the off season activities. It has been a busy and productive time thus far, which for Tobin began with the review of tape of each player soon after the conclusion of last season. He tells how last season was rather unique. Having played with such limited numbers, the evaluation workload was lessened a bit.
” It’s a strange thing because we only had six players who played a lot, and three of them graduated, so you’re only watching three guys OD, Poole and Evan. Usually we would have eight players or more.”
This allowed more time for preparation and planning for spring workouts and for the newly added eight week summer practice time as allowed by the NCAA. With a focus on individual skills development, coaches were able to spend valuable time with the returning players as well as the three incoming freshmen Rich Audu, Ryan Oliver and Brett Bisping.
It also was a time for building relationships and solidifying the team atmosphere. He talked about how activities such as having the team over to his house for a cookout and spending time together off the court can build the foundation for working together on the court.
“It’s not just about basketball. The relationships you have now when there’s nobody else on campus when the classes aren’t as crazy, to build those kind of relationships with the guys is going to help us when the season starts. When the season starts it’s crazy, it’s nuts. Now is a good time to have the guys over to my house for a cookout, have them over once in a while just to hang out, to show the personal side a little bit, that it’s not just about basketball, to give a feel we’re like a family here”.
July was about recruiting. For three consecutive weeks the coaches hit the road for the Wednesday to Sunday evaluation periods as allowed by the NCAA. For Tobin the approach to recruiting is simple.
“Recruiting to me is all about hard work. It’s just as simple as that. You’ve got to be on the phone. You’ve got to do your due diligence, call people you know. It’s not just about who you see. You might see one kid he’s not right for you but hey I know about another. You’ve got to follow the trail. You’ve got to listen to people. You got to just work and call do the extra things. I want to be the guy who as an assistant is making those extra calls, writing the extra letter to a kid, spending some extra time doing that stuff, cause that’s going to pay off at the end of the day”.
With the “quiet period” of August here, coaches are no longer allowed to evaluate talent on the road. It is a time to host those key recruits for on-campus visits and to continue to build relationships with those who may become future Saints.
“You’ve got to call the kid, the parent, the coach. So when he talks to his high School coach he says hey I talked to Siena today. And he talks to his AAU coach, hey I talked to Siena today. That guy from Siena, he’s a nice guy and they really like you. Email the parents or mom and they say hey I got a nice email from Coach Andersen or Coach B. We can send out things to kids with pictures and articles so there is some connection to Siena and if you do that enough hopefully the kid feels like alright we’re comfortable about the school, the coaches and the players. Getting them on campus is huge and we have a great fan base here. You can talk about the arena all you want but when you see the arena and experience it, wow this is pretty good.”
For the rest of summer the coaches will focus on hosting their Siena basketball camp and planning the X’s and O’s which will formulate their team practices during the preseason. They will look to build on lessons learned from last season. Tobin explains how he learned a great deal personally from his experiences as a Division I assistant coach last season.
“I learned a ton from a personal standpoint. There are a lot of things that go on at Siena. It’s not just about coaching your team and X’s a O’s. There are media things guys have to deal with, things in the community. There’s travel stuff, more in depth than what you’re used to. A lot more than the coaching, balancing that stuff out. Division 3 is a different animal. Guys at Hamilton are going to be doctors and lawyers and basketball’s not the most important thing in their lives a lot of times. Here basketball is a more important part of their identity. It’s more a part of their life so I think you’ve got to spend more time with guys to keep things on track.”
As a former head coach himself Tobin also learned a great deal from head coach Mitch Buonaguro.
“Best thing about Mitch to me and what I learned is he can put things behind him. Sometimes as a coach you have to be even keeled and Mitch is REALLY good at that. Losses don’t bother him for long and wins don’t make him happy for that long. It’s about what’s the next thing. (At Hamilton) A loss would bother me for days. We’d get on the bus after a loss and I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t watch a movie, I couldn’t eat. I’d be miserable. I’d want to vent to my poor assistant coach for hours”.
As a team Anderson hopes they are able to carry over the attitude, toughness and perseverance from last year’s team into this season.
“I think trying to learn how to keep the guys on track and keep everyone in the program going in the same direction is one of the things we did best last year. We didn’t get sidetracked. It would have been very easy for us numerous times to fall off the wagon. Losing to Iona by 40 points, we came back and beat Fairfield. We always bounced back. That’s a credit to those guys. Now in the off season we say, how can we take that same attitude, same mentality and transfer it down to a “better” team, to a deeper team? That will be the challenge, to get those guys to understand that just because you’ve got more guys and may be “talented” we’ve still got to have that blue collar mentality.”
Tobin feels they have a good schedule that will allow the Saints to build momentum into a successful season.
“We have a good schedule and I think we’re going to be good. But it’s going to take some time.
One good thing we have going for us is we have OD. He’s a rock, you can count on him. He’s a good student. He’s a good kid. He’s been through it. This was a great year for him. He came from being basically a role player to now being a star and I think he’ll be a good leader for us. I think a big part of Ryan Oliver coming here was OD. Richard Audu was living with him (for the summer session). We kind of did that on purpose to be around this guy and how he handles himself the way a Siena basketball player should handle himself… just do what he does. I know Rich has been here when OD will come in the morning a lot of times to lift weights. That stuff is invaluable”.
Finally Coach Anderson spoke about his impressions of Siena after serving for a full year as assistant coach.
“I love it, I really do. I think it’s a great place. People had told me that before I came here. But being here it’s just different. It’s different than other places because people just love basketball. I love that because I love basketball. I mean I LOVE basketball. I was in a gym when I was one year old. My dad was a coach and I’ve been an “assistant coach” for 40 years. I was in the gym with my father my whole life. I just love basketball so much so it’s great to be in place where people love it too. I like the expectations because sometimes at D-3 you have your own expectations but its kind of nice to have people who want you to do well too. But also we haven’t lost our core beliefs. It’s still a good school. It’s a good place. Our guys go to class. There are no extra favors here. No one’s turning a bind eye to things if something happens so it’s still a great school and a great environment. It also has the basketball support you are looking for so I love it here. I’m excited about the future I think were moving in a really good direction.”
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