Chicago State coach Tracy Dildy and his Cougars took their lumps last season. They lost 12 games by 30 or more points and finished the season 6-26.
Now entering his second season, Dildy is optimistic the program is starting to move in the right direction. He added nine new players to his roster and was able to control his schedule this season.
Dildy spoke with ESPNChicago.com about the upcoming season.
What's different in Year 2 for you?
Tracy Dildy: What's mainly different now is I got 90 percent of my own guys. I walked into an unique situation. We had a bunch of seniors last year. I was able to go out and really recruit and bring in the type of guys who really fit my system. So now, I'm coaching guys I went out and recruited.
Are there any challenges coaching nine new players?
TD: The good thing that we did is we're bringing in some older guys. We got some junior college guys. We got some fifth-year transfer guys. The challenge is just now putting them all together and getting them to work together and play well together. We got experience. We got athleticism. We got a lot of toughness. Now, it's just making it all come together.
What did you learn as a head coach in your first year?
TD: I learned patience. That's what I did. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Out of those new players, what one player should fans watch out this season?
TD: Jeremy Robinson is our leader. He's a guy who really kind of special when you talk about doing a lot of things. Super versatile, he can play outside, he can play inside. He's every bit of 6-8. He's been at the Division I level. He had a really good junior college career. If you say one guy, it would be him, but I got a few other guys I think are pretty special also.
How did last season's 6-26 record affect the team?
TD: The fortunate thing is the group we got in now we only return two guys from last year's team. It's basically like a brand-new team. These guys just hear the stories of last year for the most part. We don't have many guys that actually went through what we went through last year.
Do you have more control over your schedule this season?
TD: That's been a key. I've had control over the schedule this year. We're going to play a top-20 schedule year in and year out because I really believe that prepares you for your conference, so we're going to do that. We play another tough schedule, but we won't get as much mileage as we did last year. We're going to play a lot of schools in the area when you talk about the DePauls, the Illinois, Illinois States, the Loyolas. We're going to play a lot of those top-tier teams, but we're playing them a lot closer.
Is anything being done to fix the program's Academic Progress Rate problem?
TD: I think we're right on course of fixing that. When you talk about having seven seniors last year, and out of the seven seniors last year, we had four of them graduate over the summer, and we have three that are still going to finish. We also were able to get four guys that played on previous teams to actually come back and graduate. So when you talk about the APR, it's going in the right direction.