Summer 2024

Jerome Tang sees early success at Kansas State: 'It's a testament to God's faithfulness'

Jerome Tang wasn’t leaving his role as Baylor’s associate head men’s basketball coach for any head coaching job, but the Kansas State opening caught his attention this past offseason. He prayed about it and decided it was finally the right time to leave after spending 19 years as an assistant to Scott Drew.

“When he felt like God led him somewhere, he went,” Drew said after Tang accepted the Kansas State job in March. “He’s been more than ready for a long time. He just didn’t have the calling to go. He’s going to do a great job at K-State. I know no one’s going to cheer louder or harder for him than I will, except when we play.”

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The Wildcats were picked to finish dead last in the Big 12 this season. Only two players — Ismael Massoud and Markquis Nowell — returned from last season’s team that went 14-17.

Both played starring roles in Kansas State’s 97-95 overtime win over Drew’s 19th-ranked Bears on Saturday. Nowell finished with 32 points and 14 assists, the last of which set up Massoud’s game-winning three with 32 seconds remaining.

Returning to Waco and standing at the opposite end of the court from Drew created a complicated series of emotions for Tang.

“This was not fun, it just wasn’t, it wasn’t fun before and it wasn’t fun after,” he said after the game. “It was fun during, the game of basketball was fun and watching young men compete, do it at a high level, that’s fun. But you know, before and after, and somebody’s got to win and lose.”

The victory was Kansas State’s second road win over a ranked conference opponent in five days and moved the 14-1 Wildcats to 3-0 in Big 12 play. They went from being unranked to claiming the No. 11 spot in Monday’s Associated Press poll.

Tang served as the head coach at Heritage Christian Academy before joining Drew’s staff and helping turn a Baylor program rocked by scandal and violence into a national power. He was also a youth pastor during his time at Heritage Christian.

The 56-year-old played a pivotal role in establishing a culture of JOY (Jesus, Others, Yourself) at Baylor and has “lover of Jesus” as the first thing listed in his Twitter bio. He made it clear when he arrived at Kansas State that he intended to have faith and service be foundational parts of his program.

“My faith is extremely important to me,” Tang said in an interview posted on the Kansas State athletics website. “That’s what I live my life by. I believe that God put me on this earth to be a servant leader, and I just want to be of service in any way I can to serve our players, to serve my staff, to serve our community and our university.”

Speaking to the media Monday, Tang gave God all the glory for the immediate impact he’s made and the attention the Wildcats are receiving. What happens on the court is just part of his mission though.

“It’s a testament to God’s faithfulness,” Tang said. “This wasn’t my vision. I’m simply an instrument. Basketball is just the platform that God’s given me in order to help mentor young men.”

Kansas State hosts Oklahoma State on Tuesday night before playing three more ranked opponents in a four-game stretch.

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