Dave Boots' sudden retirement caught a lot of people by surprise, including USD athletic director David Herbster.
In the days that followed, Herbster was forced to quickly and carefully consider his options. He ultimately decided to name Boots' longtime assistant Joey James as the program's interim head coach, while also announcing his intent to conduct a national search for a permanent head coach following the 2013-14 season.
Q: I know you were surprised by Boots' decision, but you have to appreciate everything he's meant to this university and to the men's basketball program..
A: Without a doubt. Knowing Dave, this is not a decision that came very lightly to him.
The timing, while not ideal, and in some cases I don't think it's ever going to be truly ideal when they do make the decision to step away.
I respect his decision, not only for having made it, but coming to that point of putting the thought into it. Some coaches have a struggle and have a tough time knowing when to walk away and when it's right for them to walk away. Tough for him to come to that conclusion, but you've got to respect him for doing it.
Q: That threw you into a little bit of a bind because the season is so close and you need a coach. Talk about how you came to the decision to go with Joey James as your interim head coach.
A. It was a couple of long days on the telephone. And with the individuals I talked to - sitting head coaches, sitting ADs, search firms - I realized that we could not do the type of search that we needed to here in the amount of time that we had to do it, wiith the constraints leading into the start of practice, the chemistry of the coaching staff and the team.
At the same time, knowing I couldn't do it the way I wanted to, I felt better knowing in a sense that I had someone like coach James that [I] could turn the program over to this year and still plan on having success. Certainly, I would have found a way to do a search if I had no confidence in this staff.
Q: Is Joey a guy that, if he performs well, would have an opportunity as a part of that [national] search?
A: I know a little bit about the interim tag, and I've had those same questions asked of me, too.
I'd like to think so. I really do. We look at this year and we look at the program, I do think, for what we've got coming back, with the influx of some of the new talent that we've got, and I do believe you'll see Joey have the ability to pull all of that together this year.
I will, obviously, give Joey a chance - and all of our support this year, just like we do all of our coaches - but that's one of those decisions that we really make at the end of the season.
Q. Do you know what you want in a permanent head coach?
A. What you're really looking for is the right fit. Someone has to be able to come in here and understand and appreciate the Dakotas. Someone has to come in here and value Vermillion, value this state, and understand and have the ability to recruit this upper Midwest. You like to think that you can find it in every coach, someone that's dynamic, someone who can relate not only to the players, but to the fans and reach back out to the alumni at the same time.
It's a lot to ask for, not only to make sure that they understand the x's and o's, they understand the strategy, they understand the recruiting side of things. It's a lot to ask to pull it all together. I do think, though, that the next person that comes in here, we'll be able to find that person that can be that complete package for us.