Q&A With Big Apple Buckets

by Dave Morus

The Big Apple Buckets logo
John Templon from Big Apple Buckets was nice enough to catch up with us for a chat about Jim Ferry. Big Apple Buckets is a blog that covers the eight mid-major Division I teams in and around the five boroughs. John told us that he spent a good amount of time around the LIU program last year and would be happy to do a little Q & A session with us about the new guy on the bluff.

After the reading our blog, go ahead and give Big Apple Buckets a little love. Since he covers the Blackbirds, there is a story or two mentioning Duquesne from the search. Fordham's another team on his radar screen, so he's Atlantic 10-savvy as well.

Check out the rest after the jump.
YD: First things first - give us your overall impression of Jim Ferry. What kind of guy are we getting? What do his teams do best (besides playing uptempo)? How engaging is he with the fan base at LIU?

JT: I like Jim Ferry as a man and as a coach. I think he's really earned this move to Duquesne. He's worked hard at LIU to build up the program and he's taking advantage of a great situation. He's well spoken and should be a good representative of the university. He's a pretty good quote too.

What his teams do is play up-tempo and play offense really well. He is able to take athletes and turn them into exciting basketball teams. He also seems to work well with referees, or understands how they call the game. Ferry's team recently have been amongst the best in the nation in offensive and defensive free throw rate.

YD: The more recent Coach of the Year selection is easy to understand; I'm interested in his earlier selection for the moment. Does the fact that Ferry won coach of the year in 2005, with a 14-15 (10-8 NEC) record indicate how big a job there was to do at LIU? What went into that selection?

JT: In 1999-2000 through 2003-04 the Blackbirds won double-digit games just twice and never more than 12 games. So this was a big rebuilding project. Much like what Glenn Braica did this season with St. Francis (NY), Ferry took a team that was expected to do almost nothing and finished in fourth place in the NEC.

YD: It certainly took a while for him to get the stars aligned for the Blackbirds. While the last two years have been great, how would you characterize the time that it took to achieve real success?

JT: Ferry had been building the foundation of competitive teams for awhile. The Blackbirds had winning records in the NEC the past four seasons. It was just the out of conference records. What I think it really came down to is that he had to get some big bodies in place. LIU now has one of the best frontcourts in the NEC with Jamal Olasewere, Julian Boyd and Kenny Onyechi. It took Ferry a bit of time to get that mix on Long Island. It seems like he's figured out how to turn on this Texas pipeline and it's going to be a big key for him.

YD: Tell us about the style of play that we can expect to see at Duquesne. I know that Ferry likes to play uptempo with lots of possessions per game. How flexible is he within that depending on matchup or his own players? When it comes time to draw up a play, what can we expect in terms of Xs and Os on offense or defense?

JT: There are going to be a lot of possessions. A lot. Under Ferry LIU pushed on everything. Also, he'll rely a lot on raw athletic talent instead of great shooters on offense. Last season he ran a lot of high ball screens for his athletic forwards. On defense be prepared to sometimes watch players get easy layups instead of a foul. It's a lot of man-to-man, but he's not afraid to try other things. There are also a lot of turnovers. Ferry's offense call for a lot of dribbling by everyone. A lot of times there are easy shots, but ball handlers are prone to mistakes too.

YD: The Blackbirds have been involved in some very close games over the past several years. Have the close wins been more a function of wearing down teams, Xs and Os late, or something else?

JT: There are a lot of reasons here. I think the foul situation is a big one. Coming down the stretch LIU would often be in the bonus and opponent wouldn't. But Ferry also drew up some nice plays in end-game situations. The play that beat St. Francis (NY) at home on February 12 in a big rivalry game got a really comfortable shot for star forward Julian Boyd.

YD: As I look at the roster, I don't see a lot of height - no player taller than 6'7". Is that a recruiting failure or is that simply a factor of the conference they're in and how tough it is to get quality big men in the first place?

JT: I think this is definitely a product of playing in the NEC. First, you don't need anyone taller than 6'7" to dominate in the frontcourt in that conference. LIU might not look impressive on a roster sheet, but the Blackbirds had the best frontcourt in the conference the past two seasons. I'm sure that moving to the Atlantic 10 he'll be able to get bigger players.

YD: Once again on the roster, I see a few New York guys, but also several players from around the country and Canada. Can you speak to his recruiting efforts, where he has connections, and how he's sold LIU to recruits?

JT: Ferry has developed strong roots in Texas. He's also been able to sell the idea of playing in New York City to recruits really well. I'm sure he's going to find something to sell at Duquesne. Heck, even his style is something that attracts recruits. If you're a talented point guard or an athletic forward this is the dream type of system.

YD: On that same thread, can you tell us about Ferry's commitments for the upcoming season? Duquesne badly needs a point guard right now - is there possibly a potential A-10 caliber point guard in the wings?

JT: The two LIU recruits for next season are both big men from Texas. One, Taurean Waller-Prince, seems to be a real stud. There's no point guard to speak of currently in Ferry's pipeline that I know of. Considering the Blackbirds have extremely talented sophomore PG Jason Brickman that's not surprising.

YD: A big problem we had under the last coach was player development. Did you see true progress in LIU players year to year with Ferry?

JT: I definitely think players have improved under Ferry's tutelage. I even saw progress in season. Brickman moved from the sixth man to starting role this season and struggled a bit early in the season. By the end of the season he might've been the best player in the NEC. He was excellent during the NEC tournament. Jamal Olasewere has significantly improved during each of his three seasons on campus at LIU. This season Julian Boyd added a three-point shot to his already impressive arsenal and shot 42% from distance. A lot of that can be attributed to those three players, but if the top of the roster is developing, it has to be related to coaching as well.

YD: Roster turnover was also a big problem under our prior coach. What was Ferry like in that way? I see there was some upheaval during the '08 and '09 off-seasons, but I also understand that there were some injuries and other issues that came into play. Bad luck? What happened there?

JT: One of the tough things here was the Julian Boyd had a heart condition that forced him to sit out the entire 2009-10 season. So you don't see him on that roster. For the most part though the other core guys stayed. As the talent improved at LIU I think there was a little bit of a shake out. That's right at the time that the program was taking a step up and some players realized it was going to be more difficult to get playing time.

YD: What type of assistants does Ferry typically have on the bench? Game coaches, recruiters, a combination of the two? Will he bring someone with him?

JT: One of his assistants, Jack Perri, who is a strong recruiter is going to be staying at LIU to become the next head coach of the Blackbirds. Rich Glesmann was a more traditional X and O type coach and also involved in player academics and development. He's spent the last seven seasons as part of Ferry's staff, so he could be moving with him to Duquesne. Jason Harris was more of recruiter. So it's certainly a mix. It'll be interesting to see who Ferry gets to replace Perri.

YD: What particular teams or styles did Ferry struggle with in NEC play? Why do you think that was?

JT: Ferry's Blackbirds struggled a little bit with Robert Morris. The Colonials had the athleticism to keep up with LIU and also slowed the game down. In fact, one of LIU's two losses came at RMU this season when the Colonials slowed the game down and forced the Blackbirds to slug it out in the half court. With a combined four losses in conference this season it's really nitpicking.

YD: I see Ferry as a guy with a floor no worse than what we had under Ron Everhart, but also with the potential for greater success. While there are some pieces that need to be returned into place (point guard), the cupboard is a bit fuller here than when he took over at LIU. So, the last question for you (and thanks a BUNCH for helping us out by the way) - what's your prediction for Ferry's tenure at Duquesne?

JT: Ferry is a grinder. He's coached at Plymouth State, Adelphia and LIU. He's paid his due and he took over a tough job with the Blackbirds in the NEC and turned them into one of the conference's premiere program[s]. Theoretically he should be able to get even better athletes in the Atlantic 10 and there's no reason to think he won't succeed. The name might not be splashy, but there's a lot of reasons to like him as a hire and the brand of basketball he'll bring to Duquesne. I think it was time for him to move on, but LIU will certainly miss Ferry. My guess is that it'll take two to four years (the cupboard is a little bare) to really see results, but Duquesne will reach the level that it didn't under Ron Everhart with Ferry eventually.

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Thanks again to John Templon from Big Apple Buckets!