Six days after Justin Fuente coached his final game for the University of Memphis, Mike Norvell was introduced as the 24th head coach in Tiger history. Calling it "a day of destiny for me and my family," Norvell emphasized two primary components to this new marriage of coach and program: "fit and family." Here are some highlights from his introductory press conference this afternoon at the Hardaway Hall of Fame on the U of M campus.
I'd like to take a moment to thank Coach Fuente and the job he and his staff did. Even more, the support staff, the academic group we have. Everyone who works with and touches our student-athletes here. Because what I found here — why I'm standing in front of you today — is we have a culture of winning, in every area. Academically, socially, how we play this game. It makes me so proud and honored to stand before you today. Because now it's my job to help this program take the next step. This is the perfect time, and this is the perfect place.
There have been lots of opportunities in my career, places where I could have gone and led. But I was in such a great situation [at Arizona State], that it had to be right. It had to be all about the fit and all about the family. It took about two hours, sitting with the administrative staff here. There was no doubt. I'm excited about where we're going to go.
I've met so many people in a short period of time. There is one clear and concise vision. It's to win in every area, to win every day, to strive for perfection. I met with the team about 30 minutes ago. When I stood in front of them, I knew I'd made the right decision. I looked into their eyes. I saw the hunger. I saw the fire. We talked about one thing: to finish. What they began this year, and in the future.
We're going to be about family, about core values. We're going to put a product on the field that you'll be proud of; how we play, how we go to school, how we are in the community. We'll build on the great successes we've already had.
We'll play fast, smart, and physical. We'll be passionate about finishing, in everything we do. And we're going to do it together, as a family, through adversity. It's gonna be about the finish, finishing on top.
This is home for me. I grew up in Dallas, Texas, I went to school in Arkansas, I've lived in Louisiana, I've been to Oklahoma. Talk about fit . . . you couldn't ask for a better place. We're gonna start recruiting from the inside out.
It's gonna take all of us. Every alumni. Every student. All the administration. Every person in this great community. It will take all of us to take the next step. We're striving for daily excellence. We're going to go to work every day focusing on the details. We're going to make you proud. I'm so very excited to be the head coach at the University of Memphis. There are great days ahead.
What are the biggest challenges of being a head coach for the first time?
I've been an offensive coordinator, focusing on 50 guys in a group. We're gonna double that number. The biggest thing is time management. I'll give them everything I have. Being a head coach, there are a lot of external things asked of you, but I've been preparing for it. It's all about relationships. I'm excited about that challenge. Will I have all the answers on day one? No.
What exactly is your offensive philosophy and what do you want to do defensively?
We're gonna play fast. Multiple. Very, very aggressive. We're gonna attack on both sides of the ball. We'll be fundamentally sound. On offense, we'll take what the defense gives us. I believe in running the ball, and taking vertical shots down the field. Keep the opponent off-balance.
What makes you a good recruiter, and how do you sell this program to players?
Recruiting comes down to one thing: relationships. It wasn't hard for Tom [Bowen] to recruit me. There's one vision. We're here to impact kids. Every decision we make is for the betterment of our student-athletes. Film will not be the determining factor on whether or not we bring a young man here to play football. It will be the total package. We'll find out about their family, what makes them tick. We've got a lot of hands to shake, and a lot of research to do in a short amount of time. Our players will sell this program.
Is the University of Memphis a program where you can be long-term?
No question. When I looked at this opportunity, I saw a job with no limits. We can push this program to levels people in this room can't even imagine seeing. I'm going to put no limits on what we can do here. Continuity, commitment, all those things. I couldn't be more proud; this is going to be a special opportunity.
With Memphis being outside the Power 5 conferences, a lot of local talent goes elsewhere. How will you overcome that in recruiting?
It's the vision, the plan. Getting out there and building the relationships. There's nothing that cannot be accomplished here. I don't get caught up in stars and rankings. My job is to build the best football team, one that fits the standards of our program. There are a lot of players in this city who fit that plan. You have to show them the plan, the culture of the program. We're going to put our product, our brand in front of [players] nationwide, but we'll start right here.