Tory Verdi is in the middle of his first season as the women’s basketball coach for Eastern Michigan University. Before the team boarded the bus for their matchup at Kent State University, Verdi gave The Eastern Echo a few minutes and provided some background on his coaching career and life off the court as well.
Q: How long have you been coaching?
A: Sixteen years. Early on, I knew I wanted to be a coach. Obviously, if you can’t play, the next best thing is to be a coach. I coached Division I, II and III on the men’s side, a head high school job coaching boys’ varsity, then from there I went to Western Connecticut [State University] and coached there for several years, won two Little East championships, moved on to coaching in the WNBA, wasn’t really ready for that, didn’t know what to expect … it kind of just happened. It was an unbelievable experience and won a championship there. I knew I wanted to be a collegiate head women’s basketball coach. I knew I had to invest myself in a Division I basketball program, so I ended up moving out to Nebraska. I was at Nebraska for five years and ended up taking a program that was at ground zero; we helped build it up to where we ended up winning a Big 12 Championship. We were 30-0 my fifth year there, my last year there, we were ranked third in the country. I left there and went to Kansas and was part of a two year position there. They didn’t make the NCAA tournament for the last nine years and obviously we made the Sweet 16 last year and then obviously got the job here.
Q: What do you think makes a successful coach?
A: Your character and your work ethic. I believe that you have to be the hardest worker. It feeds off to the people you hire and your players as well. I feel that I’m a teacher as well. My job obviously is not to only just coach basketball, but to help teach these young women how to be successful in life as well. There’s a lot of growth and development and a maturation process as well, and that’s our responsibility.
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of what you’ve done so far?
A: They’re all different. They all help you and develop you to who you are today in regards to understanding how hard work pays off. Being at the University of Nebraska and being at the bottom of the Big 12 to winning a Big 12 Championship. Going from worst to first and being a part of that rebuilding project. Being 30-0 and being ranked third in the country is something special; that was very, very special. I was the post coach there and being able to coach up three players who made it into the WNBA [including] Kelsey Griffin: She was an All-American and selected in the first round [of the WNBA draft]. Having the opportunity to coach those guys up was something special. Moving on to the University of Kansas, being part of a program that really needed help taking that next step and within our second year we made it to the Sweet 16, and having the opportunity to coach Carolyn Davis who is on the Waite Trophy watch list and also an All-American, so I had that opportunity to help coach her up as well. She’ll be selected in the first round of the WNBA draft this year as well.
Q: There are things you want to do to get away from the sport as well. What are those things?
A: Family time. I have an unbelievable wife and three kids; I have two sons and a daughter. My oldest son is nine years old, my daughter is the middle child, she’s six, and my youngest is three. Those guys are all rippin’ and running and all over the place. They’re running around from basketball to dance lessons to you name it. Just being able to spend some quality family time with this type of job that doesn’t allow for that and focus on them is definitely a fun time.
Q: Are there certain things you and your family like to do?
A: Trips are fun. Last year we went to Disney World, that’s always a fun place to go to. I enjoy just day trips or just going out in the back yard and throwing the ball around and so forth. My son is playing basketball now and I really enjoy the opportunity to go out and watch him play … he’s got that itch and to see him really absorb and understand and watch him going through the process is really fun.
Verdi and the women’s basketball team take on Northern Illinois University at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Convocation Center.