Bruce Pearl has certainly made headlines by jumping back into the college basketball coaching ranks. But he is not going in alone. He has brought aboard some excellent assistants to make sure the Auburn Tigers are a team to be feared. Meet Todd Golden, a former Israeli basketball player, an up-and-coming college basketball coach and maybe the next big thing in Jewish sports.
1. Tell us about yourself.
My name is Todd Golden, born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Just got married May 31 to my wife Megan Golden. We met in college at Saint Mary's (California) where we were both athletes (basketball for me, volleyball for her).
2. When did you love of basketball begin?
My love of basketball began at a very early age. I am pretty sure when my parents brought me home from the hospital there was a Fisher-Price hoop already up in the family area. My father played freshman basketball at the University of Massachusetts and remembers scrimmaging Julius Erving when they would play the varsity team. My father and I really bonded because of basketball, as it gave us a great opportunity to spend a lot of time together. I was playing organized basketball by the age of five at the Jewish Community Center in Phoenix.
3. When did you realize you wanted to coach college
I realized that I wanted basketball to be a part of my life after my playing career was done during my senior year at Saint Mary's College. I simply realized all the relationships I had cultivated from the game, and the different opportunities that became available to me because of basketball. There was a time when I thought I might want to create a life outside of basketball to create the illusion that I was a more well-rounded person, but that didn't last long when I had the opportunity to go work for Kyle Smith at Columbia in 2012.
4. Was it hard to switch from player to coach?
It has been a relatively easy transition for me going from player to coach. When I finished my second year playing professionally in Israel, I was very content with my career as a player. I went from a high school senior with no Division I scholarship opportunities to a three-year starter on an NCAA tournament team who ended up playing two years overseas. I was very content with that ending. The transition to coaching was easy as well because I always considered myself a “coach on the floor” during my playing days. I generally gained advantages over my opponents by out-thinking them, or being one step ahead. Now I have to articulate that mindset to the players I'm working with today.
5. What is it like working with Bruce Pearl?
Coach Pearl has been really great to work for, believe it or not. He definitely expects a lot out of the members of his staff, but they are fair expectations. Also, he is really good about praising his staff for work well done. He's an incredible motivator and understands the value of “team.” He's been able to gel this staff together over the first few months’ way closer than anyone could have anticipated, and it all starts at the top with him.
6. Can this Auburn team make a run at a title? What
do the new Auburn Tigers look like?
This Auburn team is not built to win the championship this year. We have some good players, but I think a more realistic goal would be to shoot for a post-season tournament (NCAA or NIT). You will see a team that will play fast, and play from baseline to baseline. We will press after makes and misses, fly the ball up in transition, and really try to put pressure on our opponents. We might not be as talented as some of our opponents, but we will not back down, and we will really compete on both ends of the floor.
7. Who is the best Jewish player you have played or
The best Jewish player that I have ever played against would probably have to be Omri Casspi. I played against Omri my first professional season in Israel. He was playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv and I was playing for Maccabi Haifa. Now Omri is enjoying a successful NBA career.
8. What does the future look like for Todd Golden?
My ultimate goal is to become a Division I head coach. At this point, I am trying to learn something new every day. I had a great experience working for Kyle Smith at Columbia whom I've known since I was 18 years old. Working for Coach Pearl will give me another valuable mentor, and will also give me another perspective to learn the game from. I am really excited for the future here at Auburn, and I'm hoping we can build this program back to where it belongs, at the top of the SEC.