Tad’s Track: On a rainy day at Colorado National, Coach Boyle reflects on his time at CU

After the intense basketball season that he’d just been through, Tad Boyle was looking forward to a day on the golf course. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas. What was supposed to be a fun 18-hole chat about basketball and life at CU turned into a tabletop conversation in the clubhouse.

“I’m bummed,” Tad says. “I love golf. I got to play 80 times last year.”

How many rounds do you normally get in a year?

“Maybe 20,” he says.

COVID has certainly changed a lot in the last year. Rather than hitting the road on the recruiting trail, Boyle – like a lot of Americans – opted for time outside on the course. He spent more time playing golf than he ever has in his time as the coach at CU. And as luck would have it, the Buffs advanced to the Pac-12 title game and advanced past the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He then turned around and picked up a top-10 recruiting class in the nation.

Tad should play more golf. 

But as the rain fell at Colorado National Golf Club, the pristine home of the Buffs golf teams, it just wasn’t in the cards on this particular Monday. However, he had no problem sitting back and chatting about where the Buffs were when he arrived in Boulder, where they’ve gone since he’s been there and where else he wants to see the program go.

If only the conversation was beginning on the first tee box.

“I’d pepper it 250 right down the middle of the fairway,” Boyle says with a smile.

He’s not pretending (the scouting report on Boyle the golfer is that he’s got game). But for this round, we might have to – pretend, that is. Here’s how the round with Tad Boyle went. 

Hole 1

Par 4 – 393 yards

Getting hired away from Northern Colorado and coming to Boulder

My fourth year at UNC, we won 25 games and our first year at UNC, we won four games. So, I knew that people were going to take notice of that, especially going from a Division II program that was not even eligible our first year in Division I to play in the postseason. If Devon Beitzel doesn’t get hurt and break his foot in the middle of February, I think we’re an NCAA tournament team that year, but we lost in the (conference) semis to Montana. They always say timing is everything in sports and in life, but after the season, Jeff Bzdelik took the Wake Forest job. If he would have taken it a year before, and we won 16 games, I’m probably not even on CU’s radar, but because we had won 25, (then-CU athletic director) Mike Bohn asked me if I’d be interested in talking about the job. 

Hole 2 

Par 5 – 555 yards

On the importance of being a Colorado guy coaching a Colorado team

When I got the job, one question that I was asked at my press conference was, “What are you going to do when an in-state kid or family who asks you why you didn’t stay at Colorado to play college basketball?” And I said, without blinking, “I’m going to tell him not to make the same mistake I made by leaving the state.” The one thing you forget about, growing up in the state of Colorado, is you don’t appreciate it until you leave it. I think a lot of people that grew up in this state, they love Colorado, but there’s always that maybe; it’s the “grass is greener” type deal. 

When I left to play college basketball, I realized how much I missed Colorado and all it has to offer. I also saw that how the tradition at Kansas, and the passion of the Kansas fans, is something that’s really special. And I’ve tried to bring as much of that to CU as I can. And we’re not done with that. We’ve made some really good strides since I’ve been here. It’s been 11 years, but the best is yet to come. As the CU Events Center can get packed on a nightly basis, people can feel the tradition starting to build. We still have to get to a Sweet 16. We still have to get to an Elite Eight. I’m hoping we can get to a Final Four before it’s all said and done. That’s the ultimate goal when you wake up in the morning.

Hole 3

Par 4 – 415 yards 

On if he recruits the kind of guys at Colorado that he would have liked to play with at Kansas

It’s hard for me to answer that because when you’re a player, you’re looking at it through a player’s eyes. As I look back when I played at Kansas and Coach (Larry) Brown was bringing in guys like Danny Manning and Cedric Hunter, the bottom line is you want to play with good players and good players make you a better coach or good players make you a better teammate, too. I was a hell of a lot better teammate with Danny Manny on my team than I was without him. You know what I mean? He made everybody else better, and I think that’s the biggest thing –  trying to attract guys that can help make each other better. It’s the old Magic Johnson line. Good players make themselves better; great players make those around them better. And we’ve had a lot of good players in Colorado and we’ve had a handful of great ones like Spencer Dinwiddie, McKinley Wright, who just graduated, Josh Scott, Derek White. They made the guys around them better. 

Hole 4

Par 4 – 355 yards 

Buffs getting drafted

I think you look at any NBA draft and you see some mistakes that were made, and you also see that there are some really sharp people who saw something that nobody else saw. I never spoke to coach Popovich before the Spurs drafted Derek White. I spoke to him afterwards, but not before. I know their scouts and really never talked to them, either. I talked to R.C. Buford, like 24 hours before the draft. It was not to give him information. It was only confirm the information that he had gathered on Derek. And they were spot on.

Hole 5

Par 3 – 205 yards

Recruiting in COVID

The one thing about the pandemic and Zoom is it made the playing field level for everybody. So, Indiana, Colorado, UCLA, Duke, McNeese State – nobody could visit any of those schools unofficially. Nobody could go to a game. Nobody could take an official visit. It was all Zoom. It’s the only way. That and the phone. You want to talk about a level playing field? Who wants to really roll up their sleeves and go to work?

Hole 6

Par 4 – 439 yards

Difference in drafting and recruiting

Recruiting is totally different than drafting. That’s one of the things that drives me nuts about our world today, all kids and families want to know in their recruiting process – and AAU coaches and even some high school coaches – “Are you offering our kid a scholarship?” And they’ll ask you that in a first or second phone call. Wait a minute. I just want to recruit him, get to know him, and see if there’s a fit. It’s not about me offering scholarships. But if you don’t offer him a scholarship, they don’t think you’re interested and they are going to move on. 

They’re collecting offers so they can put it on social media. Like I used to collect baseball cards. I’d go down to 7-Eleven and buy my pack with crappy gum, hoping that I got a Hank Aaron or Willie Mays. That’s what these kids do with scholarship offers.

Hole 7

Par 5 – 548 yards

On the NCAA giving players an extra year because of COVID

If the senior class guys stayed at the institution where they were, they didn’t count against the scholarship limits. If they left to go somewhere else, they count towards the scholarship limits. We have 13 scholarships, just like every other Division I school in America. But we had signed a really good class early – Quincy Allen, Lawson Lovering, Julian Hammond, Javon Ruffin. So, we have four guys coming in that we signed during COVID. 

We signed them saying Maddox Daniels and D’Shawn Schwartz are leaving; Dallas Walton is graduating; McKinley Wright is graduating and he’s leaving. (So, they) have an opportunity to come in and play. Now when the NCAA comes and says those guys can come back, I’m faced with, “Okay, if (some of these guys come back), I’ve got 16 guys on scholarship.” I can’t make 13 guys happy. How the hell am I going to keep 16 happy?

Hole 8

Par 4 – 403 yards 

On how he maintains a successful program when he can only have 13 scholarship players who have been told their whole lives that they’re the cream of the crop

The only way you can do it is to recruit kids that can accept a role. If they can, they stay. If they can’t, they leave. You never recruit guys to be role players. You’re recruiting them because you think they have a chance to be good. Xavier Talton from Sterling, great example, a role-player that ended up starting for us as a senior. But he was okay with it. Did he want more? Yeah. He wanted more. We recruited him with that in mind and were honest about it. If you come in here and beat somebody out, I’m going to play the best players. 

Hole 9

Par 3 – 181 yards

On extra eligibility years affecting the freshmen like Luke O’Brien and Nique Clifford

Those two kids are great examples of guys who in a normal year would have redshirted, but with COVID they didn’t have redshirt because they got the free year back anyway. Next year they’re like true freshmen. And Keeshawn Barthelemy is kind of in that a little bit, as well, even though he’s been here for two years. We’ve got some really good talent that’s young and that’s unproven, but that has some experience in terms of our program.

Hole 10

Par 4 – 356 yards

On evaluating a player’s career outside of the expectations that were set for him

You just don’t know how kids are going to progress. That’s the biggest thing. Sometimes they can surprise you on the upside. And sometimes they just slowly develop. In today’s age, I’ve always said there are two kinds of players – there are over-recruited players and there are under-recruited players. Dom Collier (for example) had a good career at Colorado. He just didn’t have the career that everybody expected. I felt really good about his career and what he brought to our team. He was a fantastic kid with a great family. Not everybody’s going to be an NBA player and not everybody’s going to be a star.

Hole 11

Par 4 – 414 yards

On how he found players like Sean Ogirri when he was an assistant at Wichita State, (Editor’s note: Ogirri played for Denver East when it won the Class 5A title in 2004, “Big” Bill Ficke is the owner of Big Bill’s New York Pizza and a former NBA assistant coach and scout)

I was just kind of shooting the sh*t with “Big” Bill Ficke and asked him if there were any good Colorado players coming up. He said there was this kid from Denver East who just moved in, Sean Ogirri. So I went and saw him the next day. Oh my God. I fell in love with him and we recruited him. And we got him.

Hole 12

Par 5 – 489 yards 

On how he has evolved as a coach

Where I’m at right now as a coach versus where I was maybe 11 years ago, I’m probably a little bit more lenient in terms of letting kids play through mistakes. Eleven years ago, I’d have a quicker hook. I always ask our players, “How many mistakes do you have to make before I take you out of a game?”

They don’t know what to say: “You’re the coach.”

(Me): “Okay, you’re the coach; I’m the player, and I just turned it over. Do you want me to come out?”

(The player): “No.”

(Me): “So you made one turnover. You turn it over again. You want to come out?” 

(Player): “Not really.” 

(Me): “Then you take a bad shot… Well, what point do I take you out? You’re killing us.” 

That’s what I have to think about as a coach, I explain to them. Now, I don’t want to be the kind of coach where if you screw up, you come out. But how many screwups do you have to have? Don’t take bad shots. Take care of the ball. Play your ass off. Guess what? You probably won’t come out of a game. But the combination of those three? You’re killing us.

Hole 13

Par 4 – 369 yards 

The challenges of recruiting kids who want to be one-and-dones before they go to the NBA

They’ve been told how good they are since they’ve been in grade school. The problem is, they all have. So how many one-and-dones will there be this year? A handful? I can promise you there’s a hundred players coming into college that thought they were one-and-dones. That’s really what it comes down to – transparency and reality. It’s my job to recruit transparently: “This is who we’ve got your position. If they’re a junior or senior, they’re going to be leaving. You’re coming in and you have a chance to play. If they’re a freshman or sophomore, do you think you can beat them out? If you do great. If you don’t, go somewhere else.”

We have an NBA wall (in the facility) that we obviously show (to the recruits). (Our NBA guys are) all on it. I tell them, “I can’t put you on that wall. These guys are on that wall because of what they did when they got here. They put the time in the gym, they put the time in the weight room.” 

Hole 14

Par 3 – 194 yards

On getting guys who want to play for Colorado for four years

You have to get guys that own the jersey in college. With the one-and-dones, they’re renting the jersey for three or four months. You have to get guys that own it. Evan Battey is a fifth-year senior next year; he owns the jersey. He is a Buff. Like Nate Tomlinson, who came here from Australia. Neither one of those kids grew up dreaming of being a Buffalo. But if you cut them, they’re going to bleed black and gold. They own it. 

Hole 15

Par 5 – 633 yards 

His thoughts on how far CU has come in his time as the head coach

When I got the job in 2010, there was a recession going on. I was with a realtor and we were driving around looking at houses with my wife, and I said, “Here’s our price level. I could be fired in four years. I don’t want to get over my skis here on a house.” Because coaches are hired to be fired. So, when I got the job, I was just hoping I could make it through my first contract – which was five years long – and not get fired.You’re in survival mode, especially that first year. You don’t know what you have. You don’t know what you’re getting into. 

I look back over 11 years – the one year the tournament didn’t happen we were NCAA Tournament team; I firmly, truly believe that, even though we kind of faded late. It would’ve been six tournaments in 11 years. Take that one out and it’s five tournaments in 10 years. If you look at the CU record book, historically over a 40-year period of time in the modern era, I’m pretty happy with what we’ve done. 

But I’m nowhere near satisfied. 

Hole 16

Par 3 – 180 yards 

On how emotional the NCAA Tournament loss to Florida State was, especially after the Kings Soopers shooting in Boulder earlier that day

We knew it was going to be a tough matchup because of Florida State’s length and athleticism. You couple that with the fact of the events that went on in Boulder that day, and as disappointing of a loss as it was, the tragedy of what transpired that day put it all in perspective. We’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves because we lost to Florida State when 10 people lost their lives in Boulder. That perspective kind of took the sting out of losing the game a little bit, if that makes sense. Every time I think about that loss it’ll be a different feeling.

Hole 17

Par 4 – 344 yards

Which wins and losses stick out to him

Loss: Texas A&M our first year. Mark Turgeon, who’s one of my best friends (was coaching the Aggies). We’re up three, with a couple of seconds to go and it’s their ball side out of bounds. They run a play and B.J. (Holmes) throws in a deep, deep 3-pointer from the Buffalo (logo). They beat us in overtime. It’s really, really hard for me to get over that one. The Utah game at home this year, we’re up 19 in the second half. That one sticks out because we played well enough to win and didn’t finish it off. So those two. One was more personal and the other one probably kept us from competing for a Pac-12 regular season championship.  

Win: Beating Kansas in 2013. (That meant) a lot. The Texas A&M loss that I’m referring to, that loss was on me because I knew what play was coming because of the guy I was coaching against. We went over it in the huddle, but we hadn’t practiced it. So, when the game’s over and we lose, I put that loss on me because we hadn’t practiced that situation. But the Kansas game, what I remember about that is we had the ball full court, no timeouts, we called (a play we called) “winner” and we ran it. We got Askia the ball at half court. The shot went in. And it was Kansas. And that was cool. But from a coaching standpoint, it doesn’t matter if it’s Kansas or Texas A&M. In one situation, your team was prepared. In the other situation, your team wasn’t prepared. As a coach, that’s all you can ask of yourself – that your team is prepared. 

Hole 18

Par 4 – 424 yards

On if he should be playing more golf after a successful sason and a top-10 recruiting class in the nationThe only reason I played more golf was, obviously, the dead period and the pandemic – you could be outside. I think my handicap went from like 13 to 11. I need to play more. If you ask our athletic director, Rick, George, he’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m a better recruiter when they don’t meet me face-to-face. It’s kind of like having a great face for radio, right? He says I’m pretty good when they can’t meet me. So, he tells me to keep playing golf. 

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