A great interview with Rev!
Gotta love this pic from the CI site (someone's not too happy with the ref):
Gotta love this pic from the CI site (someone's not too happy with the ref):
ONE ON ONE WITH ERIC REVENO (PORTLAND)
by John Parenti, CollegeInsider.com
On a cold and rainy afternoon, a few hours before his Portland Pilot team was to take the floor against WCC rival St. Mary’s, head coach Eric Reveno took the time to sit down to answer questions about the development of his program. Coach Reveno is very passionate about what he does and that really shines through when he’s talking about his players and staff. The 6-foot-8 former Stanford center was an assistant at his alma mater before being offered and accepting the Portland three years ago. Entering his fourth season, he spoke candidly to CollegeInsider.com’s John Parenti:
CI: When you arrived at Portland four years ago, the Pilots hadn’t had a winning season in ten years. Were you nervous about stepping into a situation like that?
Coach Reveno: As a long time assistant coach I felt like the kinds of jobs I would be looking at were ones that would be challenging; I knew I wasn’t going to get a job that was a guaranteed success.
What I liked about the University of Portland was the conference and the University’s leadership. The lack of a track record of great success was a red flag that was alleviated by the fact that the President and the Athletic Director were both new. Their commitment to being successful in the West Coast Conference was there and they were willing to take a chance on me. We were on the same page in the belief that you could be successful both in the classroom and on the court when you approach things the right way.
Then the secondary things…the arena, the campus, the city, and I thought there was a lot of neat things about the Portland opportunity. I got the job on a Monday, and was back in Palo Alto that same night. Tuesday morning I was at Stanford turning in my keys, cleaning out my office and carting out boxes until 10:30 at night by myself. The next morning, I was back on a plane to Portland, with my wife and one-year old at home in California. Those few weeks and months were both a physical and mental challenge.
CI: What was your top priority, and what were those first few weeks like for you?
Coach Reveno: The first priority was hiring a great staff and they are still with me. And it is a great staff. So that was step one, but at the same time it was April and you’ve got a team on campus and you’ve got recruiting to do.
Before I knew it I was in Germany seeing Robin Smeulders and stopping in D.C. on the way back to see Taisho Ito, who was playing at Montrose Christian. I usually have a five-year plan, but the first six months was about being able to prioritize and operate a little more on the fly.
I knew the stability of the program would come. You start the day with a long “to do” list and it ends with the list being longer. It was a lot of fun and that excitement and optimistic determination is what pushed me through. I knew we were going to make progress. My concern was how soon expectations would be realized. I trusted my evaluation of the team but the won-loss record the first two years didn’t reflect it and I was concerned about that. But those who paid close attention to the team knew that progress was being made. The jump from second to third year, when we won 19 games, didn’t seem as great to me.
CI: You have an MBA. Do you apply the methodologies taught in business school to managing a college basketball program?
Coach Reveno: I apply my MBA constantly in terms of how to build an organization, how to build a team, how to put together a staff and all the little components that go into making a successful organization.
Prioritizing, whether it’s budgeting, recruiting, hiring staff, all the things that are constant in most businesses apply to running a team. My favorite business book is Good to Great, which gives a framework of thinking, which allows me to try to determine what we can be really good at and what we can be the best in the conference at. I find I use that logic all the time.
In recruiting, like in marketing, I try to find our niche. How are we going to differentiate ourselves from Loyola Marymount or Pepperdine? In terms of recruits, what is our target market? How are we going to reach out to that target market in that opening e-mail? Do we want to start with what a great academic program we have to the athlete? Or, do we want to save that for the first e-mail to the parents? We always try to think strategically. We try to keep our program plan like a polished marketing plan because there are a lot of similarities.
CI: You played for two of the most successful coaches in college basketball, Dr. Tom Davis for your first two years and Mike Montgomery for your final two. What were their similarities and differences?
Coach Reveno: Coach Davis taught me about competing, about playing with intensity and believing in the program. My first year at Stanford, we were 3-15 in the Pac-10. My last year there we were 15-3 and that improvement is one of things I’m most proud of.
Basketball wise, I learned a lot from Coach Davis…pressure, offense, zone defense. I remember those lessons and I find myself repeating some of those things. Coach Davis spoke to us to let us know that he believed in us and that we were competing to win, and Stanford coaches hadn’t done that previously. Davis broke the mold and did things differently.
When Coach Montgomery got there he had a different attitude about X’s and O’s. He felt it was the coach’s responsibility to put the player in the best position to be successful, whereas Coach Davis had a system and the players had to fit into it. Coach Montgomery looked at me and said “6-8, center, tough competitor, let’s get him around the basket setting screens and getting Todd Lichte open.”
That approach helped me learn about a coach’s responsibility to put a player in a position to succeed and how to do it from an offensive standpoint as well as a defensive strategy. On defense, he built a strategy based on the ability of the team at the beginning of the season, a very straightforward approach that taught us how to compete with the more athletic teams in the conference. Now as a coach, I look back and see how wonderful it was to play for two such great coaches. I appreciate them more and more each year.
CI: You played professionally in Japan for four years. Not many of us know much about Japan’s pro league. Can you tell us about the experience?
Coach Reveno: Having grown up and played college basketball in California, it was a great for me to go overseas. Pete Newell, who was very close to the Japanese basketball people, recommended me to a company called Nippon Mining, and they’re now called Japan Energy.
I interviewed in San Francisco, made a visit to Japan and they sold me on it. I stayed four years and learned the language. Culturally, at first, it was challenging. Eventually I got my own apartment, but for the first six months I lived in a tiny room in a company dormitory with 60 other single men. Things were expensive, but the people were really good to me. They treated me as family and took care of me. And, unlike some of the European club teams I had heard about, they always paid us. I had a great experience.
Basketball wise, there were a couple of Americans per team and the rest were Japanese. And the Japanese were a lot bigger than people thought. I had 6-11 and 6-7 Japanese teammates. It was a faster, less physical style of play and in my first game I shot 22 times which would have been about five games worth of shots for me in college. They’d throw me the ball and just look at me, so I’d shoot.
I became less physical around the basket, but shot a little better. I also became a much better passer. We won the championship my last year. I didn’t dominate, but it was a fun experience. It was after I came back to the states that I enrolled in business school.
CI: When did you decide that you wanted to be a college basketball coach?
Coach Reveno: My decision to become a coach was me succumbing to something I knew I always wanted to do. As an undergrad I knew that I wanted to coach. I chuckle now, but between the job security, the ability to plan, and the NCAA with all its rules and regulations, it didn’t seem like the best career. I had been a pretty good student, so I had other choices.
When I interviewed with Coach Montgomery about the assistant job, he spent 45 minutes out of the 60 minutes trying to talk me out of it. He really beat me up. That’s because he wanted to make sure I really wanted to do it. I knew I wanted to do something I was passionate about, and not just something like management consulting or investment banking or brand management. And I was very fortunate that Coach Montgomery stayed at Stanford as long as he did. How often does it happen that your former coach is still at your alma mater and can hire you for a spot on his staff?
CI: What did you learn from Coach Montgomery as a member of his staff that you didn’t as a player?
Coach Reveno: The amount of work and preparation that goes into coaching. He did a phenomenal job of being well prepared. We had the most fantastic staff meetings I could ever imagine. We would sit and debate the playbook for two weeks in September. We’d move chairs around, write on the board and figure out how we were going to teach all this stuff.
I learned from him that to be a good coach YOU HAD TO BE A GOOD COACH. You had to be fundamentally sound and what you are teaching has to work. If it doesn’t work, the players see through you and you lose their respect and cooperation. You also have to be consistent, as soon as you aren’t they lose confidence.
Basketball-wise, Mike’s ability to prioritize has always been very impressive. He has the ability to change for his personnel. The year we went to the Final Four, we didn’t play any zone. The next year we used zone extensively. He could determine what his team was going to be good at. He could look at a scouting report and be able to determine not just what was going to hurt us, but the things we could do something about.
Lastly, he taught me that no matter how good we were in terms of preparing for our next game, it was the work we did in October and November that made it possible for us to win that game in January.
CI: You had a wonderful tournament in November at the 76 Classic, knocking off UCLA and Minnesota before falling to West Virginia in the finals. You came out of that ranked 24th in the country. What has that kind of success meant to your players and how they now prepare for each game? And how will that effect how you may schedule and recruit in the future?
Coach Reveno: In the last two years we‘ve had early wins in the season that have helped our confidence tremendously. Last year, we beat Washington and that helped our confidence. This year we went down to Anaheim and played well.
When a team has worked so hard in the offseason, to have that early success solidifies that confidence. When you walk out of that locker room you’re feeling pretty good about yourself; you’ve been working on your shooting and your ball handling and you’ve been lifting weights.
It’s good to get that immediate result that builds a strong foundation for the year. The interesting thing about the Anaheim tournament was how much of a national stage it was. From a recruiting standpoint, it had an impact. Because of that exposure, players have heard about us and remember our performance in the 76 Classic. It’s been a lot easier to talk about our program as one that gets national publicity and competes for the conference title every year.
CI: What would you like to add?
Coach Reveno: What a great group of guys this team is. To talk about our progress you have to talk about our players, our seniors especially. I get emotional when you get me out of my basketball mind (this interview has been a good break for me, by the way) and I get a chance to look and think about the program and everything, and I feel like this team is special. The players are so committed and work so hard! They are the fuel for our success. In those first 18 months, it was so critical to get the right players and staff. Having success is a group effort: team, coaching staff and all the many wonderful support staff.
CI: Thank you, Coach. CollegeInsider.com truly appreciates the time you have taken to talk with us today. Best of everything for your team…and for you!
Run 'Em Aground Pilots!
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Age : 43
Location : The 503
Registration date : 2007-04-28
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