It is hard to believe that we are back at it already. It just doesn't seem as if it has been seven (7) months since we left the floor in Memphis. A lot has taken place in between that time. A number of those things have made us a better more exciting team as we move into the start of the 2007-08 season. Where do I begin? Let's start with the addition of several new faces that are expected to make an immediate impact for us this year. Robert Vaden, Reggie Huffman, Walter Sharpe, Channing Toney, Aaron Johnson, Ed Berrios, Terrence Roderick, and Zisis Sarikopoulos will all hit the floor as Blazers for the first time. Add to that the returning players who gained valuable experience last season - Paul Delaney III, Lawrence Kinnard, Frank Holmes - and you have the recipe for something special if we can all manage to get ourselves on the same page.
Next consider perhaps the most important addition to our program during the off-season, new Strength & Conditioning Coach Lou Deneen. Lou has done a terrific job of "selling" our guys on the importance of getting their work done in the weight room. If you've watched a practice or attended our exhibition opener last night, you should have noticed a big difference in our players' bodies. They look the part physically now and I believe mentally they feel good about themselves. That plays a huge role in a player's psyche and ultimately a team's confidence. Lou came to us by way of Florida International University where he was the Director of the entire Strength & Conditioning Program. He has a wealth of experience and he commands respect as a result. His enthusiasm for what he does is contagious and our guys believe in him and his teaching techniques. That is by far the most important aspect of all.
Our staff has gone through some turnover as well. Kerry Rupp became the new Head Coach at Louisiana Tech. He was replaced by Dusty May who worked with us at Indiana. Tracy Dildy returned to his hometown of Chicago to become Associate Head Coach at the University of Illinois-Chicago. We replaced Tracy with Bob Donewald who has a ton of experience as a coach overseas as well as the NBA. Last night our Director of Basketball Operations from a year ago - Eddie McCarter - returned as the Head Coach of West Alabama. We hired Marco Morcos to replace Coach Mac. Marco was a successful high school & AAU coach in New Jersey before joining the staff. All our new staff members bring something unique to the table and we are working to mesh it all together.
The next big challenge during the off-season was putting together a schedule. Most people think it's easy - just call some schools and get them to come here. I wish it were that easy. There is not a rush of schools knocking down our doors to come to Birmingham for a road game against the Blazers. In fact we called a number of places to tell them we would come there first and the response was "thanks but we're going in a different direction with our scheduling". At the end of the day we put together a pretty solid schedule. We wanted at least 15 home games - we only had 13 last year - and we accomplished that. We wanted a good mix of conferences and we accomplished that as well - Florida State (ACC); Kentucky (SEC); Cincinnati & South Florida (Big East); Wichita State (MVC). Our goal will be to win them all. We particularly want to regain the magic at Bartow Arena and go undefeated here. That will go a long ways towards defining our season. We know however that winning on the road is a very important criterion for reaching the NCAA tournament. That's where all the off-season work should pay its greatest dividends. We're excited to tip things off next weekend at Georgia State. First game; first road game; first opportunity to put on display that competitive Blazers spirit that should propel us towards what could be a very special season. Stay tuned...and welcome back!
Assistant Head Coach