bleedCrimson.net: What attracted the New Mexico State job?
Blair Quinn: A couple things, for me it was the timing in terms of personal and professional development and then the actual job itself at New Mexico State, the university. The community supports the athletic program so much there, including soccer. They were in the Top 20 in attendance both years for soccer so there's a ton of support there and it's a very close-knit family type environment. It's easier to be successful at a place like that.
bc.net: You've had a couple chances to see the team, competing against them in the spring at Arizona State. How much did you know about the program and the team and kids and some of the talent having had the opportunity to coach against them?
BQ: I've got a little idea of the team from playing against them, we actually played against them a couple weeks ago at ASU. I don't know the team that well in terms of their style and personalities but from what I saw a couple weeks ago there are some good pieces there. It's not typically what you'd expect from a second year program. It's usually, you kind of start at the bottom and really have to work a long time working your way up. I think they were started very very well and as such they're already in a really good place talent-wise which I hope to keep improving the talent level with what we have now.
bc.net: What's your coaching style and philosophy and what type of impression are you hoping to make in terms of making the program your own?
BQ: It's always kind of a difficult question, your style and your philosophy and I really hadn't thought about it until this interview process came up. I like the way we've done things in the past where I was at ASU. I think the style of play that I like is that possession style, definitely playing through the midfield and having quality, technical midfielders to being able to possess the ball and keep it for long stretches of time. Ideally if you have the ball, you have opportunities to score and you're not defending as much. Keeping the ball is going to be a big priority for us. Possessing it with a purpose, getting to the goal, creating chances.
On the defensive side of the ball, you're going to have to defend, a very defensive pressure type of team is what I'd like to be. It requires a very high level of fitness but not in a running just to be running type of fitness, there's definitely a team scheme to the defensive side of the ball in terms of how we'll defend. It's very much a team oriented defense, doubling every time you get a chance and that kind of stuff.
Then my philosophy in terms of just coaching in general is teach them, give them all the tools they need to work with during the week in practice so come game time, the games are for them. It's not for me to be standing up and yelling and shouting instructions non-stop and telling them what to do and where to go. That's boring. It's boring for me and it's certainly boring for them. The games are for the players and it's for them to take those things we've done throughout the week and apply them and make all those decisions themselves on Fridays and Sundays when we play.
bc.net: At Arizona State you worked with the goal keepers a lot and at New Mexico State last season there were a pair of freshmen starting in goal and presumably one or both of them will see playing time this season. What's your approach to coaching the goal keepers and what will you be working on with them as you start looking toward the beginning of the season?
BQ: One of the things about goal keeping, certainly at the collegiate level that is different than really any of the other positions is no matter how much training they get at club and high school level, it's never as much as they get at the collegiate level. It's the biggest adjustment for kids that come in collegiately as goal keepers because they get their game picked apart a little bit more. The first couple weeks you feel like you're getting broken down a little bit because every little detail they need to improve on. But then after those first couple of weeks then they realize that they've impoved and they're improving a ton. There's a much bigger learning curve for freshmen goal keepers and they start to improve a lot between their freshman and sophomore year and you see a lot of growth. I think in terms of this core, this group, they're all young. They've had a chance to go through a year together, a couple of them started. But the great thing is they'll all have the opportunity to compete for the position. I think that's the best thing you can have, competition, especially in goal because you're not subbing a lot. It's one kid who's playing for the game, or for the weekend or for the season, depending on how well they do. So, competition is always a positive because it keeps the number one sharp and it keeps the number two and number three hungry to be the number one. I forsee a good battle for the job next year and a lot of improvement from young goal keepers as they mature.
bc.net: How much time have you been able to spend meeting the current members of the team?
BQ: I just met them and had a sit-down meeting with them after the press conference this afternoon for about 30 or 40 minutes and just let them ask questions of me and get to know me a little bit and style and personality. They're great kids, they're funny, they had good questions. I think they're just excited about having a coach. I don't know if they're so much excited about me or that they just have a coach there in place to run the program and I'm definitely excited about them.
bc.net: What is your future schedule for the next couple months and what are your plans for hiring assistants and will the current coaches, Courtney Sobrero and Chris Vaudrey be on staff?
BQ: The staff is a huge priority right now. That's really the number one priority and something I'd like to have finalized as soon as possible. I do have a couple people in mind, I'm not sure how that's going to play out yet but I'll have conversations with everyone involved, Courtney and Chris as well. That's something I definitely want to finalize real soon.
The schedule in general for the next couple of months is just going to be recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. We need to play catch up a little bit on the 2012 class. We're not sitting behind the 8-ball or anything like that, there are still many many uncommitted, good 2012 players available that we need to get out and see in recruiting, specifically here in New Mexico and then out in the southwest, Arizona and southern Cal and places like that. That's going to be the big thing in the next couple months, getting out and recruiting in as many places as I can get out to.
bc.net: What type of player are you looking for in terms of ability and style of play and personality?
BQ: I think just in general because it tends to differ by position, you're looking for certain personality qualities or personality traits in certain positions but in general it's a kid that is just ultimately competitive, one that will fight for every loose ball, will slide to keep balls in bounds, they hate to lose, they're just ultimately competitive. I think that's gotta be the foundation. Then their personality traits depending on the position. Are they a defender, are they a forward, that type of thing.
In terms of physical or athletic attributes, I'm not one that's that concerned about size. I don't need a team full of 5'10" or 6' players, I'm much more concerned with technical ability. I'd rather a kid be 5'2" and can flat out play than be 5'10" and just be really athletic. Now there's a place for that but I'm much more focused on getting technical players, players that can handle the ball regardless of what position they play rather than how tall or how fast they are.
bc.net: Talk a little bit about your background as a player and as an assistant and who are some of the real big influences on your coaching career?
BQ: I'm from Kansas City originally, grew up and played all my youth soccer there, I even played college soccer there in Kansas City at Rockhurst University. That's one of my biggest influences, my college coach, he's still there, Tony Tocco, he's been there 37 or 38 years. He's one of the top two all-time winningest college coaches in the country. Every year has a fantastic program. He's a big influence on my love for the game and some of my coaching style or approaches to the game. Then in the last several years I've been at Arizona State under head coach Kevin Boyd who I think is one of the most underrated coaches in the country and in my opinion one of the Top 5 college coaches in the country period. He's very very good at what he does and he's very very good at getting it across to other people and teaching not only his players but also teaching his assistants. I learned a lot in the last four years form Kevin and really kind of fashioned myself as a coach after what he and I have done the last four years at Arizona State. He's been a big influence as well. Then there's other people, my very first college coaching job was with John Perry, we coached at a very small school in Leavenworth, Kansas at St. Mary's. He gave me the opportunity to get into college coaching and I've loved it from there.
bc.net: What advice have you gotten from other head coaches about approaching your first head coaching position?
BQ: One day at a time. Everybody keeps telling me to take it one day at a time. I've had a few tell me it's going to be overwhelming, there's so much work to do in the first couple months. They all just say don't worry about it, everything will get done, everything will happen in time. It's just one day at a time. I'm looking forward to it.