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A&T's Lee: We're Selling a Brand-New Era
GREENSBORO – Alonzo Lee’s first two weeks as N.C. A&T’s new head coach have been anything but quiet.
Lee was introduced Jan. 16 and immediately met with recruits and current players while trying to fill out the rest of his coaching staff. Between meeting with recruits and trying to find a house in Greensboro, Lee sat down with the News & Record to talk about myriad issues surrounding Aggie football, next week’s national signing day, A&T’s recruiting budget and how long he thinks it will take to turn around a program that has lost 36 of its last 39 games:
Let’s talk about recruiting. How much of a handicap is it when it’s just you and two other coaches out there talking to players?
It’s very much a handicap, but it’s the way you look at things. It’s definitely an uphill battle. You would love to have your entire staff, but I can’t count anything that’s not there.
National signing day is Wednesday. How do things look?
We’re coming along pretty good. You never know until you see those names come across that dotted line or see that fax come across the fax machine, but it’s looking pretty good.
What do you tell kids who may be on the fence about A&T because of the late transition from coaches.
You’re coming into a brand-new system and you have a great chance. We’re selling a brand-new era and you’re part of that brand-new era.
I know you can’t talk names, but where do you feel you need help by position?
Well, we have to get better in the interior, number one. It starts with your front on both sides of the ball. And then in the skill positions we have to develop some depth. We need a couple wiggle guys that can take it the distance.
Athletics director Wheeler Brown has said your recruiting budget is about $90,000. How does that compare at your old school, Morgan State, and the MEAC? Can you win with that?
It’s very comparable to most other schools.
Can you win with that?
Yes, you can.
Can you win a national title with that?
Yes, you can.
One of the perceptions out there among coaches is that A&T is top-heavy with its salary for the head coach and doesn’t have the money for quality assistant coaches. Is that a fair assessment?
We’re getting there. We’re not quite there, but we’re getting there. We want to work on salaries each and every year. I didn’t come in to break the ship. My biggest concern was my staff. The greatest head coaches I’ve been around were more concerned with staff than (themselves).
You offered a very faith-based speech when you were introduced as the new coach. Do you feel that might scare away some potential recruits?
No I don’t. I think more so it will enhance than scare away. Football is a sport that relies on a lot of things, but faith is one of them. Most football teams meet in prayer before the game and after the game. Parents love that because the majority of the people (teams) recruit, the parents are trying to build that same type of structure. Parents love that we’re going to take their young men to church the first three weekends that we get back into camp.
Where are you with filling out your coaching staff?
We’re pretty close to getting all those things solidified. All we can do is wait.
Defensively, how’s that going to work?
We’ll be bringing in a defensive coordinator, but I’m going to actually start off running my defense early on. The guy I bring in will run the same type of system.
Expand a little bit more on that. Are you focusing on defense because that’s the side of the ball you played on or do you feel that’s where the game is decided?
There’s no doubt defense wins championships, but you got to have a good solid offense. We’re going to do things on offense that challenge me as a defensive coach. I have a great idea what we’re going to do on offense, but I always mention defense because defense wins championships. If we can stop people defensively we’ve got a chance.
Talk about your defense. You’ll start out in a 4-3?
We’re going to start out in a 4-3, but, again, it won’t be long before we’re in that odd front also because that’s part of my package. That’s why we call it a multiple-attack defense because we’ll run odd and even fronts.
You’ve listed winning a national championship as one of your goals for A&T. What are the ingredients for doing that here?
First, we have to bring the right people in. Second, is developing a great staff. Third, once we get those (players) here we have to coach them, have to do all the things that it takes to get them to believe in themselves and believe in the structure that we’re putting in.
Athletics director Wheeler Brown didn’t put a timetable on winning, but given A&T’s recent history, is it realistic to think you can turn things around in a year? Two years?
I’m blind to the fact of what happened in years past. Yes, I think it can be done. Why do I think it can be done? I’ve been in the situation before. In 1978 at Eastern Illinois, (when Lee was a sophomore) we won one game before we came out the next year and won that national championship. I’ve been around teams that have turned around and again it’s all about the mind-set of the young men.
In recent years it’s been hard convincing local recruits – not just Greensboro but the Triad – to stay home. How do you change that?
Taking the university to the community will help that. We’re going to try and take our program to the community with pee-wee leagues, with middle schools, with the high schools, with churches. We’re going to try and get out in the community. But one of the biggest things I feel is winning. Everyone wants to be part of winner. If we consistently win, we’ll get those guys. Look, we want that same individual that East Carolina and North Carolina State wants. That’s tough (to do) but if you look at our conference we have some of those type players in our conference. We hope we get our share of transfers also.
A&T’s Lee: We’re selling a brand-new era
By Robert Bell, The Greensboro News & Record (NC)
Photo Credit: Jerry Wolford / The Greensboro News & Record