Off the Cuff with Claiborne: Josh Schertz

With more than 15 years of experience coaching college basketball, it’s safe to say that Josh Schertz knows his ways around the court. He’s led the teams at Lincoln Memorial and Indiana State universities to impressive seasons, and now, he’s coming to the StL. Schertz is the new head coach of the Billikens’ men’s basketball program at Saint Louis University.

How did the coaching bug first bite you?
I read a book by John Feinstein called A Season Inside, and it was eye-opening for me. It was such an in-depth look at what coaching is as a career. I’d loved competing since I was young, first in tennis and then in basketball. I also enjoyed being part of a team with shared goals. It was kind of an epiphany that I could have a career that would allow me to continue doing that. From when I was a junior in college, I put all of my energy into becoming a coach.

How do you get players’ attention?
To start, you build relationships. That hasn’t historically always been the approach, but today, you try to connect with guys and lead by serving. You still have to hold people accountable, and the ultimate accountability is if you don’t do things the way we do them, you’re not going to play. Everyone wants the opportunity to get on the field or court, so that’s the ultimate hammer a coach has. But it starts by understanding that for the most part, when people aren’t doing things right, it’s not intentional. You have to figure out how to help them.

Who were some of the coaches that inspired you?
Rick Majerus was someone I really admired. I loved the way his teams played and his attention to detail. I also was a huge fan of the way Dean Smith ran his program and cared about his players. Gregg Popovich with the Spurs seemed to have great relationships with his guys, and he could adapt and evolve his system.

How would you describe your team’s style?
I hope it’s truly entertaining. I want people to watch us play and say, “Man, I want to come back and see more.” It’s very fast paced. We were towards the top of the country in terms of pace all three years I was at Indiana State. It’s a style of play where guys play for one another and unselfishly. They play very connected offense and defense. This year, we are No. 1 in the Missouri Valley for defense and were No. 2 the year before. I would hope that people come out and see the game played the right way and with a lot of joy. I think it’s something where when people give us a chance, they’ll get hooked.

What was the first thing you did as a head coach?
I tried to go and hire the best staff I could. I always knew I was dependent on the talent and character of people I hired, so I went out and tried to put together the best team I could. I really care about who I work for and who I work with.

What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in college sports?
The emphasis on efficiency. In some ways, it’s almost become a different sport. The way you space the floor, the analytics and turning things into a mathematical equation, those weren’t things that you thought of as a coach previously. How you hunt, how you run offense and defense, it’s dramatically different from how it was when I got started in ’08.

Why St. Louis?
I had four or five really good opportunities, but with SLU, everything aligned. I wanted to be somewhere where I could create an environment where our players could become the best versions of themselves. Everyone wants to win championships, but is there alignment in how you want to go about it? I felt that here. Plus, there is St. Louis itself. I have a number of friends who either grew up or lived here at some point, and not one of them isn’t enamored with the city.

Any superstitions?
I’m not superstitious, but maybe I’m a little stitious. I have small things I do. I always have a piece of gum before tipoff and spit it out right before the game starts.

What’s the best advice you ever got from another coach?
Be authentically you. People will see through it if you try to be somebody that you’re not.

Who is the best player you’ve coached, the best you’ve coached against and the best you’ve watched as a fan?
For the best I’ve coached, I’m going to go back to Gerel Simmons at Lincoln Memorial. As for who I’ve coached against, Zach Edey was certainly the most dominant my first year at Indiana State. We had no answers for what to do with him. As a fan, I saw Michael Jordan score 55 or 56 points against the Heat in the playoffs. He was fantastic.

Fleece or shirt and tie on the sidelines?
Fleece—got to be comfortable. I wore a shirt and tie my whole career, and then the year before COVID, I ditched the tie, which I really enjoyed. Then with COVID, we all switched to casual. Once you open that Pandora’s box, it’s hard to come back.

What is your go-to dinner?
My favorite is sushi, but a close second is good Italian.

What do you like to do more and less of when you’re not coaching?
The thing I like to do more of is spend time with my family, anything I can do to be with my wife and two boys. I love to travel with them. I want to spend less time on the phone. Going somewhere and shutting that phone off for a week is rejuvenating.

Favorite place to travel?
My favorite place so far is the Amalfi coast in Italy. It was amazing.

Beach or mountains?
I would go beach and mountains—there are some spots in California with both. But if I had to choose between the two, it would be the beach.

Other than winning, what is the one thing you still get a kick out of as a coach?
Even over winning, I would say the holy grail of this thing is the relationships. You go through stuff together that allows you to know each other on the deepest level. I’ve gotten to see my guys get married. I get Father’s Day text messages. Guys from my former teams follow my current team. These things make you realize there has to be a bigger purpose than winning. That’s the part I get the most joy out of.

Do you still follow tennis? Are there other sports you follow?
I definitely still follow tennis. I love watching football, both college and NFL. I love baseball. I went to my first Cardinals game the other day. I grew up in New York, so I’m a Yankees fan. I like soccer, and I’ve never been to a NHL game, but I’m going to get to a Blues game as soon as I can.

What is at the top of your to-do list that has nothing to do with coaching?
Connecting with the community is my first priority. I want to connect myself and SLU basketball to the city itself. I’ve got to extend the olive branch, and hopefully, people respond. A close second is figuring out all of the good food spots.

Exit mobile version
Skip to toolbar