Sunday Conversation: Jay Price
After the initial media blitz, what was the first thing you did related to the team?
I had a team meeting with all the returning players that were still at STM. I told them a little bit about what I expect of them and who I am and what I’m doing. I also got John Klein to help me, which was a humongously important situation because of his abilities. I trust him.What was the reaction of the players?
Kids are resilient. They were great. They laughed and smiled. I think they felt pretty comfortable with both of us. The fact that I hope that I have a pretty good pedigree is something that excites them. They were willing and ready to get to work.
Have things settled down a bit?
Actually, no, they haven’t. I’m trying to do my job at the College of Business to the best of my ability and thankful for great bosses that are allowing me to do both. Trying to get my arms around everything with STM is a challenge, but one that has been a lot of fun. I hope it doesn’t slow down for a few months. I enjoy having a lot to do.
What has been the reaction of family and friends?
I think people know that basketball is a huge passion of mine and something I’ve missed and really wanted to do. It has been overwhelmingly positive. Almost embarrassingly positive. Everybody is coming up to me and congratulating me and making me feel like staying in Champaign, working at the College of Business and taking this part-time job is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I have not had one thing negative said to me at all, even through social media.
Did you ever think about leaving C-U?
We had opportunities to leave. We’ve chosen as a family a place we love to live over some other opportunities and situations. We feel very accepted by the community. My daughter’s happy and my wife’s happy, so we might as well just stay happy. That’s a pretty big deal.
What did Bruce Weber say?
I haven’t spoken to Coach Weber about this. I haven’t really talked to him.
Will you ask Dee and Deron to talk to the team?
I would have any of our former players who come back talk to the team. If anybody is here, I would love it if they stopped by the open gym. They are welcome to come back, and they are welcome to participate in open gym if they want, and they can even play in a game if they feel like it.
Is there pressure to repeat?
I hope so. That’s one of the reasons I took the job. I love expectations. There are high expectations.
When was the last time you coached high schoolers?
Never. I guess that’s not true. Summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I did coach my old high school’s summer league team. That was in 1989 in Oklahoma City. We had about six games and six practices. We had a Division I player on the team. I think we won more than we lost.
Is it going to be harder for you not being in the school during the day?
It is not going to be difficult. I do want to forge a relationship with the young ladies. If that means running over at the lunch hour and eating lunch with them in the cafeteria, I’m going to do that. I’m trying to be visible for them as much as possible. I told the ladies the first day they are now a part of my family. We’ll treat it like a college team.
How involved will you be in Tori McCoy’s recruiting?
As involved as the family wants me. I’m just looking forward to having the opportunity to get to know them better and to coach her. If they want my input, great. If they don’t, I completely understand.
You have been on the college side of recruiting. What insights can you offer the family?
I think, obviously, I would be a valuable resource after 20 years of coaching college basketball. I know the ins and outs. It has been interesting these last few days and having coaches contact me. I understand what they are going through. I just want us to win and for Tori to get better. That’s what’s important.
How would Coach Keady do with a high school girls’ team?
I think he would be fantastic. He coached high school basketball. I think he would be great as long as he did it now and not when he was in his prime. He would be too hard on them when he was in his prime. Maybe I need to call him in the winter and see if he needs a job in the winter. He can come back and help me.
How much contact do you have with the current Illinois staffs, men’s and women’s?
I think my contact with the women’s staff is going to increase. John (Groce) has been really good to me. I want them to be successful; I want Illinois to win.
How long can you see yourself doing this?
I don’t know. If I enjoy it, I could see myself being here in Champaign until we retire. I don’t ever want to put a time limit on anything.
Is your daughter still mad about you leaving her team (at St. Matthew)?
No, she has come around. I promised her she can go on some road trips and needs to be a part of the team. It took a while.
Can you see going back to college coaching some day?
If the perfect opportunity presented itself, maybe. But right now I just enjoy spending time with my family and friends and getting to work at the College of Business. It’s like winning the lottery. I am having a lot of fun with it.