Gene Cross has spent his first few weeks as University of Toledo men's basketball coach hitting the recruiting trail hard, but that doesn't mean he hasn't picked up a few things about the Mid-American Conference along the way.
"I was out on the road last weekend and [Miami associate head coach] Jermaine Henderson gave me a bit of advice," Cross said. "He said, 'If you're going to lose at Ohio, don't lose on a last-second shot. You can lose by 10 or 15, and already have told the guys not to foul in the last two minutes.' "
Henderson then recited the "Winning Team, Losing Team" cheer the Ohio student section is known for and how it might feel particularly painful to hear it in the midst of a tough loss.
"I got indoctrinated that way by some of the other coaches, what it's like going on the road to Miami, what it's like going to OU," Cross said. "I've gotten little tidbits of information about the league from guys about scheduling travel plans, and even about my own team."
Up until the last day of the contact period yesterday, Cross has been constantly traveling to see players work out and attending tournaments. Last weekend he was at the King James Classic in Akron.
"I think it's been great from my perspective," Cross said. "I think even as a head coach I will recruit like an assistant coach. The response I've gotten from Ohio AAU coaches has been great. They want to send some of their kids to Toledo."
Cross said he is close to securing a few commitments with his three open scholar-ships for 2008-09. He is looking at junior college and prep school players for some experience and would like to get a freshman as well.
"You have to be very careful," Cross said. "You don't want to bring in somebody that's not going to be there for the long haul while you're there. You don't want to get a stop-gap guy, you want to get a guy that can contribute.
"I'm not here to win just three years from now, I want to win right now. I told our guys and this is true, you have pieces of the puzzle we just have to fill in holes here and there."
The May 21 date that signifies the end of the NCAA's late signing period does not concern Cross. He said a player could sign a tender of financial assistance after that point and the only difference would be that he would not be allowed to talk publicly about him until the first day of classes.
Cross was able to meet with incoming point guard Larry Bastfield and his father, Larry Sr., recently and came away pleased.
"Just his style, the way he carries himself is impressive," Cross said. "That's the type of kid that I envisioned being here. I want guys that you feel proud that they're proud of this program."
The current players have final exams this week and Cross will hold an end-of-year meeting with the team today. He plans to watch games from last year to determine what he wants to work on first, but a few offseason workout sessions have already given him a few topics to address.
"That was eye opening to say the least," Cross said. "I'm 36 years old and I was out there doing some of the things they were doing, probably a little bit harder than they were doing them. I'm looking forward to pushing them beyond where they even know they can go."
Cross said he hopes to have assistant coach hires announced in the next few weeks.
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