Stanford’s new men’s basketball coach, Jerod Haase, is a standard hire for a program that needs a jump start – very inside basketball. Very solid.
His credentials work just fine – four years at Alabama-Birmingham, each year’s record better than the last, an NCAA Tournament win in 2015, plus a rudimentary understanding of the Bay Area from his albeit limited time as a student at Cal – as candidates go, who could ask for more?
Well, okay, maybe a few old folks at Stanford will look askance at hiring a “Cal man,” even though Haase was only that for one year.
But that’s also the intriguing part. Athletic director Bernie Muir went off campus, resisting Jarron Collins and Brevin Knight and the inside-the-94305 fixation many of us believe are the staple of the Stanford world view. He recognized, and we’ll see how good that recognition is, that Stanford as castle and moat is an outdated concept, especially for a program that needs a severe intervention of jumper cables.
Stanford basketball had, in Johnny Dawkins’ eight years, become a staid, uninteresting place, an easy schedule to skip for too many people on and off campus. The Mike Montgomery years had a hum and a vibration to them from years of success, effervescent players and Montgomery’s own charming dyspepsia, and the change was both noticeable and unpalatable.
Haase will have to come in, then, and recognize that in a pro-heavy area currently dominated by Stephen Curry and the Giants even-year fixation, he will have to reach out aggressively not just to recruits, their parents and coaches, but to an area that found them eminently resistible within two years of Dawkins’ arrival.
Stanford athletics has always had a corkscrewy world view when it comes to selling itself. It likes the idea of needing no attention, of being so self-sufficient that it could move Maples Pavilion to Luxembourg without anyone from the outside noticing.
In fact, though, it got a harsh lesson how quickly diffidence becomes irrelevance, and how irrelevance can threaten to become insolvency. This is a ridiculous notion at Stanford, where money falls from the skies, shoots up from the ground and issues force from the air conditioning, but we mean insolvency here in the cultural sense.
Basketball should matter at Stanford more than it has. Not so much that coaches get hounded out of office or have to run afoul of those whackjobs at the NCAA to do so or compromise its educational standards, but it should matter nonetheless.
That is a task Haase should have to take seriously and aggressively as part of his mandate. Winning is all well and good, but until you can get them to come to you, you have to go to them, almost to the point of being obnoxious about it.
And this will work because, given the turmoil at Cal, the only program in the Bay Area with any real enduring image is St. Mary’s, Haase is entering a relative vacuum. USF, Santa Clara and Pacific fired its coaches, and only Pacific has replaced theirs – with Damon Stoudamire, the former Arizona and 13-year NBA star. Cal coach Cuonzo Martin has not yet signed his contract and in addition is being investigated as part of the sexual harassment case that brought down his recruiting coordinator, Yann Hufnagel. San Jose State’s Dave Wojcik has found the program building a tough slog to date (18-74 in three years).
In other words, the college basketball market in the Bay Area could use a good prodding, and Haase has to be willing to be that prod.
Stanford basketball may not deserve better (I mean, in the final analysis, what is “deserve,” really?), but it can have it. Haase’s job is to decide what the “it” actually is, and go out and get it.