Rutgers basketball fans should remember the Gary Waters era well.
Waters, who officially retired in 2019, spent five seasons as head coach of the Scarlet Knights from 2001-2006, finishing with a 79-75 winning record. One of the highlights of his tenure was beating Michigan in the 2004 NIT championship run.
Another was the upset of Syracuse and then-star freshman Carmelo Anthony at the RAC in 2003, the same year that Syracuse won the national title.
Coach Waters became the all-time winningest head coach at Cleveland State with 194 wins in 11 seasons. He led the program to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2009.
Now the Rutgers men’s basketball program finds itself in the capable hands of head coach Steve Pikiell, currently ranked as a top-20 team in the country, their highest ranking in the AP Top 25 since the 1970’s.
I recently spoke with Coach Waters about his newly released book, The 10 Principles of a Character Coach, and asked his thoughts about his former program:
I really enjoy the way they’re playing basketball, they play hard…
And I knew it would take them time to get the program to a level in the Big Ten. Because they’re in the East and all their recruiting and families and everything are on the east coast. That’s really, really hard.
Coach Waters praised Coach Pikiell for his leadership during the pandemic, calling him, “the right person at the right time”.
He acknowledged the challenges of facing not just good coaches, but Hall of Fame coaches in the Big Ten. He also touched on the traveling disadvantage for Rutgers since most teams in the conference are in the Midwest.
The only complaint he has is if they won’t be able to compete in a legitimate NCAA Tournament in March when, “this is their time to do it”.
Watch the full interview here with Coach Waters.