Eric Musselman coached in the NBA for almost a decade, from 1998 to 2007, spending time with the Magic, Hawks, Warriors, Grizzlies and Kings. But he’s coached in college since 2012 and has spent the last two seasons as head coach of Nevada (28-6), which is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007.
There are certain things about the college game that the 52-year-old Musselman prefers over the pros.
“I think the thing that I like the most about the college game is the impact you can have on young student-athletes,” Musselman said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “You’re developing their character off the floor. You’re trying to teach them about work ethic. It could be about work ethic in the classroom, it could be socially, it could be on the basketball court – all those different things. In the NBA, it’s a great lifestyle. You’re staying in Ritz-Carltons, your per diem is unbelievable, you’re going against the greatest players in the world on a nightly basis, you’re going against the greatest coaches in the world on a nightly basis.
“But having said that,” Musselman continued, “you get on an airplane, you get to the hotel, you really don’t see your players at all or have much interaction with them with the exception of that practice, a little before practice or a few minutes after. These guys all have families, and they’re grown men. I feel like I’m a semi-dad to most of our guys when they’re on our campus for 10 months out of the year, so it’s a completely different world. In the NBA, it’s all basketball 24/7, and in college, it’s about much more than just basketball and you have a way bigger impact on people’s lives.”
Nevada, which is seeded 12th in the Midwest, will face No. 5 Iowa State (23-10) on Thursday at 9:57 p.m. ET.
“We’re really excited,” Musselman said. “We’ve had a lot of pressure games in the last five games. We finished the regular season where we had to beat Colorado State in order to secure the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, and that also won us the Mountain West regular season. It’s really hard in college basketball to win your regular-season championship and then follow that up with a conference championship. We had to win three games in three days, and we couldn’t be prouder than what our student-athletes have done. They’ve really competed and kept focus. It’s a great, great day here at our university and on campus to hear our names called on Selection Sunday.”
Musselman knows Iowa State will be a tough matchup. The Cyclones won the Big 12 Tournament on Saturday – their third conference-tournament crown in four years.
“We got to be really focused and treat this game just as we did all the games this season,” Musselman said. “It’s important for our players to really dive in on their own time and watch film on Iowa State. We’ll try to lay out a game-plan in a short time. It’s obviously way different than conference play because you know those teams from playing them the year before and you play teams twice in your own conference. It’s kind of equal ground as far as a preparation standpoint for both Iowa State and Nevada. We got to just focus and can’t be distracted by all the media and such.”