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Tang Time

Publisher Tyler Jackson sits down with the new Men’s Head Basketball Coach at K-State, Jerome Tang, and his wife Careylyen

You were born in Trinidad & Tobago, and raised in the Virgin Islands, in St. Croix, before moving to Texas when you were 10 years old. What was life like growing up in the Caribbean? 

Great! We lived a half-mile from the beach. The weather was wonderful. Every weekend we did a bunch of great family things on the beach. You didn’t have to wait until summer to go — we could go every weekend! 

What was your first step in coaching basketball?

I started working at a local YMCA, and was substitute teaching. I was having lunch with my youth pastor, Mike Allard, and he asked, “Jerome, what is it that you really want to do?” I said I really want to be the youth pastor at a church that has a Christian school, and I’d coach the basketball team.

Two days later, Dr. Cooper calls and says she’s looking for a basketball coach, a Christian guy. He gave her my number, and she calls me. I then drive to Cleveland, Texas. The guys said, “We prayed that God would send us someone that would stay for at least two years.” They had had five coaches in four years. I went home, and told my mom, “Nah, I don't think I’m going to take this job.” I went to bed, and clearly knew God told me I was going to take that job.

So, I took it, and started coaching. In December, a teacher left, so I taught some classes. Then, in June of that next year, the youth pastor left. So, less than a year after I had lunch with Brother Mike, I was the youth pastor at a church, and coaching the basketball team. I was there for ten years! It was awesome.

How did you connect with Scott Drew and Baylor?

Our four state championships were won at Baylor University. Ten years later, Scott Drew gets the job there. I don’t know him from Adam, and he doesn’t know me. At the beginning of building the program, Scott had called three people, and all three happened to mention my name. 

Scott’s first commitment at Baylor was from Africa, and still in high school. I was thinking, well, he has to place him [at a high school]!  So I tracked down Scott’s number, and left a message for him before church. He calls back on Sunday night at like ten o’clock. I gave him the whole spiel about our school. He then says, “Hey, well he promised his parents he would graduate from his school in Africa, so he isn’t coming over now. But, I would really like to meet you!”

To me, those were code words. It wasn’t a good thing. I had other coaches who said they wanted to hire me. But, they were just doing it because they thought it would give them an in to recruit the kids I coached. I said, “Coach, we don’t have to meet. I’m going to know if you’re a good guy, and if you are, you’re going to have no problem recruiting the kids that I coach.”

The worst thing in the world you can do is tell Scott Drew no. So, now he’s hunting for it! If I hadn't recently had the bad experiences with the other coaches, I would’ve loved to have met [him]. But, had I done that, he probably would’ve felt like, “He’s too anxious. He must not be as good.” But the fact that I told him no, it was like, “why is he not wanting to meet?!” He called at 10, it’s now 11, and he’s still hounding me to come visit him. So finally, to get him off the phone, I told him I would see him on Tuesday.

We chatted in his office for three and a half hours! We get to talking about movies, a little about basketball, and life, and really hit it off. But, you just don't hire people you don't know. So, I gave him a hug and said, “Coach, if God wants me at Baylor, there’s nothing you can do to stop it. If God doesn't want me at Baylor, there’s nothing you can do to make it happen.”

On Thursday, he called his dad, Homer [Legendary head basketball coach at Valparaiso University], and tells him, "I’m going to hire this guy from Georgia. But, man, I really like this guy from Texas.”

Homer then asked, “Why don't you hire the guy from Texas?”

“Well, I don't know him.”

“Go eat dinner at his house. If you have dinner at a man’s house, you’ll find out everything you need to know about him.”

So, Thursday, Scott Drew calls and asks to come over for dinner on Saturday. [My wife] didn’t even know I went to Waco! We round up everything we have. We had $10.81. Her dad had cooked a slab of ribs, and we had a half slab leftover. So, we bought another half slab that was already cooked. We bought potato salad, and that was going to be the meal. We sat down, ate ribs, talked, and had a great time. After we got done, he said, “The job is yours.” So, he didn’t know me, and I didn’t have a degree. But, we got the job — and we had insurance! And they helped me get my degree! 

You’re married to Careylyen, (pronounced Kuh-Ray-Lee-Un), which her mother prefers, but she goes by Rey. When did y’all get married? 

Rey: We met September 7th, 1996, and got married in 1997.

Coach: We met one month before my 30th birthday, and were married 11 months later. 

Rey: We dated for five, and were engaged for six. 

You have a son, Seven, and a daughter, Aylyn. How old are they, and where are they? 

Rey: Aylyn is just down the hallway, and Seven is going to school here. He’s 21, and she’s 18. 

Coach: I also adopted two kids when I was single. Lamar is 36, and Richard is 33. Lamar and Bethany are married, and live in Portland. Then, Richard and Leah are married, and they live in Vegas. 

How important is your faith to you?

I don't know how people do life, much less coaching, without faith. You have got to have something that is your foundation. Regardless of what happens in this game, you yourself must be stable. Without it, I don't know how you make it.

Why Kansas State? 

Rey: Because the colors are purple and white! 

Coach: Every time there was a job that was of interest, or someone would call, she’d ask, “Is purple in their colors?” One time, I was really passionate. I said, “Babe, there’s only like five schools in America with purple! We won't go to a school that has purple!” I actually said that! 

What’s your favorite thing about Manhattan so far?

Coach: The people. 

Rey: The people. 

Coach: The people have been wonderful. They’re warm, receptive, passionate, and caring. 

Rey: And they wear purple! 

Coach: The trash cans are even purple! 

Rey: Seriously, the people really are all of the above! 

Coach: The people are extremely great. The passion that you feel for this University, and the synergy between the town and the University is real. It’s special. 

What is the legacy you want to leave behind on the basketball court?

I want people to say I made them feel special, and they were important to me. That I cared about them as human beings, and as people, instead of just basketball players. Nothing about wins and losses. I think if we focus on that, everything else will take care of itself. 

From Our Readers: 

Cam Morse asks, "What is your favorite Caribbean island to vacation at?" 

Coach: Which one did you like? 

Rey: We’ve been to what, three?

Coach: St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. Lucia. I’ve actually been to Puerto Rico, and thought it was fantastic. Rey hasn’t ever been there with me.

Rey: I would say St. Croix. I would say that because he has family there, and because I can drive on the left side of the road! 

@DaktotheFuture asks, “Who has a better record at ping pong, you or [Associate Head] Coach Ulric Maligi?”

We have only played two games of ping pong so far, and he has beaten me in both. But, there will be some rematches coming soon. 

To conclude, John Jobe asks, “How many National Championships will you win while at Kansas State?” 

I don’t know how many we’ll win at Kansas State, but we’ll win one here for sure!

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