Turner introduced as ThunderWolves' new coach

CSU-Pueblo coach Ralph Turner answers questions at introductory press conference (Bryan Kelsen/Pueblo Chieftain)

T-Wolves' new men's basketball coach is anxious to get started

Video of Press Conference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTOCLefJ6xo

By JOE E. CERVI | cervi@chieftain.com The Pueblo Chieftain

  Ralph Turner knows how to coach basketball.

  The 362-151 record at his last college job is ample proof.

  Now, if Turner can just learn how to pronounce the name of his new hometown and correctly dress for the unpredictable Colorado weather.

  "We went to the baseball game in short sleeves (Sunday) and ended up in snow after a hailstorm," Turner said in a distinct Tennessee drawl on Monday at Massari Arena. "I couldn't believe it but they said that's Pueblo."

  Colorado State University-Pueblo Athletic Director Joe Folda, who was the fourth men's basketball coach in school history, officially introduced Turner, now the ThunderWolves' sixth head coach.

  The change in the weather isn't the only change Folda wanted Turner to witness. Folda hired the longtime NAIA coach to turn around a ThunderWolves program mired in mediocrity.


Turner also offered glimpses into his philosophy on and off the court:

On Massari Arena: "This is the best small-college facility I've ever seen. If you can't recruit here, you can't recruit.

On recruiting: "It's not too late to find good players. This is the best recruiting time for Division II." He said many players who felt they were Division I material were left behind for one reason or another are looking for a place to play.

On NAIA vs. Division II: "The gap between the top programs at each level is closing. There isn't much difference anymore with the good programs."

On Colorado players: "The heart and soul of this program will be from Colorado; the hands and legs might come from all over, but we want to look locally first."

On character: "We want the best kids, but they have to be more than just good basketball players. And we'll find those kinds of kids."

On his playing style: "We're going to play intelligent basketball. If you have a team that can run, then you run. If you have a team built around 3-point shooters, then you play that style. The best teams don't play just one type of defense. Do I like to play zone? No, but there are teams that aren't very good against a zone so you play it."

On Pueblo: "This school has proven winners here with Coach (Kip) Drown and the women's basketball program and Coach (John) Wristen and the football team. This is a great town and it needs something better and it deserves something better. And it's possible to do something special here."

  "I feel we got our guy," Folda said. "The three candidates we brought to campus (for interviews), all three were proven winners. The other two we didn't offer the job to, one already has been hired and the other has been offered a job, though I don't know if he has accepted. The one thing that swayed me with Coach Turner is that he will be a great mentor to our kids."

  Turner replaced Pat Eberhart, who resigned after six seasons.

  Turner, 53, spent the past two seasons coaching high school basketball in Tennessee. He spent the 15 seasons prior as the head coach at Union (Tenn.) University. He left Union for personal reasons just days after being named NAIA national coach of the year.

  The message delivered Monday by the Pack's new coach was clear: Character counts.

  "Our program is going to be different, from how our kids act on the floor to how they go out into the community," he said. "I'd rather finish second with kids I liked than win with kids I didn't. We're here to prepare kids for life after sports. It's not what you achieve in life, but what you become."

  Many of the CSU-Pueblo players Turner inherited attended the press conference. It was their first chance to meet the coach.

  "We're not looking to make wholesale changes. We're going to start off with what we've got and go from there," he said.

 Turner said Tommie Johnson, an assistant under Eberhart, will remain with the program in the same capacity.