Jerod Haase isn’t one to engage in superstition, but if it’s good enough for his mentor and basketball coaching legend Roy Williams, then maybe it’s good enough for him, too.
Williams ordered his North Carolina basketball team off the bus in St. Louis prior to the Tar Heels’ NCAA Tournament game against Ohio University a couple of weeks ago. His charge to his team? Spit in the Mississippi River for good luck. UNC wound up squeaking by Ohio to advance to the Elite Eight.
The next day, Haase returned to his hotel room in St. Louis after watching film with one eye toward North Carolina’s next opponent and the other on his potential hire as the new head basketball coach at UAB. Suddenly, he became superstitious.
“I thought I needed to go back to the river, so I walked back down to the Mississippi and spit in it again,” Haase says. “But that one was for this job. So, yes, I spit in the Mississippi, and I’m a believer in it. It worked out well.”
Haase was introduced March 27 as the fifth coach in the 34-year history of the Blazer Men’s Basketball program. Haase, who turned 38 April 1, left his position as an assistant coach at the University of North Carolina. His goal for the Blazers, he says, is to win. And win big.
“I do not have a five-year plan,” he says. “This is not about five years from now. I hope to make the NCAA Tournament and do some damage in it. We can win, and we can win right away.”
Haase played for Williams at Kansas and has spent the past 13 years on Williams’ staff with the Jayhawks and at North Carolina. He helped the Tar Heels to national championships in 2005 and 2009. Known as a top recruiter, he also was the head coach for the junior varsity team five times in his nine-year UNC tenure.
What they’re saying about Jerod Haase
“I am elated for both Jerod and UAB. This will be a great marriage. He is one of the finest young men I have ever known. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind he is going to be a great head coach. The people at UAB can count on the fact that Jerod will spend every single day continuing to build a great program there. He has tremendous work ethic and enthusiasm and will bring imagination to the basketball staff and program. He is a tireless worker and will have a great deal of passion for not only the basketball program, but the entire university community.”
— Roy Williams, North Carolina Head Coach
“Coach Jerod Haase is a great match for UAB. His experience at UNC highlighted his dedication to college student athletes. He is honest and upfront with players, and every player he coaches will improve on and off the court. He is a hard worker, always well-prepared. UAB will be proud of the program he will establish.”
— Hubert Davis, ESPN
“It’s an outside-the-box hire, but I like it. Jerod Haase is a coach who obviously has the pedigree, playing at Kansas and coaching at both Kansas and North Carolina, but he’s extremely bright and versatile. I know some people may scratch their heads on this, but I’m not one of those. I think it’s a smart hire because Haase can coach, recruit and deal with people.”
— Jeff Goodman, CBSSports.com Senior Writer
“I am a big believer in Jerod Haase. He is an excellent basketball mind, and a terrific young coach that has a great understanding of the game, can X and O with anyone, and works his tail off. Jerod has a fabulous demeanor on the floor, and is an incredibly intense competitor. As fine of a coach as he is, he’s an even better person. UAB hit a home run with Haase.”
— Jay Bilas, ESPN
“Jerod Haase has been nothing but good to me while I’ve been a member of the North Carolina basketball family. He is one of those guys who is fun to be around because he can relate to the players. Anytime guys needed anything or had a question about anything, they could always go to coach Haase because he is so easy to talk to. I am very happy for him. He is an awesome guy and UAB made a very good choice.”
— Marvin Williams, Atlanta Hawks
“I consider Jerod to be one of the brightest young minds in the game of basketball. He’s a relentless worker and extremely positive. He knows how to win and how to build a program. Jerod is a complete professional and a high quality person from an integrity and ethical standpoint.”
— Chris Grant, Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager
“We are truly thrilled to have been able to attract a coach the caliber of Jerod Haase,” says UAB Director of Athletics Brian Mackin. “Having been a part of basketball at Kansas and North Carolina, he has been around winning programs his entire career, both as a player and coach. We know he will help elevate our program and excite our fans as we move forward with our program.”
“Jerod Haase is a terrific match for UAB,” says UAB President Carol Garrison. “As a former academic All-American, Coach Haase knows first-hand the importance of a rich academic experience. He is committed to developing a winning team and students who will win in life, and UAB is committed to helping him achieve those goals.
“Coach Haase will bring a very exciting brand of basketball to Bartow Arena. I’m looking forward to watching his teams compete,” Garrison says.
A 1997 Kansas graduate in business administration, Haase’s first job came at his alma mater as the director of basketball operations from 1999-2003. During that time, the Jayhawks reached the 2002 Final Four and the national championship game in 2003.
When Williams was named head coach at North Carolina prior to the 2003-04 season, he brought Haase with him as an assistant coach and director of operations, a title he held from 2003-09. It was a unique position that rotated from assistant coach to director of operations every other year. Haase has been an assistant coach exclusively since the 2009-10 season.
Haase promises that UAB’s style of play will be up-tempo offensively and defensively — and that it will have some hallmarks of Roy Williams-coached teams.
“We’re going to be pressuring people,” Haase says. “We’re going to run up and down the court. We’re going to have a system for how we do it. It’s not going to be out of control. I told them I’d be extremely disappointed if we don’t lead the league or are right there at the top in points scored every game. We’re going to have a fun team to watch.”
Haase made it clear he wanted to lead UAB’s basketball program during his interview.
“I told them that UAB is a job I’d walk to, and I would,” Haase says. “This is a dream situation because I can recruit at a high level here, and it’s a fantastic place to raise a family and be a part of the community. There’s a team here that has a chance to win and win big. It’s a dream situation to be able to work with the staff and administration that’s here right now. They’re good people, knowledgeable people. They care about this university, and I’ll do the same.
“This is a destination job for me,” Haase says. “This isn’t something where I’m thinking, ‘If I do well for a little bit maybe I can move on to something else.’ I want to be here.”
A native of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., Haase played basketball for the University of California in 1992-93 and then transferred to Kansas. He helped lead the Jayhawks to three consecutive conference titles and finished his career ranked in the top 10 among school leaders in assists, three-point field goals and steals.
He started 99 of 101 games at Kansas and scored 1,264 points, averaging 12.5 per game and reaching double figures 74 times. While at KU, Haase was a candidate for the Naismith and Wooden Awards.
Haase was a first-team GTE Academic All-American as a senior, a second-team Academic All-American as a junior and an academic all-conference selection three times. The Jayhawks’ Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 1997, Haase later earned a master’s degree in business at KU in 2000.
One of his goals, he says, is to provide the complete post-secondary education experience to his players.
“The fact that our kids are going to graduate is important to me,” Haase says. “The fact that we’re going to do things the right way and in a first-class manner is important to me. They’re going to be held accountable in the classroom. They’re going to be held accountable for doing things the right way and representing themselves, the team, the university and the city of Birmingham in the right way, as well.”
As a senior in 1996-97, Haase started with Jacque Vaughn, Scot Pollard, Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz as Kansas finished with a 34-2 record. He averaged 12.0 points per game despite playing with a broken wrist. As a sophomore in 1994-95, he scored 15.0 points a game, was named the Big Eight Conference Newcomer of the Year and also was tabbed a second-team all-conference selection.
Haase started 23 games in 1992-93 as a freshman at Cal, where he teamed in the backcourt with Jason Kidd.
Haase co-wrote “Floor Burns,” detailing the 1996-97 KU season, which sold more than 30,000 copies. Floor burns are a statistic the Kansas stat crew created in honor of Haase, who had 165 of them as a junior. He has also produced a basketball instructional video.
He is married to the former Mindy Meidinger of Lenexa, Kan. The couple has two sons, Gavin, 5, and Garrett, 2, and a daughter, Gabrielle, born earlier this year.
Haase says the UAB family will see his family in the community often. And, he adds, he hopes that the community response to his family and Blazer basketball will be reciprocated.
“I want to be involved in the community, and my door will be open,” Haase says. “My wife, my three kids — we will be around. You will see us. We will be accessible and we will be heavily involved in the university community and in the city of Birmingham. I told Mr. Mackin that someday, hopefully not too far down the line, that he’s going to have a neighbor or somebody important to him — and I will as well — that will ask for a ticket to a game, and we’re going to say, ‘No. You’re too late. It’s sold out.’”