Bob Walsh had been down this road before.
He had been through the interview process at jobs over the last few years. He said didn’t change any of his approach in this process than any other interview, but the result changed for the better – the University of Maine hired him to be their 21st head coach in school history.
Coming from a nine-year stint at Rhode Island College to his first Division I head coaching job couldn’t be a better fit for the 42-year old, who spent seven seasons as an assistant at Providence before taking his first head coaching job at a state school at the Division III level.
“I think both schools have an athletic culture that they’re really proud of and both in an area where basketball is really important,” Walsh said. “There’s a lot of energy around the program, a lot of positive energy, they’re really looking for something that they can buy into and support and that was very similar to where we were at at Rhode Island College when I took over.”
Having been hired on May 7, the biggest challenge Walsh faced was the calendar. The university held graduation that week and since the Black Bears have a roster loaded with international players, most of those players use the summer to spend the rare time they get at home. Walsh said the next time he expects his full roster together again will be towards the end of August when he can start preseason workouts.
“I’ve got to develop trust with the roster,” Walsh said. “The one word I use with all the guys is hungry, they’re certainly hungry for something that they can commit to and the approach that they have shown me, the attitude has been great and I think that’s a great first start.”
The largest concern facing Walsh, who compiled a 204-63 record at Rhode Island College over nie seasons, is developing that relationship with his players. He said that in his first season at the Division III school in 2005, he struggled to build that foundation with his players.
“I didn’t do a great job of it in my first year and I’ll never forget that,” Walsh said. “I think they all liked me before they really respected me and really bought in. Regardless of whether you take over a great team with a ton of talent or a bad team with no talent things are going to change.”
“The culture, the approach is going to change with a new head coach and I think that’s something that I learned through my first year that I really didn’t do a great job. I was more concerned with relating to them than I was earning their trust and respect that I needed to get the most out of them.”
Ryan Restivo covers the America East conference, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.