The touring collection of coaches that made up the Big Red Blitz on Thursday hit on a a variety of topics during their question-and-answer session with the fans.
One question from the stop in Fremont stood out, however.
The fan asked each of the coaches to talk about culture as it relates to their own programs. None of them were short with their answers and each of them took a different angle. Here are their responses in full.
Women’s Basketball Coach Amy Williams
“There’s no question that culture wins. I just gave a speech in Florida a couple weeks ago about leading change in culture and I had a clip — Fred, you made the highlight — it was on Twitter and it was from all the men’s basketball hires from this past season and it was just a clip of everybody saying “Culture, culture, culture, culture” from their press conference because everybody understands and knows how important that piece is.
“I think from my perspective, what we really try to do in women’s basketball right now is be very, very careful about what we’re bringing into the program and we protect that culture with everything. Every single day we spend time and effort talking about what our culture looks like, what it should look like. When we stand on that circle at the end of every single workout and practice we ask them what kinds of things did you do today to be a great teammate and to get them thinking about the kinds of things it takes in order to have that positive culture.
“It’s something that, unfortunately, you can’t just get great culture and then check that box off and forget about it. It’s kind of like a great marriage — you have to keep working at it every day and be thinking about things you can do to kind of keep things fresh in your program and that’s something that we emphasize every day.”
Wrestling Coach Mark Manning
“It really reflects your character. It’s interesting that question came up because two weeks ago I went to see a young coach in Michigan who wrestled for us here at Nebraska and was a national champion. In 2009, we had a chance to win the national championship. We finished fourth, 8.5 points out from Iowa — Iowa won it. That fall, I had to kick this young man off the team for doing something — he’s a bonehead. I could have kept him on the team; I talked with Coach Osborne. Anyway, not a lot of people know this story. I had a choice — do I keep him on the team and win at all costs or discipline him. So I kicked him off the team. Ten years later, I’m recruiting, he’s coaching one of the top kids in the country, and he’d learned from his mistake. In front of all the kids that day at school, he said ‘Hey, Coach, I want to apologize because we would have won a national championship.’ He scored 18 points for the school he wrestled at and we would have won. But it just wasn’t in the cards at that time.
“Culture, it’s not just about winning, it’s about doing the right thing. It’s about your character and how you want to operate. We all want to win at the highest level and every school does, but it’s about building it the right way.”
Softball Coach Rhonda Revelle
“I’m really passionate about this and you’re going to hear it in my voice. I think, first of all, it’s about connecting and remembering your why, why you’re doing something, why you chose to do it, and understanding that we all have choices. I think that if we stay connected to our why, then we make good decisions for the right reasons.
“For instance, I have never said that it’s my program — it’s Nebraska’s program. I think that if we all understand that all of us up here are stewards to the university and we’re stewards to the young people that are in our stead to help take them from adolescence to early adulthood hopefully as they cross over, and we understand that if we know our why, if our why is to have a positive impact and to help them grow and to teach them, then we can stay close to the vest and then you can stay very true to what your culture is.
“Every one of us up here probably has buzz words; mine happen to be heart and hustle. If you have your heart invested in anything from your head, your heart, your gut, your hands and your feet, everything’s going to be OK. And if you have your hustle invested from your head, your heart, your gut, your hands and your feet, everything’s going to be OK. I think it’s so important that we remember our why and that we message our why and that we live our why every single day.”
Athletic Director Bill Moos
“I know our coaches here have heard this and our student-athletes — the motto that I brought when I came and I believe in is ‘Honor the past, live the present, create the future.’ That’s a solid culture. There have been some tremendous cultures at the university of Nebraska. First of all, it’s an honor and privilege for me to be in my chair and for all these fine coaches to have an opportunity to coach at a place like Nebraska. For our 652 student-athletes, that’s a privilege and they need to look at it that way.
“My second day on the job in 2017, mid-October, Bob Burton on my staff was showing me the facilities and we went over to Devaney. Coach John Cook said ‘Will you talk to my team?’ I go, ‘I didn’t come here…’ “No, I wish you would.’ What I said to them is important when you talk about culture, and this will resonate with our coaches and our fans. I said to those young women, ‘You are the poster child for what we want to build at Nebraska because you came in here with a tremendous tradition and legacy, it was handed off to you along with that responsibility to take it up even another notch and to hand it to the next generation. You kook at the banners around here and national championships, the All-Americans, all of that, that has come before you and it’s your responsibility to make sure that it sustains itself and never goes the other direction.’
“Tom Osborne did that for 30 years along with, before him, Bob Devaney. We need to get football back that way. I hear, ‘Well, we’ve never won an NCAA Tournament game in men’s basketball.’ Well, let’s go win one. Let’s go and win three. everything’s in place for Nebraska for culture to be what it should be and we are juuuust about there.”
Men’s Basketball Coach Fred Hoiberg
“I’m going to talk about one player that I had who is as special a kid as I’ve ever coached and that’s Georges Niang. Georges epitomized everything you wanted as a student athlete. He was never late, he came in as a freshman and called guys out. If our guys weren’t doing reps in the weight room he’d get in their face.
“When you have leaders that can talk about the things that are important to you and your program — we only get a certain amount of time with our student-athletes. Right now that’s four hours a week. But if you can teach the leaders what you want stressed to the rest of the team and they can go out and do that on their own and make sure your group is working in the gym, that’s what excited me so much when I had my best teams at Iowa State. When I was up in my office and I could look out that window and see those guys putting in the time, putting in the work, the effort, I knew we had a good culture.
“That’s what we’re going to strive to do when our guys get back on campus on June 9 is to get that work ethic and to have that accountability right off the bat. Joe Dumars had a great comment, he said ‘On good teams, coaches hold players accountable; on great teams, players hold players accountable.’ If you can teach your team that and have that type of culture, then you’re ahead of the game because not a lot have that. Teams that are just out there going through the motions, they don’t put the extra time in. When you have your practice from 3-5 or 3-6, they’re in there for three hours. But the great teams, they’re in there in the morning, they’re in there getting extra shots, and that’s what we’re going to try to build here from day one when our guys get back.”
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.