Summer 2024

Coach Jerome Tang leads Kansas State to Sweet 16, thanks 'the good Lord'

Jerome Tang’s opening statement following Sunday’s 75-69 win over Kentucky, which sent No. 3-seeded Kansas State to the Sweet 16, was 83 words. Every single one of them was spent thanking someone, praising someone or expressing how blessed he feels.

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“First and foremost, I would just like to thank the good Lord for this opportunity and the blessings that He has given us,” the first-year head coach said. “I want to thank my wife. She just puts up with so much, and these young men across here, we’ve asked a lot of them, and every time they’ve delivered.”

Coach Tang celebrated reaching the Sweet 16 by kissing his wife, first pumping in front of Kansas State fans and letting loose in the locker room.

But the man who has taken a team picked to finish last in the Big 12 to within two games of the Final Four had no interest in taking any of the credit for himself.

Dudes. We got dudes. That’s what it takes,” he said. “I mean, people get all caught up in the coaching and all of that stuff. It’s dudes. You got to have players, and these dudes, they work. They’ve put in the time. We talked about it before this game. We’re going to trust our work, and we’ve won really good games against really good teams in really tough environments before, so we were prepared for this.”

All the while, the longtime Baylor assistant has not been shy about sharing his faith and is making glorifying God part of his postgame routine as his team gets deeper and deeper into March Madness. After the Wildcats’ first-round victory over Montana State on Friday, Tang talked about using coaching as a mission field.

“I would like to thank my Lord and Savior for this opportunity that He has given me, the many blessings that He has placed on my life,” he said. “I know my profession is coaching, but my calling and passion is ministry, and I love being able to spend time around these young men and just help them to grow and become great husbands, become great fathers and leaders in their community. It’s so much fun to do it through the game of basketball.”

In a remarkable coincidence, the only two players who stayed at the school when Tang took over — Ismael Massoud and Markquis Nowell — are both New York City natives, preparing to play the biggest game of their careers in Madison Square Garden, where the Wildcats face No. 7-seed Michigan State at 6:30 p.m. ET Thursday. Nowell had 27 points and nine assists against Kentucky, becoming the second player since 1990 with at least 40 points and 20 assists before the Sweet 16.

Speaking to the media ahead of Sunday’s game, Tang was asked about the challenges that come with coaching at such a high level. He said he was more than happy to make the sacrifices he does for the opportunity to invest in his players’ lives.

“It’s difficult to do what we do, but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else,” he said. “Anything in life that’s worth accomplishing or great is going to have difficulties in it. I’m thankful to be in a position where the things that are important to me — you know, character, integrity, love, faith — that I get to pour into my young men every day. I wouldn’t want anybody else doing it.”

The winner of the Kansas State-Michigan State game will face either Florida Atlantic or Tennessee on Saturday.

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