Buzz Williams Named Men's Basketball Coach
April 8, 2008
Opening Comments From Tuesday's (April 8, 2008) Press Conference
Opening comments from MU President Fr. Robert A. Wild, S.J.
Marquette basketball holds a special place in the hearts of the Marquette and Milwaukee communities. And Buzz Williams, I truly believe, we have someone who will build on our success and take it even higher. Let me say this. Any coach faced with beginning to coach in the BIG EAST, that's a whole new challenge. That's a gamble - I don't care who it is. What's needed is passion, is an amazing work ethic, is the drive, the determination, the fire in the belly, and the skill to succeed in what an awful lot of people call the nation's most challenging conference. There are coaches who do not want that challenge, but in Buzz, we have someone who does, someone whom we believe in, and someone whom has really exceeded expectations in every single job he's ever held. Substantially so, in fact.
I want to thank the many members of the Marquette community who helped in the search process, and I have to give a special nod to Doc Rivers, to Ulice Payne, two of our former players who also serve as Marquette trustees. Also, to our other trustees, to former players who really helped on this, to an amazing array of other people close to college basketball and who are close to Marquette who provided counsel and assistance. That was essential in this process. I also want to thank Greg Kliebhan, our Senior Vice President and a person who has been very critically important to the whole athletic operation, and to Steve Cottingham who was faced with as big a challenge as would face any athletic director and who handled it as I knew he would, ably, with a cool head, and with a total commitment to Marquette University and our winning tradition. And with that, Steve.
Opening comments from MU Director of Athletics Steve Cottingham
Thank you. When we started this process for a new coach just a week ago, but with twenty-hour days, it's amazing how many people you can talk to in a week. We talked about three critical, non-negotiable criteria that we would insist upon for our head men's basketball coach. He would be a person who would have to be fully committed to Marquette's mission, to develop exceptional student-athletes - leaders on the basketball court and in the classroom. He's a person, because of who we are, would have to uphold the highest ethical standards. A person we know as they're out on the road, representing this university with recruits, with the public, with young men, that's going to uphold the standards that are so much a part of this university. This person would also have to be hungry. Hungry to recruit the best players, hungry to win in the BIG EAST, and hungry to win at the highest national level. As Father [Wild] said, this is a very challenging league, and for us to go to war with this person, we need somebody who has that fire in their belly and is hungry for that challenge.
In that week, in those twenty-hour days, we talked to a lot of coaches, former players, other people intimately connected with the national college basketball scene. Doing that, we found the best person to fit that bill of particulars here at Marquette. In addition to those core, non-negotiable criteria that I mentioned, there are other qualities that make Buzz the best choice for the Marquette head basketball job. His vision and his plan for success is compelling. His work ethic is unbelievable and second to none. As Father [Wild] mentioned, an outstanding recruiter who will bring the highest quality student-athletes to this campus to compete at the highest level. And finally, it had to be somebody with a love for the style of play that is attractive to young men who are pursuing NBA dreams.
In all those things, we found Buzz Williams. So we talked to people on the national basketball scene, everyone we talked to had nothing but great things to say about Buzz, a man who had excelled at every position he had been in, who from a young man entering college, had pursued this dream with passion, planning, incredible hard work, and integrity along every step of the way. I don't want to embarrass Buzz too much, although maybe just a little bit. One of the things that I found compelling as I spent time with him in the last week was a story about how on the first day of college for him, he went into the gym, wasn't a member of the team, wasn't a member of the program, and introduced himself to the head basketball coach at his university and said, `I just want to sit on the bleacher, watch, and learn.' And then he started writing that coach once a week, keeping in contact with him. And then he kept meeting additional coaches in the course of his college career.
Every time he met a coach in those years, he introduced himself, and by his senior year, he'd met more than 400 college basketball coaches. And what Buzz did, every time he met a new coach, is he began to write notes and letters to that person. So by his senior year he was writing, weekly, 400 letters and notes a week to these people that he had met. Every week to every person he had met. Four hundred letters. That's the kind of person Buzz is, that's the kind of work ethic and drive he has demonstrated to bring him here today. You're going to see that work ethic beginning immediately. He's going to be on the road this week as the recruiting period opens up. He's going to be out there representing Marquette with recruits, with the public, and we know he's going to do a great job.
This is a great university and a great basketball program. We have much to offer the young men who are pursuing their dreams: this great facility that you see here, the BIG EAST affiliation, the national TV coverage, all of your support. And as to the side, I want to announce that since all this started last week, you have all poured out your love for this program, and we have sold more than 500 spots for Thursday night's men's basketball banquet, the most we have ever sold and it's sold out. [Applause] Thank all of you for that. We're in this to win, all of us, Buzz, the team, this university and this program. We expect to win, we expect to win a lot, and we expect to win at the highest level.
I want to acknowledge some special debts of gratitude that I owe to individuals who have played a critical role in this process. Greg Kliebhan, the Senior Vice President of the university, Deputy Athletic Director Mike Broeker, my predecessor in this job Bill Cords, BIG EAST Commissioner Michael Tranghese and his incredibly talented staff, and the number of ADs and coaches and basketball professionals throughout the country who have helped us in this process, and the trustees and former players who have reached out to us during this time. I especially want to thank former trustee and trustee emeritus John Bergstrom who's been very helpful during this process. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't thank Fr. Wild. The commitment of this university and this athletic department to excellence starts with Fr. Wild and at the top of this institution. [Applause]
Now, it's my great pleasure to introduce the sixteenth head men's basketball coach at Marquette University, Brent "Buzz" Williams. [Applause]
Opening comments from Marquette men's basketball coach Buzz Williams
ESPN News started November the first of 1996 and I was married June the tenth of 2000. Every press conference that ESPN News has shown, for the most part, if it was a coach, I watched it. TIVO-ed it recently, taped it on VCR before that. I was always trying to learn to be better - learn to be a better speaker, learn something about that coach that would help me grow as a coach - that was how I judged their press conference. You guys probably won't judge what I'm saying in that manner, but that's how I judged it. My wife always judged it good or bad. The better you were was the sooner that the husband mentioned their wife. The worst they were, were those that didn't mention or mentioned towards the end. And so she judged where they would go from that point forward in their career on when the wife and the family were introduced but more so, made the audience understand that it was because of them that the person, the coach, was in that position.
This is not about you guys, this 30 seconds, this is about me and I'm grateful and I appreciate it. This is my wife Corey, that's my daughter in the back. Her name is Zera. This is my oldest son. He's five, his name is Calvin, and this is our youngest son. His name is Mason and he's two. [Applause] All of the people that were really important to me, I wanted to make sure they were here: my mom and her husband, my stepdad, my dad, his wife, my stepmom, people I've been very close to that are godparents of my children, and my wife's mom are all here.
Having said that, the most important thing that I want to convey to each of you here - and I'm sure that each of you are here for different reasons, different thoughts about me, different thoughts about why I'm here, different thoughts about where our program's at, different thoughts about how did we get to this point in relation to all that's transpired over the last seven days - completely understand anything you would have to say and or feel, not to judge those things. This is what I can tell you that I'm committed to and this is what is the most important thing to me. It's the most important thing to me today, and it's been the most important thing to me over the last seven days, and it will be the mission of what our program is for the rest of my tenure here, however long that may be. My intent is to always be here, but what it is about is it's about these guys. And I think so many times, not at Marquette, not specifically saying anywhere, it's always about the guy that's standing at the microphone. And what I want you guys to know and I would have a feel for the most part you're here because of what this institution embodies, all of its core values, all of the things it means to be a Jesuit, and all of the things that those things are taught here.
What I want you to know is you have my commitment, that as the steward of this program, the face of this program is always, always, forever, going to be about the players in the program. And the players in the program will not be judged always in accordance with their skill set or their talent. They will always be judged as people, as young men first, as students second, and as players third. And the priorities in our program, the responsibilities within our program, will always be reflective of those things. It will always be as young men, it will always be as students, and it will always be as players. And I know that you have a lot of questions but the most important thing, the very most important thing, today, tomorrow, are our players. The players that are here right now, the players and the coaches that were here before us, and the players that will come to replace these guys.
As I told these guys last night, it was the most important thing that as I was over in Fr. Wild's office when I was offered and accepted the job, I asked Steve [Cottingham] and Mike [Broeker] to immediately go find our guys because I wanted to tell them first that I was their coach. We visited until they were tired. We talked to their parents because I wanted to make sure that they knew and that their parents knew, from me, that I was their coach. [Applause]
Thank you. I don't say that to be critical of anything, I say that because what's important to me are these guys. [Applause] What I can tell you is I have learned a great deal about what Marquette is in the last nine months and as I told Greg Kliebhan pretty much within the first time that he and I visited since this all transpired, the `We Are Marquette' and what that means and what that embodies and how forever long that lasts and the value behind it, those are the things that our program and our relationships are going to be about. I think so many time coaches, regardless of profession, always talk about `when they're freshman, when they're seniors.'
What I want to talk about is from the time we begin a relationship and a relationship that will be built lifelong. I have met former coaches -- Coach [Hank] Raymonds, I apologize, where's Coach Raymonds? Coach Raymonds, how you doing? [Applause] Coach Raymonds, I don't know if I made a mistake over the last seven days, but I made a mistake in the first seven minutes of my press conference and I apologize that I didn't thank you in relation to everyone else. I'm sorry, glad you're here though, thank you. [Applause] Coach Raymonds, Coach McGuire, Coach Majerus, Coach Crean, Coach O'Neill - all of the guys, the fifteen guys that have been here before me - Coach Rivers, Bo, all of the players - D-Wade, Travis Diener, Steve Novak - all of the players that have played before these guys. All that I can within the nine months I've been here, I completely embody, understand, and comprehend, but I'm not at the point that I don't want to learn more players, more coaches, learn more about the traditions of Marquette. I'm extremely excited about the opportunity.
I'll say this so you know. From a recruiting perspective, a lot is made about recruiting. Recruiting is the same thing as coaching, it's the same thing as your spouse relationship. Recruiting is always about relationships - where they start, how they're built, how they last. When we recruit, that's how we will be built, based solely on relationships. Who am I going to hire? Who's going to be with these guys, who's going to be around me, what names, where'd they come from, what's their history, what's their past? Who I'm going to hire is the absolute best that are multi-talented that can do many, many different things, but the absolute best, paramount, number one priority talent that they must possess is the ability to build relationships in the right way and to take care of these guys and to take care of the guys that come after them. That's my answer on my staff and from a recruiting perspective, we're going to recruit the absolute best, the absolute best, from start to finish, from early to late, regardless of time, the absolute best that embody what Marquette is as a person, as a student, and as a player.
In regards to my style of play, I'm sure that's a question, I'll answer that one now. Am I an offensive guy? Am I a defensive guy? How are we going to play? What about this? What's your feel on this? What's your philosophy on this? This is what I told all the guys I visited with over the last seven days. I'm a winning guy, that's what I want to be about. I want to win. [Applause] We'll win the right way off the floor, we'll win the right way on the floor. Our players, our staff, will embody and project things that you will be proud of. We're going to do things the right way, on and off the floor. Our guys are going to go to class, be on time, stay until its complete. They're going to go to class everyday, they're going to earn a Jesuit education because that's what I should make sure that I'm responsible that they walk away from. And also what they'll walk away from is with lifelong relationships with their teammates and with their coaches. I'm extremely excited, I'll answer any questions that you guys may have. Thank you, thank you very, very much. [Applause]
Player Quotes - Junior Guard Dominic James
How do you feel about the announcement?
Has he convinced you to stay next year? Coach and I haven't sat down and talked about that yet. I feel like we will be talking about it within the next few days. It is important that we get the younger guys to see where we are going to be at for next year. I am still in a Marquette uniform and am still working hard with those guys. To tell you the truth, I am more excited for this day right now than thinking about the NBA.
Has this decision healed some of the wounds from what has happened in the past week?
Is it nice that you have had the opportunity to get to know Buzz over the past season?
Does this make you more comfortable about coming back?
Is it more meaningful to hear it from him than to hear it on the TV?
Player Quotes - Junior Guard Jerel McNeal
What was your first reaction?
What have you learned about him over the last year?
What did he first tell you when you all met at the Bradley Center last night?
Does this influence you about what you will be doing next year?
Player Quotes - Junior Guard Wesley Matthews
What did he say to the guys last night at the meeting?
Did you guys say anything last night about what you were hoping for out of him?
What traits do you see in him that will lead him to being a successful head coach?
Player Quotes - Sophomore Forward Lazar Hayward
After getting to know Buzz this past season, what are your thoughts on his hiring at Marquette?
This hire may be a comfortable one for the team, but is it exciting for you and the players as well?