Jerome Tang is hitting the precise notes at Kansas State the place the first-year coach has been an immediate hit


MANHATTAN, Kan. – That is the job Jerome Tang needed. Greater than the others. That a lot was clear final spring when the long-time Baylor assistant arrange his Alexa to play “Wabash Cannonball” because the Kansas State search committee walked via the door.

Tang knew precisely the assertion he was making earlier than the interview started. That Okay-State struggle tune has been seared into the fiber of each Wildcat because it was the final piece of sheet music rescued from an on-campus hearth within the late Sixties.  

The 56-year-old native of Trinidad and Tobago needed to be a part of that fiber. 

“We had been imagined to do a two-hour interview,” Okay-State athletic director Gene Taylor recalled. “An hour into it, he did a lot of the speaking. He walked us via offense, protection. He mentioned, ‘I’ve acquired to go to the restroom.’ I mentioned, ‘Fellas, I am carried out. What are we doing? Let’s make a proposal.’ “

That is the quick model of why Kansas State is No. 5 within the AP High 25, its highest rating since reaching No. 3 in 2010-11, and leads the Large 12 nearing the midway level of the convention season. Following Bruce Weber’s firing, Tang took over a workforce that had two scholarship gamers, added 13 new faces and blended it into what’s presently the most effective begin within the nation by a first-year Division I head coach (17-2). The Cats have already gained three extra video games than they did all final season. 

The long-form story has as many layers because the coach himself. You simply need to be affected person sufficient to peel them away. You needed to watch all the best way to the postgame celebration following Okay-State’s 68-58 win over Texas Tech. Tang rushed into the coed part to bop with the scholars to the strains of that beloved struggle tune. 

That was the identical sport “Sandstorm”  – a 1999 electro-synth tune that has advanced into the Wildcats’ hype music – was performed in Bramlage Coliseum this season. It had been silenced as a result of college students historically have chanted “F— KU” together with the beat. On Saturday, they as an alternative rhythmically chanted “Okay-S-U”.

They usually had been pleased with themselves having taken Tang’s message to coronary heart: Make it extra about Kansas State than the opponent and eliminate the profanity. 

“We have not been in a position to play it,” a giddy Taylor mentioned. “I might strive it earlier than he acquired right here they usually’d begin chanting it and I would cease. I simply lower it off. We have carried out every little thing. I’ve gone to the scholars. The presidents have gone [to them]. He alone acquired it [done]. 

‘That’s the first time we performed Sandstorm with out ‘F-KU.’ “

That’s the ancillary profit to an entire workforce that options the 2020 SEC Preseason Participant of the Yr (Florida switch Keyontae Johnson) and one of many smallest gamers in Division I. Spunky guard Markquis Nowell is listed at 5-foot-9 however says he’s “a legit 5-7.”

The fifth-year senior level guard can also be the No. 2 scorer in Large 12 video games. 

“Nothing frightens me,” mentioned Nowell, one in all 4 New York Metropolis native on the roster. “I give this sport my all. An outdated head again in New York advised me if I might survive in New York, I might survive anyplace. I did a reasonably good job of surviving in New York.”

Put it this fashion: There’s arguably much less contact within the Large 12 than at legendary Rucker Park on one hundred and fifty fifth Road the place Nowell refined his sport.  

Wildcat followers wild about Tang

Tang was Scott Drew’s loyal right-hand man, ace recruiter and one of the vital revered assistants within the nation for 19 years. However who knew the out of the blue nationwide coach of the 12 months candidate had this sort of speedy turnaround means and … swag? 

College students participated in a Tang chugging contest throughout a timeout. Followers lined up courtside for an viewers Saturday after the coach’s postgame look on the Wildcat radio community sporting “Tang You Very A lot” T-shirts 

“They’re promoting like loopy,” one fawning fan advised Tang. 

That is not ignoring “Hangin’ With Tang”, a sequence of chats with the coach who had the concept of dragging a sofa into the coed union and rapping with the rank and file.

Tang had been dancing by himself on the courtroom after wins, however determined spontaneously Saturday to hitch the scholars. All of it appears pure, not grandstanding, in a sport whose tradition is way more flamboyant than its faculty soccer counterpart. 

Who knew Tang had this a lot charisma … and affect? On Tuesday following the upset of then-No. 2 Kansas, Tang grabbed a mic, jumped on the scorer’s desk and issued what may as properly be his Wildcat manifesto on sportsmanship and kicking a rival’s butt

“I advised y’all we might get you one courtroom storming,” he concluded. “From right here on out, anticipate to win.”

Thirty-four-year-old Bramlage Coliseum could have by no means been louder. 

“All of America listens in,” Tang advised CBS Sports activities in a personal second following Saturday’s win. “We get a couple of minutes to ship a message to them. Is the message that we need to hear ‘KU’ — even when they do not hear the ‘F’ — or do we would like them to listen to ‘KSU’?

A minimum of for now, the nation has its reply. A workforce picked final out of 10 groups within the Large 12 preseason is now prime 10 within the nation. These Wildcats slot in with the cuddly underdog function cultivated for years by corridor of fame soccer coach Invoice Snyder. 5 stars do not usually come to Manhattan. Kansas State is a developmental program in each main income sports activities. 

However there has seldom been a greater time to be a Wildcat. Okay-State gained the Large 12 in soccer with a backup quarterback (Will Howard), a 5-6 tailback (Deuce Vaughn) and a Large 12 defensive participant of the 12 months (edge Felix Anudike-Uzomah) who arrived on campus as a three-star prospect.

Tang’s finest participant arrived with promise, fanfare and a few historical past. Johnson hadn’t performed since December 2020 when he collapsed on the courtroom at Florida. The precise nature of a coronary heart ailment that triggered a nine-day hospitalization and included a medically-induced coma has by no means been revealed. 

After collapsing on the courtroom when he performed for Florida, Keyontae Johnson has thrived for the Wildcats.
Getty Photographs

Florida paid the premium on a $5 million insurance coverage coverage that assured funds in case Johnson’s skilled profession was impacted. Nonetheless, the college didn’t clear him medically. Johnson entered the switch portal final Might. Johnson advised CBS Sports activities in October that he did not begin understanding till two months earlier “when Kansas State cleared me.”

“Some colleges had been undoubtedly scared to take a danger with me,” Johnson mentioned earlier than the season.

Nonetheless, Kansas State wasn’t alone in considering Johnson was value a shot. Johnson mentioned he was additionally pursued by Western Kentucky, USC and Memphis

“I name it a rebirth, a second likelihood,” Johnson mentioned. “[God] gave me a second likelihood. I thank him for the chance to get up each morning.”

Okay-State additionally needed to vet accusations of sexual assault in opposition to Johnson final 12 months. The Florida state lawyer’s workplace mentioned it didn’t proceed partially as a result of Johnson and his accuser had earlier consensual relationships. Johnson asserted in an announcement on the time he did nothing mistaken. 

“Jerome acquired quite a lot of tales and police stories,” Taylor mentioned. “I simply requested him to dig deep and he did. We felt fairly good. There weren’t any prices.”

Halfway via what tasks to be his final season earlier than a shot on the NBA, the brawny 6-6 Johnson leads the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding (third and second within the Large 12 in these classes). 

With 10 minutes left in Saturday’s sport Johnson did not have a area aim. He completed together with his third double-double of the season (15 factors, 11 rebounds). 

Earlier this season, Nowell went for 36 in opposition to Texas and 32 in opposition to Baylor in back-to-back video games, simply the the third Division I participant to mix for at the least 65 factors and 20 assists in consecutive video games within the final 10 years, in keeping with Sports activities Illustrated. The opposite two had been Trae Younger and Ja Morant. 

How Tang rebuilt Okay-State’s roster

The whining from faculty soccer concerning the switch portal ought to take a tip from faculty basketball. The game has been coping with huge roster turnover for years. Tang has refined the artwork. Nowell and Ish Massoud had been the one remaining scholarship gamers. Massoud, a sinewy 6-9 backup ahead, has been so efficient in convention play (52% from the arc) his nickname has turn out to be “Large 12 Ish.” 

Seven Wildcats entered the season with one or two years’ eligibility left.

“It actually reminds us of what we did final 12 months,” mentioned Texas Tech coach Mark Adams. 

In Adams’ first season the Pink Raiders gained 27 video games and superior to the Candy 16 after shedding eight gamers to commencement or switch.

“We had been ready to usher in some high quality transfers that had been older,” Adams added. “There’s a lot to be mentioned for guys with one 12 months left, even with two. These guys sort of are available in with a brand new sense of urgency. They need to be coached, make this their final 12 months particular.” 

Roster administration should never be an issue at Okay-State. Tang was with Drew after they cobbled collectively a roster of largely walk-ons after crippling NCAA sanctions following the Dave Bliss scandal in 2003.  

That near-death penalty was the rationale Drew was employed and ultimately constructed Baylor – with Tang’s assist – right into a nationwide program. 

“There have been instances this summer time, in July, the place Jerome was nonetheless in search of dudes,” Taylor mentioned. “I am like, ‘Are you panicking, as a result of I’m?’ He mentioned, ‘Ah, no, Gene.’ He may need been [OK] however he was placing on a superb entrance.”

No must panic. Tang satisfied Johnson and his dad and mom by reminding them he had coached two Baylor gamers with coronary heart points – Jared Butler and King McClure. Each continued to play after being identified with a situation referred to as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Butler performed within the NBA. 

“I understand how to assist them get again in form,” Tang mentioned. “I had carried out it earlier than.”

However why Kansas State and why now? Drew advised CBS Sports activities his former assistant would obtain curiosity from 1-2 applications a 12 months. Tang would interview however the time wasn’t proper. Tang and his spouse Careylyen had been empty nesters for the primary time. Each kids (Seven and Aylyn) are in faculty. The query grew to become: Why not Okay-State?

Sure, it lives in that lengthy, lengthy shadow solid from down the highway in Lawrence. Nevertheless it’s nonetheless a excessive main with a great deal of custom. Not too long ago, Okay-State has gained a share of the Large 12 regular-season title twice since 2013. Weber’s 2018 group went to the Elite Eight. 

“Coach Drew advised me, ‘Get it, then determine it out if you would like it,’ Tang recalled. “If I had been, like, ‘Properly, I am undecided,’ then possibly I am not the most effective model of myself. So I simply went at it like that is the one job I would like in America.”

Tang does not simply reply questions. He considers them, rolls them round in his appreciable basketball thoughts and divulges himself – sure, layer by layer. Solely Nowell and Massoud remained as scholarship gamers. However they needed to remain. 

They simply wanted a motive.

Nowell acquired it when he texted Taylor urging him to rent Tang. The guard had gotten a scouting report from his 28-year outdated brother Marcus who had carried out his analysis. 

“He noticed the 19 years, the successful,” Nowell mentioned. “He advised me Coach Tang is the man Okay-State actually wants to rent … He’s someone who God despatched to me at Kansas State College.”

They needed construction. 

Tang stopped follow final week and despatched his gamers residence after he sensed a Kansas hangover. With 13 minutes left Saturday it appeared like that hangover hadn’t lifted. The Wildcats trailed by eight to a workforce that hadn’t gained since December.

Tang referred to as a timeout. One thing was mentioned within the huddle and off the Wildcats went – on a 31-13 run, on a Sandstorm frenzy, and on right into a wide-open future with their coach dancing to the “Wabash Cannonball.”



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