Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
The Adam Fisher era is underway.
Temple’s new coach has been at his new gig for just about a full month, long enough to name a coaching staff — Michael Huger, Chris Clark and Bobby Jordan are his assistants — and make a few moves, getting starting point guard Hysier Miller to back out of the transfer portal and adding grad transfer Matteo Picarelli to the backcourt from UMBC.
But there’s a lot more to be done — the 2023-24 roster, as it stands now, only has seven scholarship players on it, a few walk-ons giving them enough to go 5-on-5 in spring workouts. Fisher still needs an injection of talent all over the roster, with Miller and Jahlil White the only players on the roster with a ton of Division I experience and proven production on the court; others, like Shane Dezonie, Taj Thweatt and Emmanuel Okpomo, have potential and years of college life under their belts, but haven’t yet been high-level contributors during the season.
As part of our City 6 Q+A series, CoBL spoke with Fisher about what his first few weeks have looked like, his philosophy on portal recruiting, where he gets his energy, and much more. Here’s our conversation, which took place on April 15, lightly edited for readability and length:
City 6 Q+A Series (Links will appear as stories are published)
MBB: Drexel | La Salle | Penn | St. Joe’s | Temple | Villanova
WBB: Drexel | La Salle | Penn | St. Joe’s | Temple | Villanova
Temple coach Adam Fisher speaks at his introductory press conference in March. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
CoBL: You’ve taken several different new jobs as an assistant coach, but what were those first two weeks like, taking over as Temple’s head coach right in the middle of the transfer portal window?
Adam Fisher: It’s a whirlwind, to be honest. It’s been great, my family’s been so supportive, it’s great to have them close by to help with our daughter; my wife’s been absolutely amazing, and I hired our staff quickly, that’s just been incredibly helpful with everything. So there’s so much going on, you want to spend time with your new team, you’re trying to find teammates for them, then you’re trying to call and spend a lot of time trying to reach out to a lot of our supporters, and a lot of former players, that’s something I try to do each day — reach out to a handful each day just to introduce myself and let them know how much we want them back here at Temple.
CoBL: When talking about preparation for hitting the ground running with a long list of priorities, at what point do you talk to your former head coaches that you’ve worked with in the past who’ve had to do the same thing? Is it before you even start looking for a head coaching job, when you’re looking, as the Temple discussions get serious?
Adam Fisher: That’s a great question, obviously it’s a lot. So I think, I've been lucky enough three different times I've been there basically from day one when a new head coach is taking over, at Boston University, Penn State twice, that was a great experience for me. Just seeing everything that goes on, but you don’t see everything, you think you do but you don’t. I’ve reached out, I’ve called (Jim) Larranaga, I’ve talked to (Micah) Shrewsberry, they gave some great advice. Once I got the job and took a deep breath and talked to both of them, they were absolutely great, they’re two unbelievable mentors, so they really helped. Prioritize your priorities, make a list everyday, you’re not going to get to everything but just keep chipping away, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
CoBL: Was there anything that took you by surprise in terms of your new list of duties as a head coach?
Adam Fisher: I think things pop up, that’s what I would say. It’s like a game, you’ve got to be able to adjust, you think you have your schedule for the day then something pops up, or somebody stops by the office, so it’s those things, but they’re great things. They’re people that love Temple, they wanna say hello, they wanna visit, so I think it’s things like that. The Big 5 has been unbelievable, we had the banquet Monday night, we had the big announcement at Wells Fargo, later tonight my wife and I are going to the Coaches vs. Cancer black tie gala, so there’s been a lot of those events that you don’t think about before you take the job, but then you get ‘hey here’s all these events we need you at’, and you’re like ‘these are awesome.’ I’m so excited to be a part of them, so that’s been something you don’t know really going into it, but that’s been a big part of it, I’m so excited to be a part of the Big 5.
CoBL: You’re coming from Penn State, where in a pretty short amount of time you guys were able to accomplish quite a bit. You talked about in your introductory press conference that you’re not looking at this as a five or six-year rebuild, you’ve seen how quickly a program can jump up and win an NCAA Tournament game. What were the most important factors in getting that done at Penn State that you feel are translatable over to Temple?
Adam Fisher: First off, you’ve gotta have great people around, I think coach Shrewsberry did a great job hiring a great staff, a well-diverse staff, we had different strengths and weaknesses so we came together like a puzzle and it fit perfectly. That’s what I’m trying to do right here, trying to figure out ‘hey here’s our puzzle, let’s fit the pieces in here perfectly.’ And I think you’ve gotta have great student athletes, great young men that [...] got to have a little chip on your shoulders, the transfer portal’s changed a lot, I’m not here to fight it, I’m here to embrace it, so we’re gonna try to identify guys that we think fit us, guys that are gonna play hard but also have fun, guys that smile. I said that at practice the other day, I told one of our guys ‘hey, smile, smile,’ he missed three shots in a row, he smiled and he made the next two. I don’t know if that’s why he made the next two but felt good for a second.
I think you gotta have great young men who have a common goal, and that’s what I try to do when I talk to guys in the transfer portal now, because it’s quicker recruitment than a high school [recruitment]. I want to hear guys say they wanna win, they want to be a part of a team, that’s something special. I was with a group last night at dinner, I said that the Elite Eight team for Temple, they’re gonna tell that story for the next 50 years. So if you buy in immediately, and figure out that team success is more important, you’ll be talking about it for the next 50 years, and it opens up so many doors. So I think that’s something we’re gonna try to do here, and do it early.
CoBL: In terms of the portal, as you’re starting to have conversations with recruits, what do you get the sense that perception is of the Temple basketball program?
Adam Fisher: I think the perception is they know of it, but they don’t know probably how great the tradition is. So I think that’s something that we’ve kinda identified and shared with people, being the sixth-winningest program in all of college basketball. I think there’s a ton of guys that have played in the NBA and been very successful, I think that’s what we want them to understand. We’re not here to rewrite or try to redo, we want to just extend the likes. I talked to coach [John] Chaney’s son the other day, it was such an honor for me to be able to speak to him, and I want these recruits to know about this. And some of them are looking at you like ‘ok, ok’, but I think it goes back to winning, they need to know how much Temple’s won. This is a place that’s won, and can continue to win, and that’s been our message.
CoBL: What are you learning about the guys that are still on the team?
Adam Fisher: I think they’re ready to work. That’s been the number one thing, they’re in the gym a lot on their own, they’re in the gym when they’re allowed to be in there with us, and they’re ready to work and they pick up things quickly. Now I’m throwing out different terminologies, different concepts. We might do it the first day and it's okay, but by the second time we did it, they picked it up fast. So I’ve been really impressed with that, and their energy. There’s an energy in the room and excitement, it’s not ‘rah rah’ cheerleader, but these guys are cheering on each other, I keep telling them ‘we’ve got to celebrate each other’s success.’ So I think we’ve seen that great positive energy, excitement in the gym right now.
CoBL: The energy and attitude is obviously a big thing for you, I know you’re a high-energy guy. Where does your high energy come from?
Adam Fisher: It’s my parents, it starts with them and my brother, when you own a family restaurant it’s a people business, I watched them greet people with a smile, say hello, they were great at follow-up. I never could tell if my mom or dad had a bad day, or my grandfather, or my uncle Norm, my grandfather Papa Jack, if they had a bad day it always looked like they were happy, when people would come into the restaurant they were smiling, and they see people around town when they weren’t at work they were smiling and saying hello. So I’ve kinda just taken that from them at a young age — smile, be excited and then it spreads, and I think they did that because they were the CEOs of their business, and I think the rest of their employees saw that. And I think that’s why you’re able to have a mom and pop business in the community, it’s because of that, and that’s what I want to do here, I want this positive energy to spread, not only to our program, but our campus and the community, to the former basketball alums, to our alumni, and our administration has had the same approach, [Temple athletic director] Arthur Johnson has been absolutely phenomenal since the day I got here.
CoBL: Can you cook?
Adam Fisher: *Laughs* I do not, I do not.
CoBL: Talking about the changes in college basketball — Villanova just hired a General Manager, Baker Dunleavey, to oversee the non-basketball areas of the program. Is that becoming the future of college basketball, to have folks in those managerial roles within the program?
Adam Fisher: I don’t want to speak too much on stuff, I just don’t know what Baker’s title description and everything would be. I think you’re leaning towards having more people around your program that used to be solely basketball-focused, I think you’re starting to see people branch out. You see different titles, whether it be a director of recruiting, that’s a new title that’s out there, chief of staff, so I think, so I think you’re gonna have some people whether it be community engagement, or more of a liaison to your academics, whatever it may be, I think you’re seeing more of those positions around college basketball based on all of the changes.
CoBL: You had a director of recruiting at Penn State. Are there any different positions you’ve found helpful that you’re trying to pitch to bring to Temple?
Adam Fisher: To be determined. We’re working on some outside-the-box things, we’ll see what happens, but right now I’ve got my three assistants, our director of ops should be starting next week, then we’re gonna go from there.
CoBL: April live periods are coming up here, used to be a huge deal in the recruiting landscape, but now with the transfer portal, what is the focus on the live period weekends?
Adam Fisher: I think it’s a different focus. Obviously I wanna have our staff out there, so there are certain guys that’ll definitely be out and evaluating, because we gotta find young, talented guys, especially local guys, so that’s gonna be a big thing for us. But I also think I owe it to our current team to keep building our roster, so if that means I can’t go on the road right now, I trust my staff to be out there — I might have to stay back and continue to work here, that’s what I’ll do.
So I think there’s gonna be a great balance, making sure we identify young guys but I think there’s so many great programs, AAU programs right here close to us, and we’re a national brand, we’ve gotta look at some of our connections, and that’s why I hired some of our staff, get some connections out of the state. But then I think we also gotta make sure we’re focused on having a great team this year, we owe it to our fans, we owe it to our players so we’re gonna do our best to have a great combination of the two.
CoBL: How much of the 2023-24 schedule are games that were already under contract, and how much do you have to put together for next year?
Adam Fisher: It’s interesting because I’ve done scheduling probably the last five years but it’s a little different league-to-league what you do, so obviously with the three Big 5 [games] that’s set, we have an event that was already set before we got here, I believe a couple games were set. So I don’t know all numbers yet, we’ll work with Derek Horne and Arthur, our administration, we’re gonna put together a great schedule, we gotta make sure we’re ready for conference play, I wanna challenge our guys, so we’re gonna have a great schedule, we’re excited, that puts us in position to play into March.
CoBL: It’s a new-look AAC, you’re going to be new to it anyways. What do you know about this conference as it’s changing and how do you sell that to a recruit?
Adam Fisher: I think it’s changed and you see it lost some really good programs but you’re bringing in some really good programs that are gonna be challenging to play, especially with the success they had last year — you bring in three teams that were I believe in the final four of their postseason tournaments, which is great for the league, I think it’s a great league, I really do, I got to talk to the commissioner earlier in the week, he’s excited, I’m excited. So I think there’s gonna be a lot of challenges, this is a really good league, and I’m gonna continue to study it all summer, and we’ll be ready to go, hopefully, in November.
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