Saint Leo University has hired a new head basketball coach with a reputation for winning.
“I’m very excited to come to Saint Leo,” said new head coach Vince Alexander. “I think they’re an institution that’s growing. I think it’s an athletic department that really wants to step up their game and really make some things happen.”
Alexander is used to making things happen. He boasts a lifetime winning record above 60 percent during a 16-year coaching career, and spent a decade building his last school, the University of South Carolina-Aiken, into a perennial winner.
His new team has an impressive track record in recent years as well.
Saint Leo finished last season with a record of 14-15, but has enjoyed greater success in previous years.
The Lions reached the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Men’s tournament in each of the previous three seasons, setting a school record for wins in the 2012-13 season (22) and again in the 2013-14 season (24). The Lions reached the second round of the tournament in both of those record-setting campaigns.
After the off year, coach Lance Randall resigned to accept a position at Lindenwood University in Missouri.
That opened the door for Alexander, who had spent the previous 10 seasons with the Pacers. During that time he took the Pacers even farther than the Lions’ best seasons: In 2012-13, Alexander’s team reached the Elite Eight in the NCAA Division II tournament, and the following year they made the Final Four.
In all, USC-Aiken won four Peach Belt Conference regular season championships. Alexander was named the PBC Coach of the Year four times, and National Association of Basketball Coaches Regional Coach of the Year three times. He has a career coaching record of 285-187.
Those accomplishments and that school might be behind him, but Alexander is bringing the work ethic and philosophy that earned those accolades with him to Saint Leo. He’s also bringing a couple of assistants from his former staff who are among his former players. And, he expects success from his new team both on and off the court.
“What we do is we develop young men. We want them to become champions in life. It’s not just about being a champion on the court,” Alexander explained. “Winning is a by-product of what we’ve done in establishing young men and helping them to become good fathers, good husbands and productive citizens of our community. We’re going to keep that same philosophy (at Saint Leo), and, God willing, we’re going to continue to have the success that we had at USC-Aiken.”
Alexander isn’t the type to preach to others, but is proud to say that God plays a big role in his life. He and his family prayed over the decision to coach at a new university, and he strives to lead by example when it comes to how he conducts himself in his life and career.
Alexander’s practices don’t feature a lot of cursing and yelling. But players would be making a big mistake if they assume practices will be easy. To the contrary, Alexander wants intense sessions as he establishes an up-tempo, fast-paced game plan, which requires moving up the court quickly when they have the ball, and a pressuring defense when they don’t.
NCAA rules do not permit practice over the summer.
Alexander said he has already spoken to returning and incoming players so they know what to expect, and he is working with the strength training coach to make sure that players will be in shape to handle the increased activity and intensity in practice and on game days.
The players have expressed enthusiasm about the style of play, but the coach knows it’s easy to say you’re on board before the conditioning starts. He wants those first practices to be difficult and to really test his players.
The coach said if they stick with his philosophy and follow the game plan, he’s confident the results will show up on the scoreboard.
“Our goal is to have 45-50 points at half time. Not for a game,” Alexander explained.
In a press release announcing Alexander’s hire, Saint Leo athletic director Fran Reidy stated the team’s goals are to challenge for the conference title and eventually reach the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament.
For his part, Alexander wouldn’t make any specific predictions regarding how much progress they’ll make toward those goals in his first season. They haven’t even had a practice yet.
But he does have one prediction for the fans: They’re going to like what they see on the court.
“It will be hard for you to sit in your seat because it will be up-tempo, aggressive defense and getting after it on both ends of the floor,” he said.
Published July 8, 2015