Jennifer Azzi is finally with her team at USF. Her players are in class and she’s working with them eight hours a week, as mandated by NCAA rules.
USF coach Jennifer Azzi – USF photo/Shawn Calhoun
Coach Azzi took a little time out to talk with leftcoasthoops.com.
Q: What has it been like to finally get to work with your team?
A: I was so excited. The fastest time passes on the court. But it’s been really great. As coaches, we all wish we had a little more court time. It’s been fantastic.
Q: What is your first impression of your team?
A: I think they worked pretty hard over the summer. I”m impressed with what they’ve been doing. And I certainly appreciate their attitude more than anything. There have been no complaints. At least not to me. They are working hard and they are into it, and I think they are enjoying it.
Q: What is the tone of the team?
A: I think motivated and hopeful are two great ways to describe what’s happening. There’s a new, good energy here. One of the things I think (the players) respect, is that we’ve been there. We don’t play on the court with them, but we go on runs with them and they get a kick out of that. We are teaching them as well as coaching them. We’re pretty hands on when it comes to the conditioning stuff.
Q: Are you implementing your plan for the program, the style you want to play?
A: Everything we are doing has a plan, we are determining where we are going on the court. A lot of it is breaking down the skills. We are doing a lot of skill development, which obviously we didn’t have a chance to do before now. It’s definitely affected the way we are going to play.
Q: How much have you been able to assess the talent of your team?
A: We’re in the process of doing that now. It’s hard to do from minute one. Some people with struggle with conditioning, but you get them on the court and you can’t stop them. We need to see them play. I can only have four of them on the court at a time, so it’s still hard to get a complete look at them. We can’t watch them play pickup. But I can see that so-and-so needs to work on going to the left, and this player needs a better follow-through. I can break them down individually very well. But for the game-like stuff, it won’t be for a bit.
Q: How was your first summer as a head coach?
A: I know I’ve said this, but it’s not rocket science, it’s basketball. I think I learned a ton about operations, but a lot of stuff I already knew, or knew from other business applications I’ve been involved with. There are a lot of things I’ve been able to apply here. But as far as the intercollegiate setting, we are staying on top of academics and all the details with compliance and all the NCAA rules and updates. What really surprised me is how much things have changed and yet not changed. I think technology is the biggest factor. We are using different types of scouting and video services, and online and video editing. I think managing that is the key to us being successful.
Q: How is your staff settling in?
A: Great. Fantastic. Katy (Steding) is just awesome. Where she shines like crazy is on the court. On the court, she’s amazing, she’s such a good teacher. I think as good a player as she was, she’s a better teacher. And everybody’s doing a great job.
Q: You couldn’t get the Stanford game off the schedule?
A: No. But what’s cool though is that our team is really excited to play them. It’s going to be fun. We are going to get fans in the gym. I don’t want it to be about me and Katy. It’s about USF basketball. Let’s have fun with it.
Q: Can you sense some excitement about the program on campus?
A: I do. But the energy and enthusiasm here all depends on our players and how they go out and play. They need to go out with a lot of energy. This is going to be about that. I’m going to fade into the background. Fans here want to see them play hard just like when i go watch Stanford, I want to see them play hard. I think that’s what’s going to sustain this.
Q: What is the response from recruits so far?
A: It’s been great. It’s been really, really positive. Everyone we’ve called, we’ve said, ‘We’re sorry we’re late.’, The timing really tough, especially with Bay Area kids. But it what it is. We’ve had really good interest. How do you not want to come to USF. I would come here. We have a lot to offer. We have a great staff and we are very positive. I’ve asked a lot of recruits, what’s important to them and they all said being positive. We will do that and we know the game, so there’s definitely a lot to offer.