It’s no surprise they were paired together.
Mark Schmidt and Danny Hurley oversee the two favorites for this year’s Atlantic 10 title, the two teams with the best guards, the teams that will meet each other in one of the league’s Friday night ESPN2 games this winter.
On Tuesday at Atlantic 10 Media Day inside Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C, the coaches of the St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island basketball programs, respectively, sat together with college basketball reporter Andy Katz for their annual A-10 Live interviews.
Removed from the time crunch often associated with his pregame media session and the in-the-moment nature of his postgame press conference, Schmidt was more candid than usual, and good for a laugh or two, as he normally is.
He noted how far both teams have come in just the last cycle of graduating classes. It was only four years ago, remember, the Bonnies went 6-10 in league play while the Rams finished 5-11.
“If you said a few years ago that both Bona and Rhode Island would be on top of the Atlantic 10 today, nobody would have believed it,” he said.
But here they are, two teams that hope to be in contention for not only an A-10 title come March, but also a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Here are couple of other interesting tidbits from Schmidt on A-10 Media Day:
On recruiting success in Olean:
“We do it a little bit differently. We’re going to try to get guys who are a little bit under the radar, guys who are going to get better. We build it on recruiting kids who love to play, kids that always get into the gym.
“I always use an analogy. When you get out of class, you have a decision to make: Are you going left or right. If you go left, you’re going back to the dorms, hang out with your girl, take a nap. If you go right, you’re going to the Reilly Center. We’ve been lucky enough to get guys that go right and go to the Reilly Center and get better.”
On why Schmidt has remained in Olean approaching 11 years:
“I love it. My wife is from Pittsburgh, which is three hours away. I have two sons that go to Alfred University, which is an hour away. I have a son who’s a junior in high school. It’s a neat place. It’s like you’re born, you’re raised, you die. It’s a great passion. The alumni are passionate.
“I called it a cult in a good sense. It’s a great place to coach, it’s important to the community. Our family, we really enjoy it.”
On what it means to be a school where basketball is No. 1 (as opposed to the football schools of the power conferences):
“Everything. Bonaventure, we don’t have football. Men’s basketball is everything. When it’s like that, then you get what you need. And that’s the only way you can be successful. In Olean, when it’s game night, they’re not talking about what game. It’s one game, Bonaventure basketball. And that’s what makes it special.”
On the circle-the-calendar non-conference game:
“We have the Big 4, with us, Canisius, Niagara and Buffalo. Buffalo’s really become a very good program. Really, that game has become a very big game for us in the non-conference. We play Syracuse not every year but a number of times. That’s big for not just our players and program, but for our school.”
On the circle-the-calendar Atlantic 10 game:
“I don’t think there’s a rival that’s a rivalry every year. Duquesne’s the closest school to us. (But we’ve had good games against) VCU, Saint Joe’s, Rhode Island, everybody. It’s a great league because every game, as Danny was saying, is a war. In terms of Bona having one rival, that’s not the case. In essence, we have 13 rivals.
On what the keys to a successful season will be outside of the production it gets from Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley:
“We have a really good backcourt, but for us it’s can we get some stuff from our young guys inside. Amadi Ikpeze and Josh Ayeni played a number of minutes last year. Those are two guys that, in my opinion, if they can play well and take that next step in their development, we’re going to have a chance to be pretty good.
“Idris Taqqee is a senior and he doesn’t get a lot of notoriety, but he’s one of those guys that a coach always appreciates: He’s around the ball, he’s a glue guy, he’s unselfish, and I think he’s going to be a guy that hopefully can help us have some success.”
(J.P. Butler, Bradford Publishing Company group sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)