Chris Victor realizes that he has a great opportunity as an interim coach for the Seattle University basketball team, and he would like to remove “interim” from the title.
But Victor, who took on the team ahead of the season when coach Jim Hayford was on leave – and later resigned – amid reports that he repeated a racial slur, said he didn’t see that opportunity as a job interview.
“Not me,” he said. “My job is to make sure the guys on this year’s program have a great experience, and that’s exactly what we’re doing as employees. We make sure these guys have an experience that is positive in retrospect. We’re trying to win as many games as possible, win a WAC championship, and take part in the NCAA tournament.
“And if we do all of these things right and do our best and our boys have a great experience, everything will take care of itself.”
Victor and the Redhawks (8-4) got off to a good start, winning seven of their first eight games. They have lost three of their last four games, including a 64-56 loss to Washington on Saturday.
They want some rest when they host Northwest University on Wednesday before embarking on their WAC plan with a home game against preseason New Mexico favorites on December 30th.
Victor, 39, looks like he’s holding Seattle U ready to open the conference, just as he was ready to take the lead when Hayford unexpectedly left. That’s because he had been preparing for such an opportunity for years.
He grew up in San Bruno, California, about 10 miles south of San Francisco, and played college basketball at Capuchino High School for four years. From there, the 6-foot point guard played for one season at Canada (Community) College in Redwood City, California, where he stayed close to his head coach Danny Yoshikawa.
This resulted in a scholarship to play a game at Concordia University in Irvine, California. Victor led the team in 2003 as a junior with 26 points and nine assists to the national NAIA title in the title game against Mountain State (West Virginia). The next year his team lost in the title game against Mountain State.
It’s been a great time for Victor, and playing for head coach Ken Ammann and assistant coach Rick Croy shaped his career decision.
“My experience at Concordia is why I train now,” said Victor. “I loved it. All of these guys I’ve played with are my best friends now. They were all at my wedding and that’s why I came to coaching because of that experience you had with your team. Ken taught us how to build it, how to build this culture. “
Victor began his coaching career at Citrus (Community) College in Glendora, California, where he served as assistant to Croy, who had accepted the head coaching job there. After a year there, he was Ammann’s top assistant at Concordia for four years.
He spent the next five seasons as head coach at Citrus, setting a record of 103-39 and leading the Owls to the 2011 state title game.
Victor left that job to join Hayford as an assistant with the I Eastern Washington Division.
“I felt this was the opportunity to take this step,” said Victor. “The goal was to become head coach at a higher level – not necessarily the Division I level – and I thought the Division I experience would make that transition a little easier.”
After two years in east Washington, Victor Hayford followed to Seattle U, where he served as top assistant for the past four seasons, overseeing the team’s defense. Victor said Hayford helped him understand the “mental side of the game”.
“I learned the other side (from Hayford), the mindset and using the numbers (statistics and analysis) to your advantage,” said Victor.
With over 15 years of coaching experience, including five as head coach, Victor said he felt ready for the moment he was asked to take over the post last month.
“They always say that you want to prepare for an opportunity before it presents itself,” Victor said. “In the back of my mind, I always wanted to be the head coach. I didn’t know when it was going to happen – and when the opportunity would arise – but I knew I would be ready for it then. “
Victor, who has a 1 1/2 year old son Leo with his wife Sara, has great ambitions for the team.
“We feel like we have a chance to win the conference and go to the NCAA tournament if we get better every day and every week,” said Victor. “I think we can be so good. It’s a long way of course and we have to get a lot better to be the team that can do it, but right now we feel like with the progress we’re making and where we are, we can make it. “
And that would undoubtedly go a long way towards removing the interim tag.