Brannen Introduced as Head Men's Basketball Coach at NKU
The Northern Kentucky University mens' basketball program introduced new head coach John Brannen to the media and public at a press conference at The Bank of Kentucky Center on Tuesday afternoon. Brannen is a Newport Central Catholic graduate and Northern Kentucky native.
“I'm home,” Brannen said. “We will have a style of play that will invigorate the fan base. At VCU and Alabama, we called it 94-feet both ways. We're going to use every part of the court both defensively and offensively and we're going to have an exciting brand of basketball that is hopefully very difficult for our opponents to guard us.”
Brannen coached as an assistant at the University of Alabama from 2006-15 under head coach Anthony Grant. Brannen became interim head coach this past season after Grant was fired following the SEC Tournament. He led the Crimson Tide to a victory in the NIT before losing in the second round at Miami. Prior coaching stops include Virginia Commonwealth University, St. Bonaventure University and Eastern Kentucky University.
Brannen talked about how eager he is to begin working with the players in place already before he turns his attention to his recruiting duties.
“I want to acknowledge my team because I want them to know how excited I am to get started. I'm excited about the journey that we are going to take together and bring a championship to NKU. There will be some hard days and some tough days but we will permeate the hallways of The Bank of Kentucky Center with the trust we have for each other, the toughness and grit that they will exude and the sacrifice.”
Being familiar with the area should make it easier for him to recruit more local players to the Norse, but he credited the rich talent in the area to quality coaching in the various high school ranks.
“Recruiting is going to be a big part of what we do and for all of the players in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, we're coming. I've had a chance to recruit all over the country in my stops in this profession and one of the things that has always stood out to me about this region is that there is great coaching here,” he said. “When you're a college basketball coach and you get the opportunity to get talented young men in your program early on with people that impact your program, a lot of that has to do with the coaching you see coming into them.”
Brannen is under contract for the next four years at NKU and stated that one of his priorities is to help fill The Bank of Kentucky Center on a regular basis.
“We need to have the best home-court advantage in the league and it really starts by capturing the heart of our students with our style of play, with the way we approach our work everyday and the pride we put on the basketball court, and I promise that will start on day one,” he said. “Winning obviously does a lot for that, but I think also getting out into the community and having people to connect with your coaching staff, with your players, with the identity of the team, and having a brand in the Northern Kentucky community I think will assist that.”
Brannen was a Rhodes Scholar finalist in his time at Marshall University where he played college basketball and received postgraduate scholarships from both the NCAA and Southern Conference. Brannen led the Southern Conference in scoring his senior season (1996-97) by averaging 20.9 points per game and was named league tournament MVP.
As for his assistants, Brannen has not yet be able to determine who, if anyone, is to be retained from the previous regime under Dave Bezold who was the Norse head coach for 11 seasons.
“I have not had the opportunity to even touch that yet,” Brannen said about choosing his assistants.
He talked about the importance of his player getting good grades and how that success rubs off in other parts of a player's life.
“I'm looking for young men who are committed from an academic and athletic standpoint to be successful. If you're taking care of business academically, it carries over athletically as well,” Brannen said.
When asked about if he thought the Norse needed to find bigger players to better compete in the Division I ranks, Brannen said that while larger players do fit into his scheme, he has yet been able to thoroughly identify team needs.
“We will look at our needs as a program and then get an opportunity to work with the guys and find out what are needs are and kind of address those needs going forward. Obviously length and size are important for our style of play.”
The Norse become eligible to play in the NCAA Tournament in the 2016-17 season. The upcoming season will be there last transitional year into Division I.
- Story and photo by Bryan Burke, associate editor