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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

KU women’s basketball coach Brandon Schneider believes culture change necessary to get program on track

Kansas head coach Brandon Schneider talks to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor in Lawrence, Kan., Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Kansas head coach Brandon Schneider talks to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor in Lawrence, Kan., Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

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Kansas women’s basketball coach Brandon Schneider characterized a Wednesday morning meeting with first-year KU athletic director Jeff Long as having gone well and came away feeling like Long was in his corner.

“Jeff wants to see improvement and Jeff wants to see us win more games,” Schneider told the Journal-World shortly after the 90-minute meeting wrapped. “But that’s no different from what I want and I believe he is fully committed to supporting us in every phase we need.”

Long confirmed as much to the Journal-World late Wednesday evening.

"I met with Coach Schneider for our annual review, as I do with each of our head coaches," Long said. "We discussed all facets of the program and reviewed the many positive aspects as well as the need to see improvement in our on-court success. With the quality of last year's recruiting class and the promise of the incoming class, I am excited to see the improvement we make next season."

Schneider, who would be entering the final year of the original five-year contract he signed with Kansas in 2015, has three years remaining on his deal because of an unreleased two-year extension given to him in the spring of 2018. Schneider said his contract now runs through March of 2022.

Through his first four seasons at KU, Schneider has led the Jayhawks to a 39-83 overall record, a 7-65 mark in Big 12 play and a last-place conference finish three times.

While none of those numbers, which lag behind the final four years of the Bonnie Henrickson era — 79-63 overall, 27-45 Big 12 — are anything close to what Schneider hoped and thought they would be, the former Emporia State and Stephen F. Austin coach is not letting a rough start alter his plan of attack.

“What we really want to do here is build something that’s going to be sustainable,” Schneider said. “Otherwise I’d be out trying to sign five grad transfers.”

Instead, Schneider has signed a 2019 recruiting class of six players — juco forward Tina Stephens’ addition was announced Wednesday — that includes five freshman and is currently ranked No. 31 in the nation and No. 3 in the Big 12.

Schneider currently has three scholarships (of 15 allowed) still to give out but is not sure whether he will use all of them or save one or two to continue to build through the stacked 2020 class.

“The way I see it, we’ve been climbing the hill, climbing the hill, climbing the hill and we have not got to the tipping point yet,” Schneider said. “But when we do we want to have the type of program that sustains and is built on the right things.”

There was reason to believe that the 2018-19 season would be the turning point.

Heading into winter break last December, Schneider’s Jayhawks were 10-1, had an RPI rating of 31 and were receiving votes in the national polls. As a result, Schneider said he expected his team to win anywhere from six to nine games during Big 12 play. On the low end, such a run would have tied for KU’s best conference showing in the past six years, On the high end, nine conference victories would have been the most by a Kansas team in 20 years.

“But then we don’t play another game with the same top six because of injuries,” Schneider said. “That’s going to sound like excuses, but it’s facts.”

Schneider is willing to wear the blame for KU’s rough record during his first four seasons in Lawrence.

“Have I gotten it right with every recruit we’ve brought into the program,” he asked. “No. I haven’t. So if you want to talk obstacles, it’s the head coach has gotten it wrong in recruiting in some areas and we’ve had some bad luck with injuries.”

However, rather than dwelling on what hasn’t happened, Schneider is determined to do something about it.

While some of the fix has to do with improvement on the court — closing out games, fouling less and executing more are all key areas to address this offseason — the bulk of what he hopes will be a winning transformation is being done off the floor.

“From a recruiting perspective, in our last two classes, we’ve had an enormous emphasis on culture and chemistry over everything,” Schneider said. “We may even pass on a player that might be uber-talented but there’s questions about how she might fit. That has become a non-negotiable for us.”

Schneider said he and his staff always had done their due diligence on the recruiting trail. But he believes that mining the talent pool for players who put the team first, are naturally driven to win and don't accept it when they lose will take the roster to another level.

“When you come up short and you’re on that plane or on that bus and, 10 minutes into it, people are giggling and laughing in the back, you know that that’s not the culture that you want,” he said. “You want everybody to be so invested that it stings when we don’t play as well as we would like.”

Schneider also is energized by the departure of two of his assistant coaches and the faces he brought in to replace them.

Aqua Franklin (Lamar) and Jory Collins (North Dakota State) both left KU recently to become head coaches of their own programs. Schneider needed just two phone calls — to veteran assistant Larry Tidwell and former Baylor captain Jhasmin Player — to fill their offices.

“I can’t remember a time when two assistants in the same program got Division I coaching jobs that were good jobs and really good fits for them,” Schneider said. “Those guys getting jobs speaks to the respect that people have for them and this program.”

Schneider also pointed out that his student-athletes during the fall semester achieved the highest team GPA (3.12) in program history.

“Would I have liked this thing to get to where we want quicker than it has? Of course,” Schneider said. “But there’s a couple of different ways to really look at trying to build. If you’re looking over your shoulder and you feel like there’s some short-term stuff then you make short-term decisions. And that’s not ever going to be in the best interest of a program for the long haul.

“I want to be here for a long, long time, and we want this program to be a consistent postseason team. So I’m going to continue to operate on the premise that we want to build something that can be long lasting here.”

KU's 2019 recruiting class

• Tamia Davis: 5-foot-7 shooting guard from Raleigh, N.C.

Ranked No. 44 overall by ASGR Girls Basketball Report and No. 55 at her position by ESPN.com.

Why Kansas: "I chose KU because it made me feel like I was home. Even though my family and friends will be far away, I know the family at Kansas will be there for me."

• Holly Kersgieter: 5-foot-10 wing from Sand Springs, Okla.

First player to commit to KU in the 2019 class. Chose KU over Oklahoma State, TCU, Tulsa and Texas Tech.

Why Kansas: "Growing up, being a KU fan was so exciting. The reputation of the school, their sports and the fans is amazing. The farther I got into the recruiting process, the more I realized I could not pass the opportunity up."

• Zakiyah Franklin: 5-foot-7 combo guard from Lakeland, Fla.

4-star prospect ranked No. 60 overall and No. 14 at her position nationally by ESPN.com. McDonald's All-American nominee has won three consecutive state titles.

Why Kansas: "I chose KU because I saw a lot of opportunities for me to do well there. Also, just from talking to Coach Brandon, I'm excited to be in his plans and his vision."

• Chandler Prater: 5-foot-11 wing from Kansas City, Mo.

Ranked No. 33 at her position by ESPN.com and ranked in ESPN's Top 70 prior to the 2018 AAU season. Chose KU over K-State, Marquette and Missouri.

Why Kansas: "I chose KU because it hits so close to home. I've been around Kansas supporters and fans my whole life and I am excited to represent. I know that I'm about to be a part of the come up of something big."

• Chisom Ajekwu: 6-foot-3 center from Lawrence High

Four-year starter at LHS ranked No. 117 overall and No. 23 at her position by ESPN.com

Why Kansas: "I chose KU because, most of my life, I've been a fan of the program. No other school compared to the family type energy that KU provided for me."

• Tina Stephens: 6-foot-1 forward from Florida Southwestern Community College

Junior college All-American who set FSCC's single season scoring record in 2018-19 is ranked No. 24 overall and No. 8 at her position in the juco rankings.

Schneider on Stephens: "She's an extremely productive power forward, who we believe can be a real mismatch for opponents. She's a terrific finisher around the basket, but can also stretch it beyond the arc. We expect Tina to be an immediate front-line contributor."

Comments

Steven Haag 2 months, 1 week ago

I really want to believe in Brandon. He has had some “bad luck” with injuries and his point about hearing young ladies giggle and laugh 10 minutes on the bus or plane ride back is totally spot on....we don’t want those type of players. I really feel that he needs to produce this year. Unfortunately he lost a bunch of Seniors and Freshman get slapped with a dose of reality when they hit college ball.....not just college ball, but Big XII college ball. NCAA Champ Baylor and at least 3 other Big XII schools always ranked. Tough to climb against that

Joe Ross 2 months, 1 week ago

Schneider speak sounds a lot like David Beaty right before he was fired.

Jay Scott 2 months, 1 week ago

Joe!!

Great to see you!

I was wondering...does the Law of Joe Ross where two athletes who are the same height and weight have the same skills set, play the same position and have the same pro potential (Like your equating of Perry Ellis to Harrison Barnes) apply equally to men and women?

Based on your theory, would Chisom Alekwu be a future NBA point guard? Just wondering...

Who do you compare Dedric Lawson to? Larry Bird, Kevin Durant or Zdeno Chara?

Brad Farha 2 months, 1 week ago

Jay and Joe -- any chance you two can agree to bury the hatchet?

Jay Scott 2 months, 1 week ago

Joe's insistence that players of the same dimensions automatically have the same skills and potential is truly asinine but in no way warrants using a hatchet.

Chris DeWeese 2 months, 1 week ago

I don't think Joe has said one word about player dimensions in years. I don't think he's been insistent at all. Rather, I'd prefer to hear your opinion about Schneider's job security.

Brad Farha 2 months, 1 week ago

Jay -- you and Joe clearly follow KU athletics closely and know a ton about the Jayhawks and college sports. I appreciate and learn a lot from your posts about the teams. Much like Chris, I would prefer to hear what you have to say about the Jayhawks, and not about each other.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

Please grow up. The comment was 2 seasons ago.

Brett McCabe 2 months, 1 week ago

Joe, the similarity is definitely there. Because Schneider was a proven winner, I felt that he should be given his full five-year contract to set the program up, even though it shouldn't take 5 years in basketball to make a program competitive.

Beaty, on the other hand, had proven nothing anywhere at any level and it was clear as we headed into his second year that Zenger had botched it again - and basically learned nothing from the Weis debacle.

It's ironic how Schneider is talking about not taking transfers when he took two, I think, his first year here. And those decisions may have cost him more than he understands.

My guess is that Long saw the makings of a good recruiting class, opted to keep Schneider on, then replace him after Long has had time to scan the horizon for candidates. Frankly, for Long, I think it's been all football all the time, except for the softball hire which has early signs of being very strong.

Chris Condren 2 months, 1 week ago

His record last year demonstrates what he can do which is lose.

Jim Stauffer 2 months, 1 week ago

Did not realize his overall record was that poor. Definitely fighting for his job. Hope he is the answer. He seems to be a better recruiter than on court coach, but who knows for sure. Next year seems like it will tell us a lot.

Jeremy D. Morris 2 months, 1 week ago

"has three years remaining on his deal because of an unreleased two-year extension given to him in the spring of 2018. "

I swear, could Zenger have been any worse at being an AD?

Waylon Cook 2 months, 1 week ago

Zakiyah Franklin is worth the price of a ticket.

Disheartening Jackie Stiles is an Assistant OU now, when we had an opening shortly after she got hired. I guess that curse that Washington gave us keeps going.

Dillon Davis 2 months, 1 week ago

Zenger was great at improving facilities and HORRIBLE at coaching hires and their contracts. The David Beaty extension and Schneider extension are incredulous and completely unwarranted. He set both programs back because of it. Just wow...

Brett McCabe 2 months, 1 week ago

It is really hard to comprehend how two coaches, with the worst records since, well, Rush and Styx made any of their records, somehow warrant extensions. It's literally almost criminal.

Wenger did as much damage to KU Athletics as almost anyone or anything has ever done to it. And he walked away with millions for doing worse job than the Octopus who picks the World Cup would have done.

Steve Zimmerman 2 months, 1 week ago

It's like corporate world, it seems. No matter how bad a CEO performs, he/she will be granted bonu$, even when they got fired. It's a shameless world.

Jay Scott 2 months, 1 week ago

How emotionally damaged does someone have to be to try to justify an opinion with a random shot at the music and fans of Hall of Fame musicians....

Just when you think someone can't possibly be more messed up...

Chris DeWeese 2 months, 1 week ago

Personally, I think Schneider should have been shown the door after last year. His record speaks for itself. To think KU, the basketball mecca of the world, can't attract top tier coaches is criminal. The opportunity to play in the holy cathedral of basketball venues would surely attract the best coaches. Zenger was the worst assessor of talent KU has seen in a long time.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

Schneider believes culture change necessary to get program on track.

This sounds appropriate for a first year coach, but not for a 4th year coach. It seems that they were digging out of a hole, but at least the culture should be changed by year 3 at the latest, and definitely not year 5.

Layne Pierce 2 months ago

This year is really the deal breaker. Unfortunately he will rise or fall on what his recruiting class can do right away. Minimally he needs a winning record overall and in the conference.

He talks a lot about what he wants to do, maybe not enough about what the players he recruits are capable of.

I noticed with Miles, that he makes no such statements, he talks about finding ways to use the talent of the players he has.

I wish Coach Schneider the very best, but the time is now.

RCJH

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