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Transcript For Rutgers Basketball Coach Steve Pikiell's Introductory Press Conference

Here is the full transcript of today's presser sent by the Rutgers Athletic Communications Office.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

KEVIN LORINCZ: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Kevin Lorincz. I'm the associate AD for communications at Rutgers. I'd like to welcome everybody to today's press conference to announce our new head coach of men's basketball, Steve Pikiell. Today is a very special day at Rutgers. We are joined today by Rutgers president Dr. Robert Barchi, director of athletics Pat Hobbs, and next head coach Steve Pikiell. We will begin the press conference with opening remarks from Dr. Barchi, Mr. Hobbs, following remarks by Coach Pikiell. We will then open the floor for questions for Coach Pikiell. Please welcome Rutgers University president Dr. Robert Barchi.

PRESIDENT BARCHI: Thanks very much. I am really, really happy to be here today. I'm delighted to see so many of you here to join us in welcoming Steve here as our new head coach. I have to tell you, I'm not going to say anything about him because that's Pat's job. I just want to say a few things about how we got to this point. We go back three months ago. In the last three months we've really pretty much taken a new look at sports here at Rutgers, with hiring Pat Hobbs as our AD, hiring a new head football coach, and finishing the Trifecta today with a new basketball coach. I couldn't be more delighted. I have to say that the hiring of the basketball coach is 100% the job of the AD. It's his expertise that made this happen and his hard work in the several past weeks that have gotten us to this point. All I did was to lay down a few requirements. What did I want to see in a head basketball coach here? Some of the same things I asked him to bring us in a head football coach. I wanted to see an individual who was going to build a winning program and who had the experience and the track record of having done that. Here we have someone who's done that since the time he was a college player and every location that he's been involved. I wanted someone that was going to come and build an ethical program, a program that no one could ever question anything happening that was outside the norm, whether it's the NCAA or the Big Ten or the university board or any of us, that we'd all be proud of the program that we have here. I'm convinced that the individual who is taking over the helm has that depth of ethical quality in his coaching that will make us all proud. The third thing I wanted was someone that had the same passion about the academic side of development of his team as he does the athletic side of development. That's a big issue for me, a big issue for Rutgers. I'm delighted to see that Steve has been able to take, in his last position, a team that was among the lowest in their academic performance and progress rating, to one that has been in the top 10 in the last two years running. That's what we want to see here. We want to see winning teams. We want to see athletes who are successful on the court and we want to see young men and women who are successful in life afterwards. I'm going to let it go at that and turn it over to our athletic director Pat Hobbs to tell you about the individual who met all these criteria and is going to take Rutgers basketball to the next level. Pat.

PAT HOBBS: Thank you, Dr. Barchi. I want to welcome everyone here on what is a very special day for Rutgers University, a special day for Rutgers athletics where we welcome our new men's basketball head coach, Steve Pikiell, to his professional home. That's why we're here. Coach's wife Kate couldn't be with us but she's watching on BTN. Kate, we look forward to welcoming you here at Rutgers. It's a great day for you, I know. We'll see you here very soon. We'll all be cheering very loudly as Steve begins a great, great run here at Rutgers University. But we've got Steve's four children here, Brooke, John, Kevin, Olivia. Welcome. They have the red ties. I see they have a little bit of red there already, so they're ready for their RU days. We're very excited to have them here. I also want to say a thank you and a welcome, the America East commissioner, Amy Huchthausen, is here to congratulate Coach Pikiell. So welcome. A few quick thank yous. We were assisted in this search by Beaudine & Eastman. I do want to say to Bob Eastman and Kevin Goll, thank you for all of your help. They helped us with our previous search in men's football. A tremendous assist. I want to thank also from my staff three people who helped me throughout the process: Ryan Pisarri, Sarah Baumgartner and Janine Purcaro. I always seem to ruin weekends for Janine, so I owe you a few. I want to say thank you to all of the coaches who participated throughout the process. One of the things that has impressed me is just how fortunate we are today in intercollegiate athletics to have some of the leadership out there that we have today. It's a testament to Steve Pikiell that he rose to the top in this search because there's really some tremendous individuals who care deeply about our student-athletes, care about the college experience, and so I want to thank all of them who participated in the process. In every search you want that moment. You want that moment where you know you are sitting across the table from that person. They're talking and you have that feeling that starts to well up when you say, This is the person, this is the right fit, this is the person who I want to lead our student-athletes, this is the person who I want going out on behalf of Rutgers University and recruiting student-athletes, this is the person that we want to be the ambassador for Rutgers University, not just as our head men's basketball coach, but as a representative of who we are here at Rutgers University. Three months ago I found that person in Chris Ash. On Saturday morning, sitting in New York City, I found that person in Steve Pikiell. Tremendous, tremendous human being. Jerry Carino asked me at the beginning of this search, he said, Pat, what are your ingredients? What are you searching for in a basketball head coach? I said, I'll tell you what I'm going to search for in every coach here at Rutgers University. I need somebody with character, I need somebody with integrity, I need somebody with intensity, I need somebody with commitment, and I need somebody with a plan. That is illustrated by the person I hired three months ago, and the person who sits here up on the dais today, Steve Pikiell. Our university is a special university. Those of us who either grew up in New Jersey or have watched Rutgers University know that we are a gateway university, great academic institution. But nearly half a million people have come to Rutgers University in desire to have success in life, and they've had great success. They've had financial success. Many of them have changed the way we live. They are strivers. They strive for greatness and they strive for excellence. Steve Pikiell is a striver. He is somebody who grew up with very modest roots. He's one of nine children. He's got some of his family, brothers, here today. He has sisters and other brothers who are watching on BTN up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Nothing was handed to him at any time in his life. As Dr. Barchi said, at every stage of his life, he's achieved success. One of the ways you could describe Steve Pikiell is he has arrived at every program at its low and he has left every program at its height, worst to-first. That's Steve Pikiell. He did it as a student. He was Jim Calhoun's first recruit at the University of Connecticut when they were dead bottom in the Big East. By the time he was finished, he was a co-captain, competed for the Big East championship, and they were in the NCAA tournament. We know what happened to UConn in the years following then. After that, he was an assistant coach at UConn, then he went on and was assistant coach at Central Connecticut State and a GW. What did he do there? Again, arrived when those programs were at the bottom, spearheaded recruiting, brought those programs up, and by the time he left those programs, they were both conference champions. Then a little university called Stony Brook approached him about taking over their program. He was told, That was a bad job. They just moved from D-III to D-I. They were the doormat of the conference. Folks were saying, You'll get a better job, just wait. He said, No, that's where I want to be. I want to go and build something. He went to Stony Brook. Sure, in the first couple years they struggled in part because their APR was the lowest in the nation. We're not talking about 920, 910, we're talking about down around 800. You know what that means, those of you who are in coaching. All he did then was fix that. Then in the last five years, they have been the top of the conference. They've won 70% of their overall games. They've won 84% of their conference games. They've been in the top 10 in the country in APR. So that says something about the individual that is Steve Pikiell and what he brings here to Rutgers University today: character, integrity, intensity, commitment, and a plan. Please join me in welcoming our new men's head basketball coach, Steve Pikiell.

COACH PIKIELL: It's always a good sign when your head coach has to tilt the mic up high. I'm at that size (laughter). I am so honored to be here today. I want to thank everyone here for coming out to support. I'm excited about the band. I don't think I've slept in four days. This has been quite a whirlwind for me. But this has always been a dream job for me. I drove up and down the New Jersey Turnpike for years recruiting at George Washington University, at Yale University, at Central Connecticut State University, at UConn, and most recently at Stony Brook University. I would drive by that sign and I would say, That's the job I want. I'm humbled and very appreciative, and I'm very thankful for this opportunity. President Barchi, I thank you for trusting me with your program. The best recruiter I think in our athletic department is Pat Hobbs. I was trying to recruit him during this process. He in turn got me so excited about this job, I told him I would walk down the New Jersey Turnpike for an opportunity. That's all I've ever asked for, is an opportunity. For that, I'm very thankful. I told him every job along the way, I've never let an athletic director down, I've never let a president down and I've never let a student body down. I'm not going to do it here at Rutgers. I embrace challenges. One of nine brothers and sisters. Those challenges started at the dinner table, some of them. Went throughout my life. But I've earned everything that I've gotten, and I'm real proud of the programs that I've been a part of. A lot of help from a lot of people in order to build the program. I'm thankful that you're here today. We're going to need your help. We're going to need the student-athletes, the guys who I met yesterday, told them that we want to dance here. That's our goal, is to dance. They like to dance. But I want to dance on the court, not in the nightclub. That's what we would like to do. I challenged them to embrace the challenge. This university has all the ingredients to be great. It's a great state. It's a great university. The greatest conference in the country. What I've found in a short period of time, great people. I had a wonderful job at Stony Brook. I had those ingredients there: great people, a great university. I left that. I had other opportunities. I never liked any of the others. I didn't think they had those ingredients. I'm fortunate enough Pat did his homework. I told him, The more you talk to people, the more you ask questions, the more you're going to like me. To his credit, I think he did his homework. I am going to work diligently here. I'm going to do it the right way. We're going to build a program that everybody can be proud of. We're going to work in recruiting. I'm a morning guy, a lot of coffee, a lot of energy. I've embraced this challenge, the same way I embraced the challenge at all the universities that I've been a part of. I am up for the challenge. There's some people here in the audience that I want to introduce, really people that have been special in my life. I have my staff from Stony Brook University, who worked by my side diligently, some of the greatest guys going, Coach Young, Coach Dan, Bryan Dougher, Coach Chapman. I want to thank Stony Brook University for giving me an opportunity. I only asked for an opportunity 11 years ago. I told them I would build them a good program. Never had been in post-season play. We went six out of the last seven, won games in the post-season, got votes in the top 25. I have three of my former players here today. I want to thank them for being a part of it. They happen to be the three leading scorers in Stony Brook basketball history, Bryan Dougher, a New Jersey product, one of the all time greats. Tre Puriefoy, Bishop Justus High School, one of our great guards. And Jameel Warney, one of the great players from Roselle Catholic, now a guy that the NBA coaches are drooling over. So I'm very proud and thankful. You guys put me in this position. I'm proud to have coached you. But those are the kind of kids, all graduates, all great products of this great state. I need to give a special mention to the four in the front row there. You guys can stand up so everybody can see you. These four, okay, Kevin is my youngest. He's self-proclaimed the most handsome, right? And Kevin will be our point guard in 2024. So we're excited about that. Then John is my son, he'll be 2020 if he works on his left hand a little bit more. That's Olivia on the end. She's the shy one. Olivia is my lacrosse star. Brooke is my basketball star. She is my oldest. Coach Stringer, Hall of Fame coach, I'm very proud that you're here. I thank you. It's going to be an honor sharing this court with you. I respect so much what you've done. Brooke can shoot it a little bit, too, so we'll talk afterwards. That won't be a violation now, I work here, so that's a good thing (laughter). I got great kids. Sorry my wife wasn't able to make it today. She will be here and be the biggest fan of our program, what we're trying to build. When I thought about this job, I said how quickly we can turn this thing around if we have the support of our students, if we have the support of our faculty, our staff. It's going to take everybody. It's going to take our president, who after meeting with him, I was so excited about his commitment to this university and to our athletic program. I couldn't wait to work for him. Then the staff here in athletics have been awesome. Randi, my academic coach, has done an unbelievable job with this team. She's going to be the assistant coach. She may be the head coach. She's the most important of all. I look forward to getting a staff in place very shortly. We're going to play a brand of basketball that I think is going to be very exciting. People often ask me, What is your brand going to be? I'm going to tell you what our brand is going to be. It's going to be: win, win. We're going to figure out a way to win. Every job I've been at, we've won the league by being the leading scoring team, then one year we won the league by being the best defensive team. I'm going to take the roster we have, I'm going to add to it. We're going to play with a passion, I promise you. I learned that during might days at UConn, playing for a Hall of Fame coach, Coach Jim Calhoun. I was there day one. I have a unique perspective. I was there as a player. I lived the build. Then I worked for him. Then at the four next stops, worst-to-first at every stop. I plan to make Rutgers a terrific basketball program that everyone can be proud of and everyone can take pride in the types of student-athletes we recruit and the type of play on the court. I look forward to this challenge. I embrace challenges. I look forward to great days ahead for our university. I have a little saying here. I wrote this down. I thought a lot about this job. In the last four days my phone hasn't stopped ringing, people congratulating me, people wanting to work on our staff. But more importantly, I'm meeting Rutgers people, people that believe in this university. I truly believe in it. I could have stayed at Stony Brook for a long time, but I believed in the people here. I believe in the mission. I believe in the vision. We will make this a destination for athletes in this state and in other states, worldwide, across the ocean. I have a little saying: In order to achieve, you must believe. I believe in President Barchi. I believe in Pat Hobbs. I believe in myself. I have a humbleness, but a confidence, that you will see. I believe in Rutgers. I believe that they gave me a chance. I don't let people down. I believe we will dance. So I thank you for coming today. I thank you for taking the time. I thank you for listening. I'm excited to get to work. We're going to start tomorrow in the weight room. I'm going to miss my former players, a lot of whom who are here today, some of my teammates from UConn, some former coaches I worked with. Anthony Latina is here, the head coach at Sacred Heart University, and one of my dear friends Kevin Pappas, my brother Tim, a couple of my family members, Karsten Kibbe, Jim (indiscernible), a couple of my teammates at UConn. We now have my immediate family of nine, and we have about 30 nieces and nephews. The marketing director is so excited. We just improved season tickets by 50%. I'm very proud of that. We now are spreading the good word of this great university up and down the East Coast. I have a tremendous amount of people to thank because you don't go on this journey alone. I've been mentored by Dave Leitao, head coach at DePaul, one of my dear friends. He couldn't make it today because he's recruiting, as he should be. Howie Dickerman, Central Connecticut State. My coach at UConn Jim Calhoun, who I just got off the phone with. My mentor, a Hall of Fame coach, has helped me along every stop. When I was at Yale University, Dick Kuchen gave me a chance to coach at a great university and travel the world. I want to thank him. Most importantly, I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity. I want to thank my wife and tell her that I will see her in about a year and a half because I certainly have some work to do, and I'm going to embrace it, and we're going to do it the right way. We're going to make everybody proud of our university. Thank you very, very much.

KEVIN LORINCZ: We'll begin our Q&A portion.

Q. Pat, can you talk a little bit about the process, the search process. There was some speculation it might not be a desirable job. Was that your view throughout the process?

PAT HOBBS: My view is it's a great job, that it's an incredibly desirable job. We're a great university, part of the Big Ten Conference. If you can't get excited about going against the Tom Izzos of the world, you probably shouldn't be in this sport, right? You shouldn't be part of athletics. The process, I think the process was a very good one. There were a lot of folks interested in the job. A lot of questions about it. Yes, some folks look at the job and say it's a difficult job at Rutgers. One of the reasons why Steve Pikiell is sitting here today because he recognizes the challenge. But he has no fear of the challenge. He's been in challenging situations before. That was important to me through the process. I wanted somebody who, as he said, would have walked down the New Jersey Turnpike to get the job. So a good process. As I said in my remarks, there's just tremendous talent out there in coaching today. Many of them were interested in this job. I think it's a testament to our university and Dr. Barchi, the vision he set out. But we ended up sitting here today with absolutely the right person to embrace the challenge and move forward.

Q. Pat, you talked about that moment that you had when you were sitting across from him. What was it from Steve that made you have that moment? Was it facilities, staff, academics? What clicked for you?

PAT HOBBS: You know, maybe there is a pattern starting to emerge here. I actually think Coach Ash and Coach Pikiell are very similar people. They're both very driven people, but they're very smart people. They've done their homework. They know the institution. They know the conference. They know the challenges. They know our competitors. They bring an intensity and a purpose to everything that they think about. I think we've seen that. I've seen that in four days. The first text came in at like 4:55, 5:15, 5:10 from coach. That's somebody who embraces the challenges out there. I know the coaches and everyone in New Jersey appreciated the fact that Rutgers University was in the gym. So it's that intensity, it's a passion. It's wanting to do it the right way. It's understanding that this is going to take a tremendous effort, but really being ready to embrace that.

Q. Steve, how do you do it? How do you win? How do you dance?

COACH PIKIELL: That question's been asked at five of the stops. I think what's going to happen here, and it's going to happen quickly, we're going to make players better. I think that's very important. We develop the total player. It's not how good you are when you arrive, it's how good you are when you leave. We're going to hire a great staff first and foremost. Your staff is always the most important thing you do. I'm going to take time with that process and do it right. Once you have your staff, you have your staff. We're going to be thoughtful about each piece we put together. We're going to get to work with our guys. We started the other day. I think they understand a little bit more about me. I love to win. I love guys in the gym. We got to change that culture a bit here. But we're going to be very smart about how we attack the problems and how we solve them. I'm very excited. I've done this. I've been there as a player. I lived through the transformation. I've done it at four stops. I would have had to do it at five stops, six stops. I told him, I'm going to go somewhere else and do it again, so this is the time, hire me now, and we're going to do some exciting things.

I know it's not going to be easy. I told him still that I embrace that. We play in a great league with great universities. We're right there with them. Now we're going to build a great basketball program. It takes time and it takes patience. It takes getting a guy like Jameel Warney to get better and to improve. We can accomplish a lot of great things together.

Q. Pat, you mentioned on Saturday in New York City is when you realized you had the right man for the job. Steve, where were you when you realized that this was the dream job and you knew you were going to take it?

COACH PIKIELL: Honestly, I've been 25 years running up and down the New Jersey Turnpike in the recruiting process. I've always looked at this job. Grew up in Connecticut. Lived the process at UConn. My first year at UConn, Coach Calhoun's first recruiting class, people used to ask, Was UConn in Alaska? They knew of Yukon, Alaska, more than they knew the University of Connecticut. I looked at this job from afar. I watched the recruiting process. I saw the coaches that they've had in the past. I've reached out to most of them. I'm excited about the alums and about the former coaches who talked about this great university. I knew early on, when I met Pat, that this was a job that I really wanted to embrace and go after. So I'm very excited about, again, his vision. It's all who you work for. It takes a village to raise a program. I think we have one here.

Q. Coach, you've talked a couple times about being up and down the Jersey Turnpike, recruiting over the years at your various stops. A lot of people feel if half of the top talent stayed every year here at Rutgers, you'd have a tremendous team. How do you go about building those relationships at a higher level than the programs that you've been at?

COACH PIKIELL: No doubt. You really have to roll up your sleeves. There's great basketball in this area. There's great coaches. You have to get in their gyms. You have to do a great job of evaluating, too. I think people are underestimating evaluating players and developing them. I think what my staff and myself have done a great job of is getting a guy that may be a little under-recruited. We saw something in our work with him and diligence that other schools didn't, and we made him better. Coaches in this area have been awesome. They have great players. We'd like to keep them home, for sure. We'd like to develop them and make sure they graduate. It was easy for me to go into New Jersey and Stony Brook. I could say, Look what happened to Jameel Warney, look what happened to Tre Puriefoy. Bryan Dougher played professionally in Australia. They graduated. Part of your sell is how well the New Jersey players are doing in your program. So we look forward to recruiting this area hard. Coaches will know we're out. We'll do a great job evaluating, too.

Q. Coach, you used the word 'challenge' I don't know how many times today. There's obviously an awareness of what's gone on here not only on the court, but off the court, not only in basketball but football prior to your arrival. Speak to that part of the challenge and how you feel you can sort of overcome what is a very negative perception of what's gone on here the last decade or so.

COACH PIKIELL: The great part of that is every job that I've been a part of, there's been challenges. There's no job in the country that's perfect. This is a university that has a chance to explode. We're going to do everything in our power to make our basketball program a respected and proud program. We have new leadership under Pat, myself. We're going to get out and we're going to do things the right way. Success breeds success. I never look back. I look at the positives. There's so many positives to this job and to this university. We're going to go after those and we're going to celebrate those.

Q. Steve, I know you reached out to other coaches. How much time will you spend reaching out to other coaches, high school and AAU guys? Will you consider hiring one of those guys on the staff? Is there a place on the staff for Coach Calhoun or will he be an unofficial mentor?

COACH PIKIELL: I have over 400 messages I have to return, text messages. You can't imagine the last four days from ending our season to what has happened. It's been great. I've talked to as many people as I could in between doing a million things that I have been. We're going to put together a really good staff. I think people are going to be really excited about it. We're obviously going to talk to all the high school coaches in the area, and have reached out to as many as I could in the last 24 hours. I've gotten to a couple games, too. We've done a lot in a short period of time. I have a motto every day: Did Rutgers basketball get better today? It has gotten better the last four days, I promise you. It will continue to get better in the upcoming months. In the next few weeks we'll be announcing some staff. I think people will be very excited. Blue-collar, guys that work, guys that have great reputations, guys that want to be here. I'm excited. I want kids that want to play here. I want them to want to play for me, but I want them to want to play for our university.

Q. Steve, did you ask for or receive any assurances about facility improvements? Can you win with the facilities as they are?

COACH PIKIELL: I'm so excited about practice facilities, when I saw renditions of the model. I'm thrilled. We're going to pack the RAC. This is going to be a great place to play. I played in the gym and won three championships. It was 1200 seats. Scalping tickets. The roof leaked sometimes. We won three championships at Stony Brook. It's the coaches, the players, the university, the people. We have that combination here and then some. So I'm looking forward to playing basketball right here in this gym. We're going to continue to improve the facilities. That will be great, a bonus. But we're going to take care of our student-athletes and do a great job with them.

Q. Coach, you talked a lot about your players at Stony Brook, how proud you are of them. What do you see from the Rutgers players when you look at them? What was that first meeting like with the guys?

COACH PIKIELL: The first meeting was great. I just laid out some goals, some things that I have that I want them to start accomplishing. I've watched them on tape prior to even interviewing. I saw them play a lot on television. I know we got a talented bunch. We have to improve. We certainly have to add to our roster. But we have great kids. I'm very excited about that. Every person here that I've met from the weight room to the equipment room has said that we have great kids. I want to recruit great kids. That's how you win. Winning programs are built around great character kids. So we have that. We have guys that need to improve and get better. We need to add some pieces certainly in the challenging league that we're in with some great coaches. We'll do that in the next few months and the next few years.

Q. Steve, about Coach Calhoun, how will you use him as a resource?

COACH PIKIELL: I mean, coach is the best. If you know Coach Calhoun, he's always got opinions. He's unbelievable. He's won more games than almost anyone. He's been my mentor since day one. I played for him, and then I had the unique responsibility of working with him. Really, my mentorship under him was invaluable. He's been there every step of the way. Anytime there's been a difficult situation where advice was needed, he's been through it. So it's great to have him. He'll be at our games here. He'll be coaching the team from the stands. He'll be yelling at the referees. He'll be yelling at me sometimes, too, like when I played for him. I told him, I don't play for you anymore, you can't yell at me. But he's been truly special, and thankful to have him.

Q. Coach, you talked about meeting with the players, what the potential team could bring next season. What about a guy like Corey Sanders coming off as a freshman, honorable mention?

COACH PIKIELL: Exciting. Very talented. They were on spring break last week. I haven't gotten a chance to spend as much time. I made phone calls. We talked. Corey is truly a unique player for us. He needs to get better. I told him that, too. I challenged him. He's got to get stronger for goals he set for himself. He needs to improve. He's going to embrace that. I'm excited about being able to work with him in the next few days.