"It's something you fight for everyday"


Paul Rush

image via NNU Athletics

We had the priviledge of speaking with Northwest Nazarene Men's Basketball Head Coach Paul Rush. Coach Rush shared with us some of the things that he is looking for in prospects as he watches tournaments or showcase camps. He also digs in on building his program's culture and why the GNAC is so tough every year.

If you want to watch the entire video interview that we posted on Facebook, click here

You can keep up with Coach Rush on Twitter @coach_rush

Transcript of interview with Paul Rush

Interviewer: All right. We’re here with Paul Rush, the head coach here at Northwest Nazarene University, head coach of the Men’s Basketball Team.

First of all, thanks for letting us come into your showcase here. It’s an awesome facility. What you see in the background is their main court, but then they’ve actually got another three full courts that you can use back here. An awesome facility. So, we really appreciate you letting us come in for that.

Anyway, we appreciate being here, watching the players. One of the first things I’m sure people are wondering is, “When you’re at a tournament or you’re at a showcase like this, what is it that you’re looking for? What do you hope catches your eye as you watch the players and the different things they’re doing?”

Paul Rush: Well, you’re definitely looking at level of play and how they’re performing and finishing, making shots and all that stuff. I mean that’s part of that. But truthfully, we try to dig past that. We want to look into the guys’ motors, the effort they’re putting forward defensively, the way they’re communicating.

I love seeing guys that know how to communicate offensively, defensively. Pull guys to the side and talk to them in between plays. Those types of things show us the intangibles. I mean we’re big on trying to figure out their character and you get glimpses of character on how selfless a guy is on the court and standing on the sideline with his teammates.

Interviewer: That’s great. All right. I guess it’s pretty easy to see the skill a lot of times. But seeing that deeper level can always be tough and now here, you’re in your first year. As you are building your program, what are the things that you’re trying to implement into your program as you move forward?

Paul Rush: Yeah, and that’s – recruiting is a big part of building that program. So finding the guys that have those intangibles, the selflessness, the high motor, the scrappiness, the toughness. Finding those intangibles in recruiting is a big part of building our culture and then those are things we’re coaching and teaching our guys during the season.

Our big three things are we want our guys to love each other. We’re going to hold them to a really high standard and we want them to be mentally tough. We want to be able to respond to adversity and not when things get hard, start tanking. When things get hard, start going bad on their teammates or getting frustrated with the ref or the coaches.

We want mentally tough guys. So those three things are really what we’re building our culture around and we teach it. We coach it. We have team meetings. We work on it before practice, during practice, after practice and then we really recruit to it. So watching these things, we’re recruiting guys that love each other, guys that are able to be held to a high standard, are very coachable and guys that are really mentally tough.

Interviewer: And that’s not just words. We had a chance – so coach let us come in, watch part of his practice yesterday and we got to see those guys. There was hard coaching. But you could tell it came from a place of love and holding each other accountable and really trying to raise that level that you guys are at.

So you’re not just talking the talk. You’re walking the walk as well and that’s pretty awesome. Now one of the things that you’re kind of known for is culture-building and really taking a program, building that culture. You did it back 15 years ago when you started at the high school level and moving up. What are some of the key elements? We talked about the character and all that. But it seems like more than just words. Like how do you build a culture of an overall program, especially when you’re kind of walking into one?

Now you’ve been here for a couple of years in the system. But that culture piece is so important. How do you build on that?

Paul Rush: Yeah. It’s something you fight for every day. There are so many decisions that you’ve got to make, that you can make towards the season or towards the program. When you’re building a culture, the decisions you’re making need to be fighting for that culture. So you can kind of lean in and give in on something. But that’s either going to support your culture or be against your culture.

So how you’re responding to decisions guys are making on and off the court is building your culture and how you’re coaching them and teaching to them and talking to them is building your culture. Then for us, we go back to those core values that I just mentioned and we hammer them home. I mean I was teasing our guys that we’re brainwashing them because we – they’re either going to buy into that culture or they’re not going to buy into that culture.

If they don’t buy in, we’re going to find a different place for them and so all the decisions that we make are towards the program, towards the culture, kind of towards the bigger picture. Not to help us have a great practice or not to go easy on a guy or not to try to win the most games this season or win that game that night. It’s about building the culture and building the program that’s going to be sustainable and successful long term.

So we’re really committed to that and really prioritize those core values in the culture above what might be better for that game or what might be better for making that kid happy at practice. The goal is to push these guys and hold them to that level that fits the culture.

Interviewer: All right. Yeah, great perspective. A short term but also a long term view on how things are going. You’re not just building for today, but building for tomorrow. Awesome perspective. Thank you for taking some time here.

Again we’re excited. So all day, just so you guys know, we will be doing – there will be games. Probably in about 20 minutes, we’re actually going to go upstairs. Off the Field is here. Doing some work with the guys. We’re going to go upstairs and check that out. So appreciate you tuning in.

Stay tuned for NNU this year. They’re playing the GNAC, one of the toughest Division 2 conferences in the entire nation. I think you gave us a stat yesterday. There’s more Division 1 guys in this conference that have come down than any other in the country. How does that happen?

Paul Rush: Yeah. Well, it just tells you the level of play. I mean for us as coaches, the level of play that we’re recruiting is a Division 1 player. It’s either a Division 1 player that didn’t get the offer, didn’t get the write-off coming out of high school and we bring them in. They develop into that Division 1 player or it’s a Division 1 player that was at a Division 1 school and has transferred in.

So for us, we need players that are at that Division 1 level and for whatever reason, aren’t at our Division 1 home right now to be competitive in our conference. So it really is. I mean the best teams in our conference compete for national championships and we’re one of the best conferences in the nation.

So – and the facility is like – like you mentioned, are some of the best facilities in the conference. We’re in the top three in facilities in the conference and it’s really a great place to be.

Interviewer: Very cool. All right. Well, thank you for your time. Good luck this season and stay tuned. We’re going to have more stuff coming up here later through the day and also tomorrow. Thanks.