With the first game scheduled for Dec. 3, the Hillsdale College men’s basketball team is preparing for the new season with the help of two new assistant coaches. Assistant coach Eric Weiss and associate head coach Keven Bradley reunite under head coach John Tharp as they look ahead to the upcoming season.
“It’s been great to be around a bunch of smart young kids,” Weiss said. “I’ve just loved being here for four or five months and it’s really been a special place.”
The pair was hired during the height of the country’s restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, a process they say was far from an easy one.
“I came in and interviewed the Monday the world shut down,” Weiss said. “Tharp officially offered me the job, but the college couldn’t hire anybody until July. I sort of had one foot in and one foot out for a while.”
For Bradley, the hiring process was far quicker.
“It was in a matter of three weeks, I had signed a contract, sold my house, and moved everything to Michigan,” Bradley said. “For me, the goal was to get up to Hillsdale as quickly as possible, and get acclimated to the school, and with coach Tharp and what he was looking for and needed to get done.”
This season will not be the first time that these coaches have worked together, with experience stretching back to their days at Lawrence University. Both Weiss and Bradley graduated from Lawrence, where Tharp was the head coach for 13 seasons. While at Lawrence, Weiss played for Joel Depagter, a former assistant coach under Tharp, and Bradley played for Tharp himself.
“Eric graduated from Lawrence University, and played for a guy who was a former assistant coach of mine,” Tharp said. “Bradley has been a really successful assistant coach when he was at Upper Iowa and Parkside, and he played for me back at Lawrence.”
Tharp says that this background at Lawrence helps the coaches to understand what a small liberal arts college is. Bradley especially finds this experience to be important to his extended career.
“A big part of my growth was spending six years at Upper Iowa University and being a graduate assistant for two years,” Bradley said. “Then I was promoted to a full assistant, and I was figuring out and learning how to be a recruiter and what things work well for me, and what things don’t.”
Now that they have settled into their new jobs, they said they’re looking forward to their first season at the college, and getting used to their new responsibilities.
“I take care of some office stuff, whether that be travel, getting a hotel contract, or equipment, or talking to the gear guy,” Weiss said. “I usually watch some film, either on practice or an opponent or recruit, his highlight film, whatever it may be.”
After his previous jobs as both a graduate assistant and the director of basketball operations while at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Weiss says that he has experience being a jack of all trades.
Bradley finds that a great deal of importance lies in personal connections made with the players.
“We always talk about just trying to meet the needs of our players to the best of our ability,” Bradley said. “That could be any range of things from an academic standpoint, to a basketball standpoint, to a personal or self-help thing even, whatever it may be. We just try to be available and a great resource for student athletes to the best of our ability.”
Tharp says that the pair is an excellent addition to his staff and seems to reflect this sentiment toward the team.
“They are great kids, they work really hard, they’re always in the gym, and it’s easier as a coach to step into a place that already has a culture established,” Weiss said. “I think these guys love each other, and they’re coming off a championship season so for me it’s more about carrying on what’s already going on. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel or change things.”