Nov. 3, 2010
DeKALB - Northern Illinois head men's basketball coach Ricardo Patton and head women's basketball coach Kathi Bennett, along with members of both team, met with the media, Wednesday, to discuss to fast-approaching 2010-11 season. The following is a transcript from Associate Vice President/Director of Athletics Jeff Compher and each coach.
NIU Associate Vice President/Director of Athletics Jeff Compher
As you know our mission is to Develop Champions – In the Classroom, In Competition and In Life, and we have some recent developments in those areas I would like to share with you. Just recently our (graduation success rate) data came out and we’re graduating student-athletes at a rate of 80 percent which is above the national average of 79 percent, and it is very important for us. The most important thing for student-athletes is to have that opportunity to graduate from Northern Illinois University. I’m very proud of that statistic. We’re going to keep emphasizing that and continuing to make progress with our GPA and other areas that we measure.
This has been a good fall for us. We’re in that great transition time when we are still playing football, and volleyball, and soccer is finishing up. We are moving into our winter sports with wrestling and now basketball. With all those things it’s kind of fun. This is a great time because you get a lot of bang for your viewing buck, if you will. And what’s happened with our fall teams (has been great), specifically with our volleyball team which is 23-4 right now on the season. They are doing so well and drawing great to the Convocation Center. We set a record this year for attendance a lot of that had to with the student help that we get through our Red Riot student support group. And obviously there is what’s going with our football team at 7-2, with a six-game winning streak, and big game next week against Toledo. I believe that winning is contagious; I believe that when programs start to win it gels into other areas. It moves into other areas so that every team believes they can win. I’m so glad that those two teams have set the pace for us this fall. I believe that’s going to move into our winter sports as well.
Also, I want to mention this as far as getting it done in life and contributing back to our community. This past weekend, 5,000 local residents came to the Convocation Center to participate in a ‘Spooky Sports Haunted House.’ Our basketball teams and our coaches really participated in that event and had a great time. I had wonderful anecdotal feedback from everybody that was there that said our teams and our coaches did a marvelous job interacting with the community. That’s what it takes to be part of the fabric of this community to get fans come out and support our teams.
So, I know your here to talk basketball and I certainly want to do that. I am going to introduce our women’s basketball coach. You know last April, we had a vacancy arise in our women’s basketball program and we did a national search. I chose to do it internally we didn’t use any outside help. We had in 22 days, as Bill Baker pointed out, our new coach. She is a wonderful person, comes from a great basketball family, and what she does wherever she goes is win. Whether it’s at the division III level, whether it’s at the BCS level, she builds programs that go to the tournament and win championships and that’s what we’re trying to do here. I couldn’t be more pleased to have Kathi Bennett and her staff as a part of what we’re doing, I’ve talked to our student athletes. They enjoy practice, they enjoy getting better as a unit, and they really enjoy the prospects for this season. So, without further delay I’m going to introduce our women’s basketball coach Kathi Bennett.
Head Women's Basketball Coach Kathi Bennett
The first thing I want to say is I am truly blessed, thankful to be a Huskie and to have this opportunity to coach this team. My only wish is that the seniors that are on this team, that I would have more time with them. I really truly mean that they are a really good group. They want to be successful. They want to do things the right way and it is incredibly encouraging.
I know this about our team: every day we want to get a little bit better, everyday we are trying to build good habits. You know that might seem pretty simplistic, but that’s what we’re trying to do. It’s going to be a process. Little by little, we are getting better and that’s something were trying do every day.
I also know this about our team, for us to be compete we are going to have to play extremely hard. We call these x-factors, we have to win the x-factors. Every loose ball we have got to get. Every time we step between the lines, we can’t be lukewarm, we have got to be passionate. We have got to play hard. We can’t give up easy baskets and we can’t have careless turnovers. Those are our x-factors. Those are going to allow us to compete and those are things we are really stressing and emphasizing in practice.
Because this team wants to and is working towards getting better, we will get better as the season wears on. I really like this team. I think we have a chance at great unity, where our house will not be divided. There’s not anybody on this team that can lead us to an NCAA Tournament, but together is when you have a chance to touch something special. This team, if we stay united toward that MAC Championship, we will have a chance. We have to stay united and that’s our challenge. That is our challenge – our unity can not be cracked.
What I’m going to do next is introduce Coach Patton. And I just got to tell you something about Coach Patton. I’ve never been on a horse and he let me ride his. And his spider motorcycle and I’ve never rode a motorcycle before. Out in the parking lot I got it to fifth gear, it was awesome. The other thing you got to know about Coach Patton is that he is a great coach, there’s no doubt about it. I’ve coached at some different programs and the relationship we have with the men’s staff in the short period of time that I’ve been here has been outstanding. I can go to him with anything. He’s a great coach, but he’s a better human being and that’s what life’s about. And I’m really thankful to work with Coach Patton. They don’t make them any better. So with that, Coach Patton.
Head Men's Basketball Coach Ricardo Patton
Those are my sentiments as well. Having a great relationship with the women’s side has been tremendous for me and my staff. And I think that’s how it’s supposed to be, there’s nothing really unique about that. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.
We’re excited about our program, our players. Most of you have seen our three seniors that are here (Michael Patton, Jeremy Landers and Xavier Silas). They have done a tremendous job in leading our group. We have six new players that have all done a nice job of gelling with the older guys and the older guys have led the way in, so were very excited.
Someone asked me last night, “How did it happen that we got a group of guys that all bought in so quickly?” I got to say that most of it was probably by chance, by luck. I compare recruiting to a marriage, sometimes you don’t know what you’ve had until you’ve lived with the person for a while.
These guys have worked extremely hard in the pre-season. Chad Bower is our strength coach and he has done an excellent job getting the guys bigger and stronger and they’ve bought in. Xavier Silas and Jeremy Landers, Michael Patton – those three seniors really led the charge. I think the guys that are returning in our program really want to win. And the new guys we’ve brought in will compliment that cast very well.
We have an exhibition game this Saturday against Coe College before we tip it up against Northwestern the first weekend that all colleges are playing basketball. We’re excited. We have got a non-conference schedule. We think about playing the likes of Missouri, who may be picked to win the Big 12 this year. We’ve started a series with DePaul. We’ll go there this season but DePaul will come to the Convocation Center next year. Having Northwestern come to our place and play is a tremendous compliment to our program. I think for our fans (it’s great) to have a BCS program come play in ‘The Convo.’ That’s always been our goal: to not only have to go on the road and play those caliber of opponents but also have those opponents come to the Convocation Center and give our fans a chance to see them.