"His game is basketball, but the class Evans toils in most passionately is life. Not only has Evans invested a countless amount of energy into winning basketball games first as head coach at Ole Miss and now at Arizona State, he has poured even more of his soul into helping his players evolve into men." - Terrance Harris, Arizona Daily Start (Jan. 22, 2003).
"...He is as commanding as he is caring. Know this: His impact will transcend a round ball and a basket. He will give Tempe (and really, the college game), something to be proud of." - Ed Graney, ESPN.com (Dec. 21, 1999).
"Rob Evans is so highly regarded by his peers that it always was assumed it would turn out this way." - Richard Justice, Houston Chronicle (March 22, 2003), after ASU defeated Memphis in the first round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament.
Arizona State and Rob Evans went back in the NCAA Tournament in 2003, and when Evans arrived in Oklahoma City for his first-round tournament game, it was as though the media knew he'd be there. The Memphis following had watched him do it at Ole Miss. The locals knew what kind of person he was from his days at Oklahoma State. They knew you could take out Arizona State and plug in Ole Miss for his previous pick and shovel work in Oxford. The 59-year old Evans has done the heavy rebuilding job twice, and there is no doubt his methods, system and approach are not only good for Arizona State athletics, but good for the rest of the campus. Twenty-win seasons are sometimes the last and toughest thing to happen when building a program, but so is getting an eventual NBA lottery pick to say yes and believe in you. When you get to know Evans you know he is someone you would want your son to play for. He is not going to cut corners. He is going to recruit the right type of kid, although that doesn't mean he doesn't like a challenge of taking a kid who might need that push. He won't settle for excuses, but he will listen to reasons. He won't let an 18-year old act like a child, but knows and understands he is coaching kids. He respects everyone, but won't let his teams fear anyone. And most of all, he never doubts himself or his beliefs. Evans has no problem with everyone having an opinion, because he is strong enough to believe in his own. He understand kids, using a phrase to remind you how important it is to pay attention to detail with your players by having them check in daily with him (in addition to practice), having cookouts at your house and building a relationship that is more than player and coach. "Kids don't care how much you know until they know how much you care," says Evans when asked about coaching youth. Most of all, Evans knows where the Arizona State program is - and going - by simply knowing he has done this before and watching two players leave last year, both of them the perfect example of what he wants to accomplish despite different backgrounds and exits. One left with his degree, another almost didn't leave despite millions of dollars waiting for him because he like the atmosphere Evans, his family and staff have created. Jason Braxton started at point guard for four years and played in 120 games at Arizona State. But what was most important was the degree he had in hand after his collegiate playing days were over. "He made sure I was in class every day, made sure I went to study hall, made sure I went to tutoring," said Braxton, who earned his B.I.S. degree last May. "Doing my homework became a habit." It becomes a habit not only because of Evans, but because of the kids his program is recruiting. ASU has had a player on the Pac-10 All-Academic team in each of the past five seasons. Another player who departed became a millionaire at the end of June. But he almost was right back on campus because of the atmosphere around the ASU family. Ike Diogu praises Evans not only for his improvement on the court but for his maturity off it. "He's an awesome person, and it goes beyond basketball," says the 2005 Pac-10 Player of the Year.. "He's done so much for me." After four years at Ole Miss Evans had compiled a 44-65 (.404) record after taking over a program that was as some stated "below ground" and four years later was making progress, but not in the sense that everyone could notice and appreciate. Evans battled the Rebel Flag, negative recruiting, basketball apathy and a state rival who had gone to the Final Four. Check the year-by-year at Ole Miss and you will see that after his first four years, the Rebels have gone to the tournament in five of nine years since. Evans went 42-16 (.724) in his final two years and won at Lexington, the first for the Rebels at Kentucky since 1927. At ASU, the academics and image of the program nationally are the best it has been in decades. ASU proudly lists recent graduates on its website. Top 100 players like Ike Diogu and Jeff Pendergraph not only are listing Arizona State as a possible school, they are picking it. When the Hobbs, N.M., decided to stay in Tempe in the spring of 2002 despite a full-court press from a basketball-crazy school, he showed his commitment. But commitment not only means building towards a winning season, but building a program where winning can happen year in and year out. And that is the next step, a step that has happened with a 20-win season in 2003 and an 18-win season in 2005 and three postseason appearances in the past four years. With coaching experience spanning three decades and lessons from life covering nearly six, Rob Evans knows the road to success is no not easy, you will have some bumps, but if you stay the course and don't try to take shortcuts, you are going to get where you need to go. And in 2003 Arizona State went where it needed to go for just the third time in more than two decades - the NCAA Tournament. "This has been very similar to Ole Miss in a lot of ways," says Evans. "We succeeded because we had a game plan and simply refused to fail. We have had some success here but we need more consistency and that is our next challenge. That is why I accepted the job, to try and make ASU a consistent winner. A university needs to be proud of their program and be able to identify with the kids. We know the community enjoys these kids off the court. And the quality of the people we are recruiting is helping us recruit solid players in return. "We have kids in this program that are going to be around for the next few years and will graduate when they leave. We want kids who appreciate the opportunity to play and study at this level. Our first few seasons the teams did that, but they had some tough situations thrown at them and we didn't have the depth to compete. We had a good year in 1999-2000 and were on the doorstep of going to the NCAAs last year and in 2003 we did just that." The 2002-2003 team had ASU's third Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 25 seasons and reached the NCAAs for just the third time in 22 years. ASU's largest home crowd in two decades showed up for the Arizona game. Evans knows to have more success, it will take more hard work and a little luck. ---- The program at ASU had been hit by an injury bug for a few seasons, and that had not helped the cause. The 2001-2002 team was 13-9 and had a big win at UCLA (its first in Pauley since 1987) but injuries to Awvee Storey (eye), Kenny Crandall (foot) and Chad Prewitt (elbow) put ASU in a tough spot as it finished the year with six straight ranked opponents. In 2000-2001 ASU lost Justin Allen (Hodgkin's Disease) and Tanner Shell (back and wrist) for the season in October, Evans knew it would be tough to win Pac-10 games. When Chad Prewitt went down in early January and missed the better part of the next three weeks, things got tougher. "We weren't a Pac-10 Championship team that year, but we would have won more games and competed better, like we did in 2000. In 2001-2002 we were very close. That was proven by the Oregon, Arizona and UCLA victories. Having a healthy team helps a program that is building." Evans led the Sun Devils to a 19-13 record in 1999-2000, just the fourth 19-win season in the previous 19 years ASU. Not once did ASU stumble and lose a game when expected to win. The young squad, with six true freshmen and just one senior, won three road overtime games and swept four Pac-10 teams. People began to take notice. Players improved. Most importantly, ASU basketball established an identity. No one wanted to play the Sun Devils. They didn't quit and didn't back down. ASU matched the school record with 14 home wins and swept a Pac-10 road trip for the first time since 1996. Keep in mind all this was accomplished with just one senior and six true freshmen, the most in the nation. When it was all done, ASU finished the year with 19 wins, including a 10-8 mark in the Pac-10 which tied them for fourth with Sweet Sixteen participant UCLA. And it was ASU who beat the Bruins 104-75 on Feb. 17, ASU's first win over UCLA since 1989, ending a 22-game drought. That season set the stage for Evans' team in 2002-2003, as ASU reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995. --- Robert Oran Evans learned from such legends as Eddie Sutton and Lou Henson. He expects Arizona State to be a Pac-10 and national contender and to do things in a solid manner both on and off the court, and without excuses. Evans was hired April 7, 1998, and people who know him and understand the history of the program appreciate the job he has done. Just as important, he has outside people complimenting on the maturity of the student-athletes. His kids are going to be someone the school can point to as outstanding young men. SEC personnel had many questions about his Ole Miss program in a situation that was dubbed by some as "below ground" and unwinnable. An assistant for 24 years at New Mexico State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, Evans was given a situation at Ole Miss that most tabbed hopeless due to a variety of on-the-court and off-the-court distractions. He turned them into winners and the tradition has continued under former Evans's assistant Rod Barnes. Ole Miss was not a two-year flash, and much of the reason is that Evans built a program, not a team. At ASU, he inherited a program that had its share of tough times. No problem, if you take your time and do it right. "This is not my first rodeo," Evans always says. "I've been here. I know the road it takes to get there. We know the importance of depth in the program and we have that now because they are working hard off the court. We don't have any distractions in our program. "I love this community and I can appreciate what ASU and the area have to offer. We have a tremendous base to build on with the Valley. This is a program that should aspire to be among the best in the Pacific-10 Conference. We want to continue recruiting the top student-athletes to our campus and producing a team and a program that Arizona State fans and alumni are proud of. You have to have continuity. What happens is the older guys tell the young guys how to do it. Players become an extension of the staff." He has his goals set high. "We know we have to follow our plan. Some of the key ingredients are here and the ones that aren't here are being established, like our new locker room. Seven years ago that wouldn't have happened. It has happened because people believe in the program." If you want to see a tough rebuilding job, check the Oxford, Miss., basketball atmosphere in 1992. Slim Smith, currently a columnist with the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Ariz., worked in Mississippi and saw the rebuilding process. "When he arrived in Oxford in 1992 he found: A team that lingered consistently at the bottom of the Southeastern Conference, a program that drew so poorly that often the traveling party of fans from schools like Kentucky, Arkansas and Mississippi State consistently outdrew the home team, a school whose affinity for the Confederate Battle Flag made it virtually impossible to attract top recruits. The Ole Miss basketball program was viewed as a graveyard for coaches, a program that had no chance for success, even `modest' success." Eddie Sutton, the coach at Oklahoma State where Rob was an assistant, warned Evans. "I told him I thought you could take Adolph Rupp, John Wooden, Henry Iba and Phog Allen and they probably couldn't get that done." In fact, Ole Miss was so disinterested in basketball that, according to SEC lore, at one time in the 1950s it announced that the head basketball coach had received a "promotion" to assistant football coach. So what happened at Ole Miss after March 30, 1992? Evans led Mississippi to a 42-16 record in his final two seasons (1996-98) and produced back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, the first time that happened in school history (Mississippi had been to the NCAA Tournament once before). Evans was the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year in 1997 and led the program to back-to-back SEC West regular season titles. Ole Miss also posted back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1937-38. Evans was 86-81 (.515) in his six-year stint. College Hoops Insider named him its National Coach of the Year in 1996-97. The 1997-98 Rebels were 22-7 overall and 13-5 in the SEC West and defeated national champion and then seventh-ranked Kentucky on the road 73-64, their first win at Lexington since 1927. Ole Miss rallied to win the SEC West title as it was three games behind Arkansas at one point but won its final seven to finish 12-4. Ole Miss went 14-0 at home and sold out every SEC game. Basketball Times named Evans its All-South Coach of the Year for his efforts. In 1996-97, Evans and the Rebels won the SEC West title by three games with an 11-5 mark. Evans guided the Rebels to their best season since the 1930s, the school's first regular-season basketball title and its first at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Ole Miss posted a 20-9 record and the 20 wins were the second-highest in program history. Evans was named the 1997 SEC Coach of the Year by the Associated Press. But the Evans era might have had one of its biggest moments on Jan. 24, 1996, when Ole Miss was 5-9 and hosted No. 21 Auburn. The Rebels were on a four-game slide, and doubt was creeping in. When five players weren't doing things his way, a decision had to be made. Evans, knowing that no one would agree with his decision as a 5-10 record loomed, suspended the five players. "I remember that day coming to my office and seeing that there was a letter from my mother on the desk. I was feeling bad and I was busy so I decided I wouldn't read it until after the game. But I was back in my office about an hour before the game and I saw the letter again and decided to open it. What a sense of timing she had. Here I was about as low as I could get and she writes me this letter talking about how when you get involved with something you have to see it through. How that letter got to me at that time I don't know." Ole Miss, with just seven scholarship players, topped the top-25 Tigers 82-69 that night, in a game where Gerald Turner, who was then the chancellor at Ole Miss, stated that "Rob established himself as a person who was going to live by his values." --- Evans was one of seven children in a family where his dad was a janitor and his mother washed and pressed other people's clothes to make ends meet. Neither parent had more than an eighth-grade education, yet they were insistent that their kids were not only going to go to high school but graduate from college. "That is why it is important that our student-athletes to follow the path to get a degree. If they aren't on the path, they have wasted my time and their time and I haven't done right by them. A lot of people talk about it, but you have to really want it and take pride in education. I tell the players that if you want people to come see you play, you have to carry yourself a certain way. I feel like I have a responsibility to these guys that they not only become good players, but good citizens and students." But a cynic would say a team of good citizens will not win you a lot of games, and the cynic would probably be right. But making players play hard has become a trademark of Evans. Take a look at what Rick Cleveland, a columnist with the Jackson, Miss., Clarion-Ledger stated in the winter of 1994: "...As has become their trademark, the Rebels played like starved men after a loaf of bread. They dove helter-skelter after loose balls throughout." Robert Falkoff of the Clarion-Ledger watched Ole Miss practices and knew they were not for the weak of heart. "When a shot goes through the air at an Ole Miss basketball practice, bodies are often on a collision course," Falkoff wrote. "That area around the basket is for the strong, not the softies. Nobody gets bailed out by a whistle." Evans, ASU's 12th men's basketball coach of a program which began in the early 1900s, promises two things will happen on the court. The Sun Devils will go after the boards and defend. In his first year, ASU outrebounded its foes for the first time since 1987-88. The proof of his success is in the numbers once Evans established the Rebel program. Ole Miss was second in the league in rebounding and rebounding margin in 1997-98. The Rebels held opponents to just 30 percent from the three-point stripe, the best in the loop. Evans was known as a defensive stalwart at New Mexico State in his playing days. "The mentality for rebounding is just like man-to-man defense," notes Evans. "To be able to do it, you have to want to do it. And it has to be demanded and stressed." Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star wrote that "the definition of the way Sun Devil basketball will be played under Evans...Defense. Hustle. Passing. Character." Character...that was key as Evans built the Ole Miss program, beginning in 1992. "I've never shied away from a challenge, that is why I went to Ole Miss," states Evans. We started with 1,200 fans, now you can't get a ticket in Oxford. But what I am most proud of is that they have continued to win and do it the right way. That makes a former coach proud." --- Robert Oran Evans was hired by Ole Miss on March 30, 1992, and set the tone in his first year (1992-93) with a sweep of rival Mississippi State and also directed the Rebels to a win over a NCAA participant, LSU. Ole Miss posted a stunning first-round upset in the SEC Tournament, topping Florida 67-62 March 11. What made the Florida win even more impressive was that just six games earlier, Florida topped the Rebels 94-47. Evans second year (1993-94) resulted in a 14-13 record, the most wins at Ole Miss since 1988-89, and the school's first winning season since 1986-87. Ole Miss improved to 7-9 and fourth-place in the SEC West. Adversity hit in 1994-95, as injury hit two promising freshmen, including one who was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team despite not playing in the final 10 games. Despite setbacks, Ole Miss topped defending national champion Arkansas 76-71. The final record was 9-18, but 11 games were decided by seven points or less. The 1995-96 season could be divided into two halves, with the first half being an adjustment period. A roster that consisted almost entirely of underclassmen came together in the second half. The Rebels went 12-15 and 6-10 in the SEC, but boasted the third-best conference mark over the final 11 games. Eighty-five percent of their points and 68 percent of the rebounds were attributed to freshmen and sophomores. And of course, the team had its moment against Auburn, defying the odds as the coaching staff went with a feeling of the heart and not the opinion of others who wanted to win quickly. Those years set the table for the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons, seasons in which Evans and his staff put Ole Miss basketball back on the national map, taking it to heights never witnessed. As former Arizona State and current Notre Dame Athletic Director Dr. Kevin White stated when he introduced Evans in April of 1998: "Rob Evans did not rebuild the Ole Miss program--he BUILT the program." --- Before arriving at Ole Miss in March of 1992, Evans spent two seasons at Oklahoma State on Eddie Sutton's staff. In 1991-92, Evans helped guide the Cowboys to a 28-8 record and OSU reached as high as No. 2 in the national rankings before being eliminated by national runner-up Michigan in the Sweet 16. The Cowboys also reached the Sweet 16 in 1990-91. The Cowboy's recruiting classes of 1991 and 1992 were both ranked in the top 15, while many players on OSU's 1995 Final Four squad were recruited by Evans. "Rob brings a lot to the table," says Sutton. "He is a tireless worker, an outstanding recruiter and a very good coach. He has had a wonderful relationship with his players, and he is a quality person." Prior to the stint at Oklahoma State, Evans worked for 15 years (1975-90) at Texas Tech. The Red Raiders racked up 11 winning seasons, 242 victories and reached the NCAA Tournament in 1975, 1985 and 1986. "I was at Texas Tech for 15 years because I wanted to be there, " says Evans. "If I had been in a higher-profile situation I might have moved quicker, but my family was important to me. My kids were doing well in school and my wife was completing her degree. I'm a pretty patient person and you have to be if you are an assistant for 24 years. But I never blamed anybody for being an assistant that long. It has become a positive as a head coach. I've seen a lot of things over the years, things to do and things not to do." Evans graduated from New Mexico State in 1968 with a bachelor's degree in English. He began his coaching career at his alma mater, serving as an assistant coach for seven years (1968-75) under former Illinois and Aggie coach Lou Henson. While at NMSU, the Aggies posted three 20-plus win seasons, four NCAA Tournament appearances (including a Final Four trip in 1970) and were 135-54 overall. Early in his stay at New Mexico State, Evans also coached the freshman squad, directing his teams to a 90-15 record. Evans began his collegiate studies at Lubbock Christian College in Lubbock, Texas, where he received a two-year Arts and Sciences degree in 1966. At Lubbock, he was named the school's first All-American, averaging 19.8 points in 1966. In his second year, he was voted team captain, was an All-Conference and All-Region performer and was voted the team's best defensive player both seasons. As a student-athlete at NMSU, Evans captained the 1966-67 Aggies to a 15-11 record and the 1967-68 team to a 23-6 mark and led the team to the NCAA Tournament in both seasons. In 1966-67, the Aggies lost to Elvin Hayes and the University of Houston and in 1967-68 the Aggies topped Dick Motta's Weber State squad but fell to eventual champion UCLA and Lew Alcindor. Evans was selected NMSU's most outstanding athlete in 1967 and was named to the school's All-Time Basketball Team. In 1993 he was inducted into the NMSU Athletic Hall of Fame. Robert Oran Evans was born and raised Sept. 7, 1946, in Hobbs N.M., and played for the legendary Ralph Tasker, who compiled over 1,000 victories. Evans also starred in baseball in his prep days, as he was drafted by the Houston Colt 45s (currently the Houston Astros) in 1964. "Rob took coaching well and was very unselfish," said Tasker, who passed away in the summer of 1999. "He was an outstanding passer and very valuable. I always tried to teach my kids two things, fundamentals and loyalty. If you can learn that, you can be a good coach and a good person. I can tell you that Rob Evans is both of those things." The Dallas Chaparrals of the American Basketball Association signed Evans as a free agent and in 1968 he also signed a free agent contract with the Oakland Raiders as a wide receiver. In 1991, his peers elected Evans as president of the National Association of Assistant Basketball Coaches. Evans was inducted into the Lubbock Christian Hall of Fame (1990) and received the school's Valley Forge Honor Certificate. He was inducted into the Las Cruces, N.M., Hall of Fame in 1989 and was presented the Texas Tech Outstanding Achievement Award for 1986-87. In October of 1994, he was selected as NMSU's School of Education Alumnus of the Year. Evans has been active in the National Association of Basketball Coaches, the Texas High School Coaches Association, the New Mexico Activities Association and the Oklahoma and Mississippi High School Associations. He recently was named to the USA Basketball Collegiate Committee, the College Basketball Ethics Committee and is on the board for Coaches vs. Cancer. Since coming to Arizona State, his main charity efforts have been Coaches vs. Cancer, as he has helped raise more then $25,000, and the Arizona Boys and Girls Club. He hosted his eighth annual golf tournament this past fall in Maricopa to benefit the Club. At the 1994 Final Four, Evans served on the rules enforcement committee and spoke in the summer at an orientation for newly-hired SEC coaches. His speaking engagements are numerous, as are his involvement outside of athletics. He has served as a board member for the South Plains Children's Shelter, the Texas Boy's Ranch and the Lubbock Weekend Foster Parent's Program. Evans and his wife, the former Carolyn Marshall, were married July 25, 1970. Mrs. Evans, who graduated with honors and earned her degree in child development from Wayland Baptist University, was active in the Oxford community, including the Baptist Memorial Hospital Community Board and the American Cancer Society. The couple has two children, a son, Damon, and a daughter, Amber. Damon graduated from Ole Miss in May of 1996 with a degree in business administration, specializing in Banking and Finance. He was selected the 1996 Orrin Swayze Scholar and earned the 1996 Mississippi Young Banker Scholar Award. Damon currently works and resides in Scottsdale. Amber also resides in Scottsdale and studied broadcasting at Ole Miss. She and her husband Clifford Massey have a daughter, Nia, the first grandchild for the Rob and Carolyn. --- Evans message to ASU fans is clear: Quality people will result in a quality program. He talks to students on campus as much as he does the top donor. He is as comfortable talking to a receptionist as he is a CEO. What makes him special is those that talk to him felt he same way. He leads by example, something that is needed in college athletics. "Our reception at Ole Miss wasn't overnight. But we built a program. We are recruiting the right type of kids. We graduated 17 student-athletes in five years at Ole Miss. I expect them to be held accountable for their actions and I have the commitment to see this program to the top. This is where I'd like to retire." And Evans, after all, is the perfect example of a quality person. Greg Hansen told the story of loyalty the day after Evans' hiring: "On New Year's Eve last year, Evans took a flight from Jackson, Miss., to El Paso, rented a car and drove several hours to get back to his hometown. The Rebels had played late the previous night, against Northwestern State, and were due to open the SEC season two days later against nationally-ranked South Carolina. "You couldn't have blamed Evans for skipping the retirement ceremony for his high school coach in that small gym so far away. At a time when Ole Miss was at the height of its basketball success, when Evans' star had finally risen, he went home to Hobbs to honor his former coach. It should tell you what kind of man the Sun Devils hired."
THE ROB EVANS FILE
Date of Birth: Sept. 7, 1946
Hired by ASU: April 7, 1998
Birthplace: Hobbs, N.M.
First Collegiate Victory: Dec. 3, 1992 (Ole Miss 103, Houston Baptist 61)
First ASU Victory: Nov. 13, 1998 (ASU 68, San Jose State 49)
Career Victory No. 50: Dec. 20, 1996 (Ole Miss 74, Florida International 64)
Career Victory No. 100: Feb. 20, 1999 (ASU 87, Oregon State 66)
College: New Mexico State (1968)
High School: Hobbs High School (1964)
*Earned the 1997 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year
*The 1997 College Hoops Insider National Coach of the Year
*Led Ole Miss to back-to-back 20-win seasons in 1997 and 1998, the first time that has happened in Oxford since 1937-38.
THE ROB EVANS RECORD
YEAR RECORD NOTES
Arizona State (1998-present) 2004-05 18-14 (.563) Postseason trip for third time in four years 2003-04 10-17 (.370) Fifth-best FT shooting team in school history (.735) 2002-03 20-12 (.625) ASU wins 20 for first time since 1995 2001-02 14-15 (.483) Beats four NCAA teams and advances to NIT 2000-01 13-16 (.448) ASU sweeps both Oregon and Washington schools 1999-00 19-13 (.594) ASU's fourth 19-win season in previous 17 seasons 1998-99 14-16 (.467) ASU outrebounds its foes for first time since 1987-88
Mississippi (1992-98) 1997-98 22-7 (.786) Won SEC West title (12-4) and won at Lexington for the first time since 1927 1996-97 20-9 (.690) Won SEC West title (11-5) was SEC Coach of the Year 1995-96 12-15 (.444) Freshman and sophomore dominated-squad which finished strong 1994-95 8-19 (.296) 11 games decided by seven points or less, beat defending champion Arkansas 1993-94 14-13 (.519) School's first winning season since 1986-87 1992-93 10-18 (.357) Swept Mississippi State, beat Florida in SEC Tournament
Arizona State Totals: 108-103 (.512)/Seven Seasons Mississippi Totals: 86-81 (.515)/Six Seasons Career Totals: 194-184 (.513)/13 Seasons