Ray Tarnow takes over at Marquette
When Ray Tarnow started out in coaching, he saw the profession going a different direction.
"I really thought I'd be a football coach," Marquette's new boys basketball coach said. "I just learned to love basketball more."
An assistant coach with the Blazers the last four years, Tarnow was hired Monday to succeed Fred Mooney, who was informed last week that his contract wasn't going to be renewed for a fourth season.
“As I considered the next individual to lead the program, I needed someone to address three areas: academics, conduct, and compliance," Marquette Director of Athletics Katie Collignon said in a media release. "After speaking with Ray, I’m confident he’s the right person to bring the program back on track in those areas while maintaining a strong, competitive team on the court.”
Tarnow didn't necessarily have being a head coach on his career check list, though he thought the possibility might present itself in the near future if Mooney resigned. The school's decision to make a change only accelerated those prospects.
"I'm excited," Tarnow said. "I have a lot of respect for Fred. It's a unique situation. Most guys get into coaching wanting to be a head coach. I wasn't really looking down the road, but we're at a point in our lives where the boys are older and things have kind of settled down. The timing just worked out that way. I really love the school. I still have a kid involved and I have ties with some of these kids since first grade."
Adam Tarnow, who will be a sophomore, is one of several St. Paul (Valparaiso) School alums playing at Marquette. The elder Tarnow is the Athletics Director there and has also worked with the boys in AAU.
"People pooh pooh CYO, but there are some good kids there," Tarnow said. "To be honest, St. Paul and St. Pat's (Chesterton) are feeder schools for us. I can go in there and talk to people."
A Valpo resident, Tarnow has been teaching History at Crown Point High School, where he's been for 22 years. The Knox High School and Purdue University graduate first coached basketball at his prep alma mater before moving on to C.P. He coached football for four years and basketball for six, the latter under Tom Johnson, before stepping aside when he and wife Michelle had their sons, Jake, a 2020 Marquette grad, and Adam. He returned to the bench at St. Paul and in AAU as the boys got into hoops before joining the Marquette staff in 2016, Jake's freshman year.
“Ray’s wealth of experience and background in education-based athletics made him an ideal fit for the head coaching position," Collignon said. "For the past four years, I’ve had the opportunity to watch him cultivate young men on and off the court, and he represents the impact that strong leadership can make on student-athletes."
Marquette went 8-15 last season with a lineup that included several freshmen.
"We do have quite a few younger guys, but you can use being young only so long," Tarnow said. "It's like the analogy of the younger brother getting beat up on until they grow up. We have some really good skilled players but they're just smaller. We need to be in better condition. They have to mature, grow into their bodies. I think you'll see a little different team. I just don't know how many games we can win, playing the schedule we play."
With that development, Tarnow plans to put a greater emphasis on defense and rebounding.
"We have to be more aggressive, have a stronger defensive mentality, play with more physicality, which will come as they get bigger," he said. "When things got rough, we lost games we should have won because of the defensive end. The more they do on defense, the more we can accept giving them ownership with the offense. I'm a firm believer that defense transitions to offense. Kids all want to shoot, but you have to commit to the defensive end. We have to take that next step."
Minus a dominant on-ball presence like Marquette has had with Jake Tarnow and Colin Kenney the last several years, it figures to have a more balanced attack.
"We'll still play with pace," Tarnow said. "We don't have 6-4, 6-5, 6-6 across the board to just throw it in the post. We have to switch on a lot of stuff. I'm the kind of coach who will go with what our personnel is. We have smart basketball players who work extremely hard and play for each other. It's the cliche' of every coach, but as long as we're improving, playing as well as we can be at the end of the year, the rest will fall in place. We have to play for the big picture."
Marquette will begin practice July 6 with a trip to the Super Hoops tournament presently scheduled for July 21-23. The first two weeks are limited to conditioning and individual skill work.
"It's the same for everybody," Tarnow said. "There's a zillion drills you can do. I had pliometric boxes out in the yard for the boys. You just have to learn to improvise."