After accepting the head coaching job at UAB last March, one of the first things Jerod Haase set out to do was buy a new-to-him used car. His only requirement: Bluetooth.
Then instead of flying from Chapel Hill, N.C., to the NCAA Final Four, he spent 14 hours on the road, getting to work en route to New Orleans.
“I set up interviews with potential staff members, made recruiting calls -- I was on the phone almost the entire time," Haase told ESPN.com recently. “It was a very productive 14 hours. I was eager to get started.”
Indeed, Haase -- a former guard at Kansas who has spent the last 13 years working under the tutelage of Roy Williams with the Jayhawks, then at North Carolina -- had been waiting a long time for the right opportunity. Finally, this is it.
“I’ve always known that UAB has a good name, and a good reputation, especially in basketball," said Haase, who has worked as the director of basketball operations, a junior varsity coach and an assistant coach under Williams. “The thing that I probably looked for most in a job was: Will we have a chance to win? And at UAB, I think we really will have a chance to win, and win big. I think we can be one of those teams that aims for the top of the conference, and can really do some big things.”
To eventually accomplish those big things, Haase said he’ll use the life-long lessons instilled from Williams, who he calls “the best.” Except for a three-month professional stint playing in Macedonia post-college, Haase has competed or worked for the Hall-of-Famer since 1993.
So it’s not surprising that UAB's practice plans this season will be similar to those at UNC, Haase said.
And that he wants his team to play at a lightning pace.
And that defense will be key.
There will also be a pre-practice ‘Thought of the Day,’ a daily snippet dating back to Williams’ first college boss, Dean Smith. At the Blazers’ first workout together over the summer, Haase said he shared the same thought that Williams tends to use at each of his opening practices: “It’s amazing how much can be accomplished when nobody takes the credit.”
“We do have guys that have bought into doing whatever it takes to win," Haase said. “Their willingness to buy in has just been great, and their attitude has just been fantastic. We don’t have a deep team right now, and I think everybody realizes that. For us to be good, everybody has to play an important part. The starters, the top seven, everybody that we play has got to be an integral part of what we do.”
Haase said he knows his coaching style, as well as his team, will evolve over time. But a key this season, he added, will be a "tough-as-nails" attitude. The Blazers return three starters from a team that finished 15-16 last season, and one of UAB’s early tests will be a Dec. 1 trip to Chapel Hill. It’s the first of a three-year series that Haase helped ink against his former team.
Haase said he is looking forward to that match-up -- but after six months of interviewing, recruiting, and spending hours on his car’s Bluetooth, he's can't wait just to begin practice. And see what his new squad can accomplish.
“I’ve hired a great staff, recruiting has been fantastic ... but the coaching part is what you really look forward to," he said. “And I’m eager to get started.”