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Interview with Marty Monserez

November 6, 2003 Columns No Comments




An Interview with Marty Monserez

by Bill “CigarBoy” Kintner


Marty Monserez is a former Butler basketball player, who is now a sales manager for Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati. His son Michael plays for Butler University and his other son Nick plays for Lehigh University. As you will see, both athleticism and smarts runs in this family.

I met Marty at Lafayette University last February while I was evaluating their gym for my arena project. His wife somehow spotted me on the sidelines and introduced herself and Marty to me. Next thing I know it is 6 months later and, I am sitting in a Firstwatch chowing down French Toast while coaxing Marty into talking into my tape recorder. Coaxing is the right word because he doesn’t like to talk about himself. He would much rather talk about his two sons and his wife.

Marty Monserez was a successful basketball player and student at Butler. He is a very successful executive at a major corporation. He is a successful father having raised two successful Division I student-athletes. I think this guy knows a little about success and I think he is doing something right and I wanted to find out what it was.

I do want to note that Marty was very generous with his time. Not only did he spend a couple of hours with me over breakfast, but when some of the taped interview was hard to understand he graciously provided me additional material so that the interview would be complete.

So get your notebook out and enjoy the story of a successful family.

CigarBoy: Tell me a little about your years as a player at Butler?

Marty Monerez: They were great fun; I met a lot of great guys — both on the team and on the campus. Probably my best memories were playing for Coach Theofanis and playing with Daryl Mason, a 6’7″ jumping jack who eventually became Butler’s all-time rebound leader. They were great times and I only wish we had won more. Our last two seasons were winning years, representing the first back-to-back seasons in the last 15 years, but we never got close to an NCAA or an NIT bid.

CB: When you came out of high school in South Bend, tell me why you chose Butler and a little about the recruiting process at that time.

MM: Well, at that point, they were the only school who would take me. I was a 6’3″, 163 pound senior in high school who grew a few inches my senior year and who had average 20 points a game after Christmas my senior year. That’s not exactly the normal resume of a D1 basketball player. However, my high school athletic director, not the basketball coach, took me to Indianapolis to meet this George Theofanis, who was a tremendous coach at Indianapolis Shortridge high school and who had just accepted Butler’s head coaching job. As the AD pulled into the Shortridge high school parking lot to meet the new Butler coach, I said to the AD: “What are we doing here? I thought we were heading to Indiana Central…a D2 school south of town. I can’t play D1 ball at Butler”. My Athletic Director said: “Well, I think you can.” We left Coach Theofanis the tape of the greatest high school the game of my life and then we went on down to Indiana Central, which is where I thought I would ultimately sign. Three weeks later, Coach Theo called and offered me a scholarship at Butler.

CB: Tell me about some of the memories of the characters that you ran across at Butler University.

MM: Memories and characters…where do you want me to go with that?

CB: Tell me about the first time you ran across Todd Lickliter and the Big Chill, Ed Schilling.

MM: My first, and really only, meeting with Ed Schilling was at a preliminary game to a varsity Butler game, I was a freshman, when freshman were ineligible to play varsity. Butler brought in some of the better alums to play against the freshman. So I was guarding Ed Schilling at the high post and I was still pretty amazed that there I was on historic Hinkle Fieldhouse’s floor and playing college basketball. As their guard fed the high post, I went for a steal, and Ed Schilling turned with his elbow — and he’s about 6’6″ and 250 as I remember it — and he hit me in the side of the head. I looked up at him ready to kill him, thankfully thinking twice that that wouldn’t be a good idea. He then said to me, “Welcome to D-I basketball, kid!” (CigarBoy chuckles) and I quickly realize that that’s the way you need to play….tough and hardnosed. I never forgot the lesson Ed Schilling taught me that night. I crossed paths with his son later in life and it was great to think back that Ed Schilling taught me a lesson very early in my college career that you better be ready to play and play hard.

CB: Well, what are your connections to Barry Collier and Todd Lickliter?

MM: While I graduated from Butler in 1974, I went back to Butler and coached for two years as an assistant to Coach Theofanis. So, I actually coached Barry Collier when he came into Butler as a junior college transfer. I have some very distinct memories of Barry Collier — a terrific shooter, big and strong, and he helped us a great deal those two years. In terms of Coach Lick, I had finished playing at Butler, as I recall, and just about wrapped up my brief coaching career. I was about to go into the corporate world, having finished my MBA, and Lick and I played on the same summer team. I remember Lick as an absolute bombardier. He let it loose from everywhere on the court. I knew of his dad as a tremendous high school coach at North Central in Indianapolis and uh, I guess Lick is now telling the story that I never passed him the ball, which seems entirely possible since I was 23 and Lick was 17, and I thought that I had earned the right to shoot it. Lick was a great, quick player, who went on to play at Butler after I had gone on to the corporate world. We are fortunate that he’s so involved in our son’s life.

CB: When you made the decision to go into the corporate world, were you were looking at a family possibly, so you needed some money…

MM: I went into coaching after washing out as an insurance salesman and thought that might be a career path for me. I was in graduate school getting my master’s in Business and thought I might coach, but I remember very clearly that Coach Theo was under some pressure from the media and the alumni because they weren’t winning enough. That helped to sour me on coaching. But more than anything, I remember late in the game, I don’t know who we were playing, but that we had led the whole game, had a great game plan and were right near a victory with about a minute to go. We were holding the ball — now we had no shot clock then – and we were up three points with a minute to play. On two successive possessions, one of our players, more interested in his scoring average than in winning the game, held the ball and pivoted until he was fouled, rather than passing the ball and killing time. So, on two successive possessions, he misses on the front end of a one-and one, and the other team went down, hit the one basket after his first miss and hit another at the horn to beat us by one. The headlines in the paper the next morning said that Butler coaches “didn’t do this or didn’t do that”. This is a crazy profession as we did everything we could but shoot those foul shots and, had we moved the ball unselfishly, we would have won that game. So, that was probably a message for me to get into the corporate world. But, I never lost my love of basketball. That situation, however, helped me realize that basketball wasn’t likely my life’s work.

CB: How’d you find P&G?

MM: When I interviewed with them as an undergraduate, they told me they didn’t have any opportunities in sales so they wanted me in their accounting area. However, that didn’t seem like a fit, given my personality. So, I finished my masters and sent them another application. And one thing led to another and 27 years later, I can tell you, it has been a spectacular experience. P&G is a great company that cares about its people, values hard work, and demands success. That’s something I saw at Butler, and that I have been thankful enough to continue at P&G.

CB: What do you at P & G?

MM: I am a sales manager. I manage all of our corporate business in the convenience channel. I head a sales organization across the US that is responsible for the sales of all P&G products to convenience stores across the company

CB: How did you recruit your wife or maybe how did she recruit you?

MM: We met at Butler, which was one of the many wonderful things that happened to me beyond getting a chance to play basketball and getting a good education. We were actually best friends. She dated a fraternity brother of mine. I remember getting back from our dates when we would talk for hours on the phone until early in the morning. Two years later, after she broke up with my fraternity brother, I asked her out. And we have been married for twenty-five years. It has been a real blessing to have shared my life with her.

CB: Jumping forward a little here. Now you have two sons, was their destiny to play basketball or were there other sports in the mix?

MM: They showed interest in all the sports. We were thrilled when they showed interest in anything. We were not parents who pushed our boys into any specific area of interest. Michael, the older boy, would watch sports with me all the time. But, during his first year in t-ball, he was out in right field picking daisies. I was worried that a ball would be hit to him and he would catch it with his head. By the next year, Mike was really quite a good athlete. Nick had even more diverse interests. He loved sports, but he also loved to roller blade, play street hockey and just hangout. Now Mike was just so focused on baseball, basketball and playing quarterback on the football team.

CB: As your sons got into high schools were they just playing basketball or were they playing other sports?

MM: While the opportunities for all sports are tremendous for these kids now, it forces them to choose a sport way too early. Michael, as I said, was the quarterback on the football team, a really good pitcher and first baseman, and, of course, a basketball player. But in order for him to play AAU basketball in the spring and summer, he had a hard time playing baseball for Moeller high school. In the end, he needed to give up baseball after playing two years at Moeller High School to focus solely on basketball. I still believe that had he gone on in football, with his 6’6″ 235 lb. frame, he would have been one heck of a quarterback. And I am even more certain, had he stuck with baseball, that he would have been a heck of a baseball pitcher.

CB: So you knew when they went to high school that they would both end up being basketball players?

MM: When Michael couldn’t attend an AAU basketball game because of a high school baseball game, he felt so uncomfortable that he wasn’t fulfilling his AAU basketball commitment and that he was letting down his teammates. So the next year, he just played basketball. Nick, on the other hand, was probably a better baseball player at 14 years old than he was a basketball player. Now Monserez’s trend to grow late and Nick was only 6’1″ as a sophomore in high school. When Nick said, “I am going to play basketball full time,” a lot of his buddies said, “Nick, you are better at baseball, what are you doing.” But Nick knew what he loved the most and, by the next year, he was 6’5 or 6’6″. The game is a lot easier when you are that tall.

CB: Are there any principles or lessons you taught your sons that influenced them as they matured?

MM: The singular lesson that my wife and I taught was “whatever you choose to do, do it to the best of your ability, or do something else.” So, when they played and didn’t give their all, they usually heard from me on the way home. We insisted on the same thing in their school work. We often refer to a passage in the Bible that said if you are not using all of your blessings, you’re cheating God”. He deserves maximum return on the blessings He gives us.

My wife would tape basketball games for the boys. After every game Mike would come home from his youth basketball games and watch the tape of each game. We taped them so the boys could watch themselves play later in life. But Michael, and Nick to a lessor degree, watched them after games. I am convinced that Michael has seen so many basketball games on tape that he has an understanding, and a view of the game that few other players have.

CB: What was it like for the boys growing up in the Monserez household?

MM: It was great and it was crazy! I remember so many Friday nights when we would have a baseball game starting at 5:00 or 5:30. Then at 8:00 we would head over to a gym because they would have a late AAU basketball game. Then on Saturday there would be both baseball and basketball. Then on Sunday there would be a doubleheader. We just didn’t spend any time at home. I was either working, on the ball field or in a gym. I was active in coaching our boys until they got into high school. My wife and I didn’t see a lot of each other because the boys played on different teams often in different parts of town, often in different cities playing different sports. But those days were wonderful! There are many, many families doing the same thing. I can’t imagine a better way to spend time with your kids.

CB: What did your wife bring to the table in terms of encouraging your sons as they were growing up?

MM: Tremendous organization and a wonderful soft, loving mother’s touch, especially after dad had a word or two with them.

CB: (chuckle) I can imagine.

MM: She also brought a real focus on academics. She is very, very bright. While we both stressed studying hard, she really ran the house and the academics. She really helped them through that. I was working, coaching, and working on the next day’s lineup or scheduling umpires.

CB: Now Michael’s in high school, he is being recruited by many teams… Walk me through the recruiting process.

MM: I didn’t do as much as his high school coaches did. I did get him over to Five Star Camp. That was an all right experience, although it was primarily street ball and that was not Michael’s game. He was much better at team basketball and making other players better. I did send him the Notre Dame Basketball camp after is sophomore year. My parents live in South Bend so it was natural to send their grandson home to live with them while he was at the ND basketball camp. I never forgot when Coach Kremer, Moeller High School’s coach, called and said the ND Coach MacLeod is in love with Michael. He said, “he loves the way he plays, he loves the way he sees the floor, and I think he wants him to go to Notre Dame to play for him.” That was an unbelievable thrill coming out of nowhere. I thought Mike would play in college, but I had no idea what level. A year later he committed to Notre Dame and Coach MacLeod. He did go to Indiana for a visit with Coach Knight. That was really a heck of an experience. Miami was also very much involved in recruiting Michael.

CB: Was Butler involved at that point?

MM: No…that was really a surprise because Barry Collier was the coach at Butler then. When Mike was a freshman in high school, I suggested he write a letter to all the coaches he might want to play for and he wrote a letter to Coach Collier. However, the Butler opportunity never materialized, but there was never any hard feelings.

CB: So he goes off to Notre Dame and then what happens?

MM: There was a bit of turmoil his senior year in high school. Notre Dame fires John MacLeon, which I think was a ridicules move and one I still have a hard time understanding. Coach MacLeod was a wonderful man that brought back the ND program to a respectable level. So Mike shows up at Notre Dame for his freshman year with a new coach, a new staff, a new system and a new program. Matt Doherty was the new coach and they had a solid year. Mike played 11 or so minutes a game as the back-up two guard and had a heck of a year. They made it to the NIT finals. Mike has some incredible experiences playing in the Big East arenas and Madison Square Arena six times.

CB: After Michael decided to leave, how did he get to Butler?

MM: He looked at both Miami and Butler. He had looked at Miami the first time around. He really appreciated Coach Coles and that program. So he went back and visited again. Then he talked with Coach Matta and Coach Lickliter at Butler. Butler did an unbelievable job recruiting him. Mike and Joel Cornette, already a star at Butler, had known each other in high school although they were pretty intense rivals. Mike was very impressed with Brandon Miller, Darnell Archey and all the guys they had. He saw a good fit for himself. And he knew about the quality academics at Butler. So, he decided to commit to Butler. But instead of calling Coach Matta on the phone, he insisted on driving to Butler to shake Coach Matta’s hand and let him know how excited he was to be joining the program. Mike was half way to Indianapolis from Cincinnati on I-74 when I heard that Coach Doherty was leaving Notre Dame. One of the reasons he wanted to leave Notre Dame was he was looking for a basketball environment that Coach MacLeod and Coach Matta had offered. So I called Mike, told him that Coach Doherty was leaving for North Carolina, and asked him if he wanted to think this decision over some more. He said, “no, Dad, I don’t. Coach Matta has been great to me. He has been very supportive and I want to go over and keep my commitment to him.” As I look back, it has worked out very well for Mike at Butler.

CB: Now you have Mike safely in college, let’s talk about Nick. Actually they were both going through the recruiting process at the same time?

MM: Yes they were. Nick was in his senior year looking to play D1 ball when Mike was going through the recruiting process the second time around. Nick developed much later than Mike, in part, because he had much more diverse interests than Mike. He didn’t work at any one sport as hard as Mike worked on basketball, and he grew taller a little later than Mike.

Nick really started to come on his junior year at Moeller, make a significant contribution his last few games that year. Then, that summer he really started to improve. His AAU coaches showed great confidence in Nick and he really blossomed. He was on a tremendous AAU team that went to Orlando to play in the AAU national basketball tournament, involving 94 teams, and lost in the championship game. Through all that exposure, Nick started to get some interest from colleges. Then he had a terrific senior year at Moeller. He was second in scoring and rebounding on a very good Moeller team. He really helped himself greatly his senior year in high school.

Nick had a huge desire to play Division I basketball at a good academic school. The opportunities for him, given those two objectives, were to play in the Ivy League or the Patriot League. So, with a lot of help from his high school coaches, he was guided through the process. He visited Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, a member of the Patriot League, and a tremendous academic school. He thought it would be a good fit for him and, after two years, it certainly has been. He’s done extremely well on the court and in the classroom.

CB: They were 16-11 last year.

MM: Yes, 16-11, they led the league most of the year. They fired the coach after Nick’s first year. It seems to be a bad omen for coaches to take on a Monserez recruit because they seem to lose their job soon afterward. Ironically, Lehigh hired as their new head coach a former Notre Dame assistant, Billy Taylor, who actually recruited Mike while at ND. Lehigh had a good year last year and they are expecting big things this year. And like Mike, Nick is looking forward to getting the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. Maybe both Butler and Lehigh will make the Big Dance this year!

CB: What is the difference between Butler and Lehigh?

MM: I don’t think there is a lot difference. Academically, they are both extremely good schools. They are both about 4000 or 5000 students. They are both private schools. Both have beautiful campuses. Indianapolis is a bigger city than the Bethlehem/Allentown/Easton area. The other difference is that Butler currently has a more advanced basketball program, but Lehigh is on the rise!! Most importantly, when you play Division I basketball, you are talking about terrific players from the Patriot League to the Horizon League to the Big Ten. They all can play!

CB: With two sons playing college ball, what is basketball season like for you now? How do you plan your weekends? How do figure where you are going to go?

MM: It is like the days when they were young. Crazy! But we really love it. It is a blessing to be able to watch our kids compete. Every weekend from Thanksgiving to March in Albany, NY, when Butler lost in the Sweet Sixteen game against Oklahoma, we were on the road. It could be a drive over to Indianapolis and back or a flight to Bethlehem. I was fortunate, with all of the Horizon League teams within driving distance of Cincinnati, to see almost all of Mike’s 32 games. We saw about ten of Nick’s 28 games. It was difficult. Lehigh generally plays Friday and Sunday. Butler plays Thursdays and Saturdays. I have yet to do a Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday road trip. I need to figure that 4-game trip out this year!

CB: So you are looking to see more of Nick’s games after Mike graduates, right?

MM: Absolutely. If Mike gets into coaching, I hope to go see those games too.

CB: As you look aback with your two sons, what makes you proud?

MM: We are most proud of the kind of kids that Mike and Nick are. They are well rounded. They are bright…boy, don’t I sound like a parent.

CB: Well I tossed you the softball!

MM: (chuckle) But it is not the basketball, it is who they are. It has been so enjoyable to watch them grow up and become young men. It they played baseball or were in drama or in some other area of interest doing their best, we would be equally proud.

CB: Well thank you for spending time with me this morning. I hope you weren’t too grossed out by watching me eat all that food,

MM: It was a pleasure! See you in gym real soon.

     

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