Courtesy of K-State Athletics
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State formally introduced new head coach Jerome Tang to the public during a press conference on Thursday (March 24) in the Shamrock Zone on the north concourse of Bramlage Coliseum.
Tang, 55, was hired as the school’s 25th head men’s basketball coach on Monday afternoon (March 21) after serving as one of the architects in helping Baylor into a national powerhouse in his 19 seasons (2003-22) as an assistant and associate head coach. He played an instrumental role in building the Bears program from one rocked by scandal and NCAA probation into one that has developed into one of the nation’s top programs highlighted by the 2021 NCAA Championship and consecutive Big 12 regular-season titles in 2021 and 2022. He served his first 14 seasons (2003-17) on staff as an assistant coach before being promoted to associate head coach in 2017.
Tang was joined at Thursday’s introductory press conference by K-State President Dr. Richard Linton and Director of Athletics Gene Taylor as well as his family, which included his wife Careylyen (Rey), son Seven, daughter Aylyn, parents Paul and Bano Tang and in-loves Calvin and Carolyn Carter.
Tang agreed to a 6-year contract, which was approved by the K-State Athletics, Inc., Board of Directors and President Linton. Tang will be paid $2.1 million in 2022-23 and will receive a $100,000 base salary increase each year remaining on the contract ($2.2 million in 2023-24, $2.3 million in 2024-25, $2.4 million in 2025-26, $2.5 million in 2026-27 and $2.6 million in 2027-28).
Tang will be the first Black men’s head basketball coach in school history and just the fifth minority men’s head coach in school history, following former baseball coach Dave Baker (1978-83), former football coach Ron Prince (2006-08), former men’s basketball coach Frank Martin (2007-12) and current women’s tennis coach Jordan Smith (2018-present).
FULL PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
GENE TAYLOR, DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS
“What a great day. What a great day to be a Wildcat! Just really can’t thank everybody enough for being here. We’re really excited about having Coach Tang with us. I want to thank President Linton for his support throughout the process, making sure he was aware of who we were talking to and making sure he was on board, and he certainly was. He had a chance to talk with Jerome on Sunday, and he called me and he said, ‘Gene, you absolutely got the right guy.’ So, appreciate your support. Couple other guys – Kenny Lannou, Casey Scott and Josh McCowan were instrumental in this whole process. Keeping me A) calm and B) focused and just really digging into our candidates and really driving the message of what we need here at K-State. They have been here a long time and are familiar with our basketball program. So, I can’t thank those guys enough. Thank you, guys very much. Certainly, our search firm, Katie and Chad, from Turnkey Sports really dug deep down and found some really great candidates. I will tell you – and I told the players this – there was a high interest in this program. There was a high interest because of the history of the program. There was a high interest because of the players that were here, and there was a high interest because it’s K-State Basketball.
“So, one of the things people asked me is, ‘So, what were you looking for? What were you looking for in the next head coach?’ And quite honestly, I answered that a lot of the characteristics and things that Bruce Weber brought to us – high character, integrity, doing it the right way, building a successful program in the right way, and treating players well. Also, when we’re looking for our coach, we felt that’s where we needed to start. When we met Jerome in Kansas City, we met him for an hour. I didn’t really know who he was, personally. I’d heard of him, and he was identified early in the process as somebody we really wanted to talk to. I will tell you that first hour we’re like, ‘Okay, the bar has been set pretty high.’ And we said that everyone we talked to after this is gonna really have to try and match that bar. We talked to some great candidates, all head coaches, and every time we kept coming back to Jerome and kept coming back to saying, ‘We have got to find out more about who he is as a person.’ We went to his home in Waco this past Sunday. You know, sometimes you think you’ll be there for an hour, but three hours later, we basically had to leave because some time they had to have dinner as a family. But it was just a fit and you felt. We felt a strong connection we had to him, and him to us, and more importantly, him to our program.
“That’s what makes this hire so special because of who he is as a person. Strong characteristics like ethics, moral character, treating players the right way, and treating players beyond the court basketball was really important. He’s done that and he’s proven that his fingerprints are all over the Baylor program. And those of you that follow college basketball, you understand what they took over, and what they had to do to build the program to what it became. His fingerprints were all over it, and we found our guy. We found our guy that fit all of those characteristics, and that’s going to be able to lead us to sustain success at a high level, which is what everybody expects here. The players expect it, the fans expect it, we expect it, and the support staff expects it. That’s why all these people are here, because you all have that much care about this program. He’s feeling it from the day he got here.
“So, I am pleased to have his family here. His wife, Rey, his son, Seven, his daughter, Aylyn. He’s got both his parents and Rae’s parents here. He calls him his ‘in-loves.’ But it’s about the guy right here – I’m about to introduce to you our next head basketball coach at Kansas State University, Jerome Tang.”
JEROME TANG, HEAD COACH
“Having this done this as an assistant and in high school for so many years, there are a lot of people that I need to thank, and so I’m going to ask you to bear with me just just a little bit because I’ve dreamt of this moment for a long time. Along the way, there has been so many people that have helped me, and our program will be marked by three things – we’re gonna be tough, we’re going to be appreciative, and we’re gonna be passionate. We’re going to be tough, we’re going to be appreciative, we’re going to be passionate. I would be remiss if I didn’t take the time to be appreciative to the people who helped me get here. First, I want to thank the Good Lord. I think most of you know – and if you don’t, you’ll find out – that my faith is extremely important to me, and I’ll come back and talk about that. But next, I want to thank my family. I want to thank my mom and dad, who taught me work ethic and just showing up. Man, just show up, and they were always there for me. I want to thank my beautiful wife, Rey, and she doesn’t want me to make her stand up. My daughter, Aylyn, my son, Seven. I have two boys that I adopted and helped raise, Lamar and Richard, and they’re not here, but I’m extremely proud of them. I want to thank my in-loves, they’ve taken me in, other than that one time when I asked him to marry his daughter, and he said, ‘Hell boy, everything’s going well until you showed up!’ I want to thank Will Reese, my friend, my brother, appreciate you and everything you’ve done for me. When I was a high school coach, my first job, there was a lady by the name of Dr. Jennifer Cooper, and her husband, Royce, and a man by the name of David Kelly and his wife, Brenda. I’ve never been a coach before at all, and they took a chance on me and let me be their basketball coach, and I was blessed because those people trusted me. It started my career. I have to thank President (Robert B.) Sloan, who was the president of Baylor University when he allowed Coach (Scott) Drew to hire me and I didn’t have my degree. He told me that he trusted that I will do what it took to get it and do what it took to help the program be successful. I want to thank Dr. Linda Livingstone, who’s an unbelievable president, just a terrific woman, for her guidance, leadership and support. I’ve got to thank Mack Rhoades, what an unbelievable man of character. Trust, belief, just a terrific, terrific leader. Just really, really passionate about the student-athlete and about the people that he hires.
“And there’s this dude named Scott Drew. What I’ve found watching over the years when coaches leave programs and people leave and get other jobs, there’s this deep divide that takes place and it severs ties. I’m going let y’all know that’s not gonna happen except for two or three nights a year when it’s going to be real, real, real, real tough… on them. When Coach found out I got the job, he came over that night and he brought with him a bottle of wine that someone had given to him in 2003 when he took the job at Baylor. They told him, ‘I want you to drink this when you want to celebrate something that’s really, really great.’ Well, we won an NIT championship, we went to Sweet 16s, we went to two Elite Eights, we went to a Final Four and a National Championship, and won the Big 12 again, and that bottle was still closed. But when I got this job, he came over with his wife to open that with me. See, those kinds of ties, those deep bonds that take colleagues to become friends and to become brothers for life, that’s what we’re gonna do here. I plan to be at your weddings. I plan to send you something for when you have your first son or daughter is born. I’m going to have the picture up on my refrigerator and in my office. The kind of bonds that are not broken when you change colors, the kind of bonds that are not broken by distance or time. Scott Drew is a terrific man, but I expect you students to give him a hard time when they come here.
“We have terrific staff, and I can’t name them all but just men that my brothers, and they’re going to be my confidantes and they want me to be successful. Matt Driskel, Grant McCasland, Paul Mills, John Jankins, Albert Brooks III, Jared Nunez, Bill Peterson, and I could go on and on. Jason Smith, Ty Beard. I’d just hate if I’ve missed somebody, and that’s why I didn’t want to name names, but my mom knows I can’t be up here for a short time. She said I talk a lot. Our former players and our current players who every single one of them has texted me congratulations. Just because of them I’m standing here.
“Let’s not get this twisted. This is not about me, right? This about ya’ll. This is about ya’ll. The success of this program will depend on you and the players that we bring in. Okay? It’s about players, and so we have to get players and the way you get players is you get them here and that you have great fans, because kids want to play in front of great fans and in great communities. That’s what attracted me to this place. I was always blown away by the fans and the community and the energy and just extremely, extremely thankful for that.
“I must thank President Linton. It was a great Zoom. I’ll tell you he was the only person in the whole group that taught me how to do the ‘Go Cats.’ I understand why they call you the ‘GOAT’, it’s not just because of the masks and the day off, right? I want to thank Kenny (Lannou), and Josh (McCowan), and Casey (Scott), these guys are great. They came to the house, we had a great time, they were awesome. Said some things that allowed our hearts to connect. Rey and I, we really we prayed for peace, just before we met with them and they walked in the door and there was just a great sense of peace. So I’m thankful for those guys. Then for Gene Taylor. I did my homework, too, and everyone I called talked about what a great reputation he has and what a great boss he is and how he has your back and you can trust him and how real he is. I’m just telling you when he sat in the chair – and I don’t know if he was supposed to do it at that time or not, the code word didn’t work. He’s trying to figure out what the code word was, I actually took the 30-second timeout so they could discuss the code word. He came back and he looked at me and said, ‘Look, I want you to be my head coach of our basketball program, and I trust you that you’re going to do the right thing and you’re going to help us win. I feel it with all my heart.’ Gene, I can’t thank you enough for that.
“Then, of course, I want to thank the K-State Family, the student body, alumni and former players, alumni and legends, for allowing me the opportunity to steward your program. This is your program. It’s not about me, it’s about us. I have this quote on my desk that says, ‘It’s unlimited what you can accomplish when nobody cares who gets the credit.’ Right? I don’t care. I don’t care who gets the credit. Let’s just go accomplish it together. Let’s just all roll up our sleeves and be the very best version of ourselves every day.
“And so I learned this phrase. EMAW. EMAW! I get goosebumps. Every Man a Wildcat. I did some research, I researched Wildcats. There are two species of wildcats, the European wildcat, the African Wildcat, but they have a couple things in common. They’re intelligent, and they are active. I’ll see you Willie! They are intelligent, and they are active. That fits great because on the court, we’re gonna be smart and aggressive. We’re going to be smart, and we’re gonna be aggressive. Now, there’s one other common trait they have, Gene, is that they’re nocturnal. So fellas, I expect you be up in the gym at night getting up shots, stay away from Aggieville and get up shots.
“This is an unbelievable blessing. I’ve lived a blessed life, but this is just the start of some really, really big things that’s going to happen with everyone’s help, with all of the K-State Family, all of Wildcat Nation. We’re going to accomplish great things together, and it’s not going to take long. It is not going to take long. I didn’t come to rebuild. I came to elevate.”
On addressing the team for the first time…
“It was kind of overwhelming because I have dreamt of doing it for so long, but you never know exactly the situation you’re going to walk into. I loved the eye contact, guys were sitting up and paying attention. I feell there was a connection, and we’re going to find out in these workouts coming up.”
On keeping his emotions in check..
“I really don’t want to keep it in check. This is who I am. I’m really passionate, I care deeply, I have no problem crying, I have no problem laughing, I have no problem cheering. That’s my heart. When I really, really care about something, I’m all in. So, obviously, you want to seem like you’re composed, but I am who I am.”
On his favorite memory of playing K-State over the years..
“See, what would be my favorite memories are not really what you want to hear. So, really what you want to know is what are those depressing times. Rodney McGruder – we threw the ball the length of the court in Waco and Isiaah Austin didn’t touch it, and the pass was high. Then they had an under-OB with one second to go, and Rodney McGruder came up. We played zone, and our guy did the wrong thing in the zone and he got a catch-and-shoot three to win the game. That was a pretty big moment. We played when Frank Martin was the coach and LaceDarius Dunn was on the team. We came for shootaround and found a scouting report left out. In the scouting report, it said Lace was selfish and he didn’t play any defense on the scouting report. So, LaceDarius proceeded to make like eight threes that game, and every time he made one, he looked at the bench and smiled at Frank Martin. It was hilarious. Now, I think I found out later that Coach Mills faked the scouting report. I’ve had some great memories both on the winning side of it and on the losing side of things. What I really remember is the student body. I really remember how cool it was to watch them come running in, and I remember them tearing up the paper and throwing it up in the air and saying, ‘Man, that’s so cool. Lock in, lock in, brother, you’ve got to go get a win.’ So, the environment of the games are the things that you remember.”
On how he got his confidence..
“The same way our guys are gonna get it. I trust my work, right? It’s not about on the day if you’re making shots and not making shots. You’ve got to trust your work. When you put in the work, you can go out there and play confidently. The only reason I’m here is because I work hard. My parents are immigrants, I am an immigrant. Nobody handed us anything. We just out-worked people. When you out-work people, they make excuses about why they are losing to you, or they’ve gotta give you credit. We’re going to get credit because we are going to be able to step out on the court and trust the work that we put in. So, it’s the work.”
On the emotions landing in Manhattan…
“Well, I was hoping that Emily (Starkey) would be able to get that iconic shot again (overlooking the athletics complex), but it was cloudy. So, she couldn’t get the pic, but it was really cool. Since Gene and them left the house, I’ve really had a peace about this. People keep asking, ‘Are you overwhelmed?’ I’m more overwhelmed by the emotion of the reception and how people have really embraced me. To know that there’s a community that cares about me already, and they don’t really even know me, that’s what’s been more overwhelming than the task at hand.”
On what the most proud of that hard work has given him ..
“I think the fact that Gene or anybody on the group could call people all over the country and ask about me and most people are going to say good things. That the hard work has produced a reputation. There’s a saying, ‘First you form habits, and then habits form you.’ I believe that my habits of hard work has formed the reputation of my character.”
On why he took the K-State job over other opportunities…
“Because Gene said yes, if you want to know how smart our athletic director is. Also, I firmly believe, in this wonderful book that I like to read, it says that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord. I believe that they’re have been opportunities that I wanted to take, and they were blocked on purpose because there was something greater that was planned in my life. When people tell you no, it can impact your ego or make you feel bad about yourself or you can say, ‘God said something bigger for me.’ I’m here, bigger, better.”
On Name, Image and Likeness…
“I believe that student-athletes should be able to take advantage of the opportunity to make money off of their name, their image, their likeness. To stop a young man or to steal his identity and not allow him to profit from it, that’s wrong. So, I’m all about that. The thing is, though, that in the sport we play of basketball, all these guys, they want to play professionally and get to the NBA. That’s the dream, right? So an NBA contract if you’re a first-round draft pick could be anywhere from $23 million to $9 million. The best NIL deal last year – and this isn’t football – is maybe $1.5 million. That’s like pennies to dollars. So, instead of chasing the pennies, we’re going to be in the gym so we can chase the dollars. It doesn’t make any sense to make a few dollars in college and not get a chance to reach your dreams. You need to be pursuing your dreams. We’ll do everything we can to help in that aspect. But, the focus has got to be on the basketball and on being the best player and winning the most games as you can as team, because 80% of young men who were drafted, they get drafted because they played in the NCAA Tournament.”
1-ON-1 BREAKOUT TRANSCRIPT
GENE TAYLOR, DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS
On the budget going into the coaching search…
“We knew where Bruce was and his staff, and we felt that most of all of our candidates we talked to would fit in to that. We weren’t going to be cheap, but we were going to try to get the best candidate and we were also going to pay a fair amount. He’s a first-time head coach, and we weren’t going to low ball him because we wanted to make sure that we got him and make sure he was comfortable with the offer and make sure that he could get the assistants that he needed. We felt pretty good about it, and he felt pretty good about it. We’re very comfortable and we’re still building it out a little bit.”
On how quickly he knew Coach Tang was the right guy…
“You don’t want to say that it was the first time you talked to him because he was the first guy and literally just walked in between games on that Friday, but the way he impressed us was his energy, his passion, he was funny, and he knew us already. He had already done his homework from the first time we reached out to him, but we said we have to challenge ourselves to go out and to talk to really capable coaches, and we did that. We talked to some really good coaches, but at the end of the day, we kept coming back to Jerome. We all said that we had to move pretty quickly, so that’s why we flew to Waco. That’s when I was done at that point. I was going to offer him. He was joking about the code word, and I’ll tell you the story about that. As we were driving from the airport to his house, our search firm guy said, ‘Hey, are we going to come up with a code word for if we want to get out of the house early?’ Well, we couldn’t come up with a code word at the time. So, we were literally there for three hours, and about three-quarters of the way through there was a kind of break and I said, ‘Okay, what’s the code word?’, and everybody looked at me and was like, ‘Forget the code word! Just offer him the job!’ So, it didn’t take long, and he was just so knowledgeable of us, how he taught basketball, and he had film up while we were there. At that point, it just became that we felt really good about him as a person and as a family. So, that’s why we offered him there.”
On how soon the assistants will be announced…
“I think pretty soon. You have to kind of work through who he wants to talk to, and we have to get through background checks, approval, and all of that stuff. So, I imagine if we can help him through that process, then they’ll be announced, maybe not all of them, but probably a couple of them here soon.”
On how many candidates they talked to…
“Either physically talking to or on Zoom, there were probably seven or eight guys. They were all head coaches other than Jerome.”
MARKQUIS NOWELL, JUNIOR GUARD
On his impression of Coach Tang during his speech to the team…
“That was powerful. You could sense his energy. You could sense how passionate he is. His trust in the Lord is what really got me liking him and wanting to be close to him. His confidence spills on, not only everybody in this room, but myself, and I know my teammates. Today was one of the very few showings of Coach Tang and where his mind is at and what the future holds.”
On the team meeting him for the first time..
“It was pretty good. It was a good first impression. He was talking about winning. That’s a coach I want to be around. That’s a person I want to be around every day. If you’re not talking about winning, then we don’t want you in this program and we don’t want you here. His goal was to get one percent better each and every day for ourselves as players and coaching staff and even to the managers. As long as we get one percent better each and every day, we’re going to do some special things.”
On his experience with change…
“Change before was difficult. This change feels more peaceful and feels better. We know what coach we’re getting. He’s an everyday guy. He wants the same thing I want. We’re two passionate individuals who want to wear rings at the end of the year.”
On if he had such a good impression of Coach Tang…
“To be honest, I was a fan even when I didn’t know anything about him. Like he said, God is the centerstone of everything. When he talked about the Lord and things working toward your favor and people coming into your life, it just God’s direction. He was talking about winning and his passion for getting better. It was a no brainer. That’s somebody that I want to be around each and every day. That’s somebody that I want to play for, that I would go in and die for him if the case may be. His hunger and passion for winning is through the roof and so is mine.”
On playing in front of more fans…
“I know we’re going to have a lot more fans. It will be a whole different environment from last year and probably the previous years that K-State has had. But, it’s the same mindset when you step on the floor – come hungry and come passionate and have the will to win.”
ISMAEL MASSOUD, SOPHOMORE FORWARD
On the vibe he picked up from Coach Tang in their first meeting…
“He’s just a blue-collar guy. He’s hard-nosed, wants to work hard, get things out the mud, and try and get this program where it should be and that’s winning. He told us as one of the first things is that he plans on playing at this time next year. That’s something that we all wanted to hear.”
On the credit he brings by having won a national title…
“It doesn’t get any better than that in college basketball. Winning a national title is something that you dream of, and he was able to accomplish that. That is something that as players right now that we are hopeful that can happen.”
On his perspective on everything right now…
“I’m just being positive through it all. The way I look at it is just control what you can control and just lock in and keep working hard, working out, and working to get better. That looks like something that he also really values and talks about, winning everyday and going 1-0 everyday. So, that is a good mindset.”
On his first impression…
“He has great energy to himself. Someone said he has that silent confidence, he’s been there, he’s done it all at the highest level in college basketball. He knows what it takes to not only develop a winning culture and a winning program, but also develop great student-athletes and young men. That’s something that I’m looking forward to learning from him as well.”
On what excites him about Coach Tang..
“I feel like personally. He’s coached a lot of players similar to myself in terms of those taller, longer forwards that can shoot and are versatile pieces. That work ethic that he appreciates is something I have. I feel like we can create a great relationship.”
NIJEL PACK, SOPHOMORE GUARD
On losing the coaches who recruited him..
“It’s obviously been difficult, but we learned things in life are never what we want it to be. It was hard watching Coach Weber leave. Obviously it was emotional for all of us, but life goes on. We still love Coach Weber and everything he’s done for us. but it’s time to move on.”
On what he hopes to get out of the NBA Draft experience..
“Just to get better. Obviously, being a basketball player, the NBA is definitely everybody’s end goal. You get the opportunity to go out and get better and get feedback from people from places you want to play at. Obviously, that’s what we all want.”
On the transition…
“I’m getting really comfortable. Our teammates have been supporting each other. Each of us have been really patient in the process and taking our time. Trust Gene because he promised he was going to get someone good, and that’s what he did. We just had to trust him, trust each other, and we had to be patient.”
On what this team is capable of…
“Obviously, we got a lot of talent around us. We’re all getting older and getting experience. I definitely believe we’re an NCAA Tournament team. We should be playing at this time next year for sure.”
On the first team meeting with Coach Tang…
“It was exciting. You never know what he was going to say. It was our first official meeting. Got to see him not online but actually in person. He was very serious about what he said. He told us everything was about winning, and that’s what you really want to hear from your next head coach, that he wants to be a winner. He promised us that this time next year we were going to be playing.”