MANHATTAN (KSNT)- K-State head men’s basketball coach Jerome Tang caught the attention of basketball fans all over America in his first year leading the Wildcats.
His first season in Manhattan was impressive enough to earn him a contract extension, which was made official on Monday.
On Sunday, Tang appeared on K-Nation for an exclusive one-on-one interview with 27 Sports Director Glenn Kinley.
Coach Tang proved, in year one, that he is OK with being different. Look no further than a postgame speech to fans after a win against KU, a postgame speech to FAU after the Owls ended his team’s season, or giving his phone number out to K-State students at new student convocation.
“I’m not trying to be different; I just want to be myself,” Tang said. “I think that’s the only way we can have the best version of me, is if I’m just me. If I try to do it the way everybody else does it, then it won’t be the best version of me.”
One other way he stands out from your average coach is in the sharing of his faith. Tang has never seemed to shy away from opening up about his relationship with God.
“The foundation for who I am is my relationship with Jesus Christ,” Tang said. “Where I’m at today is because of his blessing and favor on my life. Christ was very clear in that if we would lift him up before men he would lift us up. I’m thankful, so thankful to be here, and I know who deserves the credit.”
The second-year head coach says that faith relieves pressure.
“If I was to take the credit for [getting here] then the responsibility falls on me,” he said with a smile. “But if I give [God] all the honor and the glory the responsibility for the outcome falls on him. I’d rather he have the responsibility than me.”
When asked what his message would be for someone who says ‘Just coach basketball and quit talking about all this other stuff’ Tang said this:
“I’m not concerned about what they need. I’m concerned about what I have to do and my calling and my purpose,” Tang said. “I tell our guys all the time, there’s a lot of ways to get to four. I won’t stop anyone from getting to four the way they want to. 2+2, 2 times 2, 3 +1, this is how I choose to get to four.”
When it comes to recruitment, Coach Tang is vocal about looking for the guys who fit their program and culture, not just the best basketball players.
“I like guys who smile. Nobody wants to go to work everyday with someone who has a frowny face. They just suck the air out of the gym,” Tang said. “Number two is I like hard workers. Everyone says that they work hard. I want the guy who’s top three hardest workers a coach has ever coached. That way, I know they’re addicted to the game of basketball. And finally, I want guys who have won. I like kids who have won state championships… the best predictor of future success if past success.”
Coach, who served as the drum leader for the Chiefs on Sunday, says the ‘Cats had ten state championships won, combined, on their roster. This year they have eight.
Two hot topics of college athletics in 2023 include name image and likeness (NIL) and conference realignment. Tang offered his thoughts on those things, saying it might be hypocritical to expect the student-athletes to not consider money.
“It’s hard to tell a kid they can’t focus on NIL or not let it be about money when conference realignment is about money,” Tang said. “[University] presidents are making decisions to move their schools from one conference to another because of money. But we get upset with 18-23 year olds who transfer because of the same thing- it just doesn’t work that way.”
He says he was thankful, as a member of the Big 12, to not have to worry about switching conferences this summer. He also is thankful his student-athletes have an opportunity to profit off of their name, image and likeness.
Tang’s squad will have to find a way to be successful, despite losing its best two players from the 2022-23 season in Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson. Those two combined for 35 points per game, on average, nearly half of K-State’s scoring.
K-State was the only school in the country with two All-Americans in college basketball last season.
“It’s not just their production…Their experience, their leadership,” Tang said. “I called Markquis [Nowell] after the first day of [conditioning] and I said ‘I didn’t appreciate your leadership skills enough last year.’ That’s going to be hard to replace and we’re going to do it collectively. It might be coming on us as a staff to do more, to be more vocal. We’ll figure it out though.”
Tang and the ‘Cats finalized their 2023-24 roster last week with the addition of a transfer forward.
Click here for Sunday’s full K-Nation episode. K-Nation is a 30-minute special on K-State and KU sports airing every Sunday night on KSNT.
K-State men’s basketball released its full schedule on Tuesday.