Thursday, January 22, 2009

Q&A with Tom Williams

I sat down with new Yale coach Tom Williams to address a number of issues including his family's search for a home, the process of putting together his staff, recruiting, the inauguration of the first black president and his relationship with Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens who he worked with at Stanford.

Here is a pretty lengthy question and answer session of the 20 or so minutes we spent in his office.

How is the process of finding a home been going?
My wife is currently looking, she is on an e-mail list. One of the realtors here is sending her information on some of the homes to look at so she can get an idea of where they are. We are moving along. For me it is not as fast as I would like because I want them here yesterday but I have been able to go home, fill up my bucket and see my kids, take them to school and be daddy for a little while. That has been good for me.

How is that going to work school wise? Are you going to let them stay in Florida for the rest of the school year or are you going to let them come up here and get situated here?
That will depend on how fast we find something, my daughter is the oldest and she is in kindergarten so if we did find something fairly quickly and move, I think we would be OK. That helps that they aren't old enough where it would be an issue, then I wouldn't see them until (the end of the year).

Have you been splitting the weeks between Florida and Connecticut?
Pretty much. My Saturdays and Sundays have basically been Mondays and Tuesdays. I have been here for recruiting and those kinds of things. So far it has worked out as well as those things can work out. The thing that has been tough is the number of call backs. Folks have been interested in the job or offered congratulations and that has been a staggering volume which is good, it's a good problem to have. That is what I am figuring out, how long it is going to take me to get through that list. Everything else feels like it is what I have been prepared to do.

Run me through the process of doing the staffing?
The right thing to do is to talk to everyone who is currently on the staff and I feel strongly about doing that. I did that will all the guys who are here, talk to them about some of things they had concerns about. For me, a lot of it is about chemistry and the fit. I had to get a feel with some of the guys, who I would feel comfortable with. The two guys (Rick Flanders and Duane Brooks) fitting in with the group of guys who are going to come on board. The second part of that is to identify the guys who you come in contact with who you feel like fit at a place like Yale. Not everyone can coach here so to be able to identify those guys and talk to them about the opportunity and see if they are interested in doing that. It is overwhelming but I feel really good about where we are in this process.

You say two guys remain? I assume you mean Duane and Rick and Larry (Ciotti) is staying on as a consultant?
That is correct.

What is Rick's role?
That is yet to be determined. He understands that, we have talked about a couple of different options and it will ultimately depend on how the staff shakes out and how it comes together. Rick and I connected early. He sees the opportunity to stay here as being a very positive thing for he and his family. He is very confident in his ability to coordinate (a defense) and obviously has had great success doing that but he is also very willing to do something else if that opportunity doesn't arise. I feel good with him and that he is OK with that.

The reason I ask that is that the Hawaii papers are reporting that one of your former colleagues (Ikaika Malloe) has already been offered the defensive coordinator's job? Where does that stand in terms of him being offer the job or accepting the job?
We'll make the announcement at the appropriate time. In this age that we live in, sometimes things get out there that the timing is not what it should be. We'll announce the staff when we put all the pieces in place.

What are your thoughts on recruiting? How has it gone?
It's been really good. The guys did a fantastic job here of having a good list of players that can get into the school but are also good football players. They worked diligently even without a head coach to keep all those kids in touch with Yale. When I came on board, I was able to watch video and make contact with the guys. I thought the situation was about as seamless as it could be. I think we were a little bit behind, maybe if we had been a week further we might have been able to accelerate some things. I think we caught up and I feel like we are right on schedule to finish where we want to finish.

Are you hoping for a class of about 30?
It will be somewhere around there. We'll be close to that number and we may even hold a couple in reserve and see if there is somebody else who comes along and have a chance to add to our roster. I feel good about the guys that we do have, the guys who have been likely'd (received likely letters).

Best case scenario, when would you like to have your staff in place?
A lot of it will depend on signing day so we won;t be able to do anything until after that. I am hoping that we will do something official around the 15th/16th of February when we will have our first staff meeting.

What are you looking for? You must have a certain type of person in mind instead of 'I worked with this guy and I know he is a good guy?' What do you want the staff to look like?
I'd like it to be a staff of teachers, guys who communicate and excel at communication. I think that is important when you coach at a place like Yale because guys are a little different. You have to be able to articulate your thoughts and ideas and use different ways sometimes. That is the first criteria. I mentioned the chemistry, guys being able to get along. Sometimes you have to be able to disagree without being disagreeable. That, for me, is an important component. I like young, energetic coaches that reflect what I believe in about coaching which is connecting with young men. I think young men respond to that. The coaching part of it, the X's and O's, the formulation of game plans - I am extremely comfortable with it. I have sat in the rooms with some of these men and been a part of that. That is almost a non-issue, an afterthought. The recruiting issue, being able to recruit a little bit differently in a place like this is something I am conscious of. Guys who can do more than one thing, guys who have had some background doing other things because when you don't have a full complement of a Division I staff, you have to have some flexibility and some guys who can multi-task. The combination of old and young, black and white, I want it to be as diverse a group as we can have and reflects well on the Yale community as well and certainly our student-athletes.

Have you met all the players?
I have not met them all. I have met a large majority of them. We will have our first team meeting (Friday) morning to get ready for our captain's vote. I can't say I have met every single one of them.

Obviously there are players who are very flexible. Take a Paul Rice for example who could be a running back, a linebacker, a corner, a safety, can play any position on the field. You have converted quarterbacks playing receivers, how will you handle that sort of thing?
I think that is going to be exciting, maybe for the players, will be that there will be a new set of eyes on them and give them an opportunity to be reevaluated. Sometimes we as coaches get stuck into a rut of 'hey this is what this guy does and that is who he is.' We have to be able to sometimes think outside the box. He may not be very good at that, but if you put him over here he may be the first guy. That is one of the priorities we have. I have been looking at tape, I have been evaluating what I see and some thoughts that I have. Once we get together offensive and defensively, we will do the same thing. We will evaluate and plug the pieces in where we see because you have to start somewhere then we can move from there and move the chess pieces from there.

You will address the team in private but will it be a special, defining moment to address your team in public for the first time (at the team banquet)?
Absolutely, just to be a part of the rich tradition that is associated with Yale will be great. I look forward to that.

What is your relationship with (Dartmouth coach) Buddy Teevens because it didn't really come through at the press conference whether you guys have a strong relationship? Do you guys have a pretty good relationship?
Our relationship is fine. There were some things that went on when we were at Stanford that we both regret but I don't have any issues with Buddy Teevens whatsoever.

Did you go to the inauguration?
I was supposed to go to the inauguration. My daughter got a fever so I didn't feel good about leaving her with a babysitter so I could go to the inauguration. Instead we watched it home.

Obviously it was an important day of people of any color, any race but what was it like personally?
It was powerful. I wasn't sure I'd see (an African-American president) in my lifetime, certainly not this early in my lifetime but I guess I was as proud as any American would be that our country has come so far to be able to witness a day like that. To see those throngs of people soaking it in from all different races, creeds, colors and just the Americans out there taking in that scene, that spectacle was fantastic.

Comparing what he (Obama) does to what you do, there is no comparison but there are some similarities. He is the first African-American in his job, he replaces a very important person and you are doing the same thing. Will you draw any similarities between the two?
As you said, the gravity of his job is a little bit different from mine but I am honored to even be put in the same sentence with President Obama but having had this opportunity, me being the first and him being the first, there are some similarities. Hopefully we can attain the same kind of success, relatively speaking in our profession.

How do you balance making changes with honoring the traditions at Yale?
When you are respectful of traditions, I think traditions are a separate category. When you are making change that maybe helps the student-athlete or helps everyone and it is not breaking tradition, I think that is OK. It's when you get into the tradition thing that people kind of bristle so I am very respectful of that. All I want to do is continue the rich tradition that we have had here. But with the changes that we have here will make like better for the student-athletes when you practice in the morning. I think there is a difference to make changes for change sake and to change traditions.

Do you think the morning practices are going to happen with the class schedules?
I feel good about it. I think we will have a great opportunity. I know some of the language classes are offered in the morning. If a guy ends up missing a couple of days of practice to go to class, obviously that is what he has to do. But for 98 percent of the guys, I don't think it will be an issue. They will be able to have more alternatives with classes later in the day than they would in the morning.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Morning practices? I wonder if he cleared that with the Yale College Dean.

3:00 PM 

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