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Brian Stanchak

26 Jan

Already Ahead of Schedule

Montez Robinson is in his first season as the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Alcorn State University and his positive impact is already being felt. He inherited a program that was struggling on-the-court and with APR issues. Despite those challenges, his team has already surpassed last season’s overall and SWAC win totals and improved their performance in the classroom. Robinson brought four year of HBCU experience to Alcorn, serving the previous four seasons as an Assistant Coach at Bethune-Cookman.
Take us through the process up until you got the call from Alcorn State that you were going to be offered the position there?
It was an off-beat path. I was trying to find out who knew the AD, someone who knew the administration. I talked to a couple friends that had reached out to me who kind of knew the AD. Nothing came from it. I sent in my application, resume and references the conventional way. Two, three weeks later, I got a call from the AD to see if I was interested in interviewing for the job. I thought it was a joke situation because of the long-delay and I was in a place that was loud with bad reception so I couldn’t hear him and the call kept dropping. He said I know it's short notice, but can you make it down here in the next two, three days? I said of course. 
Like I said, three or four weeks had passed and I thought they had moved on in their search so I scrambled to put together changes to my portfolio to make sure it was fit for Alcorn, prep for the interview, and get a new tie. Day of the interview comes and I have a flight from Daytona Beach to Charlotte and then to Jackson, Mississippi. My interview was supposed to be at 12:30 pm. I had a two-hour layover in Charlotte, so I’m in a time-crunch. I get to Jackson at 11:45 and my interview is at 12:30. I had to rush to pick up the rental car and didn't have time to change into my suit. I called the AD to let him know about the delay, and he said do what you can to get here as soon as possible because the search committee is waiting on you and we have other people in line. They were doing all of the interviews in one day. I finally get 25 minutes out and stop at a McDonald's to change in the bathroom and get my suit on. I finally get to campus and was in an all out sprint, hoping they didn't cut my interview short.
I finally made it there and every question they asked me, everything just popped. It was about a 12, 13-person committee with alumni, President, SWA, FAR, etc. I was just going into the interview with three days to prep but I don't know if I could have been more prepared in that short period of time. I understood the program's APR and put together an academic plan to help improve the program's APR. I knew what was in my portfolio so I didn't have to reference that. It's one thing I always say, know your material. I knew the search committee and something about each member, just like they did their research on me. They posted who was on the search committee so I was able to find info on the search committee. After my interview, I talked with someone who knew someone on the search committee and they told me I killed it in the interview. They said prior to your interview, you were an afterthought but you came in and you jumped right to the top of the mix. 
Two days later, I get a call from the President at 8:00 in the morning. He tells me I'm a finalist. I'm thinking he's saying it's between me and someone else, but he was telling me I was THE finalist. I called my wife and said I think I'm going to get the job and we're excited about everything. About an hour later, I get a call from the AD, but missed the call so I checked the voicemail. I couldn't really understand the message because it was distorted. I'm trying to listen and I'm kind of thinking he's saying I got the job so I get to the office and asked my Head Coach at Bethune-Cookman to listen to the voicemail. I said, Craig, I think I got the job but I'm not quite sure so tell me what you think. I let him hear the voicemail and he confirmed my thoughts that I got the job. It was so surreal.
What was the feeling like once you got the job?
It was surreal. I couldn't believe it because the panel of guys I was up against were great coaches who won championships and coached at the high major level. I thought, finally in year 14 of working hard and having interviewed for four other Head Coach positions, I'm in. I only made $5,000 total for the first three years I coached at a junior college. The hard work finally paid off. I thanked the Lord for blessing me with this opportunity and let him know I would not let him down. I wanted to do everything I could to help these young men become successful. 
How did your prior experience prepare you to become a Head Coach?
First, at Kennesaw State, working for Tony Ingle prepared me. He is a great coach who won two National Championships. Every other year, he would mix up our job responsibilities. Two years you may be the Recruiting Coordinator. The next two years he may put you in charge of handling fundraising. The whole time, his goal was to prepare you to be a Head Coach.
In 2011, when we got let go at Kennesaw, unexpectedly, and when I was putting feelers out, Alcorn actually had the Head Coach position available. I sent my stuff over and made some calls. When I finally talked to someone over there, I was told they're looking for someone with some Head Coach experience, regardless of the level, or have experience as an Assistant Coach at an HBCU. So Gravelle Craig is one of my best friends and he had just got the job at Bethune-Cookman. He asked me if I was interested in becoming an Assistant Coach and it clicked. 
At the HBCU's, you deal with budget constraints. Being down there, seeing how you deal with budget constraints, but have to find and make a way to get things done was important. You may not have a particular trainer that can travel with you on the road. Facilities not being as great as some of the others in the MEAC, as well as across the country that you have to recruit against. Going through those situations has definitely prepared me for this Alcorn job. You have to get out and find ways to raise money. You play six or seven guarantees to raise up to $500,000. At Kennesaw, we only had to raise $150,000 to $200,000 and that money went back to the program. At most HBCU's, when you raise that $400,000, $500,000, that money goes into the general fund. Those guarantee games prepared me to play those high majors and take some bumps and prepare my guys to be hungry before conference play. Letting them know in college basketball you have three seasons. You have your non-conference season. You have your conference season. You have your conference tournament season. If I got an HBCU job coming from Kennesaw State, I don't know if I would have been ready for that. In your mind you think you're ready and prepared for anything that could possibly come up, but you're not ready until you've actually coached at an HBCU. 
Do you feel coaching at the HBCU level, is it critical to work at an HBCU University?
At first, I’d say no, but after working at an HBCU, I’d say yes because there is a certain culture at HBCUs. There is a certain way things are done at HBCUs. I think having an idea of how operations are handled at an HBCU is very important. It is very important to have some experience, whether it’s you played or were a Graduate Assistant at an HBCU. I think you need to at least have an idea or have someone in your corner pocket who can tell you the lay of the land and walk you through the awesome HBCU culture. 
What are your goals for your program the rest of the season and beyond?
The first goal is trying to fix APR issues and get it behind us. Our team GPA when I got the job was barely at a 2.0. This summer, I had ten guys on campus in summer school. Guys who have never gotten a 3.0 were getting 3.0 GPAs. I had a player who was taking a 15 to 18 hours and got a 3.0 for the first time in his life. The team GPA went from barely a 2.0 in the spring to a 2.6, with six guys achieving a 3.0 GPA or better this fall. The focus now is mainly focused on academics. Making sure they’re in class. Making sure they’re graduating. 
From a basketball stand-point, we want to put a product on the floor that’s different from what Alcorn has seen the last 10 to 15 years, since Davey Whitney was here. My style of play is organized chaos. We’re going to defend you and bring a lot of heart and energy to the floor. Something where alumni and fans can be proud of, win or lose. From summer to the fall, we have done that. We want to continue to bring a lot of energy and effort to be in the mix in the conference. Right now we’re 4-2 in conference, and were right at the brink from being 5-1. When I arrived, I didn’t get a lot of good feedback about the team, but these guys have worked their butts off and have been a breath of fresh air. 
What advice do you have for Assistant Coaches who want to become a Division I Head Coach?
First, be a sponge. Learn from whoever you’re working with, whether it’s good or bad. 
Be loyal to the person you’re working for. You can’t be one of the guys that’s out there looking for their next job every year because then you’re not doing a good job where you’re at.
You have to invest in yourself. Early in my career, I was never at a high-major job where funds were plentiful and the University could invest in me. Therefore, I invested in myself by going to clinics and symposiums. Coaches should go to clinics and symposiums. Meet different people. 
You have two ears and one mouth. Listen more than you speak. When you get a chance to be around other coaches who have been successful, won National Championships, are legends, Assistant Coaches who have made their ways through the ranks, sit down with them. Be a fly on the wall. You can learn so much about what to do and what not to do. 
Also, find a mentor and someone who is genuine and sincere about helping you grow within this business. Find someone, whether you work for them or are trying to get on their staff, find someone who can help you. Someone who you believe in the things they believe in. 
Finally, about 10 years ago, 2005, I wrote down 10 goals I wanted God to help me achieve. One of the goals was that by my 35th birthday I wanted to be a Division I Head Coach. If I wasn’t, I then wanted to be a college Head Coach at any level. My first day on the job at Alcorn was May 1st and my 35th birthday was May 21st. I’m here to show you God’s work. My message to other coaches is to pray as if everything relies on God and work as if everything relies on yourself. Write down your goals. Read them. See them. Believe in them and awesome things will happen.

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Brian Stanchak

Brian D. Stanchak is the Founder of The BDS Agency, LLC. The BDS Agency exclusively advises, markets, and represents college basketball coaches. Prior to founding The BDS Agency, Brian spent four years as a collegiate Director of Athletics and 10 years as an assistant basketball coach at the NCAA Division I level, coaching at Seton Hall University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated from California University of PA in 2013 master’s degree in sport management studies, intercollegiate athletic administration and Seton Hall University in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in business administration, sport management.


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