Today, on my lunch, I sat down to watch the new Rutgers basketball coach tell me about how--this time--things were going to be different.
And I immediately started to think about what stood out to me regarding the previous Rutgers press conferences. What stuck with me after all these years?
I remember Gary Waters talking about eating breakfast with the team and giving them hugs. I remember Fred Hill breaking down in tears talking about how this is his dream job. A very nervous Mike Rice saying he didn't have enough players to go five on five in practice and how his son was imitating Quincy Douby in their driveway. And I remember effort and harmony from Eddie and how the players would take their hats off indoors.
But with Pikiell, I hope I remember him for the five words he uttered today. "I believe we will dance."
Because if that's true, Pikiell will do something no one has done since 1991, and he will go down as a Rutgers legend.
It's so tough to remember the tidbits of these press conferences, the promises the coaches make to fix a program that has been mostly downtrodden since 1991. But this is the first time I can clearly remember someone talking about the NCAA Tournament. Even in code.
I've probably blocked out the other mentions, but the confidence in which Pikiell dropped those words, like a genie granting a wish, stuck with me. Pikiell didn't just talk about landing the best players, he talked about developing them and making them better. He seemed to understand the whole process, that it's not just about getting these kids on campus, but instead turning them into basketball players.
As we watched, my dad looked over at me said, "He's going to do a good job talking to parents."
That's how Pikiell came across: as someone who believes in the team and his players as someone who cares. He didn't talk about healing, he rarely talked about culture, and he didn't say it would happen overnight.
But he carried himself like it would happen.
There is so much time between now and next November, and so many things that have to happen for this to be a successful tenure. It all starts with Pikiell's assistants, and how he has to land the best possible staff. Athletic Director Pat Hobbs has given him more money than any Rutgers basketball coach has ever had to land a staff.
Now it's time to get some recruiters.
Pikiell talked about identifying under the radar guys who can help, and using every bit of coaching to develop them. But you can't just win in the Big Ten with diamonds in the rough. You need to land some top players too. And to do that, I believe you need some sharks.
And once those guys come, Pikiell is going to need them to buy in. To do what it takes to believe.
But, not for a moment, did the newly minted coach look nervous. He didn't, not for a second, waver. He believed.
And that's what made this press conference stand apart. He didn't promise hugs. He didn't break down or shake. He didn't recall the days of old or hope for harmony. There was a different vibe here today.
Steve Pikiell, simply, believed.
Because of that faith, maybe, in a few years, we'll all dance.
And, for sure, we'll remember that.
Dave White is the author of the Jackson Donne series. You can check them out at his website.