UAB Magazine Weekly - Features on UAB Alumni
UAB Basketball Enters a New Era
By Grant Martin
After spending more than 15 years on the coaching staffs of two of college basketball’s winningest programs, Jerod Haase is putting his stamp on the program Gene Bartow built as the fifth head basketball coach in UAB history.
Haase played and coached at the University of Kansas before spending the past nine seasons on the staff at the University of North Carolina, where he helped lead the Tar Heels to national championships in 2005 and 2009.
Haase says he expects to bring that same winning tradition to his first job as a head coach. “This job has everything I could hope for,” Haase said when he was introduced to a room full of Blazer supporters last spring. “This is an ideal situation for me personally and professionally. UAB is a place where I can recruit at a high level, and this is a fantastic place for me to raise a family and be a part of the community.”
A native of Lake Tahoe, California, Haase played one year at the University of California before transferring to Kansas. He started 99 of 101 games with the Jayhawks, finishing his career with more than 1,200 points and ranked in the top 10 among school leaders in assists, three-point field goals, and steals. He was a two-time Academic All-American and was the Kansas Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 1997.
“Winning is in his DNA,” says UAB athletic director Brian Mackin of Haase. “He is a great person and will be a great coach for UAB.”
Haase is taking over a Blazer team that has experienced success in the recent past, having won the Conference USA regular season title as recently as 2011. But with only three starters returning, Haase will face the challenge of finding new on-court leadership as he introduces the team to his aggressive style of play.
Haase recently sat down with UAB Magazine to discuss his move to Birmingham and his expectations for the upcoming season.
UAB Magazine: If people were looking for you to bring something different and exciting to UAB basketball, they didn’t have to wait long. Tell us about “Hoops on the Haasephalt.”
Haase: I have been a part of some big preseason events at Kansas and North Carolina, so I wanted to do something here around the start of practice to introduce the team and the coaching staff and to get the fans involved and excited for the coming season. I wanted to do something unique, so we decided we would build an outdoor court and bleachers on 14th Street near the Campus Green.
We had free food and a lot of activities for the kids, and then the men’s and women’s teams both came out and put on a show for everyone with slam-dunk and three-point shooting competitions.
We had a great turnout, the players had a good time, and I hope it’s something our students and fans will remember for a long, long time.
(See a slideshow of "Hoops on the Haasephalt" below. Story continues beneath slideshow.)
UAB Magazine: You played and coached under Roy Williams at Kansas, then followed him to North Carolina. How much of his coaching style should we expect to see implemented at UAB?
Haase: Quite a bit. I believe pretty strongly in the way we did things, so fans can expect to see an up-tempo, exciting style of play. It will be the players’ jobs to raise their intensity to my level. We are going to pressure people defensively, deny passes, hopefully rebound the basketball well, and force turnovers so we can get our secondary break and primary break. We’re going to run the basketball and try to score it quickly—but that doesn’t mean taking rushed or bad shots. I think the guys understand that how the team does is more important than how each individual does. It is amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.
UAB Magazine: You’ve been a part of two historically great programs in Kansas and North Carolina. What kind of steps have you taken to form a connection to this program’s history beyond your current team?
The Haase File
Jerod Haase is one of five brothers and sisters to play intercollegiate sports. He is married to the former Mindy Meidinger of Lenexa, Kansas. The couple has two sons, Gavin (five) and Garrett (two), and a daughter, Gabrielle, born earlier this year.
In addition to his coaching resume, Haase also co-authored the book Floor Burns, chronicling the 1996-97 season at Kansas. The title refers to a statistic the Kansas stat crew created in honor of Haase, who had 165 “floor burns”—abrasions from diving for loose balls—as a junior.
Haase: Well, you can’t really talk about any specific college basketball team without looking at it in the context of the overall program, and there wouldn’t be a program here without Gene Bartow. Although I never had the chance to meet him, I am certainly familiar with Coach Bartow and what he built here. One of the things that was very important to me when I took this job was that I reach out to the Bartow family and to all the former players who had a part in building this program to what it is today.
I had lunch with [Bartow’s widow] Ruth Bartow over the summer and got to know her a little bit. I wanted her to understand that this will always be his program; I’m just the guy who happens to be sitting in his office right now. I wanted her and all of the former players to continue to feel at home here and know that they’re still a big part of what we’re doing.
UAB Magazine: You have some experience returning on this year’s team, but there are some big holes to fill, particularly the loss of leading scorer and rebounder Cameron Moore. How do you see this year’s team shaping up?
Haase: The guys we have returning are a fantastic group who have produced at this level, so they are going to be the core. Then we’ve added some new players, some of whom have a lot of experience and should be able to help us right away.
We don’t have a lot of depth up front, but we have flexibility with several guys who can play multiple positions, and that kind of plays into what we want to do with an up-tempo style of play.
UAB Magazine: One of the highlights of the non-conference schedule is a game against your mentor, Roy Williams, at North Carolina. Can we expect more marquee games like that in the future?
Haase: The North Carolina game is part of a three-year deal. We will play there twice, and they will play us at Bartow Arena next year. It’s a big deal for us to be able to play them, but in the future we plan to play home and away games against the best teams we can find. We’re going to welcome those challenges and build our program so that we can compete at an extremely high level.
Alumnus Aims to Keep Mars Rover Safe
By Matt Windsor
merica’s latest Mars probe is called Curiosity, but as the car-size spaceship hurtled toward the Red Planet on August 5, Luther Beegle’s 10-year-old son, Ryan, was experiencing a different emotion: anxiety.
Beegle, who holds a master’s degree in physics and a doctorate in astrophysics from UAB, was a little antsy himself. A safe touchdown meant he would finally get a shot at a mission after more than a decade as a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It would also be a neat follow-up to the Mars rover missions undertaken by his UAB mentor, Thomas Wdowiak, Ph.D., in the mid-2000s.
The Big Dig
“Five minutes before the rover landed, my son came up to me and said he was really nervous,” Beegle says. “He and my daughter, Abigail, have been to the lab many times and saw the rover being made, but it didn’t become real to them until the landing. I gave him a hug and said it would be OK.”
It was. Curiosity landed safely, drawing cheers from the crowd. In a conversation a month later, Beegle was still elated, even though the pressure has, if anything, intensified.
Beegle’s role on this mission is to be something of an interplanetary safety inspector. “I am one of three surface sampling systems scientists,” he says. “We’re in charge of Curiosity’s drill and scoop”—which are crucial to the mission goal of “finding traces of organics and understanding the habitability potential of Mars,” Beegle says. “It’s our job to let the engineers know if it’s safe to drill into something. If the drill fails, then the two analytical instruments can’t work, so we’re very conservative in what targets we choose.”
For the first 90 days of the Curiosity mission, Beegle and the entire team are working on Mars Time. Since a day (or “sol”) on Mars lasts 24 hours and 39 minutes, that means his shift begins roughly 40 minutes later each day. (Beegle and most other team members track the shifting clock using a NASA smartphone app, which has largely replaced the “Mars watches” used by earlier crews.) After three months, “we go to a more reasonable 8:00-to-6:00, seven-day-a-week schedule,” Beegle says. “It sounds horrible, but it’s really not; I’m doing such interesting work.”
Alumnus Helps Start-Ups Find Success
By Charles Buchanan
Look around, right now. Could the person sitting next to you have the idea for the next Facebook or Amazon inside his or her head? Matt Wright’s mission is to unlock those ideas and help potential entrepreneurs create vibrant new companies.
After graduating from the UAB School of Business in 2001 with a finance degree, Wright worked his way up the banking ladder, working on an equity trading desk and managing a hedge fund. Eventually he founded NuVault Financial, which specializes in management consulting and investment banking. “I advise small companies on ways to grow their business through finance, efficiencies, or everyday operations,” says Wright. He also serves as associate director of the Birmingham Angel Network, an organization of business leaders who invest resources and expertise in local start-up companies.
“Globalization is here, and the only way for the United States to compete is through innovation,” Wright says. “Our goal in the Angel Network is to help these new companies on the front end, mentoring entrepreneurs who may not understand how to commercialize an idea. I tell them that starting a business and running a business are two different things. You’ve got to understand the differences in order to be successful.”
Kaleidoscope Alumni Win Pulitzer for Tornado Reporting
By Grant Martin
In the newspaper business, every deadline is a crisis.
But as the hours ticked by at the Tuscaloosa News on April 27, 2011, the paper’s staff found itself at the center of one of the worst natural disasters in the state’s history. Working with limited electricity in the wake of a massive tornado that devastated the city and surrounding communities, the News staff provided real-time updates online through Twitter as well as in-depth coverage in the next day’s newspaper. One year later, the paper was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting.
Shweta Vora Gamble and Anthony Bratina, veterans of UAB’s Kaleidoscope student newspaper who both graduated in 2000, were part of the team of journalists who staffed the newsroom that day and shared in the honor.
“Winning the Pulitzer was bittersweet,” says Gamble, a former editor-in-chief of the Kaleidoscope and a design editor at the News. “The prize announcement came so close to the one-year anniversary of the storm, so it was fresh on all our minds. There was some celebration, but we also were very aware that 52 people lost their lives. When we think back on our roles, most of us just feel that we were doing what we were supposed to be doing—covering the news of the day and getting the information out to people however we could.”
Alumna in Australia Offers a Boost to U.S. Schools
By Matt Windsor
Citizen Schools, a Texas-based organization that designs and implements interventions for low-performing schools across the United States.You may think you have a killer commute, but this is ridiculous: It’s roughly 10,000 miles from Mandy Haeuser Gandin’s house in Perth, Australia, to her workplace in Texas. Luckily, the 2004 UAB graduate usually gets to phone it in—or Skype it in, to be precise. Gandin, who moved to Perth because of her husband’s job with a major American energy company, is a consultant for
This isn’t exactly how Gandin envisioned her career path. She came to UAB in 2001 as an elite synchronized swimmer from Texas and earned a spot as captain of the university’s synchronized swimming team in 2003 and 2004. She led the squad to a third-place finish at the national championship meet and won three All-American awards. Out of the pool, Gandin was a member of the University Honors Program and president of the Economics Club. She earned an economics degree with a mathematics minor in three years, graduating summa cum laude.
Instead of a career in banking or finance, however, Gandin returned to Texas to teach fourth-grade science and social studies in a low-performing elementary school. She was the first student from UAB accepted into the prestigious Teach for America (TFA) program, which recruits recent college graduates to spend two years teaching in low-income communities across the country.
It’s a tough job for a young person just beginning his or her career, but there are plenty of eager applicants. Although roughly 50,000 students apply each year, less than 15 percent are admitted. Gandin was a trailblazer; to date, 11 additional UAB students have been selected for TFA, including Ebony Hinton in 2012.
Gandin is proud of that legacy and eager to share her enthusiasm for the transformative power of education.