Men's Basketball

Built from Within – Bison Assistant Coaches

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Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography

Head coach Dave Richman named two new assistants to an already strong coaching staff for the Bison men’s basketball team. We sat down with the four assistant basketball coaches that worked tirelessly behind the scenes to prepare the Bison for another unforgettable season.


(These are the full interviews from the April issue of Bison Illustrated.)

apr15_jalanpaul_DSC_0937Jayden Olson

Bison Illustrated: Back to the tournament again, how does it feel this time?

Jayden Olson: “It feels great. I’ve been fortunate enough to be there three of the last four years now. At Nebraska and at Colorado State, but this time it felt a little different being in an assistant role instead of being the director of basketball operations. So it was neat and particularly special this being Coach (Dave) Richman’s first year.”

BI: What are some things you were more involved in this time around?

JO: “I think the main thing is just the on the court coaching. You get to do the on the court coaching, so you’re on the court everyday in practice, you’re coaching, you’re game planning, you’re watching film and scouting. And some of those things you do anyway, but you’re more involved and you’re actually on the court and not just doing things behind the scenes.”

BI: What were some things you felt you could take advantage of against Gonzaga?

JO: “You look at Gonzaga and they’re huge. They’re ginormous first and foremost, they’re well coached. They have a good point guard, they’re experienced and you’re like ‘holy cow, what are you going to do?’ A couple things we thought we’d have to do is play fast. We talked to a few coaches in their league and we thought we had to get early buckets in transition because when they’re in the half-court, they’re really good, and then exploit some mismatches. Their big guys are huge, but they don’t move their feet that great and that was something Dex (Dexter Werner) was going to take advantage of, but for LA, we knew things were going to be tough. Also, try to get some things off ball screens, we actually run a couple similar actions to what they run and when you kind of run the same things, it’s hard to guard, because you don’t want to guard it.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 9.50.59 AMBI: How do you think the team played against Gonzaga?

JO: “I thought we played well. Obviously there was a little lull there after we got up early, but they’re really good and a team of runs. They’re going to put three or four runs on ya, and I think we put some runs on them. You look at the Iowa game (Gonzaga’s second round matchup) and Iowa was never within 11 points of them in the second half. We had (their lead to) six a couple times. So I was really proud of the guys and of the staff and to be a part of North Dakota State.”

BI: What’s something you can build off on going into next season?

JO: “It has been a little bit of everything. I actually think the one thing is that we’ll have a little more depth, which will make it easier when Kory (Brown) was injured this season. We struggled a little bit and when we had different injuries so I think, first and foremost, we’ll have a little more depth, and I think just continue to get better every day. These guys have taken that mentality, our staff has taken the mentality that every practice, every day we try to continue our mentality and it starts from day one.”

BI: What have you been doing with the bench guys to help them develop so they’re ready to contribute next year?

JO: “We broke things down and only had seven guys primarily playing. We did individual workouts with them (bench players) every day so they were doing everything from ball handling to passing, to shooting; all skill development is what we call it. It’s the biggest thing the program has been built on from Coach (Tim) Miles, to Saul (Phillips) and now Dave, is player development. And that’s something they just worked on everything. And some of them had opportunities during the season and others didn’t. It gets later in the year and it’s something we really focused on, player development.”


apr15_jalanpaul_DSC_0931Eric Henderson

BI: Do you ever look back at when you were a high school principal and think you’ve come a long ways since last year?

Eric Henderson: “You know, it’s pretty surreal to be honest with you. It was a great experience. Thinking about my life and family a year ago sitting at a high school game in a school of 185 kids and the next year you’re playing in the NCAA tournament, it’s pretty special. But we knew long before that, we knew right when we got here the culture and the people were just tremendous. Obviously making the NCAA tournament helps, but we knew we were in the right place a long time before that.”

BI: You guys looked like a completely different team in the Summit League tournament compared to what I saw in the last regular season game when you lost to Oral Roberts. What happened?

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 10.11.17 AMEH: “The resilience, I mean, is something. We were able to bounce back all year. We were able to bounce back from tough losses, tough situations, tough environments and you name it, and we were able to deal with adversity throughout the season. Many types of adversity, too, which I think made our team especially tough in tough situations. We were able to get through and win close games and I think that helps when you go through a lot of adversity and when you deal with it well and deal with it with your family, it gained a lot of trust with each other. Not only the players, but the staff, just the whole environment and culture built upon each other.”

BI: What are you going to take away from this team the most going forward in your coaching career?

EH: “It was certainly a special group and what I’m going to take away most is how well our guys and our staff and whole families got along with each other and really accepted each other. There were a lot of people put in new situations, new environment and just accepting and building the trust and relationships is what I’m going to take out most from this season. It was pretty special.”


apr15_jalanpaul_DSC_0930Freddy Coleman

BI: How was this trip different than the prior two trips you’ve made to the NCAA tournament?

Freddy Coleman: “I think they’re all pretty different in their sorts of ways. As a player, obviously, you’re just geeked and you’re excited to be a part of it. It’s everyone’s dream watching it, it’s a big weekend. Last year, we had a little more leadership; we were a veteran oriented team so we had some expectations going into that game with the team we previously beat in Notre Dame. Then going into the Oklahoma game, we saw a lot of similarities and that gave us a lot of confidence. This team, the level of expectations was nothing. It was kind of our locker room of 15 and the coaches and the people close to our program were really the only ones that believed. They’re all different in their sort of ways and they were all very, very exciting.”

BI: Paul Miller started out great then died off a little as the season wore on, what happened?

FC: “It’s a freshman thing. You usually see freshmen hit a wall. It’s just different. You’re not playing against 15-16-year-old kids anymore. You’re playing against grown men with muscles and tattoos. So naturally, night in and night out it’s tough for a younger kid to compete at a high-level every day in practice and on a big stage. He’s young for his age. He could be a senior in high school right now. There are a lot of things. You’re going to have your ups and downs as a freshman but when he starts to learn to string practices together to string games together, he’s going to be a special player. He has the confidence of a 5th year senior and he goes out there and plays hard. He thinks he’s going to make every shot he takes, that’s what makes him special.”

BI: Well, it looked like he was taking it to Kevin Pangos from Gonzaga.

FC: “Exactly, and he’s a good defender. He took some shots where he’d come off the bounce and as a coach you might say, ‘Uh-oh’ but then it goes in and then it’s a great shot. That’s just the kind of player Paul is. He’s a very confident player that’s going to play with that swagger and that edge that’s going to make him special.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 10.22.46 AMBI: What was the mood in the locker room after the game knowing LA had just played his last game at NDSU?

FC: “It was a bittersweet thing. Like I said, we had zero expectations going into this year of everybody and what they thought this team was going to be. And us sitting in Seattle, Washington getting done playing a two-seeded Gonzaga team that we had our chances at. We gave them our best blows and like I said, it was bittersweet. It’s bitter for the fact that one of our family members is moving onto the next stage of his life, but it’s sweet to see what this team has done over the course of six months. That’s the fun thing about college basketball; that you see each team grow. Like I said, you have that one guy that leaves and it’s a big chunk of the locker room. It was definitely a bittersweet moment.”

BI: Who has to step up next year?

FC: “Everybody has to because it’s the next man up mentality. Last year, people were saying ‘who is going to replace Taylor and Marshall, Tray, Mike Felt and Jordan?’ Well, you had some people step up. You had some younger kids play and LA obviously LA leaving his impact on the program, but now he’s gone so it’s the next man up. We have some kids coming in that we’re excited about. We have some kids that are already in our program that we’re excited about and we have some kids that we want to develop into the next special thing. What we do here at North Dakota State is develop players and we take a lot of pride in that so this summer is going to be big for us as a staff and program. We look forward to making that next step.”


apr15_jalanpaul_DSC_0927Josh Vaughan

BI: How about your Wofford Terriers making the NCAA tournament?

Josh Vaughan: “They had a good year. I think they have a lot of good players. A lot of older guys that have been there a long time, their coach is good and they have a lot similarities to us as far as culture, kids, coaches and people.”

BI: What’s different about this team than last year’s team and the 2009 team you were on?

JV: “Expectations were a lot different and just new faces. I mean, we had so many new guys at every position, different things from different people contribution wise and it was a lot more fun that way. I think with everything that was brand new to guys and brand new to the coaching staff. Just not knowing what to expect. I think every game we went in not knowing what to expect, we just had a lot of fun figuring out ways to win together.”

BI: Any similarities? 

JV: “There’s always the same similarities to how you play. Play good defense, take good shots and don’t turn the ball over. It was the same thing we want to do in terms of style-of-play, but just with the new guys and figuring out what to do with them.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 10.28.33 AMBI: Did you see that breakout game coming for Dexter Werner in the NCAA tournament game?

JV: “I don’t think we could see that, but he did have that big game against Akron, where he had like 17 points and 16 rebounds. He did a lot of those things in AAU, where he would have big games like that against bigger competition. A lot of people don’t expect that from him because he’s a lot shorter and not as physically gifted, but he’s long, he’s really athletic and really strong, and so he’s improved because he’s gone against Marshall (Bjorklund), Jordan (Aaberg) and Tray (TrayVonn Wright) every day for two years helped a lot. He got better every day and he had to figure out ways to score because if you’re going to throw it up, it’s going to get blocked. He had a lot of bad days, but I think he turned out better for it.”

BI: Anything you can take from this year and carry on the rest of your coaching career?

JV: “I’ll just remember a lot. Just his (Lawrence Alexander) ability to step-up in the moment. So many times this year, we needed a basket or two or three and he’d be able to come up with it. He had so many big games; so many big moments that you can’t expect that going into games because he delivered so many times and that’s why he was MVP and everything for our team. He’s the reason behind where we were at the end of the season. I’ll remember that most of all. Off the court he’s what everybody says; he’s a great kid and fun to be around. Our whole team was.”


Built from Within – Bison Assistant Coaches
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