Travis Steele’s first interview as Xavier head coach reflected the time we live in very accurately in that it wasn’t a sit down with a local news anchor, but a national podcast. Steels called in to The Sidelines with Evan Daniels and talked about what brought him to this point and where he expects to take Xavier from here. You can listen to the full interview, but here are the salient points.
- It’s strange to hear a voice other than Chris Mack’s (especially one with a more pronounced south-midwest accent) speak as the leader of the program. Steele, though, was very clearly comfortable and prepared.
- Almost immediately, Coach Steele put a lot of minds at ease by both confirming that Xavier had retained three key pieces of their staff. Steele also said that all the 2018 recruits remained in place, as well as Samari Curtis from the 2019 class. That’s probably still subject to the whims of 18 year olds, but it was good to hear that Xavier hadn’t taken a recruiting hit.
- Steele emphasized throughout that he wants Xavier to play fast. This season Xavier’s adjusted tempo of 70.5 was 62nd in college basketball. It was clear from the interview that Steele wants to go even faster than that next year. He spent a great deal of time discussing playing with speed and also crashing the offensive glass in an attempt to score easy points.
- Expect Xavier to show the same looks on offense and defense this year. The offense was already Steele’s, he’ll just tweak it to adjust to personnel. The defense will stay the same packline mentality that has been in place since Sean Miller was the head coach. Steele sounded as if Xavier will show more of an emphasis on the defensive end this coming season after this current season’s up and down performance.
- Travis didn’t say who he was bringing on staff to join the guys already in place, but did say that it wasn’t a decision he was going to rush. There were no little nuggets to glean or names that slipped out. Steele did mention Thad Matta quite a bit and served as a GA under him at Ohio State, so both the Matta and Miller coaching tree products are certainly in the running.
- Steele said he’d gotten 1100 text messages upon word getting out that he had received the job. I cannot imagine what that does to a phone. A lot of those were from prospective staff members.
- The name of Elias Harden came up as someone who Steele thinks can be an elite defender. Harden barely played this year, but apparently figures in the plans for next year.
- Finally, Steele believes that the coming season is one in which Xavier just needs to climb the “final 2%” of the mountain. Steele sounds very confident that the incoming team is yet another one that will be a contender. With a new man at the helm, there’s nothing for it but to wait and see.