The NCAA coaching carousel doesn’t wait for the postseason to end before hitting full gear. No one knows this better than current TCU assistant coach Scott Cross, who was also named head coach at Troy last week. Though the new leader of the Trojans has promised to stay on in Fort Worth until the Horned Frogs’ season ends, he’s already begun work trying to rebuild the Troy program.
Mid-Major Madness caught up with Cross, best known for his work as UT Arlington head coach from 2006-18, ahead of TCU’s NIT semifinal game against Texas in New York.
Mid-Major Madness: How did this opportunity come about for you at Troy?
Scott Cross: My agent gave me a call and asked if I had an interest whenever they parted ways with Coach Cunningham. I’ve been through there a couple different times when we played at my previous stop. I always thought it was a place that was a sleeping giant, like I said in my press conference. They have a beautiful facility, the town is really, really pretty, they’re super supportive of athletics. You just have a good feel, a good vibe when you’re there. I told them I was interested.
I had wanted to ask you about the sleeping giant comment. What are the things that have to happen for Troy to realize its potential?
First, we have to put a product on the floor that’s capable of winning. Once you can beat one of the big boys and kind of get the momentum going and get some excitement, I think that’s going to help drive attendance. If you can win more games, that’s going to drive attendance. And it’s kind of a snowball effect. That attendance helps you win games at home. That’s what we’re going to have to do. We’re going to have to create some excitement, get some people in the stands, get a buzz around campus and all of the sudden that becomes a great home court advantage, and if you win all your home games you have a great chance to win your league. We’re going to have to get out in the community, get around campus, and hopefully we can get the fraternities and sororities and students to the games. I think the community is so supportive already and you can see it with what football has done, and even baseball as well.
You’re in an interesting situation right now balancing two jobs. How’s that working for you, trying to bring TCU through the postseason?
Well, not much sleep for sure. I actually did get a halfway decent night’s sleep last night but before that I don’t think I slept more than a couple hours all week long. So it’s been super busy, making phone calls left and right. Of course you have a bunch of text messages and phone calls about potential hires and that’s very overwhelming. Then I have the Texas scout, so I’ve been busy preparing for that. And the most important priority is the current team, making sure the guys are good and want to stick around, then getting on the phone and calling potential recruits as well. It’s been nonstop for sure.
Have you had a chance to meet with the team yet? How have they responded to you?
They’ve been good. I did meet with them the day before the press conference for about 15 minutes, and they were good. I’ve been texting them, calling them since then to try and build a relationship and get to know them. And as soon as this is done, I’ll get up there and get to work with them.
When you’re putting the team together, stepping in right at the beginning of the offseason, what are you priorities for the summer?
We have to establish the culture that we want in the program. Getting our guys to understand that we’re going to be a “take the stairs” basketball team, no shortcuts, we’re going to do all the little things right. Being a selfless team, a tough team, a defensive team. So just trying to establish that mindset with them. We’ll be encouraging them to get in the gym on their own was much as possible. We’ll be working with them during practices on their skill level. But overall establishing the culture of the program is priority No. 1.
You’ve had a year now under Jamie Dixon as an assistant. What have you learned from him?
He’s a future Hall of Fame coach so that speaks for itself. Everywhere he goes, he wins. He’s won again this year. I think his preparation is second to none. The way he prepares for basketball games, he really doesn’t deviate from it. It’s very consistent and methodical, and it prepares the guys for each game. In practice, there’s a ton of repetition in what he does. Working on the fundamentals, the footwork, building out from the way the offense is and breaking it down with guards and bigs. That repetition, day to day to day, you turn on the video and you’re watching and it’s like “oh yeah we worked on that and they probably didn’t even know that’s what we were working on.”
The other thing he’s great at is when adversity strikes, it doesn’t phase him. He keeps going. He’s just super positive. He’s an eternal optimist, always believing we’re going to win. We have the best guys and the right team to be successful so just seeing how he speaks stuff into existence.
Is there anything that you’ve taken from this experience that maybe you didn’t have at Arlington?
Probably just some of the little things he does as part of the skill building, as part of the offense and how he builds it out. I think I’ll definitely try to incorporate that into the plan was quickly as possible.
You mentioned that you’re on the Texas scout for tomorrow. What’s been your primary role as an assistant this season?
Scouting has been number one. I was recruiting a ton of young guys. Trying to assist Ryan [Miller] and Corey [Santee] as much as possible with the current guys. Just laying the foundation for a lot of 2020 kids so if they want to take the ball and run with it, they can. There’s still a couple of 2019 guys that I was recruiting for the late period that they would have an opportunity if they wanted to go in that direction as well.
Regardless of what happens this week, the season is over Thursday at the latest. What happens right after that?
I’ll probably need to get to TCU and turn in my stuff, then I’ll pack up my stuff, drive down to Tory and I plan on probably meeting with the team Sunday evening and getting to work on Monday.
Do you know if the members of the team now are all planning on staying, or is that a conversation you’ll have to have in the next week or so?
Well there’s two of them that are in the transfer portal [Javan Johnson and KJ Simon] but I’ve been talking to them and I think they’re definitely open to staying. I think they both plan on coming to workouts and it’ll just be a deal where we have to see if we are a good fit for each other, and if it is, great, and if not, there will be no hard feelings either. We’re just going to get to work and build relationships as we go.
What do you envision the ceiling being for the Troy program?
I don’t think there’s any ceiling. I think if you look at it long, long term, I don’t see any reason why you can’t win it all. We gotta start with getting better today and tomorrow, that’s gotta be the focus every single day, but you see it all around the country. You’ve got to have a great facility, you’ve got to have a great home court advantage and once you start doing those things and you start winning, you get better players, and it becomes a snowball. I don’t want to put any ceiling on this program, but the focus is on just getting better today.