Dave Schultz has been no stranger to rebuilding. After becoming the first-ever boys basketball coach at Waukesha West, he needed only one year to turn the team into a league powerhouse, generating four straight conference titles from 1994-98.
The final of those teams went to the state tournament in Madison carrying an undefeated record before falling in the state semifinals. Schultz finished his nine-year tenure with the Wolverines at 153-55 before heading to Carroll University, where he inherited a 2-21 men's team in 2002 and finished with a 93-56 record and five straight seasons qualifying for the league tournament.
Now, Schultz is retracing his steps, leaving Carroll after seven seasons to return to West, arriving as the new boys basketball coach following the departure of Mike Basile. West finished last in the conference standings last year at 3-11 in league play, and Schultz will be confronted with a supremely talented Classic 8 Conference this season. But Schultz knows how to build, and he knows how to build quickly.
NOW: Your decision to leave Carroll -- is it as simple as saying you were pursuing a full-time job? The school's release indicated that they were trying to piece together a full-time opportunity for you.
DS: I don't think there's just one factor. It was a combination of a lot of different things. The timing was right with the position opening at West, so the timing of things made this the right time.
NOW: I imagine your previous experience at West made you a very easy fit back into the role?
DS: That was one of those factors going to a place that I'd been and started a program from scratch and was able to enjoy some success, having a lot of good relationships makes it easier than going somewhere new. The credibility that we have with that program in the area can make things a little bit easier.
NOW: Have you taken a glance at the conference and all the returning talent?
DS: First I'm just trying to learn the players in the West program and who's who and what's what and names and faces. The conference is going to be competitive, and there are teams with a lot returning. That's further down the line. Right now, I'm just trying to get through the summer and learn the kids that are there and figure out what they need to do to have success.
NOW: You're in a familiar spot - rebuilding.
DS: This is the fourth time in my coaching career I've done that. (As JV coach) at Waueksha South, they had been down and then won six of seven conference championships. With West, we were starting a program literally from scratch, and at Carroll, they were struggling big time. It's a certain process you have to go through and certain things that have to happen to have success. That's a challenge in itself. We're still figuring out everything.
NOW: It must have been a challenge to inherit a program that went 2-21 before you got to Carroll in 2002-03. What were the keys to turning it around so quickly?
DS: Within the program itself, you need good players and we were able to get some good players in. In the second year, we took off similar to what we did at West, established some credibility with the players. It's a little bit different with recruiting at the college level that you don't do at the high school level. Word of mouth was big, and we played a fun style and had some success, that all factored into it. And having a good staff. I was fortunate to have good people working with me, and it looks like most of my staff will come over to West, too."
NOW: Recruiting at a small college - are you looking for the kid that slips through the cracks, or is there more to it than that?
DS: You still do (look for that kid). You also want the right fit as far as style of play. Academics and financial reasons come into play, but so much is finding a style that fits your strength as a ballplayer.
NOW: Giving you a chance to blow your own horn a bit … what skills do you possess that has allowed you to take struggling programs and turn them around so quickly?
DS: It's relating to people and motivating and molding individuals and teams. Regardless of the level, whether it's pros, college or high school, you're doing those same things. For whatever reason, players have bought into how we do things. My coaching career has been fortunate, 90 percent all positive and the not-so-positives are far outweighed.
NOW: Last thoughts?
DS: I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Carroll. All the teams, I loved coaching each and every one of them. Though the last six years, three different times where we were at the end of the year, we were capable of making a deep run in NCAA tournament. One year we did, and we had two teams that were capable of going to the Elite Eight or even Final Four level. That program came a long way the time we were there. Regardless of what's going on, (school President Douglas) Dr. Hastad is a good man and will continue to do good things.