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State of the U catches up with UM Legend Kevin Norris.

One of the greatest point guards in UM history, Norris is now an assistant coach with USC following Andy Enfield out West after Florida Gulf Coast's historic run in the NCAA Tournament.

FGCU coaches including Norris.
FGCU coaches including Norris.

While at Miami (1994-98) "Stink" as he is affectionately known, would finish as the program's all time leader in games started 108 (since surpassed by Durand Scott), steals 208, and assists 493. Norris would also lead the team to their first NCAA Tournament appearance (1998) in 28 years.

Kevin began his coaching career in 2007 at Tallahassee Community College and has quickly moved up the ranks. Following stints at Texas A&M Corpus Christi and UNC Wilmington, Enfield hired Norris to work at FGCU in 2011. Following the Eagles Cinderella run to the Sweet 16, Enfield took the job at USC and wasted no time securing Norris to come with him.

We caught up with "Stink" and asked him the following:

SOTU: Ok, before we get to the fun stuff, we have to revisit a painful day for 'Canes fan (laughs). Let's talk about November 13, 2012 when FGCU upset Miami in front of a packed house in Fort Myers. What were you thinking as your Eagles layed the wood on your alma mater?

KN: As the game progressed, I was surprised. I thought the University of Miami had the deeper team, but obviously with out Durand Scott playing they were a little short-handed at guard. Coach L had to tweak some roles, so it worked out good for us. I knew we were talented, but they were so deep at certain positions, and they were bigger.(pauses)

It was a bittersweet moment for me. We won the game and yeah I was happy, but I was upset knowing the road they had to go through with the ACC and the out of conference schedule they put together. Me being a UM guy it was definitely bittersweet.

I can remember talking to Kenny (Kadji) after the game because they came out a little lethargic. I told him ya'll can't come out like that because you can't assume victory based on the name on the jersey. Most people think University of Miami should just beat Florida Gulf Coast but you can't walk into a game, well like, I don't want to say this but I will - like you have Duke or North Carolina on your chest. Not yet!

You have to establish that and I think Coach L is going to do a good job getting the program to that level of consistency in the near future.

SOTU: Moving forward a little bit, talk to us a little bit about the magical run in the NCAAs. What were the keys to that successful run? How much did you guys lean on the UM victory for confidence?

KN: There is nothing like being able to revert back to things that happened in the past to help you deal with the present. We referenced that game some. We saw how well they were doing and we said, if we could play with UM we could play with anyone. We didn't want to go to it too much though, because even though at the time it was the biggest victory in the history of Florida Gulf Coast, we wanted to move forward. But knowing we were able to play with Shane Larkin and All-American type guys, helped. When we played South Carolina Upstate for instance, we said if we can play with the University of Miami with the level they are playing at in the ACC, why can't we play with these guys? Basically it got our confidence up. They knew from that UM game we could play with anyone, including in the NCAA's.

It also helped on the other hand when we had too much confidence. We told guys, ya'll saw how we did Miami, when they thought we would just lay down. We used it in that way as well.

(At this point I tell Coach Norris I had FGCU going to the Final 4 in my bracket. It took a few minutes of convincing for him to believe me.)

SOTU: Now you've been hired to work with Coach Enfield at USC. How is the West Coast treating you? What can we expect from the Trojans this year and going forward?

KN: The West Coast has received me with open arms. Jason Hart (former Syracuse PG originally from LA) and Tony Bland (former Sand Diego State and Syracuse G also from LA) are west coast guys on the staff. They have helped me make it an easy transition. The people around town have made it easy as well.

SOTU: Revisiting your days at Miami, is there an all time favorite moment?

KN: My Senior year, our last home game against West Virginia I hit a three pointer to win the game, and my teammates carried me off the floor. Also we made the NCAA Tournament that year.

SOTU: It has been well documented how close you were with Coach Hamilton. How has your relationship with Coach Ham influenced your coaching career?

KN: My father passed away in 1991', and its like when I go to University of Miami he stepped in and filled that role. To this day I feel the same way. People call him my father, people are even saying I am starting to look like him (laughs). I don't see that.

He's been a big part of my life. Why wouldn't I want to be like him? He has family values, really cares about kids, he's successful, and just cares about people in general. He looks like a no nonsense guy but he's a very sensitive man. I payed attention to all of that and it rubbed off on me from being around him.

(I now mention to Norris the 30 or so minutes that Coach Hamilton spent answering questions/reminiscing on the UM teams of the 90's, with Josh and I on and off the record after Miami defeated FSU in January in the BUC press room. Norris notes how in character this is for Coach Ham, who he says "will always take care of people.")

SOTU: UM point guard Shane Larkin was selected 18th overall by the Hawks and later traded to Dallas. Can you give us a little scouting report on Larkin? What do expect from Shane on the next level?

KN: I think he's too tough for anyone to keep in front of them. He can bring the jump shot consistently. It's pick your poison with Shane. I see him having a very successful NBA career. He's got better and better, and he'll continue to get better playing against the guys he's going to compete against. I see him playing in the league the next 15 years! He has a real real good feel for the game. He knows when to pick his spots, he knows when to score or find a teammate. He made Trey McKinney Jones a better player. He made Kenny Kadji a better player.

Coach L also put him in a good position. Give him the ball, come out of the ball screen and let him make a good decision. Coach L is a genius for that! The head coach gets a lot of the credit but also Coach Mike Huger, I know does a lot of great work with the guards at UM. All of those guys on his staff are great coaches. Chris Caputo does a real good job too. We (Miami) need to find the next Shane Larkin now.

SOTU: If you could pick an all time starting 5 of former teammates, what would it be?

KN: You have to give me 6! I'd go Johnny Hemsley, Tim James, Steve Edwards, Steve Rich, myself at the point and the coach, and I got to go John Salmons too. He can play the 1,2, or 3. I'd spread the floor with Steve Edwards and and John Hemsley. John Salmons can do a little of everything. Tim James I'd throw the ball down low to, and Steve Rich is my warrior.

(On a side note after hearing his answers, I reminded Kevin his role in cementing my loyalty to 'Canes hoops for life. It was 12/3/95 - the first ever UM game I attended in person. Clifton Clark sealed the deal with a monster performance against Danny Hurley and Seton Hall.

Afterward Josh, a few other Canes fans, and I stopped by Circle K for celebratory beer, where we ran into Kevin and then freshman sensation Tim James. I asked Kevin about Clifton Clark, and he respectfully commented on Clark, but advised that Tim James was really the guy to watch. Boy was he right!!!)

SOTU: Finally if you could give a message to all the Hurricanes fans out there, what would it be?

KN: Show support, and come consistently. Don't just come when they are winning, come all of the time. That gives us the edge. It's big for players when the gym is packed and the game is tied up. The fans play a big part in how guys play. Everybody likes when they walk in a place and everyone is behind them.

We couldn't agree more!!

Thanks again to Kevin for letting us catch up with him. It was truly a pleasure to talk to him and I hope a pleasure for everyone who reads this. We wish him the best as he moves forward with his coaching career at USC!