MACOMB, Ill. (NEWS3) — Under normal circumstances, Wednesday would have been Rob Jeter’s introductory press conference as the new head coach of the Western Illinois men’s basketball team.
These, of course, are not normal circumstances.
Coronavirus concerns kept media members away from the school. Jeter, 50, instead spoke one-on-one to news outlets in front of a computer screen, enthusiastic to get a new era of WIU men’s hoops underway.
“Being so close to home, I grew up on the south side of Chicago, that was one of the things that drew me to Western,” Jeter said. “Being from Chicago and spending time in Wisconsin and Milwaukee, this is an area I’m really familiar with.”
WIU officially named Jeter the 21st head coach in program history on March 30. Before arriving in Macomb, he spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach at Minnesota.
Jeter is best known for the 11 years (2005-16) he spent as the head coach at UW-Milwaukee. He led the Panthers to two Horizon League regular season championships and two NCAA Tournament appearances.
His record at UWM was 184-170, including five seasons of at least 20 wins.
During his 25-year college coaching career, Jeter also served as an assistant at Wisconsin, Marquette, Milwaukee, UNLV, and UW-Platteville.
“We couldn’t be more excited to have Rob as our next head men’s basketball coach,” Western Illinois Athletic Director Danielle Surprenant said in a statement. “Rob brings so much experience with him. He has seen success as both a head coach and assistant, and his drive and passion for the game are contagious.”
Jeter replaces Billy Wright, whose contract was not renewed by the school after the Leathernecks finished 5-21 last season. Western went 53-115 during Wright’s six seasons with the team.
“Every place I’ve been to has been a challenge. I’m just trying to keep it simple,” Jeter said. “I’m pretty comfortable with what we’re about, we’re just going to try to stick to that plan, and wherever you go you have to do it a little bit differently. I think here it’s just going to be a matter of getting people to really believe in what we’re trying to build, and keep it simple.”
Jeter’s first big task at Western will be building a roster. WIU’s top three scorers from last season announced their decision to transfer. Junior guard Kobe Webster (17.1 points per game) is heading to Nebraska. Sophomores Zion Young (13.2 ppg) and Ben Pyle (12.3 ppg) have entered their names into the transfer portal, and junior center Kyle Arrington also announced he will transfer.
With only six players set to return next season, Jeter is looking to take advantage of the transfer portal and help younger players develop.
“When you look across the country, a lot of us are in the same boat. We start looking at the transfer portal, and everyday there’s more guys that come into the system,” Jeter said. “We want to make sure we’re recruiting the right types of players, guys that fit. In this day and age where transfers are so prevalent, guys are coming in and leaving. You have to make sure you’re spending a lot of time with your guys, and they have to know that you care about them.”
“I like to win. Our first goal this season is to get guys playing to their full potential, and lay out our standards on how we want to play and get guys to accept that,” Jeter said. “That usually takes a little bit of time but I think if the guys know you really care about them, and that you’re fair and if they can really see that it’s going to help them develop, they’ll buy in. We’re going to have fun doing that, I think that’s the last piece of all of this, is to make sure everyone’s having fun doing it.”