Kim English spoke without scripted comments, and spent much of Thursday’s introductory press conference at EagleBank Arena speaking to the players he’s inherited.
“When my career switched to coaching, I got a second chance,” said English, who was named George Mason University’s 11th men’s basketball coach this week. “I hadn’t been preparing to impress a search committee in an interview or have a fancy speech at a press conference. I’ve been preparing to coach these guys to reach their wildest dreams, to play in the NCAA Tournament and to reach their dreams and play in the NBA for a long time. Now I’m obsessed about that. And I’m obsessed about running a highly successful, great Division I basketball program that’s at George Mason.”
English, who spent the past two years as an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee under former Mason basketball coach Rick Barnes, made sure to give thanks to the opportunity ahead, but quickly turned his attention to the many players there to hear what their new coach had to say.
English urged his players to keep the faith.
“I would hate for any of you guys who have been through the ringer of your careers at this point to lose out on it,” he said.
English’s energetic message and player emphasis seemed to resonate with rising sophomore guard Ronald Polite.
“That shows how much he believes in us,” Polite said, “how committed he is to us by talking to us during a press conference.”
English, 32, has a strong record of success, starting with a state championship in high school. He went on to play at Missouri, earning All-Big 12 honors before being selected in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft. He helped Mizzou win 107 games and reach the NCAA Tournament in each of his four years.
“Growing up in Baltimore, it was my dream to get to the NBA,” he said. “I was obsessed about it. I got to the NBA. I quickly realized that my dream was wrong. My dream should not have been to get to the NBA—my dream should have been to play 15 years in the NBA, become an NBA champion, a Hall of Famer, an All-Star. So when my career switched to coaching, I got a second chance.”
Long a student of the game, English recalled watching the 2006 Mason team stun the college basketball world with its memorable run to the Final Four “like it was yesterday” and vowed that his team would forge its own identity that will make that group proud.
“It’s going to become a global brand,” he said of the Mason men’s basketball program. “Our future is going to be incredibly special.”
The return to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area near his Baltimore roots rekindles fond memories for English. Following the press conference, he spoke affectionately of following his father and uncle down to the playgrounds to watch them play on Sunday afternoons against some of the finest players in the basketball hotbed of Baltimore. Kim English Sr. was an outstanding high school player, while his uncle, Jeff White, was a solid player at the University of Baltimore.
The younger English drew his deep love for the game from them, and it wasn’t long before he, too, was honing his skills on the same playgrounds against the likes of former NBA player Muggsy Bogues and other great players.
That passion continues to burn bright today, and the new Mason coach intends to make sure that it’s one of the cornerstones of his program.
“Iron sharpens iron,” he said, “as one man sharpens another. That’s going to be our culture.”