"Big Dance" Interviews: Cincinnati assistant coach Darren Savino

March 15th, 2011
As part of his "Big Dance" interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Cincinnati assistant coach Darren Savino, who is in his first season with the program after spending the prior four season as an assistant at Rutgers. Coach Savino has coached at all three New York metropolitan area Big East schools at one point or another in his career, and in high school he was a part of the 1989 national champions at St. Anthony HS in Jersey City. The Bearcats open with 11-seed Missouri on Thursday. 

Jon Teitel: You won a high school national championship at St. Anthony (NJ) in 1989 while playing with Bobby Hurley under his father and coach Bob Sr. How much of an influence was Bob Sr. on your decision to become a coach, and what made Bobby able to succeed in the NCAA Tournament once he got to Duke?

Darren Savino: There is no doubt that being around Coach Hurley was a big influence. I was friends with Bobby growing up, so I have been around their family forever. I think Coach Hurley is one of the best coaches at any level. Bobby was often the smallest guy on the court, but his heart and determination separated himself from other athletes.

JT: Yancy Gates was suspended for the Pitt game last month after blowing up at a coach in practice. How has he been able to control his emotions since coming back from suspension?

DS: Yancy is an emotional kid by nature who wants to win and to play well. When you struggle as an athlete (as we all do), you have to learn how to channel your emotions in the right way. He has been tremendous for us since coming back.

JT: Dion Dixon ended last season by losing the ball out of bounds against West Virginia in the Big East Championship. Do you think he has the confidence to handle the ball in the closing seconds of a game this week?

DS: I have not noticed Dion having any effects from that play this season, as he has done really well while playing at both guard spots.

JT: Your team plays #11-seed Missouri in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. Do you have to spend a lot of extra time preparing for Missouri due to their frenetic pace?

DS: Every coaching staff is going through what we are in terms of cramming in a lot of stuff right away. We think Missouri is very similar to Providence as they are very aggressive with their hands on defense and are good at pressing and gambling, so we will use a similar game plan for that and try to not give up any easy layups.

JT: The Big East has a record 11 teams in this year's tournament. How has conference play prepared your team for the tournament, and how great would it be to get revenge against Connecticut on Saturday?

DS: Almost all of our 18 league games this year felt like NCAA Tournament games, so we will be prepared to play a talented team like Missouri. If we are lucky enough to play Connecticut we will be ecstatic and it will be a great game. We are not worried about revenge; just want to get to the next game.