Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Getting to know new W&M coach Ed Swanson

We know that Ed Swanson built Sacred Heart into a Northeast Conference power virtually from scratch, racked up more than 400 wins over 23 seasons and seems like a strong choice to get things turned around at William and Mary. But we wanted to know more. So, after a phone visit with Swanson and a chat with one of his former star players, Callan Taylor, here are 25 things to help get acquainted with the Tribe's new coach.

- Swanson's birthday was May 3 (He turned 47).

- His wife, Dr. Marion Swanson (a psychologist) also celebrated a birthday on May 3 (We didn't ask).

- Swanson accepted the William and Mary job on May 3.

- No doubt lots of other big things happened around the country on May 3, but we'll forgive the Swansons if they didn't notice.

- Coaches often encounter some awkward moments - and even some ill will - when they return to their old haunt after taking a different job. But Swanson said he's been blown away but how supportive and encouraging the Sacred Heart folks have been regarding his new adventure.

- It's yet another reason why he wants to make William and Mary a success. "I don't want to let anyone down," he said. "That's really motivating me."

- Naturally there will be a chair for Swanson on the William and Mary bench, but it doesn't sound as though he's really going to need it. "He's always moving up and down, stomping his feet, rubbing his hand through his hair....," Taylor said. "He rarely sits down."

- Come to think of it, Taylor didn't sit much either - the 2012 NEC Player of the Year scored more than 1,800 points for the Pioneers and is Sacred Heart's all-time leading rebounder. She spent the 2012-13 season playing professionally in Finland, a journey she artfully detailed in this personal blog.

- Swanson said his energetic style is by design. "I made a decision 23 years ago that I was going to coach every play," he said. "I think the players take a lead off their coach. So I bring a lot of energy, not just in games but on the practice court."

- Swanson expects similar intensity from his players. Must have said the word "effort" 10 times during our interview. Taylor said it, too, when asked what Swanson loves most in a player. "Hard work really goes a long way with him," she said.

- Clip 'n' save Swanson quote: "We might get beat every once in a while, but we're not going to lose because of effort."

- When he met with the players during the interview process, Swanson said he was struck by how motivated the group was about being at William and Mary. "When I asked why they chose William and Mary, they all perked up. Those kids love that school. There's a real hunger. They want to be part of William and Mary basketball."

- Before the players departed for the break, Swanson sent them off with the following advice: "When we get together again, be in the best possible shape you can be in."

- Actually, was that advice, or a warning?

- A Swanson pet peeve - negative facial expressions from his players when he's chewing them out, er, I mean correcting them in practice. "When he's talking to you, criticizing, even yelling at you - all coaches do that - he just hated facial expressions," Taylor said. "Some of the girls didn't even realize they were doing it. But he didn't like it. So if at all possible, when he's getting on you, keep a blank face and hold it in."

- This doesn't mean he's doesn't want to hear what his players have to say.

- In fact, he'll insist on it. "I tended to internalize everything, keep things to myself, and I could tell that bugged him a little bit because he really wanted to know what was on our minds. So I would say to the players if something's on your mind, don't be afraid to knock on his door, go in there and talk about it."

- But if Swanson delivers one of his vocal quirks, like pronouncing the "o" in sophomore, try not to giggle.

- Or make a facial expression.

Big Red
- Swanson's not afraid to have fun with this players, occasionally even at his own expense. Taylor remembers Swanson secretly dressing up as the school's mascot Big Red to the players and starring in a team promotional video. "Nobody knew until the end of the video when he took the head off," she said.

- So while we don't expect Swanson to be prancing around Zable Stadium like this:

- You never know.

- Finally, when we asked how someone so synonymous with one school will adjust to working at another, Swanson said he works best when he's nervous, uncomfortable.

- It wasn't the answer we were expecting from someone that's been at the same job for 23 years.

- So we pressed further. "I don't know if I have the best answer for you," he said. "Sometimes you just get something in the pit of your stomach that this is the right move for you. I'm sure there's going to be a time when I say, "What did I do?" But each day I get more and more excited."

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