A Q&A with FAU head coach Mike Jarvis

Rolando Rosa

Head coach Mike Jarvis is 17 wins away from the most ever for an FAU basketball coach. Photo by Melissa Landolfa

Owls head coach Mike Jarvis is one of the most outspoken people in all of FAU sports. And after a busy offseason, highlighted by a mass exodus of departing players, Jarvis is not afraid to sound off on any and every FAU basketball subject.

The UP caught up with Jarvis after a practice just a couple of weeks before the start of the season to get his thoughts on the offseason, his departing players, the newcomers and more.

Q: Last season you were essentially a lame duck, given that your contract was set to expire. How important was it for you to secure your three-year contract extension?

A: I think it’s important in the sense that these players know that their coach is here for the long haul. Other than that, the extension really isn’t anything that surprised me. I was always confident it was coming.

Q: What are your thoughts on the departing players who transferred away?

A: First of all, you don’t recruit anybody with the idea that they’re going to leave. You recruit guys with the idea that they’re going to stay and graduate, because most of the guys I’m going to recruit are not going to the NBA. So, my focus is: get a degree and get prepared for life after basketball. I mean, it’s disappointing. My biggest relief, and I’m glad, is that every one of them is going to be in college and have a chance to graduate. So I’m happy for them. I hope they do well. I hope they have great careers wherever they go. And most importantly, they’re going to need a degree, because I don’t think any of those guys are playing professional basketball. I’m never worried about if you’re going to get another player. When Greg [Gantt] and Jordan [McCoy] leave, two other guys will take their spot. It’s like life. Some die, some people are born. Life goes on.

Q: You’re a devout Christian and go to church all the time. How important is it for you to emphasize God in your recruiting?

A: With any kid I recruit, whether they believe in God or not, they need to know what I believe in because they’re going to come and be with me for years. I think at this stage of young people’s lives, they need God more than they even know they do. So God is always an important part of who I am but the main reason why any kid goes to any school is because of the coach. Even great schools like Duke and North Carolina, the players aren’t going there for just the schools, they’re going there for [Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams]. That’s why kids choose colleges.

Q: Given how young the team is and how much has changed, who are some of the players you trust the most?

A: Well I trust all these guys and I want to make that point clear. I trust every single one of them or else they wouldn’t be here. Because I’m putting my livelihood, and my son’s livelihood, and my assistant coaches livelihoods in their hands, so I trust every one of them. However, I trust some more than others. The guys that I trust the most, for the most part, have been the guys that have been here the longest. Before the season began, before we started working out, I would have said probably Greg and Jordan. But I would say right now, the way things are going so far, I mean Pablo Bertone right now is playing fantastic basketball. I trust him like I never thought I would. We’ve got two freshman guards, one right now is a little bit ahead of the other one, that I trust is going to be able to run this team like nobody else has and that’s Stefan Moody.

He is the real deal. He has the potential to be amongst the best guards that I’ve ever coached at any level, any place. And I had a lottery pick guard in high school by the name of Rumeal Robinson. Erick Barkley, who was a first round pick. I’ve had a couple McDonalds All-Americans. I’ve had some great guards. Shaunte Roberts at GW. Stefan Moody, I mean, if he continues to work, which I know he will, and really want to get better and have a will to improve, the sky’s the limit for that kid.

He has the whole package. I mean, forget about the fact that he’s only 5-foot-9. It doesn’t make a difference for me. He plays like he’s 6-foot-8. And he’s strong, so he can defend and he’s quick. He’s got a great feel for the game. And he’s unselfish. I mean, he can get 30 points, 20 points, and you would think he got 10. At times a very loud 20 because of the way he plays but if his shot is on, forget it.

He’s special. He could play at any place in the country. He’s the one kid in our program, the only kid in our program, that could play for anybody in the country.

Q: Do you ever conduct practice and look back on it and laugh at anything you said?

A: I laugh at myself more than you would ever imagine. I think I’m funny sometimes. Coaching for me is like breathing. I breathe it. I live it. I love it. This is a lifestyle. This is a vocation. This is my ministry. The apostles would often say that — God what do I say? God would say: ‘Don’t worry. I’ll put the words in your mouth. You’ll say the right thing.’ Now, I’m not saying I always say the right thing, but I really feel like the words will be put in my mouth with what I’m suppose to say.

That’s probably one of the reasons why I love coaching so much. It’s an opportunity to really teach, and you can have fun with it sometimes. Most of the things I do, I don’t do intentionally, but sometimes they’re funny. We watch film, and we tape every practice. I don’t always laugh out loud but I’m sometimes laughing at myself.

Plus, I still got my New England accent, so I’m saying to myself, how the heck did they even understand what I said? That’s probably why I repeat stuff so much. But once the kids get use to it, they get used to it. I’m not saying they always like it. I get mad at myself sometimes because I might stop practice too many times.

With this team particularly, I’m trying to let them play through their mistakes more. In fact, I spoke with Pablo last year. Pablo and I, we didn’t have as good of a relationship as we should have because there was a language difference. I told him, I said, ‘you have to ask questions more often. You have to come back and ask what did you mean by that?’ Because I might talk and say things that are natural and normal to me and not necessarily to the kids, especially the foreign kids.

One of the things he said to me, and I try to listen to my players because I want them to listen to me, he said, ‘sometimes I think you might stop us too much. Especially me, because I’m probably better off if you just take me out and tell me instead of stopping practice and yelling at me.’ I thought about that and there’s some legitimacy and value in that. I’m trying to adjust my coaching.

I hope we’re going to be a real up and down, up-tempo team. The only way you can really get into that is by doing it. So sometimes, I really have to bite my tongue and wait two or three minutes before I correct things once we get going. Like now, I might start blowing the whistle a little bit less.

Any time I stop a practice, when I correct one guy, I’m not correcting one guy. It’s for everybody. Some coaches correct individually. You can’t do that and really expect to get the job done. Why should I repeat something to four guys when I could teach four guys at one time?

My wife laughs at me more than I do. Sometimes she gets mad at me but that’s a whole other story.

Q: FAU basketball hasn’t been around for that long, but with 17 more victories you’ll be the winningest coach in the program’s history. What kind of pride do you take in it?

A: [Laughs] That just tells you how bad FAU basketball has been. Because if I’m going to be the winningest coach with 17 more wins then that’s not good. We haven’t won enough games. If we were winning 20 games a year like I’m used to, then that’s different. And I hope that day will come. Honestly, I hope we have those wins this year. Now, if we do, that’s not even 100. We won six the first year, that was awful. Eleven last year, that was awful. It would be 52 wins [in my FAU career]. Four years 52 wins? C’mon, man. That stinks. I use to win that in two years.

But this is not any other school. This is a much more difficult job and much more of a building job than any other place I’ve been. You know, it’s going to take longer to get 100 wins here. Honestly, when I first came I figured it would take six years. It still might. You never know. It might take seven years. Hopefully I’m still alive and coaching here by then.

It might take one more recruit, but I think we have an NCAA team in the making. I really do. I really like the potential of this team. We’ve got to get people to come out, because I think once they come, they’ll come back.