By: Kimberly Veale
Jesse Pruitt is no stranger to the Bronco men's basketball program. However, this season will be his first in the huddle, coaching — Pruitt spent the previous three years working behind the scenes for the Broncos as the director of basketball operations (DBO) and started his career on the Mission Campus as a video coordinator in '08 – '09.
Pruitt's calm and welcoming demeanor, coupled with his positive and energetic personality, will be the perfect compliment to the already strong Bronco coaching staff.
The transition will be seamless, as Pruitt acknowledges, "I learned the interworking of the program [as director of operations]. I know everybody in terms of people around campus, in terms of housing and compliance, camps – how everything works. Having that background will really help me."
As the DBO, Pruitt was in charge of team travel, practice schedules – all the daily operations of the entire program, which is a very valuable foundation to have.
Pruitt's camp experience, along with his own playing experience, built a solid foundation for Pruitt's video coordinator position with the Broncos. He graduated from UC Davis in 2005 with a bachelor's degree in Sociology-Organizational Studies. He was a member of the Aggies for two seasons under former UC Davis head coach Brian Fogel. Additionally, Pruitt earned three varsity letters at Upland High School. He was the team captain as a senior and led the team to a 33-2 record and a CIF Southern Section championship, a No. 4 state ranking and a No. 10 national ranking.
"My first summer at UC Davis, I was offered a job working at Stanford summer basketball camps," said Pruitt. "It was more so to play with the guys during breaks at camp. You get to play with the likes of Josh Childress and Casey Jacobson. As a Division II player, it's a great experience to play with these high profile basketball players. That was the first summer, and I ended up working at the Stanford basketball camp for seven summers."
"I was coaching kids as young as 6 years old, all the way up to their elite camps, and got to be around a lot of high profile players like the Lopez twins [Robin and Brook, now with NBA teams] in a camp setting," said Pruitt.
His experience doesn't stop there. "Once I had a few years of Stanford under my belt, I really had the itch to coach," said Pruitt. "Then I went to the East Coast, did some camps at Maryland, went down to Los Angeles and worked some camps at UCLA and UC Irvine."
While his initial thought was to take the camp jobs to play with the high profile Division I players, somewhere along the way, Pruitt stumbled upon some great coaches and mentors, all of whom have influenced his approach. "Jeff Klein, from Chaffey Community Collage is huge mentor of mine – he has 25 years of head coaching experience," said Pruitt. "He has had a great influence on me when I played for him, and in the 10 years since." The first coach he worked for out of college was Greg Kamansky. He coached Cal Poly Pomona to a Division II national champion a few years after Pruitt left and came to Santa Clara. Pruitt said, "Kamansky is a great teacher and motivator, very innovative in his approach, and I've learned so much about preparation working for Coach Keating the past four years. Those three guys have influenced me and really molded me, and my approach to coaching."
Lucky for Pruitt, he isn't making this transition alone. His wife, the former Mary Jo Alexander, is also making the transition from compliance to assistant track and field coach at Stanford this year. She was an All-American runner at UC Davis. Pruitt recognizes the challenges but knows that they are a unique support system for each other. "My wife has been a huge support for me," said Pruitt. "Seeing her organization, her dedication, her work ethic – I hope some of those traits have rubbed off on me. We will continue to share notes and experiences, and especially now with both of us on the road recruiting, its going to be fun but it will take some balancing of schedules."
His DBO background and coaching experience will benefit the Broncos in a variety of ways, but perhaps most notably will be his addition to their recruiting. "I think I am very knowledgeable," said Pruitt. "I want recruits to know that I am a person of integrity; I'll bring positive energy, and I'm excited, competitive and honest. I think kids today really respect honesty. With the Internet, Twitter and Facebook, you can make your perception whatever it is, but kids can see through that. So they like people who are going to tell them the truth, who are going to be hard on them, who are going to coach them and teach them." Additionally, Pruitt is still young enough where he understands where the recruits are coming from. They might be into some of the same things. Pruitt was the first to recognize this, and is hoping to use it in connecting with the kids.
"Because of my previous experiences I understand the balance it takes academically and athletically to succeed at a school like Santa Clara University," said Pruitt. "My work ethic – I'm going to get out there and work as hard as anybody. My integrity – I am going to do it the right way. I think that being a competitive and energetic person, I hope that rubs off on recruits, their parents and the coaches. I'm going to attract prospective student-athletes that are going to compete on the floor and in the classroom from day one."
Perhaps the most important quality Pruitt brings to the table is the understanding that even with his promotion, he is still a student of the game. "I learned a lot from Coach Keating, Coach [Dustin] Kerns and Coach [Sam] Scholl. Everything I've learned from those guys will really help me in terms of being a good recruiter, really being great with the guys on the floor and being a good communicator. That's really important and I've got a chance to continue to learn from the best in Coach Keating."
After getting his first taste of practice as an assistant coach in October, Pruitt likes what he sees. "We're going to have a good season this year – our players have really bought in defensively," said Pruitt. "We have five seniors, and this our first full class since we've been here who have experienced the peaks and valleys of being a student-athlete. These five seniors have a chance to leave a lasting legacy."