Mike Hopkins is the latest member of the Jim Boeheim pipeline that is using the Syracuse basketball program to singlehandedly populate the Pac-12 coaching ranks. 1 of the 1st members was Jason Hart, who is preparing to begin his 5th season as an assistant coach at USC. He began his career with the Orange as the 1st freshman to lead the Big East in minutes played and finished it a few years later with the most STL in school history and a spot on the Syracuse All-Century Team. After a 9-year NBA career he became a coach and will try to help get the Trojans back to the NCAA tourney next March. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Coach Hart about winning games in March and being a great defender.
During your NCAA tourney career with Syracuse you had a 2-PT win over Iona in 1998 and a 2-PT win over Kentucky in 2000: what is the key to winning games in March that go down to the wire? I think that experience is the key to winning in March. You need a good team/coach but unless you have ultra-talented freshmen you need veterans.
Your 329 career STL remains in the top-20 all-time in D-1 history: what is your secret for being a great defender? It is just the desire to want to stop your opponent. I also had good hands/anticipation.
You were named to the Syracuse All-Century Team: what did it mean to you to receive such an outstanding honor? It means a lot to me. Coming from a program with such a large number of talented players, it is an honor that I will cherish more than anything.
You spent almost a decade in the NBA: what is the biggest difference between college basketball and pro basketball? Pro basketball is a business, whereas college is where you get to hone your skills and listen more to your coaches. Once you get paid you are expected to produce.
In Game 4 of the 2009 NBA playoffs with Denver, you scored 2 PTS in a 121-63 win over New Orleans, which tied a record for the most lopsided win in playoff history: how were you able to go on the road and simply destroy the Hornets? It was not me: we had Coach George Karl and a number of good players including Carmelo Anthony/Kenyon Martin. If you have a bunch of talented players then you can pull something off like that, but college is more about coaching.
You are an assistant to Coach Andy Enfield at USC: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you have learned from him? I learned not to take things too seriously. He is really good offensively and allows the players to play through their mistakes.
In the 2017 NCAA tourney you had a 4-PT loss to Baylor: what did your team learn from that game that can help them this year? We just need to get stronger mentally/physically. It gave us the confidence that we belong: we just need to come out focused for each game.
Your non-conference schedule includes games against Vanderbilt/Texas A&M/SMU/Oklahoma: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? Every game is a test: as a coach you never want to get ahead of yourself so the game that jumps out to me is our opener against Fullerton.
Your cousin Brandon Triche also played for Syracuse: who is the best athlete in the family? I think Brandon is a little better athlete than me since he was a little bigger…but I think that I was the better player!
What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? The goal is to play hard each and every game. We expect to be a better team than we were last year.