With spring workouts already in the books, FullertonTitans.com caught up with new head women's basketball coach Daron Park to talk about some of the things he was able to accomplish with his new team during the spring and what Fullerton basketball fans can expect from this squad come the 2013-14 season.
The Titans ended the 2012-13 campaign with a trip to the Big West Tournament semifinals, as they finished eighth in the Big West, with a 5-13 conference mark and an overall record of 11-22.
FullertonTitans.com: For the average fan that may or may not know, can you just explain what the main differences are between your spring workouts as opposed to an average in season practice?
Coach Park: In the spring the NCAA limits us and puts certain restrictions on us as coaches for the benefit of the student-athletes. So in spring workouts we're really just limited to two hours a week on the court with the players with a basketball and the other restriction is there can be no more than four athletes in a group at a time.
We've really just spent this spring trying to get to know each other in small groups and that's been really fun for me. It's been challenging, but rewarding. You always want to dive in right away with all the cards in front of you, but at the same time I still think these workouts have been really beneficial for me as a coach, as well as the players.
I think with these small groups, the players have gotten to get to know the coaching staff in a more intimate setting. One of my favorite quotes is "life happens in small groups". We were able to kind of run with that mantra this spring and get to know each other pretty well.
FullertonTitans.com: Obviously this is your first head-coaching gig. You have a whole new staff and an entirely new team you're learning about. What do you feel like you have learned so far during your first month or so on the job?
Coach Park: It's been great so far. You never have as many hours in the day as you want, but as a head coach you have to understand that's never going to change, so you better find a way to make it work and to handle whatever the day is going to bring. I don't have all the answers for this team yet. There are still a ton of question marks and a lot of work still has to be done between now and our first day of practice in the fall in order for these athletes to experience the success I think they can have.
But as far as being a new coach, working with a new team, being with a new program, and all that, when I get on the basketball court I don't feel like anything is new. I feel like it's just any other spring workout at any other place I've ever been. I feel like I'm still just coaching kids that want to get better and want to win. Being on the basketball floor is really my comfort zone, so I may experience 27 new things in one day that a first-year head coach may experience, but when I get on the court it's still the same stuff I was doing a year ago, two years ago, or seven years ago.
FullertonTitans.com: Lets shift gears a little bit here and talk about the staff you've brought in with new assistant coaches Taja Edwards and Steven Fennelly. Why were those two your choices and what do they bring to the table?
Coach Park: I'll start with Taja. I'm really excited to get someone with her background and experience from both a playing and coaching standpoint. She's really just had such an accelerated learning curve when it comes to her learning the ropes of being a Division I coach. She went to Ole Miss as video coordinator and then within two months was promoted to an assistant coach. I knew her very well when she was playing at Fresno State and I was coaching at Louisiana Tech. We had some great battles with them during our times there. She's a tremendous competitor from a tremendously successful program. With her being a local product from Carson, Calif., that's just so important for us and our recruiting philosophy of building a fence and keeping kids local. She knows so many kids and coaches just from her growing up in this area, so it's really exciting for me to come in everyday and to hear her excitement in all the people she's been able to reach out and reconnect with.
She's just going to be dynamite for us. She's going to be dynamite on the floor with her energy and passion. She just has great presence. In fact, I had both her and Steven conduct workouts themselves on their first official day on the job because I needed them to feel comfortable on the court and I needed the players to feel comfortable with them because these aren't just token positions. Both of them are going to be involved in so many of the day-to-day operations of this program. Despite Taja's age, she's old and wise beyond her years; she's just really going to fit into my vision of what I want this staff to be apart of.
Steve is really the same way. He comes from an amazing basketball family, with his Dad Bill, who is one of my closest friends and mentors, and his older brother Billy, who was with me at Maryland. So I've had a chance to know the Fennellys for a lot of years. Steve comes absolutely prepared and ready for this job. He understands so many things and what it takes to be a great assistant coach. He already has a great relationship with the players. He's truly a player's coach, the kids like him and they work hard for him. They see him on the court sweating and putting his passion and energy into everything he does. It really just makes them want to give the same back, and you can see it.
So with both Steve and Taja, their energy and youthfulness more than make up for their lack of what experience people might question. One of the best days since I've been here was that day they both signed their contracts and joined our family.
FullertonTitans.com: In the spring, obviously you can't do full five-on-five drills, among other things, because you're only limited to working with four athletes per session. What kind of things did you try and work on during those small groups?
Coach Park: It was a lot about just learning about them, what they could do, what their comfort level was, and introducing my philosophies and what I will expect them to do. I also just tried to find out what the strengths of each player were, and what each one would have to work on skill wise in order for us to better as a team come the fall. We as a coaching staff spent a lot of times just implementing some basic things into their workouts and just tried to get them all into a routine. So when they're in the gym by themselves this summer, they can refer back to these basic techniques and be able to execute them.
FullertonTitans.com: Is there a player or group of players you feel benefited the most from the spring?
Coach Park: At this point the message to this team has basically been everyone has a clean slate. I haven't coached any one of them in a game and I haven't seen any one of them play, so I'm not going to have any preconceived notions. I haven't coached them and they haven't played for me, so they get this spring to show me who they are and what they are. It really doesn't matter if they played 30 minutes per game or three minutes per game last year. It doesn't matter if they are a McDonalds All-American or they like to eat at McDonalds, I'm evaluating them all the same.
FullertonTitans.com: What's the stamp you hope to put on Cal State Fullerton women's basketball?
Coach Park: I want to make this a program people want to be apart of. I want kids to be excited to come play here. I want to make it a program boosters want to support and alumni want to embrace. To have that kind of a program, you have to do all the little things the right way. That's something we talk about, and will continue to talk about a lot throughout the season. Whether we're on the court or off the court, we need to handle ourselves and carry ourselves a certain way, so that people will treat us a certain way. If we can do that and at the same time win a lot of games, I think we'll be in really good shape.
FullertonTitans.com: What are your early expectations and goals for this team during your first year as head coach?
Coach Park: Our short-term goal for next year is to consistently feel like we've improved everyday. We don't even have our schedule set yet, so it would be premature to throw out a certain number of games I expect to win. I want us to learn how to compete each day at the highest level possible. If we can learn to do that, by November or December I think I'll have a pretty good idea of what we're capable of.