Scott Garson has established that he can convince high school students to play for his college basketball teams.
During his time as assistant coach at UCLA alone, Garson helped the Bruins land two recruiting classed that ranked No. 1 nationally.
But when the coach was a free agent looking to make a major career decision, he found advice from a former walk-on he landed from a tryout.
This time, it was player selling coach on basketball.
This time, it was pupil telling mentor about the advantages of life far from Westwood, Calif.
“It’s a big difference, big adjustment, and he’s a city boy like me,” former UCLA and Northwest Nazarene basketball player Kenny Jones said. “But, just like me, when you love the game, you’ll go anywhere to do something you love.”
Today, Garson will be in Caldwell, where he’ll be introduced as the 15th men’s basketball coach in College of Idaho history. Landing a well-known and experienced recruiter and experienced assistant coach from UCLA is bold move by the NAIA Division II Coyotes.
Garson spent five years on Rick Majerus’ staff at Utah (1999-2004) and the past nine years at UCLA, including the past seven as an assistant coach on Ben Howland’s staff. Howland was fired after leading the Bruins to the Pac-12 championship last season, and Garson was all the sudden available.
He replaces Rod Jensen, whose contract was not renewed by the College of Idaho after the 2012-13 season. On paper, it sure looks like a major boon by C of I athletic director Marty Holly and the Coyotes.
Jones, a player familiar with Garson, the College of Idaho and Canyon County, thinks it’s a perfect fit.
“I think it’s a great hire,” he said.
“I’m happy for him, he’s finally got his own team and he can show what he can do as a lead guy. … I think he’s ready for that.”
Jones credits Garson for giving him a chance to play college basketball, and to do it with a storied Bruins basketball team. When Jones was a student at UCLA in 2010, he was the lone player selected to join UCLA’s team as a walk-on via an open tryout.
“Garson’s one of the main reasons I was one the team,” Jones said.
“I definitely have a lot of respect for Garson.”
The 6-foot-2 guard redshirted before earning a scholarship. He played in eight games during the 2011-12 season, his final at UCLA. He graduated and still had one season left to play basketball. He ended up playing for coach Dave Daniels at Northwest Nazarene last season. He led the Crusaders in points (15.7) and assists (4.6) per game and was named to the GNAC honorable mention team.
Today, Jones is pursuing opportunities to play professionally overseas.
Since leaving UCLA, Jones said he has kept in contact with Garson. They talked on the phone last week, and Jones said Garson inquired about the C of I, its Mayor’s Cup rivalry with Northwest Nazarene and the area.
All the sudden, the player was talking up Canyon County to the coach.
“I hope they win every game, except when they play NNU,” Jones said.
Jones said Garson is a young coach — he graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 1999 — who should be able to relate to players and he may be even better with the X’s and O’s of the game than he is as a recruiter.
“That’s probably his strength, to tell you the truth,” Jones said.