Georgia STATE Panthers
Conversation with New Basketball Coach Rob Lanier

By Dave Cohen

Recent continued success has brought change to Georgia State's men's basketball program with Ron Hunter's departure to New Orleans to fill the vacant coaching position at Tulane. As a result, there's a new head coach on Decatur Street and it's veteran Rob Lanier. Most recently he was the Associate Head Coach at Tennessee under Rick Barnes. Even with the loss of four seniors and D'Marcus Simonds, Lanier inherits a couple of key veterans in Kane Williams and Damon Wilson as well as last year's heralded freshman Nelson Phillips. The Panthers open the season November 6th vs. Brewton-Parker College.

How has pre-season practice been and what excites you about your first season in Atlanta?

I Like these guys and how competitive they are. We have a talented group of guards that have been chomping at the bit for an opportunity to play at a higher level. We have two guys that were sitting out last year and have become eligible and then we have some other guys that played more auxiliary-type roles that are going to have an opportunity to maybe play bigger roles. I like the group, the energy but we have a long way to go. Becoming a man-to-man defensive team, we're taking real baby steps there so there's going to be some turbulence as we try to grow as a man-to-man team because not only were they previously a zone team, but they were really good at it. So that's going to be a change. We're going to play some zone from time to time but even our zone is different. I'm really excited about the guys. We have a quality group who have done there best to buy in to something that's been a significant change.

When you take over a program is there more emphasis on teaching and molding during that first season?

Yes, there's no question about that. I think the advantage of being a new coach in a program that's been successful is that the kids have already bought into a standard. So that's not new to them. When you go into a program that has not been successful, just that concept of playing to a certain standard, the work ethic, the way you go about your business off the court. There were some things within the culture that were in place from a competitive standpoint. Even though everything we're doing is relatively new I think when they're not operating at a high standard and we get on them about it, they know what that's about. We're starting from scratch but in some ways we're not.

You had mentioned that you wanted to work towards becoming taller. You've done that with the signings of two freshman, Jalen Thomas and Joe Jones.

I don't know how much that will take affect right away. We have to be prepared to play smaller lineups and develop the bigger lineup. I don't know if we're ready to just walk out there and be bigger right now. I don't know if that's asking too much of the new young guys. They are coming along so you will see some bigger lineups. Certainly, that is something that we plan to develop moving forward program-wise.

Some of the non-conference portion of the schedule was completed prior to your arrival. None-the-less, it certainly provides you with some challenging road games playing at College of Charleston, at Duke and at Georgetown early in the season.

I want that way but calendar-wise we would have structured it differently. We would not have been starting out with five of our first six games away from campus and we would not have put them in the order that they are in if we'd had more time to manipulate the schedule. But we wanted to play those opponents.

Having coached opposite some of the teams in recent seasons, what are your thoughts on Sun Belt Conference basketball?

Great league. I know South Alabama is going to be really good. Louisiana-Lafayette is always good. We played them last year when I was at Tennessee and it was my scout, so I was familiar with the talent that they have. I've known their head coach, Bob Marlin, for a long time. Also, I coached Chris Ogden (HC at Texas-Arlington) for a couple of years so I know how good of a coach he is. He's got a really good team and a good scheme with their motion offense. The toughness that they play defense with. Top to bottom, there's just good coaches in the league. We've got our work cut out for us, but we like what we've got to work with here.

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