Q: What has the relationship with the new assistants been like?
Craig Neal: Good. It's going good, but we knew that. We are excited and they have been a lot of help. We have all known each other for so long. It's been really good and it's taken a lot of weight of Steve and I.
Q: Has everyone gotten acclimated with their role?
Neal: Steve has done a good job spending time, saying this is what I expect, and that is a part of getting better every year. That is just the way that it is, so I think that everyone knows what is going on and we are on the same page and we have had some success the last few years and hopefully we keep building on it. That is how you get better, by trying to improve on what you are not good at and go from there.
Q: I am reluctant to bring up rumors, but it seems like there are some people out there, some people wondering that you have had success here with Steve and you are doing things well that maybe you are looking to the outside. Do you feel comfortable here?
Neal: I am fine. It's killing us in recruiting.
Q: The football team has dealt with that, how do you go about that?
Neal: Last year, it was with him and this year…I am recruiting and I am here. I am not going anywhere. Do I want to be a head coach? Yes. But I am not in a hurry. I have been at the highest level as a player and coach, but I am not looking. My family is happy, this is a great place.
Q: How much fun is it?
Neal: I am having a blast, I really am. I think that you know that. We spent some time together and need to spend more time together. But what I was looking for, I found it here.
Q: What was that?
Neal: I think I was looking for some place where I could actually impact kids. I think that we are trying. We don't always do that, but we have 14 other children along with the two children I have, and you have kids and will have another one. I spend all this time in the game and I have to give back. I found that. The NBA was great and I enjoyed it, but I didn't know how much I was doing as far as giving back. I was busting my butt to give back, but you don't realize it. You recruit them here, you know their families, their families become your family as do the kids. It's just a great place to live. Everything about it; going to football games on Saturday, to softball and soccer games, because we know Coach Rainey. All the college atmosphere and the city, its been great for me in that respect. Being with Coach Alford, who has helped me with a lot of things. That is what I mean by finding a harmony and being glad to be somewhere. That is a part of the process. Everyone in the country is saying that I am doing this and that; I haven't planned on it. I am having fun. I think that is why we are doing so well with our team last year and the year before, that is why recruiting has been successful. We are going into it with kids that we will be here, and the extension helped us.
Q: Does the fact that you guys are doing well in future recruiting classes, getting some big names, does that help other kids to believe those things?
Neal: We have talked about it before; once you get them out here, and they see the campus and what you have and get around you, I think that is how you get them. I think we have done that the last few years. I don't know what happened before, but that has been our selling point. Coach and I, spending time and now with the staff, once we try to get them here its up to us to get them. The place sells itself. You have been around; it's an unreal place and I think that with the new practice facility going up in the next two and a half years, our football facility will be second to none and I think our basketball facility will be second to none. Once you get them here, they see beyond flat land and cornfields. It's not bad, it really isn't. The people treat our guys like they are an NBA team, and that is awesome. Our fans are second to none and like I told Steve when I came here, I was used to NBA coverage and they are everywhere. I said that I would rather everyone care than not care, and I think that has been a selling point in our recruiting. They come out here and see how much the fans care and love them, and it's been a good thing.
Q: Have you started selling the new facility?
Neal: Yeah, because it's unique. In any line of work that you do, like moms and dads are excited about the athletic center, the Gerdine Center. It's unreal. But the kids, they want to know where their toys are. We tell them that you have Carver 24-7; you don't need a practice facility. That has been the battle we have been in. Now it's more like we have the new thing coming, the new scoreboards, the new roof. Our facility was state of the art in 1983 and now it will be again, so we have been staying ahead so it has worked out. But we are using it.
Q: Does that mean much to kids?
Neal: They like the bells and whistles, but everyone has that. If you don't keep up there, it's tough. But I think they like the process. But it has been good for us. I think that a lot of it is that they see some of the kids, like a Tyler Smith. People say, what is going on? You get a Tony Freeman, etc. If you can get interest, you get to sell it. We have done that recently. I think we have done a better job in recruiting the Midwest, but also going out and trying to find others interested in what we are selling, so that has been good.
Q: Will your system stay the same this year, as you are more athletic? Are you more athletic?
Neal: Oh yeah. Someone asked me that earlier. Nothing changes defensively, because team defense is about principles and getting them to buy into it. But what people don't realize is easy scores, and athleticism gives you that. Our team last year, we didn't get a lot of easy scores. Bru got a lot of low post and Doug got dunks, but when the shot clock went down, it was not easy athletically. That is the biggest change. That will help us, but we will do a lot of the same things, but we will try to be up-tempo as much as we can, much more than we were last year. We have two different guards athletically and we had a guy with unreal heart who was a great player here. Will they make the right decisions? You don't know, but that is what we are trying to play.
Q: How important is this year to build on the last two years?
Neal: It's important because of what you are trying to do for your program, you are looking for consistency, and we have done that, the last two years. We want to keep getting better and better. You want to put a product on there that the fans are proud of, and also that other people say they want to play here. We give our guys some freedom, and that is important to kids. I think it's important for us to build it, because it will be exciting. We kind of put this puzzle together, so it's a challenge for the staff because that is what it's about. We are looking forward to it.
Q: With all of the new players, would you rather have more home games in the early portion of your schedule?
Neal: Yes, but it's one of those things where we will see where we are early. It should be fun, so I am looking forward to it and I think everyone is. The players are ready and they are tired of playing against each other and they are ready to get going and to play against other people, but they seem pretty excited.
Iowa Assistant Coach Craig Neal has made a big impact on the Hawkeye basketball program in his short time in Iowa City. He is regarded as a main reason as to why Iowa's recruiting efforts have hit more paydirt in recent years, including a strong effort this past summer with future recruiting classes, in addition to landing Tyler Smith. We spoke with Neal at Iowa's media day and have this report.
Craig Neal is happy at Iowa and is not looking elsewhere. Read what he had to say from Media Day