Montlake Madness Speaks with Belmont Coach, Rick Byrd

rick byrd
Had a chance to catch up with Belmont Coach, Rick Byrd, recently. One of the longest tenured coaches around, Byrd prepares for his 24th year at Belmont and his 29th year overall. /

Montlake Madness: This will be season number 29 for you as a head coach. At what point in the season do you begin to get a sense of your team’s strengths and weaknesses?

Coach Byrd: This will be my 24th at Belmont, 29th overall. I think you get a sense from the first day of practice and you develop stronger opinions as you get close to the season. But it is playing other schools with different systems than yours that might expose some weaknesses or show some strengths. You should know 10 games in what your team can and can’t do.

MM: Last year broke a string of three straight NCAA tournament appearances for Belmont. With four starters gone from last year’s team, what are the keys to the season if you want to get back to the tournament?

CB: We have some talented young players, but they have to mature very quickly if we are to have any chance of playing in the tournament. That is made more difficult by all the teams in our league that are very experienced this season.

MM: How much extra meaning do your games against bigger conference schools (this season, UW and Kansas) take on, knowing this is your only opportunity before tournament time to test yourselves against those schools likely to get the high seeds come tournament time?

CB: It is helpful when you have teams that enjoy success in these type of games (in 2008 our wins at Cincinnati and Alabama gave us reason to believe that we might compete with Duke in the tournament), but in reality these programs are operating at a different level and placing too much emphasis on winning these games can be a mistake. I have always scheduled “tough” because I believe that playing better teams and players make us a better team and improves our individual players.

MM: Please give me the capsule scouting report on Belmont as you see it at this point — style of play, strengths, weaknesses, etc.

CB: We have always enjoyed playing up-tempo and we will play a lot of people to help us achieve that. We have been a team that relies on the three-point shot and will continue to do so. Our greatest weakness is our lack of experience. I think our strength is our depth and the talent level of our young players.

MM: How do you gameplan against UW? Without giving away any secrets of course, what will you need to do to beat UW?

CB: At this point (October 27th), I have not spent one second preparing for UW or anyone else. We need to improve our team just one week into practice. I am always impressed with UW when I see them on TV. They are very well coached and play with great intensity. When the time comes, I don’t suspect that winning will be the issue; we will be trying to find the best way to make the game competitive.

MM: What’s your basketball philosophy?

CB: This is not so much basketball philosophy as it is where basketball fits in our players lives. I think college basketball is part of the entire educational experience at our university and I do not want it to become so dominant in their lives that our young men lose sight of more important things. I want them to be regular students and enjoy playing the game. You can do all of this and still be successful.

MM: How do you mix being a role model and coach?

CB: I don’t really think about it. If you live your life based on honesty, integrity, decency and faith in God, your players and others will see these things and you will be a good role model for them. If you don’t live this way, you will still be a role model, just a poor one.

MM: What player on your team may surprise people this season?

CB: It honestly could be one of six or eight guys, so I guess whoever it is will surprise us as well. I hope it is six or eight and all in a positive way!

MM: Anything else you want to share?

CB: We are looking forward to the trip to Seattle and enjoying one of our country’s most beautiful cities.

Thanks for coming!