In the latest installment of his interview series, CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Lehigh head coach Brett Reed, whose Patriot League champion squad will take on top overall seed Kansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Jon Teitel: You began your collegiate coaching career at Oakland CC where you were an assistant for your father Lynn (who won the National Junior College championship in 1987). What role has your father had on your coaching life, and what role has he had on your non-coaching life?
Brett Reed: Both of my parents have been a tremendous influence on my life. It was special to watch my dad coach and get to play with his players and coach alongside him. He helped me build by coaching philosophy, and helped me understand what he did and (more importantly) why he did it.
JT: You were an assistant at Lehigh for 5 years before being named coach in 2007 at age 35. What did you learn from your predecessor Billy Taylor, and what did it mean to you to become head coach at a relatively young age?
BR: Having the opportunity to learn from Coach Taylor and others was very helpful, as he was a great mentor. I also coached under Fran McCaffery (now at Siena). Both of them had a big impact on me and gave me tremendous resources to draw from. I knew there would be challenges when becoming a head coach, but I was eager for a chance to work directly with the players who I had recruited and helped develop. Making the transition to head coach was easier due to my familiarity with the university and the players.
JT: In 2004 you were an assistant on the Lehigh team that won the conference title and lost the NCAA play-in game to FAMU. How does this year's title compare to that title, and what did you learn from that year's NCAA tourney that will help you in this year's tourney?
BR: Winning in 2004 was special: when I came to Lehigh the program was at a relatively low point, but we were quickly able to turn that around. Getting to see the players perform to the best of their abilities was a special moment. I felt it is important for us to live in the moment in 2010, just as we did in 2004. We are excited to be in the tourney and have the chance to compete, but our combination of character and talent gives us an opportunity to win.
JT: You are 1 of only 3 D-1 men's basketball head coaches to have a PhD. Did you ever think about going into something besides coaching, and how does your PhD help you on the sideline?
BR: With my father being a coach, the thrill of coaching and desire to impact the lives of student-athletes was ingrained in me from a young age. I had a desire to be a college coach, but I thought about perhaps having my own business and just coaching on the side. My PhD is in instructional technology, and I have taken many of the theories that I was exposed to and used them to improve my skills as a coach and help me get our younger guys to play to the best of their potential.
JT: Senior PG Marquis Hall is Lehigh's 1st-ever Patriot League Men's Basketball Scholar Athlete of the Year. Is he the smartest player you have ever coached, and what role does his intelligence play on the court?
BR: We have been blessed with a multitude of individuals who have done extremely well in the classroom. Marquis has put himself in elite company with his combination of points/assists, and it is very comforting to have him as an extension of me on the court. He has an excellent basketball IQ, is able to remain calm in pressure situations, and has a great disposition.
JT: Senior PF Zahir Carrington is Lehigh's 1st All-District selection since the 1980s. Is he the best player you have ever coached, and how do you think he will do if he follows through on his plan to attend law school?
BR: Zahir is athletic and talented, and it has been a pleasure to coach him due to his great personal character. He took a leadership role within our program, and relished the opportunity to be a positive outreach member to the community. We have had some great players during my time here, and he is amongst the best we have ever had.
JT: Freshman PG CJ McCollum led your team in scoring this season, and was the 1st player to ever be named conference POY and ROY in the same season. How has he been able to play so well as a freshman, and do you think he will be able to maintain his focus as a freshman during the tourney?
BR: CJ is very smooth, with a soft touch on his jump shot. His recognition as POY and ROY is well-deserved due to his continued improvement throughout the season. He got better in conference play, whereas most freshmen get run down during the middle of their 1st year. A unique factor for his success was that his older teammates were very accepting of his skills and allowed him to get opportunities to show off those skills. CJ has been comfortable with his own abilities, so I have no reason to think he will not continue to perform in the tourney.
JT: You only have one player over 6'9". Do you think you will be able to compete against a tourney team that has a big man inside?
BR: Size is always a consideration for coaches facing such a challenge. Although we cannot match the size of some bigger teams, I look to the book "The Smart Take from the Strong" by former Princeton coach Pete Carril, and we will have a great deal of passion/heart on our side.
JT: You lost to a couple of good tourney-caliber teams earlier this year (Dayton/Richmond). What did you learn from those losses that you think will help you in the tourney?
BR: It gave us the chance to experience the atmosphere of playing in tourney-type venues against tourney-type players. I think it helped us understand that we have to be efficient on offense/defense and limit our mistakes. It also helped us appreciate the value of stopping runs by our opponents. You have to be together and disciplined, and you cannot compromise your confidence/eagerness.