Transcript of Head Coach Jerome Tang’s Summer Media Availability

MANHATTAN, Kan. — First-year head coach Jerome Tang met with the media via Zoom on Thursday afternoon (August 4) to brief them on the progress of the team after summer workouts concluded earlier today. The squad will now break for two weeks before returning for the start of the summer session on August 22.

Below is a transcript of Thursday’s media availability:

JEROME TANG, HEAD COACH
On how you go about building your culture…
“A lot of time, energy and intentionality. It’s giving guys the opportunity to share their hearts and what’s important to them then us, as a staff, sharing our hearts and what’s important to each of us and linking hearts. When you get guys caring about each other, it’s easier to move forward.”

On the immediate priorities and goals to start the fall…
“Right now, my priority is to go on vacation because it’s been one heck of a summer. (laughter). I was really thankful of the guys. We had our last workout today and it was our best workout. I’m really excited for everyone to get to go home for a little bit, get some rest then come back and get ready for a great season.”

On his thoughts on the team after witnessing summer workouts…
“We have some super competitive guys who care about winning and about each other. I’m really excited about the type of team we have moving forward.”

On how you were able to recruit some of your latest transfers and how you were able to build relationships with them so quickly and how you assess them (mentions Desi Sills and Abayomi Iyiola)…
“Well, a lot of people didn’t know about Desi and that he could graduate (and transfer). We did our homework on him; knew that he could graduate. We played against him in the Elite Eight game when we were at Baylor to go to the Final Four. He didn’t shoot the ball well that game, but he had 5 assists and had the ability to get in the paint and make good decisions. I knew he was a tough kid. He’s a winner. He won two state championships in high school. I have relationships with people in Arkansas (who knew him), so I was able to connect the dots with him.”

Was he (Sills) able to help you with Baybe (Abayomi Iyiola)…
“No, he was actually surprised about Baybe. Someone else called us about Baybe. I actually recruited one of Baybe’s high school teammates when I was at Baylor and they lived in the same house, so I had some type of relationship with him prior to he’s coming here.”

On expectations for this team…
“I can’t predict what we are capable of. However, I know that we are going to play extremely hard, and we are going to play together. And we are going to be fun to watch.”

On doing different things (dodge ball, water balloon fights) to build team cohesiveness…
“Everything that we do is very intentional and very important. Everyone preaches family and a family does a lot of things together. If the only time we spend together is in the gym, then we are not a family. I want the guys to feel comfortable around me and the entire staff and for them to see that we love them and care about them. When you are able to spend time with them and show your heart to them off the court, you earn the right to hold them accountable on the court. They will never question whether we love them. That will never be a question. Sometimes you have to give the message in different ways. The only way you can learn the best way to communicate with your guys is by spending time with them. That’s very important to our staff. This how I have always wanted to be (as a head coach). Dinners at my house, dinners at the coaches’ house, games, playing really, really hard, working really, really hard and everyone understanding we are all in this together.”

On balancing everything that is going on (recruiting for this season, recruiting for next season, vacation, etc)…
“The goal was to be 12 (current players) and 2 (commitments) and right now are at 11 (current players) and 2 (commitments). We have one more thing to get done and I have never looked more forward to a vacation than at this moment.”

On vacation plans…
“We are going to go see a Bruno Mars concert in Vegas, go see my two older boys that I adopted and their wives and go to Cabo for a few days and put our feet in the water and put the phone down. I still have a little more work to do before I head out of here.”

On any big surprises with the team…
That’s Manning has been the biggest surprise. He is an extremely hard worker and that has really stood out. His competitiveness and toughness have stood out, and because he has spent so much time in the gym, his shot making ability is really growing. In fact, he hit the game-winner in the last game we played today. He rose up and knocked it down like a champ. Very, very proud of him.”

On if he knew Taj (Manning) before he came to K-State since he was recruited and signed by the previous staff…
“I didn’t know much about him (when I first got here). I called his high school coach since I knew him. Jeremy Sochan, who we had at Baylor, played at La Lumiere for a year and that coach has coached a lot of high-level players and he gave me his thoughts on Taj. I shared with Taj what I expected of him moving forward and he went back to school and did the things I asked him to do. He showed up here this summer and he is a really competitive kid and just a terrific young man. He is also a terrific singer (laughing). That Tevin Campbell signing, he did the other night was really, really good (at the team karaoke event).”

On his coaching staff and if they were his first choices…
“I got the right guys. Sometimes the guys who we think are our first choices or even the players we think are our first choices in hindsight they weren’t the best choices. I believe I have the best choices with me right now.”

On Rodney Perry
“He is a winner and a really good human being. Just a terrific man. He is the type of guy I would want my son to play for. I’m ecstatic with him being here and look forward to what he can bring to the table here.”

On what he has learned for his team in the first few months on the job…
“That’s a really good question. I’m learning that not everyone is as intentional as our staff is on wanting to spend quality time with guys and getting to know them away from the basketball court. I have been surprised by how they have been surprised (on the staff wanting to spend time with them off the court).”

On how Marquis Nowell and Ish Massoud have grown this summer…
“For Quis, it’s his emotional intelligence. He’s an extremely competitive kid and I love that about him. But there’s two guys (on a team) who can’t have a bad day and lose their minds and that’s the head coach and the point guard. He’s learning how to lower his emotions without redlining it and how he is learning to communicate with his teammates to get the most out of them. So that’s going to be really important for him. For Ish, it’s working. He thought he was a hard worker until I started laying out things for him to do. He thanked me the other day. He said ‘Coach, I thought I was a hard worker until you showed me how I needed to work.’ He was thankful for the push and for believing in him.”

On what you like best about Nae’Qwan Tomlin since he arrived on campus…
“Man, he is competitive. He doesn’t know how good he can be. He is super competitive and really talented. I look forward to fanning his confidence, so he feels like the best player in America because he’s got the kind of a talent.”

On if he knows what kind of style he wants to play…
“No, not yet. I think when we finish assembling the roster I will know better. I know that we are going to guard you and we are going to rebound. Other than that, I’m not sure. If you are talking about the offensive end of things, I’m not really sure right now. But we are going to defend.”

On if any of the players remind him of players he had at Baylor…
“It’s not really a physical fit of what I was looking for, it’s more of a mental fit. It’s more of a mindset and a competitiveness and they definitely fit that.”

On if he feels more like a head coach now…
“I feel like I have six head coaches on my staff. They are guys who I can really bounce things off of. I don’t really know what it’s supposed to feel like as a head coach. I know it’s my responsibility as the head coach that if we lose, it’s my fault. I’m keenly aware of that. But other than that, it’s us as a group moving forward and I like that about this group.”

On if you have to have a different relationship with the players now as a head coach…
“I was never a buffer at Baylor. Coach (Drew) allowed me to be me. Scott (Drew) was very intentional in his coaching. The relationship (with the players) doesn’t feel any different with this group.”

On his conversations with strength coach Phil Bayer and the progress the guys made in the weight room…
“We had multiple guys who gained 10 plus pounds of muscle, which is what we wanted to do as a focus with this group. The guys look good. They look stronger. They are doing all the things we wanted them to do, so I feel good about what we have been able to do these eight weeks.”

On his relationship with Chris Klieman
“I absolutely love Coach Klieman. He is really good friends with (former Baylor football coach and current Carolina Panthers head coach) Coach (Matt) Rhule and I’m a really big fan of Matt Rhule. I have been to a lot of his practices. Coach Klieman invited to come to practice any time. I’m a big college football fan, so I was happy to be able to go to practice (today). Coach has really been great about telling me anything I might need to hear .”

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