Photo by J. Alan Paul Photography
When NDSU first established itself as a national power in football during the 1960s, the process of hiring a new coach came from within the program. When Darrell Mudra left, his assistant Ron Erhardt took over, who then passed the torch to Ev Kjelbertson, then Jim Wacker and so on. The same process has started with the men’s basketball program. Beginning with Tim Miles, the head coaching job has been passed from Saul Phillips to seven-year associate head coach Dave Richman. And it couldn’t have been a better start to the Richman era for the men’s basketball program. We caught up with Richman and the rest of his staff just days after their NCAA Tournament appearance.
(A portion of this interview was featured in the April issue of Bison Illustrated.)
Bison Illustrated: Did you expect the whole situation here with the facilities to blow up on a national stage like it did? Every news outlet was running the story.
Dave Richman: “I want to make sure we all understand that coming in the fall of 2016, we have an excellent facility. The sponsors, the donors that have contributed to the SHAC (Sanford Health Athletic Complex), we’re really excited about that and hopefully that continues to raise the bar here. But yeah, there’s a lot of adversity and a lot of excuse-eliminating that our guys did this year. It is a little bit of a story because we’re in a warehouse, because the industrial park and because of the grocery store and how spread out it was. But I wanted to make sure it was about how our guys handled that and in a way where it brought us together and helped us handle those adverse situations in games.”
BI: How did moving from facility-to-facility on a daily basis help make this team tighter?
DR: “We knew going in it was going to be a tight group with just the way they interacted all the time in the summer and whatever. But yeah, I think there are these little things. Like, this day and age of cell phone use, people don’t talk as much to each other and you have to call somebody and ask, ‘hey, how are you getting there (to practice).’ Then you have to go pick them up and when they’re in the car together, you’re conversing and doing some of those things. AJ (Jacobson) was talking about it in one of the press conferences towards the end of the year. Everybody has a routine and that became our routine. It just everybody else’s came under one roof, where we’re under one, two or five different roofs this year.”
BI: We saw your postgame speech to the team after the loss to Gonzaga. What are you feeling in that moment while addressing that group one last time?
DR: “It’s funny, you know. I grew up in a coaching family and I’ve been around it my entire life and you’re really not prepared in those situations for what you’re going to say, and it just kind of flowed out and I suppose sometimes that’s the best stuff. There’s so much that goes into those six months; so many memories and so much blood, sweat and tears. It just kind of pours out of you. Especially when you have someone who is so special like Lawrence (Alexander). I mean, to me personally, to my family, my wife and girls, but you know more importantly to this entire program and community, that kid means a lot. He means so much. His numbers are outstanding, but for the people that are reading this article, you get to know him a little bit better, but you don’t get to know the true Lawrence and who he is on a daily basis, and that’s what I’ll really miss.”
BI: What’s something you learned under the head coaching title for the first time?
DR: “I think there are a couple things. There’s always a decision to be made, whether it’s in-game, at night or a recruiting conversation with an assistant coach in your office, administratively, there’s always a decision to be made and that’s good, I like that. As an assistant, you have a ton of ideas and you always want your ideas applied. Now it’s my job to sift through it all and decide if it’s a good decision and it’s going to ultimately better our program. That was probably the biggest adjustment. You know, you always wonder, Joe, how you’re going to handle certain situations or whatever and I’m not saying I, or we, handled them perfectly, but you surround yourself with good people and good players and a lot of those decision you end up looking pretty good. But I’m smart enough to realize there’s a lot of hard working people behind the decisions I made – that we made throughout the course of the season. It has really been a blast. I don’t think I could’ve drawn it up any other way. Yeah, we lost ten games and you don’t want to lose any games. But for this group with the expectations or the lack of expectations where they were publically for us to end up 23-9 and in the NCAA Tournament, still a 25-game home-winning streak going on. I hate losing, I hate losing but I can’t tell you enough about the feedback we got after losing the Gonzaga game. And that’s pretty cool because I think people realize how hard our guys are playing and that’s such a credit to them and putting it all out there on the line.”
BI: Who are some of the people that reached out and meant the most for you?
DR: “I think it’s not necessarily the names. The cool thing to me is the people I’ve had a relationship with and have known me just as David, the high school kid from Wahpeton or the graduate assistant, or neighbor or just a friend of a friend. They’ve seen some things and know I’m gone a lot or this or that, but you don’t really know if they understand it and you get a text message or something like that from them. Those are the cool things because there is a lot of sacrifice from myself and a lot of the coaches. You spend a lot of time away from your family at times so it’s nice and special when you hear some feedback on that. And it’s nice when you can go to the NCAA tournament and your family is there with you. That’s some pretty cool memories.”
BI: Did you have any time with your family out in Seattle, Washington?
DR: “A little bit. I’m a routine guy and I like to do my thing and do our thing as a team and as a family. But I was able a little bit to sneak away with my wife and girls and get down to the pier and take some pictures. Seattle is a pretty cool town, really cool town.”
BI: So what was your favorite Dexter Werner tweet after the game?
DR: “My favorite Dexter Werner tweet. Ah man, I think maybe the night-light one. Dexter Werner sleeps with a night-light not because he’s scared of the dark but because the dark is scared of him. I saw another one, with the first overall pick in the 2015 draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select Dexter Werner.”
BI: Thank you, Dave. Congrats on a successful first year.
DR: “Thank you.”