By: Jamie Tritschler, Athletic Communications Intern
This week's edition of Coach's Corner features Ben Kay, newly appointed coach for the Penn State Brandywine men's basketball team.
JT: How long have you been coaching basketball?
BK: I started coaching basketball about six years ago. I coached at Immaculata University as the associate head coach for about three years before I moved on as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at West Chester University for two years. Then, lucky enough, I had this opportunity to be the head coach at Penn State Brandywine.
JT: How did you come to get the job at Penn State Brandywine?
BK: When I saw that the job opened up, it was something I was interested in because of the Penn State name. I'm a big fan of Penn State and the academics that they have. When I saw the job opened up, I applied. I asked a lot of people about the job and about the school and everyone told me that there were a lot of great things happening on campus, and because of all the stuff that I heard and after I met with Sarah [Kurpel], Bobbi [Caprice], and Jeff [Scarpone], and seeing their visions for the athletic program, it really sold me with the beautiful campus.
A lot of my friends in high school went to Penn State so I went to Happy Valley many times to go to different football games, basketball games and concerts when I was in college. It was just a really cool atmosphere and a great family that runs so deep throughout the country that I'm really glad to be a part of.
JT: You've been coaching for about six years. Did you play in college?
BK: So when I was in college…I graduated from Drexel University and I actually did not play on the men's team. I was actually a Drexel women's practice player. So my way of playing in college was I worked with Coach Denise Dillon, the head coach of Drexel women's basketball, who is still a very close friend of mine and an amazing coach. She gave me the opportunity to practice against her team on a daily basis so I was part of the team by just going to practice and helping out the girls and when I figured out my aspirations, she kind of took my opinion a little bit and liked having me around because I was more than just a basketball player and I had a good basketball IQ and knowledge of the game. That was my experience with playing basketball in college.
JT: What caught your attention at Penn State Brandywine to make you want to coach here?
BK: The thing that caught my attention was just the growing nature of the campus. The fact that they're having a new residence hall being built and a new student union center, that really showed me that the school was growing and building, and with Sarah's knowledge of growing programs from the bottom up, I just felt like the combination of her and what the university is doing was a win-win situation for where I wanted to be. With everyone on the campus being so nice to me while I was there, I just felt right at home from the second I stepped on campus.
JT: Have you gotten a chance to meet the team yet?
BK: Yeah! I met a bunch of the guys who are coming back next year and I'm looking forward to working with all of them. I'm definitely going to be bringing in a bit of a new regime as well, player wise, but I think that with what we have coming back and with what I'm bringing in, we'll have a successful season.
JT: Can you touch on what you mean by a 'new regime?'
BK: In the sense that there's about seven guys coming back from last year and in order to have a full roster you need 16 players. So you'll be seeing about nine new faces in the program and it's going to be an interesting mix of guys that are coming back and players that I'm bringing from my first recruiting class.
JT: Have you already started the recruiting process?
BK: There's been about 30 kids on campus the last couple weeks all looking to come to Penn State Brandywine and, you know, we're just seeing all of them out and seeing who fits the program best academically, socially and athletically.
JT: What are going to be your first steps as a new coach for this program?
BK: The first thing and the most important thing to me is just building a culture that is based around academics. If you're not going to be a great student and take pride in your classwork, then you're not going to be able to play for me. Having great academics is most important, but just recruiting the type of kids that have high character, respect and integrity for the school, the program and themselves and their family are really important attributes for the kids that will come and play for me.
I haven't talked to the other coaches about it [academics first], but the fact that everyone is saying that is just a compliment to the campus and the university. We know that in order to get a Penn State degree you have to be a special kind of person and someone that has those characteristics. It's great to hear that I'm not the only person in the athletics department that feels that way.
All of the kids that come here are full of potential and it's my job to turn all the potential into productivity and help guide them in a way where they can become successful people both on and off the court.
JT: Speaking of on the court, last year men's basketball finished 6-19 on the season. Have you begun to strategize or identify what you're looking to improve upon for next season?
BK: The one thing that I can control is how hard we're going to play. And I know that these guys are going to play really hard for me, with passion and enthusiasm. That's one thing I can guarantee. I can't guarantee that we're going to win more than six games. I mean, I definitely plan on doing that, but I know that the people that come to play for me are going to play really hard with a lot of passion and energy.
JT: What is your outlook for next year?
BK: I'm just really excited to get all the guys on board and get everyone on campus in the fall. With the new residence hall that is going to be there, I'm hoping we'll have a good fan base on campus and have a really nice bond with the fans. You know, they enjoy watching us play. I want to have a really fast paced style of play that is going to be very exciting to watch and I hope that it attracts not only students, but also people in the area to come watch us play.
JT: What is your coaching philosophy?
BK: My coaching philosophy is to turn the tempo up. Like I mentioned, I want to play fast paced on both offense and defense. I want to make the other team speed up and I want us to have high scoring games. I'm a big fan of the three-point shot so I hope to have the players that are able to shoot a lot of threes and put a lot of points on the board. I definitely plan on having a high powered offense and an exciting style of defense where people are going to want to come and watch us perform.
JT: Is there anything that makes you nervous in your first year as coach?
BK: This is my first head coaching job, but I'm not really nervous in the sense that I'm scared or anything like that. I'm just excited to get on the court and work with these guys, and I know that if we work hard, and we keep on grinding, and keep our heads down, that when we look up, we're going to be where we want to be.
JT: Who have been your mentors throughout your experience in basketball?
BK: A couple people that have helped guide my coaching career, people that I look up to, are Jamie Chadwin, who is one of the guys I worked for at Immaculata, and then Terrence Stewart, who is now the head coach at Georgian Court University. He's a guy that I'm very close with and who has helped me throughout my coaching career. Moving on to West Chester, Coach Damien Blair has played a huge role in my coaching success as he is an amazing coach himself. Phil Martelli and Denise Dillon have always been there for me whenever I had questions I wanted to ask them. They've been incredible mentors and have given incredible advice at all times to me. They are the people in the basketball world who have gotten me to where I am today. And of course, my parents who have supported me throughout everything.
JT: Who is your favorite college coach?
BK: I'd say that my favorite college coach is Phil Martelli. He's a guy that I've known since I was 10 years old and someone I've always looked up to - just the way he treats his players and the way he does things has always been something I looked up to. He's a great human being on the court and helps everyone off the court as well.
JT: What about the NBA?
BK: I'm not a big NBA guy, but if I had to say my favorite NBA coach it would definitely be Gregg Popovich of the [San Antonio] Spurs . No matter who he has on the team they always do well, and he can just plug anyone in and they succeed.
JT: Favorite player of all time?
BK: My favorite player of all time is Magic Johnson. I'm a big fan of the style of play that he brought to the game - his flashiness and his character. He was just someone that really always stood out to me as a great captain.