Newly-hired Kansas State men’s basketball coach Jerome Tang spoke to the media for the first time on Thursday, March 24. Tang immediately said everything the crowd wanted to hear.
“I learned this phrase,” Tang said. “EMAW. EMAW! I get goosebumps. Every Man a Wildcat.”
The press conference was held in the Shamrock Zone in front of hundreds of fans and a slew of media personnel. Athletic director Gene Taylor introduced Tang to the stage and had nothing but good things to say about his new hire.
“We found our guy,” Taylor said. “I didn’t know who he was personally … after that first hour, the bar was set pretty high. We talked to some great candidates – all head coaches – and every time we went back to [Tang]. It was just a fit, and we felt it.”
Throughout the entire press conference, Tang gauged the room and gave the Wildcat faithful everything they wanted to hear. Typically, “coach-speak” can sound superficial, but no one doubted what Tang brought to the stage Thursday.
Tang was asked why he took the job at K-State over other schools, to which he simply replied with, “Because [athletic director Gene Taylor] said yes.”
The response was followed by a roar of applause from the crowd.
“I believe that there have been opportunities that I wanted to take, and they were blocked on purpose because there was something greater that was planned in my life,” Tang said. “When people tell you no, it can impact your ego or make you feel bad about yourself, or you can say, ‘God said something bigger for me.’ I’m here, bigger, better.”
Tang shared the story of when Baylor head coach Scott Drew learned of Tang’s hiring at K-State. Drew and Tang helped turn around a Baylor program overrun with numerous scandals and NCAA infractions.
When Drew took over the program, he was handed a bottle of wine and was told not to open it until something happy happened. After an NIT championship, three Elite Eights, two conference championships and a national championship, the wine remained unopened. Drew took the bottle over to Tang’s house after learning of his hiring at K-State.
“Those deep bonds, that take colleagues, to friends, to brothers for life … that’s what we’re going to do here,” Tang said. “I plan to be at your weddings, send you something when your first son is born, daughter is born, I’m going to have that picture up in my office.”
Even with the connection between the two, Tang doesn’t plan on taking it easy when he reunites with the Bears.
“Scott Drew is a terrific man,” Tang said, “but I expect you to give him a hard time when he comes here.”
Born in Trinidad (West Indies), Tang spoke about the path he had to take to get here. In a video from the K-State men’s basketball Twitter account when he first introduced the team, Tang said he wasn’t “born with a silver spoon in his mouth.”
— K-State Men's Basketball (@KStateMBB) March 24, 2022
“When you put in the work, you can go out there and play confidently,” Tang said at the press conference. “The only reason I’m here is because I work hard. My parents are immigrants, I am an immigrant. Nobody handed us anything. We just out-worked people … we’re going to get credit because we are going to be able to step out on the court and trust the work that we put in.”
Throughout the press conference, Tang would take a second to gather himself while his emotions got high. Tang was asked how he planned on keeping his emotions in check.
“I really don’t want to keep it in check,” Tang said. “This is who I am. I’m really passionate, I care deeply, I have no problem crying, I have no problem laughing, I have no problem cheering. That’s my heart. When I really, really care about something, I’m all in.”
Whenever the story would drift into a new topic, Tang found a way to bring it back to the fanbase, showing the importance he places on filling up Bramlage Coliseum on game days.
“I was always blown away by the fans and the community and the energy and just extremely, extremely thankful for that,” Tang said. “I remember the students tearing up the paper and throwing it up in the air and thinking, ‘Man, that’s so cool.'”
Tang will serve as the first Black head coach in Kansas State men’s basketball history.
“It is pretty cool to be a part of history and be able to leave a legacy for my kids, but I got to make sure it’s a great legacy … so we got to get players and we got to win,” Tang said.
Tang, 55, signed a six-year contract, receiving $2.1 million in 2022-23, increasing $100,000 every year through 2027-28.