Rex Walters held a coaching clinic at the University of San Francisco last Aug. 31, just 41⁄2 months after the former Kansas University basketball guard was hired as head coach at the West Coast Conference school.
The Dons’ 39-year-old mentor was able to attract 100 coaches from all levels to USF’s War Memorial Gym, thanks in large part to Hall of Fame coach Chuck Daly, the camp’s headline speaker who died Saturday at the age of 78.
“He was a special, neat man. He flew across the country (from his home in Florida) to help a young coach who played for him one year,” said Walters, who played for Daly’s New Jersey Nets in 1993-94.
“Coach Daly had everybody on the edge of their seat at the clinic. He talked about his life, handling players, all the intricacies of being a coach.
“He was the best I’ve been around in terms of handling players,” added Walters, who also played for Larry Brown and Pat Riley in the pros and Roy Williams in college.
“He was like a psychiatrist in the way he handled every situation. He got the most out of his players. I’ve never seen anyone get the most out of a guy like he could.”
Walters, who compiled an 11-19 record in his first year at USF — a program down on its luck the last several years — says he’s taken something from all of his former coaches into his head-coaching career.
“Coach Williams had such a big impact. I’ve been blessed. All the coaches I played for shared things with me and taught me there’s different ways to do things,” Walters said.
Yet he’s definitely his own man.
Walters has done some innovative things at USF, a school located in the Bay Area, where Walters was born and raised.
• He sent assistant coach Danny Yoshikawa to Europe for a couple of weeks during the 2008-09 season. The trip paid off. The Dons signed Tomas Bruha, a 7-footer from Prague, Czech Republic, as well as Moustapha Diarra, 6-10 from Marseille, France, and Nikola Stojiljkovic, 6-8 from Paris.
“He went to Spain, Germany, France. We plan on doing it again,” Walters said of recruiting overseas.
• He spoke to USF supporters an hour before all home games in the Bill Russell room — named after the former Dons’ center.
“I’ll walk in there at 6 o’clock for a 7 o’clock game and spend 20 minutes with them,” Walters said. “I’m just an honest person. I am not as smart as coach Daly, but I speak from my heart on what we need to do (to win that game).”
He appreciates the audience.
“The great thing about the University of San Francisco is people are so into basketball here,” Walters said. “You see the pride they have in the program. They want it to be successful.”
• He uses Internet Web sites Facebook and Twitter in an effort to use technology to help in recruiting.
Walters, in fact, first learned of coach Daly’s passing on Facebook on Saturday morning and answered a reporter’s interview request via a Twitter instant message Saturday night.
“We do need to promote the program. We want kids to know what I’m about,” Walters said of using Twitter (twitter.com), which is a messaging Web site in which individuals can communicate to the world in short updates of 140 characters or less.
“You can’t contact kids (recruits) as much as you could in the past. I want my players and prospective players to know what I’m about. One way to do that is electronically on the Internet.”
Walters’ Twitter account — for those who seek to follow him — is under the name “jayhawk23.”
He, of course, was No. 23 during a two-year KU career (1991-92, ’92-93) in which he helped KU snag two Big 12 titles and reach the 1993 Final Four.
He was the Big Eight male athlete of the year in 1993.
“It’s always something I’ve used,” Walters said of “jayhawk23” being his Internet identity.
“It’s never going to change,” he added of being a Jayhawk for life. “I obviously watch them on TV. I get to see Kurtis (Townsend, KU assistant) from time to time since he’s from the Bay Area. Danny has been great to me throughout the years,” he added of KU aide Danny Manning.
The KU fans showed how they still feel about him back in November of 2007 when he received a standing ovation during introductions before his Florida Atlantic team’s loss to the Jayhawks. Walters compiled a 31-33 record (18-18 in Sun Belt Conference games) in two seasons at FAU before heading to USF.
One KU fan held a sign that read, “Welcome Back, Sexy Rexy.”
“It was very special. That introduction was very, very nice, and it did touch my heart," Walters said at the time. “It means an awful lot to me for them to show that much respect and love.
“Some day I'll probably make my home here. Even though it's cold as hell,” he joked. “This place is so special.”