Jerome Tang is hitting the right notes at Kansas State as the first-year head coach and is an instant hit

Manhattan, it was. – This is the job Jerome Tang wanted. more than others. That was evident last spring when it was a long time ago Baylor The assistant has set up his Alexa to play “Wabash Cannonball” like Kansas State The search committee entered through the door.

Tang knew exactly what statement he was making before the interview started. that K-State fight song It has been burned into the fibers of every Wildcat since it was the last piece of music rescued from a campus fire in the late 1960s.

The 56-year-old native from Trinidad and Tobago wanted to be part of that fibre.

“We were supposed to do a two-hour interview,” recalls Gene Taylor, Kay-State athletic director. “An hour later, he did most of the talking. He walked us through offense and defense. He said, ‘I have to go to the bathroom.'” I said, “Guys, I’m done.” What do we do? Let’s make an offer.”

This is the shortened version of why Kansas State is ranked #5 in the AP Top 25, its highest ranking since reaching #3 in 2010-11, and tops the Big 12 near the halfway point of the conference season. After Bruce Weber was fired, Tang took over a team that had two scholarship players, added 13 new faces and combined it into the nation’s best start currently by a Division I head coach (17-2). The Cats have already won three more games than they won all of them last season.

Long story has as many layers as the coach himself. You just have to be patient enough to peel them away. You had to watch all the way to the post-game celebration after K-State won 68-58 Texas Tech. Tang rushed into the student section to dance with the students to this beloved fight song.

It was the same game.Sandstorm— the 1999 electro synth song that evolved into noise music for the Wildcats — was played at Bramlage Coliseum this season. It was silenced because students would usually chant “F—KU” along with the beat. On Saturdays, instead They chanted, “King Saud University.”

And they were so proud of themselves they took Tang’s message seriously: Make it more about Kansas State than the opponent and get rid of the profanity.

“We couldn’t play it,” Taylor giddily said. “I’m going to try it before he gets here and they start repeating it and I’m going to stop. I cut it. We’ve all done it. I’ve gone to the students. The bosses have gone.” [to them]. He alone got it [done].

This is the first time we’ve played Sandstorm without the F-KU. “

This is the bonus feature of a full team featuring the 2020 SEC Preseason Player of the Year (fl Transfer Keyontae Johnson) and one of the youngest players in Division I. Courageous guard Markquis Nowell is listed at 5-foot-9 but says he’s “legit 5-7.”

The fifth-year point guard is also the #2 leading scorer in Big 12 games.

“Nothing that scares me,” said Noel, one of four New York City residents on the list. “I give this game my all. One old man in New York told me if I could survive in New York, I could survive anywhere. I did a very good job of surviving in New York.”

Put it this way: There is arguably less contact in the Big 12 than it is at the legendary Rucker Park on 155th Street where Noel honed his game.

Untamed wild animal lovers around Tang

Tang was Scott Drew’s loyal right-hand man, ace recruit and one of the most respected assistants in the country for 19 years. But who was suddenly known as the national team coach of the year This is amazing Some kind of instant transformation ability and… swag?

Students participated in a Tang Screaming contest during the time limit. Fans lined the field in front of the crowd Saturday after the coach appeared postgame on the Wildcat Radio Network wearing “Tang You Very Much” T-shirts.

“They sell like crazy,” a fan told Tang.

This doesn’t ignore “Hangin’ With Tang,” a series of conversations with the coach who had the idea of ​​dragging a couch into the student union and rapping with the rank and file.

Tang was dancing by himself on the court after winning, but on Saturday he spontaneously decided to join the students. All of this sounds normal, not great, in a sport whose culture is much more flamboyant than that of college football.

Who knew Tang had this much charisma…and influence? On the Tuesday after the crash then- no. 2 KansasTang grabbed a microphone, jumped on the recorder’s table and issued what could be his A random statement about sportsmanship and kicking an opponent.

He concluded by saying, “I told you all that we will ask you to storm one court.” “From now on, expect to win.”

The thirty-four-year-old Bramlagh Coliseum may have never been higher.

“All of America is listening,” Tang told CBS Sports in a private moment after Saturday’s victory. “We have a few minutes to send them a message. Is the message we want to hear ‘KU’—even if they don’t hear an ‘F’—or do we want them to hear ‘KSU’?”

At least for now, the nation has its answer. The team last selected out of 10 pre-season teams in the 12th season is now a top 10 team in the country. These Wildcats fit the role of the lovable underdog honed over the years by famed football coach Bill Snyder. Five stars don’t usually come to Manhattan. Kansas State is a developmental program in both major revenue sports.

But there’s rarely been a better time to be a Wildcat. K-State won the Big 12 in football with a backup quarterback (Will Howard), 5-6 Tailback (Deuce Vaughn) and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year (edge ​​Felix Anudike-Uzomah) who hit campus as Three star possibility.

Tang’s finest arrived with promise, glamor, and some history. Johnson has not played since December 2020 when he collapsed on the field in Florida. The exact nature of the heart condition, which caused a nine-day hospitalization that included a medically induced coma, was not revealed.

After collapsing on the field when he played for Florida, Keyontae Johnson blossomed for the Wildcats.

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Florida paid a premium on a $5 million insurance policy that guaranteed the money should Johnson’s professional career suffer. However, the school did not graduate him medically. Johnson entered the transfer portal last May. Johnson told CBS Sports in October that he didn’t start playing sports until two months later “when the state of Kansas acquitted me.”

“Some schools were definitely afraid to take a risk with me,” Johnson said before the season.

However, it wasn’t just Kansas State that thought Johnson was worth it. Johnson said he was also after him Western KentuckyAnd USC And Memphis.

“I call it rebirth, a second chance,” Johnson said. “[God] Gave me a second chance. I thank him for letting me get up every morning.”

K-State also had to examine sexual assault accusations against Johnson last year. The Florida State Attorney General’s office said it did not proceed in part because Johnson and the accuser had prior consensual relationships. Johnson confirmed in the current situation At that time he did nothing wrong.

“Jerome got a lot of stories and police reports,” Taylor said. “I just asked him to dig deep and he did. We felt good. There were no charges.”

Midway through the projects that would be his final season before his shot at the NBA, the stalwart 6-6 Johnson leads the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding (third and second in the Big 12 in those categories).

With 10 minutes left in Saturday’s game, Johnson did not have a field goal. He finished with his third double-double of the season (15 points, 11 rebounds).

Earlier in the season, Noel went 36 against Texas and 32 against Baylor in consecutive games, only the third Division I player to amass at least 65 points and 20 assists in consecutive games in the past 10 years, according to Sports Illustrated. The other two are Tra Young and Ja Morant.

How Tang Rebuilt the K-State Roster

The grumbling from college football about the transfer gate should take a tip from college basketball. The sport has been dealing with massive roster turnover for years. Refinement of Tang Art. Noel and Ish Masood were the only players left on the scholarship. Masoud, a powerful 6-9 forward, was very effective in team play (52% of the arc) His nickname became the “Big 12-ish”.

Seven of the Wildcats entered the season with one or two years of eligibility remaining.

“It really reminds us of what we did last year,” said Texas Tech coach Mark Adams.

In Adams’ first season, the Red Raiders won 27 games and advanced to the Sweet 16 after losing eight players to graduation or transfer.

“We’ve managed to make some good transfers that were older,” Adams added. “There’s a lot to be said for players who don’t have a year left, even with two. These guys come in with a kind of new sense of urgency. They want to be coached, make this last year special.”

Roster management shouldn’t be a problem at K-State. Tang was with Drew when they put together a list of mostly walking after they became paralyzed NCAA sanctions distance Dave Bliss Scandal in 2003.

A near death penalty was the reason Drew was hired, and Baylor eventually built—with Tang’s help—into a national program.

“There were times this summer, in July, when Jerome was still looking for guys,” Taylor said. “I’m like, ‘Are you freaking out, because I am?'” He said, “Uh, no, Jane. It might have been.” [OK] But he was on a good lead.”

Do not panic. Tang persuaded Johnson and his parents to remind them that he had coached two Baylor players with heart problems – Jared Butler and King McClure. Both continued to play after being diagnosed with a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Butler played in the NBA.

“I know how to help them get back in shape,” Tang said. “I’ve done that before.”

But why Kansas State and why now? Drew told CBS Sports that his former assistant would receive a benefit from one or more programs a year. Tang is going to do an interview but the time was not right. Tang and his wife, Karelyn, were twenty empty for the first time. Both kids (Seven and Aylyn) are in college. The question became: why Not K-State?

Yes, it lives in that long, long shadow that casts from down the road in Lawrence. But it’s still a highly major with a lot of tradition. Most recently, K-State has won a share of the Big 12 regular season title twice since 2013. Weber’s 2018 cohort went to the Elite Eight.

“Coach Drew told me, ‘Get it, and then see if you want it,'” Tang recalled. If I’m, like, “Well, I’m not sure,” then maybe I’m not the best version of myself. So I just went on like this and this is the only job I want in America.”

Tang does not just answer questions. He considers them, rolls them in his big basketball brain and reveals himself—yes, layer by layer. Only Noel and Masood remain as scholarship players. But they wanted to stay.

They just need a reason.

Noel gets it when he texts Taylor urging him to hire Tang. The ranger obtained a scouting report from his 28-year-old brother, Marcus, who did his research.

“He’s seen 19 years, winning,” Noel said. “He told me that Coach Tang is the guy that Kay State really needs to hire… He’s someone God sent to me at KSU.”

They wanted the temple.

Tang stopped practicing last week and sent his players home after feeling let down in Kansas. With 13 minutes left on Saturday it looked like that hangover wasn’t over. The Wildcats are eight players behind a team that hasn’t won since December.

Tang called out. Something was said in the huddle and out the Wildcats went—on a 31-13 run, into a sandstorm frenzy, and into a wide open future with their coach dancing to “Wabash Cannonball.”

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