Kennesaw State starting anew under Lallathin
by John Bednarowski
sportseditor@mdjonline.com
June 19, 2014 04:05 AM | 2400 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Since officially taking the reins of Kennesaw State’s men’s basketball team — after an interim tenure following the departure of previous coach Lewis Preston — Jimmy Lallathin has been busy at work putting his touches on the Owls. 
<Br>Photo special to the MDJ
Since officially taking the reins of Kennesaw State’s men’s basketball team — after an interim tenure following the departure of previous coach Lewis Preston — Jimmy Lallathin has been busy at work putting his touches on the Owls.
Photo special to the MDJ
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KENNESAW — Kennesaw State men’s basketball coach Jimmy Lallathin has spent the last two months getting used to the job title without the word “interim” in front of it.

Now, he’s getting ready to put his mark on the Owls’ program.

Lallathin’s efforts in guiding his Kennesaw State team back to the winning side of the .500 mark will begin at the end of the month, when he, his staff and the players begin preparing for a trip to Italy.

Every four years, the NCAA allows a team to take an international tour, and teams are allowed 10 practices prior to leaving. Lallathin plans on spreading those practices throughout July leading up to the team’s Aug. 5 departure, and once it’s in Italy, it will play four games — two in Milan, one in Venice and one in Rome.

The Owls’ opponents have yet to be set, but that isn’t as important as what they will get out of the trip.

“It’s going to be unbelievable,” Lallathin said. “It couldn’t happen at a better time. Those 10 days of practice, it goes beyond words what this can do for us.”

Lallathin said he believes his squad, which is coming off a 6-25 season, is set to turn things around. The Owls will be a veteran team in 2014-15, and he said having a roster of juniors and seniors is the way to win in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Kennesaw State was more competitive after Lallathin became the interim coach Jan. 2, after Lewis Preston took a leave of absence for what was termed personal and health-related reasons. Lallathin led the Owls to three A-Sun — one more than Preston had during his tenure — and there were other close calls, including a halftime tie with the same Mercer team that went on to stun Duke in the NCAA tournament.

Lallathin hopes to take whatever momentum Kennesaw State built the last three months of the season and build on it during the Italy trip.

“I hope we come back with an undeniable sense of togetherness,” said Lallathin, who downplayed the need to win games on the trip. “We want to know what we are and how we do things.”

Since having the interim tag removed, Lallathin has been trying to reach out to coaches, players and the community to let them know how they can expect the new coach to do things. The first indication was the assembling of his coaching staff — associate head coach David Rivers, John Cremins and Preston-era holdover Brian Lawhon.

Lallathin said putting together a staff was one of his biggest challenges when he became a candidate for the head-coaching position. He said he needed a staff to help offset the perception that the 35-year-old Lallathin is a young coach, teach the game and help give Kennesaw State the ability to win.

Rivers played high school basketball for Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley Sr., at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, N.J., then college basketball for Digger Phelps at Notre Dame. From there came playing for another Hall of Famer in Pat Riley and alongside Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with the Los Angeles Lakers.

After a few years playing in the U.S., Rivers went on to build a successful career as a player and coach in Europe.

Cremins, a Roswell native, is the nephew of legendary Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins. He spent the last two seasons at Southeast Missouri and will help solidify recruiting around the metro-Atlanta area.

Lawhon is the only holdover from Preston’s staff, but he’s someone Lallathin has known for years.

“I wanted guys with experience — not necessarily coaching experience, but experiences around the game,” he said. “That will go to help change the perception. If someone asks, ‘Are you serious about recruiting Atlanta?’ I can say, ‘Yes, I just hired a Cremins.’”

And when it comes to recruiting, Lallathin offered his philosophy of how the team will proceed in the future. His recruiting philosophy is to find players that “fit me,” and the more local they are, the better.

“I want guys that can dribble, pass and shoot, and I want them to have been coached by coaches that love the game,” he said. “And I want our gym to be the crossroads of high school basketball in this area.”

Lallathin said he has gone out whenever NCAA rules have allowed to meet with high school coaches in the area. He said it’s an attempt to fix strained relationships local high school problems may have had with Kennesaw State in the past.

“I don’t feel there’s a better basketball opportunity than what we have right here,” Lallathin said. “I feel like there has been a disconnect for three, four, five years, and I have to change that.”

Lallathin feels he has been received well, but he doesn’t expect any of the local coaches to jump aboard the Owls’ bandwagon based on a first impression.

“Don’t judge me on this time,” he said. “This is easy time. Judge me on the follow-through — the fifth, sixth, seventh time.”

So far, Lallathin is trying to back up his message.

Former North Cobb standout Jordan Neff transferred to Kennesaw State and will be eligible to suit up for the 2015-16 season. Neff originally signed with Florida Gulf Coast out of high school, but never suited up for the Eagles and instead played last year for Gordon State College, a junior-college team in south Georgia coached by Israel Ingle, a former Kennesaw State player and the son of longtime Owls coach Tony Ingle.

According to the Owl Howl website, Marietta guard Cam Jordan has an offer for the class of 2016.

NOTES: Kennesaw State’s 2014-15 schedule won’t be released until later this summer, but Lallathin confirmed that three contracts that have been signed. Kent State will come to the KSU Convocation Center, while the Owls will make trips to Illinois and Butler in non-conference play. Lallathin also said the schedule will begin to take on a regional feel with teams like Jacksonville State, East Tennessee State, Georgia Southern, Chattanooga, Elon, Wofford and other like-sized programs among the opponents he’s trying to schedule in the future.
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