When You Can't Miss in Recruiting
Published On: Jan 1st 2023
Jerod Haase needed a win. A top 100 recruit had trimmed his list to three schools, including Haase’s Stanford men’s basketball program. Except the Cardinal coaching staff couldn’t quite get the recruit to commit. With a final home visit looming, Haase knew he had to swing for the fences on his final pitch. Ordinarily, in those situations, Haase turns on the charm, oozing all sorts of warm fuzzies in an emotional, even hearttugging, plea to convince a recruit that Stanford is the right choice for him.
This time, though, Haase wasn’t so sure his normal approach would work. As part of his recruitment to Stanford, the player had agreed to take a Profile, a comprehensive behavioral assessment system that bolsters traditional DISC with other additional tools, for the staff. Haase remembers his assistants laying out the basics of the recruit’s personality. In truth, he sounded a lot like Haase himself - more a ponderer than a fly-by-theseat-of-the-pants decision-maker, a person who prefers analysis to emotion.
Desperate to ensure he put his best foot forward, Haase picked up the phone, called Profile CEO Chad Brown, and asked him to review the recruit’s assessment. Sure enough, Brown affirmed what Haase was thinking exactly. “He would not have responded well to my normal approach,” Haase says. “It wouldn’t have moved the needle with him at all. He wanted something that was structured and organized. So that’s how we went about it.” The recruit chose Stanford.
Were that a one-off, you could argue Haase just got lucky, that he made a unique pivot for a unique player. It’s not a one-off. In the past four years, Haase has seen Profile work its wonders again and again. “It’s been really cool in terms of, whether it’s a recruit or a staff member or a player, they take the test, and their eyes are wide open,” he says. “They realize this is really spot on. It may not be 100 percent perfect, but it is a very accurate and helpful guide. As a coach, you’re always looking for something your competitors aren’t doing. This is meaningful enough that I think it gives us a real leg up on the competition.”
Haase will admit he needed a little nudge to sign on. A former star player at Kansas, he pivoted almost immediately to coaching. He spent 13 years learning as an assistant to his old coach, Roy Williams - first at his alma mater and later at North Carolina when Williams made the jump there. Haase got his first head-coaching opportunity at UAB in 2012, and four years later arrived in Palo Alto. Haase would never be accused of being edgy. He believes success lies in the simple things - commitment, hard work, and diligence.
But Stanford is unique in the college sports landscape. It is a Power 5 school, in a Power 5 conference, with near Ivy League academic requirements. Top 100 players do, on occasion, end up there (Zaire Williams ranked eighth in the Class of 2020, and incoming freshman Andrej Stojakovic is 24th, but ordinarily, the staff keys in on players it can develop and is creative in its entire approach to program building.
Four years ago, Haase’s assistant, Adam Cohen, attended a coaches’ clinic at the University of Florida, where he heard Brown give a presentation on Profile. Cohen saw the value in it immediately and thought it could be especially helpful at Stanford because of that shrunken recruiting pool. He presented it to Haase, who did what he always does when presented with a new idea. He thought about it. He researched it. He weighed the benefits and the risks. He asked questions. And then he asked more questions.
Finally, he took the assessment himself. “And it showed me to be a person who is slow to make a decision, data-driven, thorough in gathering research,” he says. It was the proverbial lightbulb moment. Haase was sold.
Since then, he has used the assessments in nearly every facet of the Stanford program. He uses them to make sure he communicates with his players well and coaches them appropriately. When he’s in search of a new staff member, he uses Profile to help narrow down the applicant pool to people who will challenge him but also compliment him. Haase keeps his current staff’s assessments readily available. He refers to them frequently during the chaos of a season to ensure that he’s providing his assistants with the sort of feedback they need instead of the feedback he’s prone to offer. “It’s about understanding that certain coaches need a pat on the back every once in a while,” he says. “Or they may really need direction from me, so I need to structure job responsibilities in a certain way. Someone else might need freedom and creativity. Having that information is really important. It’s not generic, but tailored to each individual person.”
Nowhere, however, has Profile helped more than in recruiting. The word ‘culture’ is cited so often by coaches that it’s easy to write it off as a mere buzzword with little to no actual heft when it comes to college sports. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The truly successful college programs have a culture - or maybe identity is a better way to describe it. The players come to campus with expectations - not just how they will perform, but how they will behave, the style they will play, what will be demanded of them - and recognize that none of it is fungible.
Crafting a culture, though, is becoming increasingly difficult. The recruiting calendar has shrunk and structured to limit contact with high school athletes, and the allure of the transfer portal makes everything feel negotiable, if not entirely transient. Recruiting mistakes - not bad people but bad fits - happen all the time, leaving rosters in tumult and making stability feel like a pipedream.
Those mistakes are costly anywhere. They are especially dire at a place such as Stanford. The Stanford staff is exceptionally deliberate in its recruiting. It does not, as many coaches do, cast a wide net. Instead, Haase and his assistants hone in on players they know will be admissible to the university and will suit their program. They put a lot of eggs in one basket, which means there’s not a lot of wiggle room for a do-over if it doesn’t end up in a commitment.
And unlike many other teams, where the shelf life of a college career can vary, a Stanford commitment tends to stick. Rarely does the university allow transfers into the school, and rarely do people want to leave because of its academic reputation. “We can’t miss,” Haase says simply.
“When we miss, we miss for four years. We very rarely have transfers out or in. When we have a freshman come in, generally speaking, he’s with us for four years. If we make a mistake, we’ve made a four-year mistake. There’s a high, high, high priority on making sure we get it right, and a lot of times, there is no Plan B because once he gets here, he’s here to graduate.”
That’s where the assessments become invaluable. Tournament showcases can demonstrate a player’s talent. A campus visit can show how he relates to and interacts with potential teammates. A home visit can offer a glimpse of a family’s expectations, but nothing gets into the nitty gritty of who a person is, how he thinks, what he needs to succeed, the sort of leader he is, and the kind of coach he might best work with better than an assessment. “It’s a cliffsnotes to their personality,” Haase says. “It’s a huge leg up on the competition, as far as I’m concerned.”
Yet there is still a reluctance among coaches to use Profile. Haase gets it. Even he was initially uncertain, though not downright skeptical, as to how the assessments could help him. Seeing made him a believer, and he thinks it would do the same if other coaches took the assessments themselves. But four years in, he also has come to view the tests in a way that might make them more palatable to his peers. They are, essentially, another analytic, and even the oldest dog among coaches has come around to the new trick of analytics to help break down games. “I’m a big believer in keeping things simple,” Haase says. “You want to have the ability to have something that truly adds value. This adds value.”
Then again, if his competitors aren’t interested, that’s A-Ok with Haase. He’ll just keep moseying into home visits with his secret weapon to land recruits.