Howard Payne University is hoping lightning strikes twice as the Joshua Prock era of Lady Jackets basketball is officially under way.
Prock, who was tabbed as Howard Payne new women’s basketball head coach on June 6, has had three weeks to settle into his new role — which is a first in his coaching career. The 2008-09 season will mark Prock’s first coaching women’s basketball, which has raised some eyebrows among program supporters.
However, Prock’s predecessor — Chris Kielsmeier — had never been a head coach before taking over the reins of the program in 2000 after serving one year as an assistant under current athletic director Mike Jones. In his eight seasons as head coach, Kielsmeier became the winningest coach in HPU history (179-44), was named Division III national coach of the year in 2008 and led the Lady Jackets to a perfect season and their first national championship in March.
Prock realizes he has a tough act to follow, but welcomes the challenge.
“There’s pressure with the job, but I don’t want a job without expectations,” Prock said. “A job without expectations is a bad job in my opinion.
“I’ll probably put more pressure on myself, but of course there are always going to be some people you can please and some people you can’t. At the end of the day, all I can do is commit to working as hard as I can to make this thing successful. The thing I have to watch is putting too much pressure on myself cause I do that quite frequently.”
Prock’s background has revolved around men’s basketball. At the University of Oklahoma, Prock served as director of basketball operations for three seasons and also worked as the Sooners video coordinator before departing in 2005. Prock worked under head coach Kelvin Sampson, who has become more notorious for the NCAA sanctions levied upon his programs at both OU and Indiana than his coaching accomplishments.
Due to his experiences at Oklahoma, Prock knows better than most the difference in the right and wrong ways to run a program. He does, however, still draw upon the positives he witnessed from Sampson during his time at OU.
“The biggest things I learned from Coach Sampson were not only how to build a program, but how to sustain it,” Prock said. “This program is already built. Coach Kielsmeier did an unbelievable job building this program. Basically, this program needs to be sustained and I learned how hard you need to work to do that from (Sampson).
“I also learned how to motivate kids. He’s probably the greatest motivator I’ve ever been around. He truly understands kids and how to motivate them. Coach Sampson’s obviously made some mistakes, but he’s been man enough to admit the mistakes and I’ve learned from those. Nobody’s perfect and he’s moved on. We’ve all moved on.”
After Oklahoma, Prock spent one year as an assistant coach at Kentucky Wesleyan before becoming the assistant boys basketball coach at Denton Ryan High School. His lone experience with girls athletics in that time was as a track coach at Ryan, which also has raised some questions. Prock stated the success of the Lady Jackets’ program, along with his faith, led to his decision to try something new.
“First and foremost, and I’m not ashamed to admit this, I’m a guy that anything I do I let God guide me,” Prock said. “I know there’s concerns out there, and I have coached girls, but it’s been girls track. I do understand there’s a difference between girls and guys, but at the end of the day, as far as coaching basketball is concerned, it’s about the Xs and Os and basketball is basketball. At the end of the day the emotions are different, but the fundamentals are the same. And girls do fundamentals better than guys in in my opinion. Because of that, everything will end being fine.”
A native of Clovis, N.M., Prock lived in Brownwood for two years during his youth while his father served as pastor of Coggin Ave. Baptist Church. Prock also attended Howard Payne as a freshman and a was a member of the basketball team.
“Of all the places I’ve lived, even though I was young, this was one of my favorites,” Prock said. “The people here make this place so special. I went to school here as a freshman, I didn’t get to play much, but there’s something about Howard Payne that draws you back. For me, what drew me back is what they believe in at the university. My standards for integrity are also their standards.”
Coaching changes usually result in recruits re-evaluating their decisions, but Prock reported that the class put together prior to Kielsmeier’s departure has remained almost completely intact. As for Prock’s recruiting contributions thus far, he points to talking Lindy Hatfield into returning as associate head coach as his most important.
“When Coach Jones approached me about an assistant he mentioned Coach Hatfield didn’t have anything lined up,” Prock said. “I knew the first thing I needed to do was to try and retain her. She’s a huge asset for not only me, but the girls. It’s great for the transition because all the girls love her and the recruits love her. The relationship she’s built with them is very impressive. Not every coach I know would do that, and you can tell these girls genuinely love her.”
As for the upcoming season, nine Lady Jackets are expected to return in the fall — not counting incoming recruits. The Lady Jackets will have their work cut out for them from the opening practice as Prock is making changes both on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
Howard Payne ranked 12th in the nation offensively in points per game (75.3) this past season and was tied for third in the nation in scoring defense (47.5 ppg). During the 2006-07 campaign, no defense surrendered fewer points per game (45.0) than the Lady Jackets’ 2-3 match-up zone.
“I think the girls will be able to adjust to the system I run and they’ll have a lot of fun doing it,” Prock said. “My philosophy is to really push the ball and get up and down the court. The offense I run is the dribble-drive motion offense. Anybody that’s watched the University of Memphis play, it’s their offense. It’s a very high-octane, high-paced offense and it’s a lot of fun for kids to run. Every kid that’s run it has loved it, and I think these girls are going to love it. It’s simple, yet complex. There’s a lot of things the kids understand how to do, but there’s also things you obviously have to teach them.
“If you ask what makes me as a coach I’d say it’s my philosophy on the defensive end. I’m a defensive coach and I believe you can’t win anything without being defensive-minded. Everybody has their own philosophy on defense, but I believe in mixing it up. Some teams run a zone defense, some teams run a man defense, but we’re going to change it up. Defense and rebounding are what win championships, and that’s what won us our games at Oklahoma. We didn’t do anything special on the offensive end, we just defended and outrebounded people and that allowed us to win 75-80 percent of our games (178-56 record) when I was there.”
Coming off a national championship season, Lady Jacket fever is at an all-time high. But with four seniors lost to graduation — including three starters — and a new head coach, Prock didn’t offer any predictions for his first year at the helm of the program. He does, however, know what he feels will constitute a successful season.
“I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately and I’m not a guy that’s going to put a number on wins for us to feel like we’ve succeeded,” Prock said. “If the girls have gotten better and played hard, and also grown off the court, then that’s a success to me.”