Seton Hall Athletic Director, Pat Lyons, had no easy task when he took over the AD position some three years ago. In that time, he has focused on increasing the academic success of his student athletes, restoring the image of the Seton Hall brand and ensuring he puts coaches in place who will field fiercely competitive teams. While Lyons will be the first to tell you that there is a lot of work to be done, he offered measurable ways in which to show that Seton Hall is on the rise; so, let’s get right to it:
How do you feel about the additions of Xavier, Butler and Creighton to the (new) Big East and should fans anticipate further realignment or additions to the conference?
This new league is a home run. We (Big East AD's) are really excited about adding Xavier, Butler and Creighton. Any time you're able to add three teams who have recently spent significant time in the top 25 to your conference, you should be pleased. Two more teams will be added to the Big East, we are certain of that, but right now those two teams haven't been decided - but it will be a 12 team conference. We'll have home and home games, and that's really going to create great rivalries - renewed rivalries. The AD's and Presidents of each school are excited about the direction of the new Big East and the continuation of having the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. We're all aware of how tenuous things were for a while last year, but it really couldn't have worked out better.
It's no secret that the men's basketball team was plagued with injuries last year. Is the team finally healthy, and how have Brandon Mobley, Patrik Auda, Haralds Karlis, Gene Teague and Kevin Johnson responded to surgery?
Last year was difficult with injuries, no question. Everyone is doing great now. Karlis is taking a while to recover, but everyone else is ready to go. Brandon is doing a ton of physical therapy and is working unbelievably hard. Everyone will be ready next year barring any unforeseen setbacks.
As AD, what do you look for when recruiting / interviewing coaches, and what aspects of Seton Hall do you sell them on?
Seton Hall has a great tradition, as you're aware. I require my coaches to have three primary principles which I call P.H.D.: be passionate, be hungry, and be driven. Clearly there has to be a baseline of ability, intelligence and experience but I look for the most passionate and driven coaches in the business who are relentless workers. That doesn't stop with the coaches - that includes all my administration and everyone associated with the athletic department. In fact, you won't walk in to the athletic department and find any closed doors - you'll find people with energy and people who love being at Seton Hall.
In light the Mike Rice incident, has the landscape of administrative and coaching policies changed on campus in terms of oversight and accountability?
I'd prefer to not comment specifically on that right now, but I can tell you that I bring every one of my coaches in at the end of each year and have a discussion with them. I'm highly involved and really hands-on to ensure they have what they need to be successful, but that also enables me to be as well informed about everything as possible. I don't think anything in our athletic department needs to change in terms of oversight, as I assume complete accountability; but yes, this incident should give every coach and AD pause to ensure the focus is always on positive instruction of our student athletes.
It's possible that four of Kevin Willard's starting five could all be New Jersey guys (Gibbs, Sina, Edwin and Teague). What does this say to local talent who, in years past, may have opted to not stay home?
It's big. New Jersey has a tremendous amount of talent, so having a core group of student athletes from New Jersey is important for Seton Hall. These players want to play in front of their families and friends and in a great arena like the Prudential Center. Recruits are seeing all that's being done with our facilities and they walk away knowing that this program is committed to success. We'll have Sterling for the next three years and Sina for four years. We have Fuquan and Gene coming back for their senior years. It's important to reestablish the ties to New Jersey, no question. Dan McHale is no longer with us and he was a great assistant coach and recruiter, but we have Fred Hill back whose recruiting history speaks for itself. He also knows Seton Hall very well from being a coach under Tommy Amaker and is very familiar with New Jersey high school coaches - we're thrilled to have him back.
What does it mean to the program to add a player like Jaren Sina - a player who chose Seton Hall over Indiana among others?
Jaren is one of those kids that, if you told him to run through a wall would do it. He's a really tough kid and such a smart player who works really hard. He's a kid of high character and he's a great addition to the Seton Hall family. Jaren is also one of those kids who has already become an ambassador for Seton Hall and for keeping New Jersey talent in New Jersey.
As AD, what accomplishments are you most proud of over the last three years?
We've improved everything about the athletic department from the bottom up. We have a renewed commitment to excellence. I wanted to set a culture, from day one, where we were driven by academic excellence, competitive excellence, and also to be sure we are representing ourselves and our alumni in a positive way. Make no mistake, there is a lot of accountability now too which wasn't necessarily always the case before my time here. From a quantitative and tangible perspective, if you were an athlete at Seton hall three years ago, and you're graduating next year, you will see marked change and improvement in the athletic department from our facilities to the leadership and development programs for our student athletes. We have a new fitness center, training room, academic center, weight room, locker rooms and more. We will continue to pour resources in to our programs with the expectation of high return. Every player on every team has to do community service, that's very important. Academic success of our athletes is extremely important and something that needs to be at the forefront of our mission.