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Newest Bull opens up

USF men's basketball coach Stan Heath had barely been on the job a week when he took a minute to chat with Times staff writer Greg Auman in his office. Wearing a gray USF T-shirt and a black USF warmup jacket, Heath's already at home in his new surroundings, even as he works to move his family from Arkansas to Tampa.

By GREG AUMAN
Published April 13, 2007


USF men's basketball coach Stan Heath had barely been on the job a week when he took a minute to chat with Times staff writer Greg Auman in his office. Wearing a gray USF T-shirt and a black USF warmup jacket, Heath's already at home in his new surroundings, even as he works to move his family from Arkansas to Tampa.

If I understand this correctly, you might not be here today were it not for the help of a mannequin at some point early in your career.

You're reaching way back into the past. I worked for Jim Larranaga at Bowling Green, a real creative guy, so we're talking and I'd told him how much I wanted to work at Michigan State, a great job in my home state. It was kind of his suggestion, and I took it from there. He's always helped his assistants.

So I went to a store, got a mannequin, took the right arm off, put it in a box, put some newspaper around it. I put a little note in there that said, "Tom (Izzo), I'd give my right arm to be an assistant coach at Michigan State." I don't know if it worked. It was just eye-popping. As a head coach, you always want to find guys who are hungry, who are going to do something different to separate themselves from other people. Maybe it caught his attention.

Is there any coach who has had a greater impact on who you are now than Izzo?

I worked for him longer than anyone else, so that's part of it. When we started, we were an NIT team, we were struggling. There was heat on him in his third year. We were able to build that program. He was a great X-and-O coach. He's tough-minded. He has a way of pushing his guys and having a personal relationship with them, too. I've learned a lot from Tom. He's still a guy, whenever something comes across my mind and I need a second opinion, he's a guy I can call.

I haven't been able to find much about your playing days at Eastern Michigan.

I wasn't very good. It's why I'm a better coach than a player. I played with really good players, so I was a sixth man, seventh man, got a little time here and there. I wasn't a killer on the court, but I played 10-11 minutes, a role player, did my niche.

You've had two workouts with your new team now. First thoughts?

I think they're all working hard. They're all very coachable; they want to get better and learn. We have a lot of improvements to make in certain areas. We don't have a lot of size; we have to improve our shooting. I think this group is going to give great effort, and we have to continue to get better and add some pieces to the puzzle.

At your news conference, you joked about taking your hat off because you don't let your players wear hats inside buildings. Any other Stan rules?

There's little ones. I think Robert (McCullum) did a good job with things like that, their image, presenting themselves, being professional in professional settings. Hats, earrings, have your pants up, no sagging. Those are important to me. I like my guys to sit in the first three rows in classes so they're visible and have a good impression on their teachers.

You and Coach McCullum were Big Ten assistants together when he was at Illinois and you at Michigan State, then coached against each other when you were at Kent State and he at Western Michigan. Did you talk to him before you took the job?

We did have a conversation, which was very positive. He shared some difficulties and challenges he faced. He was not discouraging or encouraging, just "here are the facts."

You went on air on an Arkansas TV station to address reports of positive drug tests and academic ineligibility from basketball players that took place after you were fired. You could have easily washed your hands of that but obviously thought it important to defend your old team.

My name means a lot to me. I don't want a poor reflection, especially if it's not accurate. If I made a mistake or screwed up, I'll accept responsibility. I'm not trying to cover anything up. If that's not the case and it's been perceived that way, I don't like that at all. I don't appreciate people trying to twist and spin stories.

Greg Auman can be reached at (813) 226-3346 or auman@sptimes.com.