Southern Utah University Athletics announced the hiring of former Western Illinois University coach Rob Jeter on April 11, concluding their search for a new men’s head basketball coach. With seven NCAA Tournament appearances and over 25 years of coaching experience, Jeter is highly qualified to take the position.
“After conducting a nationwide search, we are confident that Rob Jeter is the right person to lead our men’s basketball program,” Athletic Director Doug Knuth said. “He brings an impressive resume to SUU, and we are thrilled he, Deanna, and their children are joining the T-Bird family.”
Despite his strong reputation, he does not have his work cut out for him in Cedar City. With a significant number of the team’s athletes graduating or in the transfer portal, Jeter must quickly get to work rebuilding the team.
Jeter expressed some of his concerns during his opening press conference on April 13 but conveyed confidence in his ability to put a team together in his upcoming years with the Thunderbirds.
“It is scary. You do have to have some faith about it, but the experience has to kick in as well, and I’ve been experienced building teams,” Jeter said. “I feel confident in the landscape of recruiting and the transfer portal … We’ve got to get this thing going.”
Comfortable with the idea of piecing a team together, Jeter still wants to keep continuity with most of the staff, fanbase and culture. He intends to grow his involvement with the T-Bird community past basketball and attend events around campus to show his support.
Similar to former head coach Todd Simon, one of the pillars to Jeter’s program is family. The new head coach also wants his team culture to be built around faith, discipline and humility.
He also has plans for his team’s identity on the court. During Simon’s time coaching, the Thunderbirds ran a very high-scoring, up-tempo offense. Jeter hopes to keep the speedy play style while decreasing some of the gray area in shooting. He either wants players outside the three-point line or driving the basket, not shooting inefficient deep twos. He also hopes to clean up the defensive side of the ball.
“It’s going to be an exciting style. We want to play fast,” Jeter said. “I like to put on the pressure and make it disruptive. We do not want to foul. We’re trying to get to the free throw line twice as many times as our opponents.”
Although Jeter must build from the bottom, he has high expectations for himself during his time at SUU.
“[I’m most excited about] the tradition of success. I have some big shoes to fill,” Jeter said. “I’d like to continue the tradition of success and see if we can take it one more step to get to the NCAA Tournament. I’m really excited about it.”
With the clock now ticking and the head coach position settled, Jeter can officially begin to put his team together using returning players, athletes in the transfer portal and freshman recruits.
Story by Kale Nelson
Photo courtesy of Gabe Small