Stan the Man

By Tom McDermott, Sports Information Director

Stan Spirou: The name has become synonymous with Southern New Hampshire University. His accomplishments over the past 21 years as men's basketball coach are impressive: more than 400 career wins, 14 NCAA Tournament appearances, 1994 Division II National Coach of the Year.

But to say he is just a basketball coach would be an injustice. His interests are varied, and he is not shy when it comes to expressing his opinions on a number of topics. Here are just a few.

You left your native Greece for the United States when you were just 9 years old. How difficult was it coming to a new country at that age?

Behind the Sidelines with Coach Spirou

His 21 years of service as the SNHU men's basketball coach is only a fraction of what
makes up the man who is Stan Spirou.

Spirou: I hated it. I could not speak the language and I was looked at as being different. Kids can be cruel at that age, and I remember being laughed at. There was no English as a second language back then, so school was very difficult. The only thing I understood was math, so I would do math all day. The only time I was happy was when I was down at the park playing sports.

At what point did you realize that athletics, and specifically coaching, was what you wanted to be involved in?

Spirou: Believe it or not, I knew in the seventh grade. Ed Ganem, my teacher/coach at Lincoln Street School, got me involved with basketball. He left an impression on me with the way he conducted himself as a teacher and a coach, and I remember wanting to be just like him. At the time my parents were working long hours in the sweatshops, so he was like my second father. In my eighth-grade yearbook, they asked, "What do you want to do in the future?" and I wrote, "be a basketball coach and a teacher."

You have shown no signs of "mellowing out" over the years. What keeps you going?

Spirou: It's the competition. I have always been competitive. From the first day I stepped foot in America, I had to compete. I had to compete to be accepted. I had to work hard to get good grades so I would have a better life than my parents. Plus, I just enjoy the game. I think it is the most beautiful game around. It has a lot of strategy, and I like trying to put 13 kids in a situation that they can go out and perform at the highest level.

What has kept you at SNHU all these years?

Spirou: It is only natural to think about moving on to the next level, but I have always put my family first. My family was content here. Plus, the administration here has always been in my corner and has allowed me to be myself. They have always been very supportive and very conducive to doing it the right way, so why would I leave?

Besides talent, what do you look for in a recruit?

Spirou: Character is very important. Body language says a lot about someone, so I watch (a prospect's) behavior on and off the court to see how he interacts with his coaches and teammates. There are a lot of kids that are talented enough to play in our program, but can't handle the demands we put on them. Usually the best judges are the current players, so we put a lot of trust in the judgment of our players during the recruiting process. So far, so good.

You have voiced your issues with the NCAA. If they made you president of the NCAA for one day, what would you change?

Spirou: I think in a number of ways the NCAA is hypocritical. One of the biggest issues I have is the "student-athlete" jargon that they try to sell all the time. If they truly want the kids to be students first and athletes second, then do something about the length of the season. The players get on campus in September, we start practice in October and the season goes from November to March. The players, especially the freshmen, don't have a chance to really enjoy the overall college experience. I would be in favor of the season starting in January and going into April. But that will never happen because the NCAA is getting big money from the networks that televise the early season Division I tournaments, like the Preseason NIT and the Maui Classic.

You have been very vocal with your political views over the years. Is there any interest on your part in getting involved in politics in the near future, maybe running for mayor of Manchester?

Spirou: I have thought more about getting involved in politics than moving onto a Division I coaching job. But my wife and family would kill me if I jumped into the political arena. I have supported a numberof candidates and will continue to do so. I love the dialogue between Democrats and Republicans, and certainly I am opinionated. I have always been a champion for the underdog. I am a Democrat by conviction, not by convenience.

If you did run for mayor of Manchester, do you think you could win?

Spirou: I don't know if I would win, but I know I would certainly give somebody a good run for the money, especially if my opponent was conservative. One thing I can defend is the philosophy of the Democratic Party, and what it has meant to me and my family. We would put on a full court press like they have never seen before!

OK, politics is not an option. What about joining the Senior PGA Tour?

Spirou: That won't happen, but I do want to thank all the administrators over the years for allowing me to work at my golf game. When I first started under Eddie Shapiro, I was a 20 handicap, and through Dick Gustafson and Paul LeBlanc I have been able to lower my handicap to six!

When you walk away, what do you hope they say about Stan Spirou?

Spirou: I have always believed in loyalty, so one of the things I hope they say is that I remained loyal to the school, to my family, to my staff, to my players and to the alumni. People are bound to bring up my record and the championships we won, but all that really says is that my wife knew where I was during all of those nights! If someone says that I was loyal, that is good enough for me.

Reproduced with permission. The Extra Mile, Spring 2006, pp 24-25

(Posting date 28 June 2006)

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