After tournament success, Haase’s UAB Blazers have high expectations entering 2015-16 season
Jerod Haase has consistently built the University of Alabama at Birmingham men’s basketball team during his tenure as head coach. Now in his fourth season at the helm of the Blazers, the former South Tahoe basketball standout leads a team that enters the 2015-16 season with high expectations.
“We will be playing for championships and believe that we have a team that should be competing at a high level,” Haase said. “We’ll place those high standards upon ourselves.”
UAB has increased its win total in each of Haase’s four seasons, including a 20-16 mark last year. The Blazers also ended the campaign with postseason success. After winning the Conference USA Tournament to earn a spot in the big dance, they stunned Iowa State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“We felt like we were making progress in the conference season and we certainly made some strides,” Haase said. “But with the late-season success and being able to win a conference championship and then go to the NCAA Tournament — it puts it on a whole new level.”
After winning its opener, 14th-seeded UAB fell to 11th-seeded UCLA 92-75 in the third round. While Haase experienced postseason success as both a player and assistant coach, the Blazers’ 60-59 win over Iowa State marked the first of his head coaching career.
“It was awesome — it was a great feeling,” Haase said. “As a head coach, it was unique and very, very special. I have a lot of pride in what we did, but more importantly a lot of pride for the program and the guys that are involved.
“It was certainly a big boost and it gives us a goal for this year — to try to do similar kinds of things again.”
UAB was the third-youngest team in Div. I last year with a roster comprised entirely of Haase’s recruits, and enters this season more experienced with talent and depth. The Blazers return 10 players from last season, including a starting five that features preseason all-conference selections Robert Brown and William Lee.
“We’re fairly experienced even though we are fairly young, and I think that’s a good combination,” Haase said. “It makes me think that we have the chance to hopefully sustain success for the next couple years.”
The Blazers tipped off the 2015-16 season with a 75-74 loss at in-state foe Auburn on Friday, Nov. 13, the first of four straight games against Alabama opponents. UAB’s home opener at Bartow Arena is Monday, Nov. 16, against Alabama State.
“We want to recruit the state, but we also want to play teams within the state,” Haase said. “That’s what we’re doing, and to build your identity it is important to start within the state and branch out from there.”
UAB opens Conference USA play against Middle Tennessee on Jan. 3. The Blazers were picked to finish atop the 14-team conference, receiving 11 of the possible 14 first-place votes.
“The most important thing is that the expectations internally are high with me and the team — we’re hoping and expecting to be competitive,” Haase said. “We’ve done some good things, but now we have to produce on game days and live up to the expectations.”
Haase has no problem with the lofty prospects set forth for this year’s UAB team, which he said is part of the process of building the program. How the Blazers handle success will determine much progress they make in their fourth season under the former Vikings legend.
“This is a journey,” Haase said. “There are going to be highs and lows throughout the whole thing, but if we compete and are consistent with our effort I think a lot of our goals will come true.”