Mark Adams was more “who?” than a household name when he was appointed the head coach of Texas Tech in April.
It was after all his first head-coaching position at a power-conference one of the things that immediately stood outand jumped out — was the fact that it was his age. It’s not often that you meet people are able to get their first head coaching job in a power conference in their 60s, do you think? Particularly at the Big 12 school that had played in the national championship only a few years prior.
Adams was an assistant head coach under Chris Beard’s coaching staff at Tech and he was there until Beard went to Austin to become the head coach at Texas Tech. The top management at Tech knew everything about Adams and that’s the reason they chose him to be their coach — however, the average college basketball fan was unaware of Adams. Red Raiders’ new coach.
It’s just that the man was aged 64. Nearly every article covered that story.
After a few minutes of the press conference that he was introducing and it was clear that the most memorable part of Adams his unique experience did not have anything to be related to his age. When he was asked an interviewer’s question, Adams began his speech with these phrases: “But even when I was playing hockey, I never felt like it.” …”
Wait … hockey? What? Is it really important how the sentence was pronounced?
Oh, and Adams was n’t a hockey trainer. He was the proprietor of a minor- league hockey platoon — in West Texas, of all places with his binary family, Matt. Yeah. It was an amazing story when Adams was hired. And now, as the head trainer of theNo. 3 seed Red Aggressors preparing his platoon for the Sweet 16, it’s downright inconceivable. And the discrepancy between Adams and his guiding counterpart in the Sweet 16 — Duke trainer Mike Krzyzewski and his,200 career D- I wins is just silly.
|Mike Krzyzewski||Mark Adams|
|Division 1 seasons||47||6|
|Division 1 wins||1,200||71|
|NCAA tournament wins||99||2|
However, you can be sure that the coach K and his team are stricken by the prospect of the challenge facing Adams his team.
There’s no record on the NCAA Tournament record book for “coaches who used to own minor-league hockey teams and are in their first season as a power-conference head coach at 65 years old” however it’s likely that this former owner of the Lubbock Cotton Kings is blazing the trail of unexplored possibilities.
If you’re interested If you’re interested, here’s the full statement from Adams during the first public appearance “I loved being in hockey. I was doing that for about seven years. But even when I was in hockey, I was sneaking over to South Plains, trying to help Coach (Steve) Green coach, and John Copeland at Lubbock Christian and Todd Duncan at Trinity, anybody that wanted me to come get on the floor and get guys in a defensive stance, that’s what I wanted to do.”
We’ll return in time to John Copeland in a minute.
A little background information about Adams. Adams is from Brownfield in which is a West Texas Tech town about 45 minutes away from Lubbock (which is “around the corner” in West Texas driving time -His family’s roots go back to generations in Brownfield. The twin of his, Matt made a livelihood in agriculture, just like the family members who came before him. Matt Adams tragically died of Covid in the month of January.
Mark Adams played at South Plains College and later was an assistant student for Texas Tech. He got his first head coach post in Clarendon College in 1981 at 25 years old. He then led an extremely popular NAIA programme at Wayland Baptist from 1983-87. In the following years, he led West Texas Tech A&M to 108 wins and two Division II tournament appearances before being hired in Texas Pan American (the institution has switched its names to Texas-Rio Grand Valley) which he held between 1992 and 1997.
Basketball and the Cotton Kings dominated the next stage of his life however, the basketball returned in 2004 as the head coach for Howard College, where his team took home the national juco title in 2010 with the future NBA player Jae Crowder as the leader. He returned to Tech which was his school of choice as Director of Basketball Operations for Tubby Smith in 2013. Coach was hired as Chris Beard’s coaches assistants at Arkansas-LittleRock in 2015 . He then continued to coach Chris Beard back to Tech in the year 2016. Did you catch by surprise? Great.
Now, let’s talk about hockey to get ready for Sweet 16.
“I think it’s the best hidden story about Mark Adams,” said Chris Due, who was the Cotton Kings’ radio broadcaster and director of media relations. “How the heck do you go from winning Organization of the Year in the Central Hockey League to coaching a team to the Sweet 16?”
This, dear readers is a fantastic question.
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The Cotton Kings played their first game in the Western Professional Hockey League in October 1999 and had their brothers the Adams brothers as their owners. Mark was the co-owner as well as the club’s general manager. At the level of minor-league sports the GM is the one who oversees everything in the running and management of the club. It’s about more than hiring coaches and getting players. Adams was a bit unsure of himself and the players whom he brought on.
“He puts ownership on you,” Due explained. “He’s a more of a perfectionist, and you’re required to conform to his rules. He’s always trying to take you down. There were moments when I felt like I didn’t want to be being a part of the company … But once he’s convinced that he’s got your trust as a boss, he’s a wonderful boss because it’s up to you to take your time and do what you want.”
The move to hockey was a major adjustment for a basketball player who has been a lifetime fan. However, he approached each sport the same way as he described Paul Fioroni, a Toronto native who moved to Lubbock in the form of a participant. He later became an assistant player.
“When Mark came into hockey the distance was just two feet in front. He’d jump right in and take in the experience,” Fioroni said. “What are the guidelines? What are the best strategies? We had a captain as well as an assistant coach and player for a few years near the conclusion of my professional career. I had the opportunity to be a part of his team on the coaching front and, I’ll tell you, this guy is a pro. He was always on top of the game. He became a participant and instructor of the game. He’s the type of person who could have gotten into coaching hockey and succeeded excellently. He was just that kind of guy.”
Unfortunately, a duck-out-of water Ted Lasso storyline wasn’t in Adams’ future. Like everything else in Adams’ life experience, Adams was hands-on from the beginning.
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“The way the office was structured, to go upstairs you had to go by Mark’s office,” Due explained. “There was no way to sneak through. The upstairs was where you could get your mail and the place where the copiers were. Therefore, whenever a coacheither after an outcome or loss- – would climb the stairs Mark would sway them and would want to dissect the games, while also breaking down the philosophies and strategies … Mark would make the coaches sweat.”
The players Adams hired were a reflection of the hard-nosed, tough reputations his basketball teams enjoyed. Alan May, a former NHL tough player was his initial head coach.
“Fighting, hitting, grinding … every team was intimidated by us,” Fioroni declared. “He loved it and relished that we would scare people before the puck dropped.”
“If the team had a brawl and there were 200 penalty minutes in the game and we’re in Corpus Christi playing, he’d be disappointed because he would want that to happen at a home game so he could sell tickets,” Due stated with a smile. “He was always about tickets, and it was to no surprise that we led the league in attendance the first two seasons.”
This is why Fioroni did so well when the team was formed by Adams his team at the end of 2001’s season. Over the course of his five seasons playing for the Cotton Kings, Fioroni recorded scores of 57 goal, 134 assist, and the total of 885 penalties minutes.
Let’s look back at John Copeland and Adams’ remarks in his press conference. Whatever Adams may try to minimize the incident, he did more than just instruct some guys how to take the defensive position.
“If he had 20 minutes and wanted to hit the floor, I was good with that,” said Copeland who was chief coach of Lubbock Christian for 31 years. “Somebody was asking me: ‘Why did you do that?’ and it’s because he elevates the 20 minutes, which will improve their performance … Mark would coach for so long that during the entire 20 minutes, he’d be like “John, I’ve got to go. I’m suffering from the most horrible headache. He was always engaged in the field.”
Copeland’s experience in the NAIA school was not without a stretch during which Adams was part of his team, the Cotton Kings. It wasn’t a problem the fact that Adams was the owner and GM of a team in the hockey league but to Copeland this was just an extra job, but mostly, Adams was a great basketball player and a great motivator. He was a longtime friend and was the head coach at Wayland Baptist — “you can’t get a bigger rivalry for what we were, little Christian schools in West Texas Tech” -just two years prior.
“When John Copeland had a excellent group, John Copeland would frequently invite Mark to join the team for practice. The reason was that it was funny because Mark would ignite the fire,” Due said. “This is an Christian institution, and it’s not easy to get the head coach employed by an Christian university to ignite an open flame within the gym, in case you understand what I’m referring to. Mark however, can ignite the fire. When Mark ignites a fire, it’s extremely to-the-point. He’s kind and firm and clear and direct. He’s not animated however if the voice he uses is raised, that signifies that he’s angry. He tries to scream at you.”
Copeland brought Adams into the mix early in the 2003-04 season as previously. However, this time, it was distinct. The Chaparrals were a formidable team and were able to participate at the first Las Vegas Invitational; another school was forced out and Copeland was more than content to provide his team with the chance to compete. The Chaparrals were also the sole non-D-I college that played in the opening game. The games were held on the campus with only the best teams being invited for a trip to Las Vegas for a couple games.
Not just did Copeland had Adams as a regular in his practice Adams was also invited to join him for the journey. The first game was played in Miami the Lubbock Christian team offered the Hurricanes all they could but the home team took control in the final minutes. The next stop was Rhode Island, where the Chaparrals were able to take an 11-0 advantage and fought any challenge that the home Rams could throw at them. At 0:00, the clock was on, Lubbock Christian had the advantage with a win of 74-68.
This was Lubbock Christian’s first ever win over the Division I team. This was a solid Rhode Island team, too. The Rams ended the season with a record of 20-14 and qualified for the NIT Texas Tech.
However, Lubbock Christian wasn’t finished. Their win over the Rams took their team into Las Vegas, where they defeated an other Division I team, Bradley. It was 89-81.
“So the bulk of it was Mark’s tenacity and determination throughout that short time. He was really adept at it,” Copeland said. “He earns their confidence. I’m not able to pinpoint the finger to it however he was aware of what was important to him to protect.”
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Lubbock Christian also caught the attention from Dick Vitale, who mentioned Lubbock Christian almost every time he appeared on ESPN broadcasts for the following couple of weeks. He even declared Copeland the coach for the week..
Remember the timeline? The tournament took place in November 2003.
“That was the time he played hockey! We would joke about and say to him, ‘Mark You need to be back in basketball. We knew he was missing the sport,” Due said. “It was not like he hated playing hockey. He was a fan of the game of hockey. He’s got that drive. He wants to be the best at everything.”
Adams could not resist the lure of full-time basketball any longer. In 2004 Adams quit his position as a coach for his team the Cotton Kings and took the post of head coach in Howard College in Big Spring located about 1 hour away from Lubbock. While at Howard the coach built an impressive program, chalking the record with 233 wins and an NJCAA championship. He was elected to the NJCAA Hall of Fame in 2020.
Then it was 2 years later, as a coach at Tech serving as Tubby Smith’s basketball director operations. Then, he moved to Chris Beard’s team, first at Arkansas-LittleRock — do you remember the team that defeated Purdue at the beginning of the round thanks to the ability to lock down defense? And then, at Tech. Remember the way Tech had a spectacular run to the national championship game in the year 2019, aided by an unstoppable defense and ineffective?
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There were a few in Lubbock were aware of the team’s DNA.
“I think that people undervalue the influence he played during those Chris Beard years. Coach was an integral component of the defensive motor of the team. He was the brains behind it,” Fioroni said.
“He doesn’t take any foot off the accelerator, and this was the way he was at when I played with his hockey team, back as the manager and owner for the club. The discipline we were taught to play each night is the same way he’s doing it with Texas Tech.”
Its defensive DNA present in the current team. On KenPom.com, the Red Raiders rank No. 1 in the country for the adjusted efficiency of their defensive play. This season, they beat them at Baylor in the time when they were the Bears were ranked No. 1 in the nation -they then defeated them again in Lubbock. Bears once more in Lubbock -winning against ranked teams Kansas, Tennessee and Texas (twice) — and you be aware of the joy Tech fans were entertained watching their team defeat the Beard’s team that was formed by their new coach.
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It’s insane to think that there’s a high possibility that Adams might be perhaps the most unlikable Sweet 16 coach in NCAA Tournament time — might be the person who will end the coaching life of one of the best recognizable and well-known coach in the history of college basketball. If anything else Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils will have their hands full of Tech’s defensive vigor and strength.
Due she is the athletic director’s assistant the communications department in Lubbock Christian, still keeps contact with the reporter who used to write about for the Cotton Kings.
“He’ll text me from the air telling me that Mark Adams’s appearing on ESPN as a basketball coach. I’m unable to wrap my brain about the idea.’ ” Due says with a laugh. “And many of us don’t. Although we’re not shocked by about what’s going on but we don’t understand the implications. Who would have thought that 20 years ago, while Mark is screaming about meeting our goals in ticket sales that he’d take Texas Tech to a Sweet 16 place.”
It’s quite a experience, and there’s without a doubt. One thing that makes March such a great month is the weather.
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