Photo By Hillary Ehlen
It’s a question that many coaches in every sport ask: How does one sustain success in the field of play year after year? While it may stump some coaches and philosophers alike, it is a question facing North Dakota State men’s basketball in 2019-20. After a monumental run to the NCAA Tournament and the high of winning a tournament game, how does Dave Richman take his team to the next level?
While he may not have the exact answer for you, it comes down to hunger. Does this team have the same hunger it did a year ago? Will it still take on the underdog role despite many projecting them to be the top team in the Summit League? The short answer from Richman is “yes” and the long answer? Also, a resounding “yes”.
The season has yet to play out, but one would be hard-pressed to believe this year’s men’s basketball team takes any sort of step back. They will continue to stay hungry and grow with one another.
We spoke to Richman about continuing to stay hungry and more below.
A common theme for your team last season was how much they loved each other, how much chemistry and cohesion there was on and off the court. With little turnover on the roster, how do you continue to build this team’s already great culture?
You’re always trying to find ways to get better and grow on and off the court. The Puerto Rico trip was huge for that. To have guys come up to me as say ‘coach, we were tight before this, but even tighter now’ those are things you want to see. You put yourself in uncomfortable situations, going on foreign soil, those are ways for us to grow collectively as a group. This group has a competitive spirit to them, they love each other and it’s fun to be around and witness.
Expand on that foreign trip to Puerto Rico a bit. How did it help you guys this summer and did it allow you to create some more depth with younger guys getting more minutes down there?
We had our antennas up in the offseason about complacency. Were we going to remain hungry and keep our humility? We really did that and our guys continue to get better. The top guys who played a lot and the guys who didn’t play as much. The Puerto Rico trip, in a way, having a couple of guys banged up or out really worked in our favor and it continued to develop our depth.
When the lights come on, there is something different. In practice, you can talk and show some things on film, but when the lights come on and there is a different color in front of you, it gives a different perspective as a coach. It was fun to see some guys really raise their level of play.
After your success last season, people are looking at you as the top team in the conference. What is your message to your players when it comes to expectations.
I get asked that question a lot, right. I would turn it back on you and ask: what is an expectation? The same expectations we have this year are the same ones we had at this time last year. Our expectation is to grow as people, as students and players every day. If we do that, we’re going to be where we want to be in March, no questions asked.
If we start worrying about what other people say, start talking about a hypothetical expectation, it doesn’t do us any good. We’re going to stick our head in the ground, keep our hunger and humility and continue to get better.
The Summit League looks really different this season on multiple fronts. Teams like Oral Roberts and Western Illinois have the potential to be really good while South Dakota State is going through a bit of a transitional period. What do you feel the state of the conference is?
I think what you’re going to see is just some high-level teams. We lost some generational players in Mike Daum, John Konchar, David Jenkins, Matt Mooney in the last couple of years that were also a part of some very successful teams. Not having some of those guys around might elevate the whole body of work for the conference.
South Dakota is going to play with experience. What wins in mid-major basketball? It’s experience. South Dakota State is always going to be in the conversation. Omaha, playing in two of the last three conference championships, they’ve entrenched themselves at the top of the league. Oral Roberts is really talented. I mean, where do you stop? That’s fun and that’s what you want from a competitors standpoint.
With many of the same players back from last year and some young guys ready to fight for some minutes, how are you approaching this team’s depth?
We look at it as a positive. Our practices our extremely competitive, guys fighting for minutes, for spots, just to make each other better. As a coach, you just wait and let it figure it’s way out. Who is getting better day in and day out?
You don’t want to talk about it, but there are injuries. I’m well aware that throughout the course of almost six months of basketball, there are going to be some unforeseen circumstances. We have the ability to be very versatile both offensively and defensively because of how deep we are and our personnel.
Last year, you had zero seniors. This year, you have four of them and they are all good ones. Jared [Samuelson], Tyson [Ward] and Chris [Quayle] have been around the program for a long time and Vinnie [Shahid] seems like he’s been here forever even though this is only his second season. How big of a luxury is it for you to have four really good seniors like them?
It’s a complete luxury. When you talk about them, I get goosebumps. Part of our struggles early last year wasn’t that we had a lack of talent, we had some inexperience. We got some experience on our guys, even some young guys like Sam Griesel and Tyree Eady that hadn’t played at all.
To have those senior leading the way, it’s great because it’s a lot quieter from my perspective. They know, there is an understanding that there is an expectation, a business-like approach. That trickles down because these guys want to leave a legacy in this program, they’re helping and coaching each other. That’s fun to see, fun to witness as a coach.
Richman’s Career At NDSU
- 96-67 overall record
- 45-33 Summit League regular-season record
- 9-3 all-time in Summit League Tournament games
- 1-2 all-time in the NCAA Tournament (defeated North Carolina Central in 2019 NCAA Tournament)
- 2015 Summit League regular season champions
- 2015 & 2019 Summit League Tournament Champions
- 2015 Summit League Coach Of The Year
- NDSU assistant coach under Tim Miles and Saul Phillips (2003-2014)