Sunday, November 9, 2014

In the Dog Pen: exclusive interview with Wofford men's basketball associate head coach Dustin Kerns

Today, Wofford men's basketball associate head coach Dustin Kerns comes "In the Dog Pen" to talk about the upcoming season.

Courtesy Dustin Kerns
Kerns, who spent four seasons (2004-2007) as an assistant coach with the program, returned as the Terriers' associate head coach in 2013. He graciously responded to several inquiries concerning the 2014-15 Terrier basketball season with excellent insight into the team's preparation and outlook.

You served as an assistant coach at Wofford from 2004-2007, before returning as Associate Head Coach in 2013. What has changed the most about this program since your first tenure with the Terriers, and what has largely stayed the same?

KernsFirst of all, there is only one common denominator of Wofford basketball over the last 26 years and that is Mike Young. The daily approach of Wofford basketball has stayed the same with having a blue collar, tough-minded, 'us against the world'-type attitude which everyone in the program wears like a badge of honor. It starts with Mike Young and is passed on each season through our players and gains momentum each year. The one aspect that has changed is the external excitement around the program to win and that is certainly a positive. We have a strong Wofford community of alumni, supporters, and fans who have grown to expect us to compete and challenge for the Southern Conference Championship each season. We would not have it any other way and certainly hope Wofford basketball continues to be a topic of conversation year around.  

What do you feel sets Wofford apart from other schools, whether large or small, in the recruiting game?

KernsTough question, but easy answer: our people. Wofford is a special place and in the recruiting game, you cannot take the buildings, dorms, trees, fountain, arena, and all of the many beautiful aspects our campus provides with you when you graduate from here. However, you can take the relationships with you, and at Wofford that is going to be a substantial amount because there is a true sense of genuine responsibility by our coaches, administrators, faculty, and undoubtedly everyone on our campus. Wofford College is real and the experiences our student-athletes get are distinct because of the people here on campus. Also, to mention that includes everyone from the President to the professors to the cafeteria workers to the maintenance crew. Everyone here is teaching life lessons and everyone is bought into making the Wofford experience incomparable.

Can you tell us a little more about the unique qualities that each freshman player (Derrick Brooks, Cameron Jackson, Larry McKnight, Jr., Bobby Perez) brings to the program?

We have a great group of freshmen and they all represent Wofford College and our basketball program in a first class manner. They take the classroom very seriously and all have an inner drive to be great on the court. They are all team first people with a great work ethic. We are very excited about the future for all of these young men!

Is there anyone, in your opinion, whose contributions are largely overlooked?

KernsOur trainer Alyss Hart and walk-on players. Alyss Hart is our Head Athletic Trainer and she does a great job keeping our players healthy and being proactive with doing her best to prevent injuries as well. She has a great pulse on each player and she evaluates them daily. She is very critical to our players and team’s success. Our walk on players are treated like every player and we appreciate the sacrifice and what they do for our team. Zach Korkowski, Eric Wagenlander, Jeremiah Tate, and Bobby Perez participate in every practice and are essential in playing on our scout team. They, along with an assistant coach, will prepare our team for an upcoming opponent. Each of them study our opponents and know personnel and plays. They are all high-character people and are a huge part of our team.

Looking at this year’s SoCon field, which has changed quite a bit over the last few years, who do you feel will be the Terriers’ most formidable opponent, and why?

KernsThis is not “coach talk,” but the Southern Conference is a balanced and deep league. We add three quality programs with Mercer, East Tennessee State and VMI--all whom played in post-season play last season and have a rich tradition in basketball. The SoCon has great coaches and staffs that are going to recruit well, so our league will continue to be a balanced and competitive league each year. The SoCon is going to be very a very exciting and challenging league for years to come!

Is anyone on the coaching staff affected by pressure to continue the program’s recent success? Are any of the players? If so, what steps are you, as a program, taking to alleviate some of that stress?

KernsAll of our pressure comes internally. We do not worry about things we cannot control but if you are a player or coach in athletics you have the disease of competition. The drive to compete together one day at a time and worry about things we can control. We want players that want to continue the program’s success and play in big games and take big shots but this is not something we ever talk about. We talk about what we can control and that is our attitude and effort and becoming the best team we can be.

What is the one thing that you and the other staff members are preaching day in and day out to your team?

KernsOur season is all about the process and handling adversity. Every team will face adversity either it is within a game or during the course of the season, but which team handles it the best will have the best chance of standing on the top of the mountain in the end. Climbing to the mountain is a process and there will be some bumps in the road, storms to weather, and we must do it together. We approach one day at a time and along the journey we must have great habits, hold each other accountable, and ultimately perform together. You cannot go from A to Z without going through B, C, D, etc. We are process- and growth-oriented and know we have a lot we can be better at.

Any additional comments about the upcoming season?

Kerns: We are excited to get going and see our fellow Terrier fans in the stands. Let’s make Ben Johnson Arena a packed house every night we play! We need it packed and loud!

We'd like to extend a great thanks to Coach Kerns for taking the time to participate in this interview, which should make Terrier fans even more excited for the advent of this season.

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