Rutgers finally made it official, naming Karl Hobbs the associate head coach of men's basketball. With Rutgers men's basketball head coach Steve Pikiell and Hobbs both having long histories at UConn, I turned to SB Nation's The UConn Blog for some more insight. Aman Kidwai is the managing editor of their site and he was nice enough to answer my questions.
Steve Pikiell and Karl Hobbs are both former captains of the UConn basketball team, with Pikiell serving under hall of fame coach Jim Calhoun at the beginning of his tenure. Although Pikiell was only an assistant coach for one season 25 years ago, have UConn fans followed his coaching career at all? He seems to be revered by Calhoun, is he remembered by fans for his role in helping him to turn around the program?
I wasn't a UConn fan in the early to mid-90s, but I would imagine that he has always been on Husky fans' radar due to the Connecticut or UConn connections throughout his coaching career before taking the Rutgers job.
His year as an assistant at UConn came right after his playing career, then he went to Yale, then he joined the staff of longtime UConn assistant Howie Dickenman at Central Connecticut.
Pikiell then joined Karl Hobbs' staff at George Washington, and I would say when he became head coach at Stony Brook he was definitely on my radar as a former UConn player under Calhoun who was a head coach.
We saw how he did a great job of turning the team around there, and how tantalizingly close he came to NCAA Tournament appearances before breaking through last year.
What are the feelings of UConn fans regarding Hobbs leaving to coach at Rutgers?
When Kevin Ollie took over as head coach at UConn, besides knocking the introductory press conference out of the park, he impressed fans with the staff he put together. It was all UConn alumni and had multiple assistants with head coaching experience, including Hobbs.
The assistants have been a bit maligned due to a few recruiting misses from 2013-2015 and what appear to be some player development woes but I think those are mostly misguided feelings. Hobbs hails from Roxbury, Mass, hometown of Shabazz Napier, Jalen Adams, Wayne Selden and more. The Boston area is a great recruiting region and his ties there should serve Rutgers well.
Hobbs won two titles as an assistant at UConn, but for whatever reason fans didn't seem too bothered by him taking the Rutgers job. Part of that is we never fully know the impact of assistants beyond recruiting, where, like I said, we had some misses, so I guess the feeling is that Ollie can capably fill the void given how much he is loved and respected in the basketball community.
We know Hobbs has been credited with recruiting Khalid El-Amin, Emeka Okafor, Richard Hamilton, and Caron Butler among others, during his first stint at UConn. What can you tell us about his recent recruiting wins regarding players from the past 4 seasons? Any specific traits that Hobbs looks for when recruiting players? How would fans measure his success as a recruiter overall?
I'd say the fans who follow recruiting very closely are, as I mentioned, miffed at how recruiting has gone the past few years. But I believe the Calhoun/Ollie transition, 2013 NCAA Tournament ban, and move to the American Athletic Conference had way more to do with the recruiting dip than anything.
Additionally, the incoming class of 2016 is a top-5 or top-10 class depending on your source and the 2015 class of Jalen Adams and Steve Enoch is looking pretty good as well. I'm honestly not sure if Hobbs is directly credited with Adams' commitment, or any others, but he should be fine.
Our football coach Chris Ash has brought many aspects in the way business is conducted at Ohio State with him to Rutgers. Are there any specific program traditions, practice rituals, or things that are unique to UConn that Pikiell and Hobbs could potentially institute at Rutgers?
UConn coaches and players use the term "family" a lot. They see UConn and Storrs as a special place where a certain kind of people who loved the game and love their teammates gathered and won a lot of things.
I imagine for Pikiell and Hobbs this will translate to not necessarily bringing in the highest-rated players possible, but rather finding good attitudes and skillsets and putting good teams together. It's their only hope for competing in the Big 10.
Rutgers and UConn have developed a rivalry over the years, although mostly in football. Is there any chance UConn fans will keep an extra eye on or dare I say, even root for Rutgers basketball now that Pikiell and Hobbs are on the scarlet bench?
Absolutely. Even though there is some bitterness between the schools I think UConn fans will absolutely root for Pikiell and Hobbs to succeed. It makes most of us very unhappy to think about, but it is definitely true.
Thanks again to Aman of The UConn Blog for taking time to give us more insight on Pikiell and Hobbs.