Heath sees 'great possibilities' at South Florida

Updated: April 3, 2007, 7:18 PM ET
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- Stan Heath is undaunted by South Florida's lack of success in basketball. He's been associated with winning programs everywhere he's coached and is confident he can transform the Bulls into one, too.

"This is a great opportunity for me," Heath said Tuesday after being introduced as USF's coach. "I see this as a sleeping giant."

Closer Look: Stan Heath's Record
Stan Heath

Stan Heath was fired from Arkansas, despite leading the Razorbacks to two consecutive 20-win seasons. Overall, he's 112-77 in six seasons as a Division I head coach.

School Years Overall NCAAs
Kent State 2002 30-6 Elite Eight
Arkansas 2003-2007 82-71 Lost in first round, 2006 and 2007

The 42-year-old Heath is 112-77 in six seasons as a head coach and has been to the NCAA Tournament three times. He was fired by Arkansas on March 26 after the Razorbacks' season ended with a first-round NCAA loss to Southern California.

The former Michigan State assistant led Kent State to the round of eight five years ago in his only season with the Golden Flashes, and Arkansas had consecutive 20-win seasons that ended with first-round losses in 2006 and 2007.

Anything close to that will be embraced by USF, which has just two 20-win seasons and two NCAA Tournament appearances in its history. The Bulls haven't won 20 since 1989-90 and haven't played in the NCAA Tournament since 1992.

"We're going to win, and we're going to win real soon," Heath said. "Sooner than a lot of people think."

The Bulls will return three starters from a team that was 12-18 in its final season under Robert McCullum, who was fired March 9 after losing 28 of 32 conference games in USF's first two years in the Big East.

Heath built a reputation as an outstanding recruiter while helping Michigan State's Tom Izzo assemble the talent that carried the Spartans to a national championship and three Final Four appearances during a five-year span.

He enhanced the label at Arkansas, where his recruiting classes ranked among the nation's best three times. The Razorbacks were 82-77 in five seasons under Heath, who was dismissed last week despite having 20-win seasons and going to the NCAA Tournament the past two years.

USF athletic director Doug Woolard targeted Winthrop's Gregg Marshall and also had discussions with South Alabama's John Pelphrey, former Virginia coach Pete Gillen and former Marquette and NBA coach Kevin O'Neill during a three-week search.

Heath felt fortunate to get into the mix late.

He and Woolard talked about the vacancy for four days during the Final Four in Atlanta, then agreed to a five-year contract worth up to $4.275 million.

"I'm appreciative he kept that window open. I'm a guy who if you just crack that door a little bit, I'm trying to go through," Heath said.

"Some people look at things differently. Me, I just see great possibilities."

Although being fired by Arkansas was disappointing, Heath said he quickly came to the realization that it's better to move on than to dwell on why the Razorbacks decided to make a change.

"When you're in this profession, you go through ups and downs all the time," the coach said.

"One thing about me, I didn't have to coach," Heath added. "But it's in my blood to coach, and I'm really excited about being here."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press