Honesty, character paying early dividends for SEMO coach Brad Korn

Former Kansas State men's basketball assistant coach Brad Korn speaks with a Wildcat player during a game against Saint Louis at the Sprint Center in Kansas City this past season.
Courtesy of Kansas State Athletics

Within minutes of being announced as the new men’s basketball coach at Southeast Missouri State, Brad Korn was talking about building a “long-lasting, genuine trust” with his players.

Korn’s ability to communicate has already resonated with a pair of recruits, who signed with the program earlier this week, but has also with a returning player, and a new assistant coach.

The Redhawk program has retained the services of redshirt junior guard Nygal Russell, who had earlier contemplated transferring, and on Wednesday, added Cal State San Bernardino assistant coach Dustin Yoder to the Southeast staff.

In the case of Russell, Korn kept his pitch simple, but brutally honest, and Russell really “appreciated that.”

“Throughout the whole recruiting process,” Russell explained, “Coach Korn and (Redhawk assistant coach Keith Pickens) were talking to me almost every day about how they wanted me to come back. I felt that was very important to be wanted.”

It was not simply a case of Korn begging Russell to return, because the 6-foot-4 athlete said Korn left the door open for him to leave. But he also left it open for his return, which surprised Russell to a degree.

“It showed a lot about (Korn’s) character when he gave me that option of coming back,” Russell said. “With a lot of coaches, after the player enters the portal, there may be no coming back. He told me that he wanted me to make the best decision for my situation. If I felt like that was here, he would love to have me. But if I didn’t feel like that was here, he didn’t want me to be in a situation where I felt trapped, so he wanted me to explore to make sure that I was making the best decision and I would be excited to come back.”

Before Korn was even announced as the coach, he spoke with each player to extend an offer to remain with the program.

“I did reach out to everybody on the team, whether they said they were going to come back or not,” Korn said. “I just wanted to introduce them to myself, because at the end of the day, this is their school still.”

Yoder has spent nearly a decade in the coaching profession and his experience ranges from junior college to NCAA Division II to the Big 12 (Kansas State) and Big Ten (Illinois). He has seen how the sausage is made in this business and it has not always been pretty. However, he knows Korn very well and believes in him deeply.

“Out of all the guys in the business,” Yoder said, “and I’m talking Division I and Division II, junior college, (and) guys who I have met with overseas connections, coach Korn is literally one of the best guys that I know.

“There just isn’t always that genuine side that comes out in people in this business. It can be really cut-throat. It’s just not always rainbows and unicorns. But to have a guy who is so genuine, and such a nice guy, someone who really, really wants to do it the right way, I couldn’t be more excited for him to be my next boss.”

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