Jim Les eager to build UC Davis along with son

By Janie Mccauley

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Dec. 8 2011 6:31 p.m. MST

When UC Davis came into the picture, Les first called his son to see what he thought about the possibility. Tyler was 100 percent supportive, though Les gave him a night to sleep on it, then had his wife follow up the next day.

"I thought he was the perfect choice and that he could really take our program to the next level," Tyler said. "I tried to let it run its course. He took an interview and won the job. I don't think I had much to do with it."

They're both happy with how things worked out. This isn't a chance many fathers and sons get during their basketball careers.

These two have been breaking down film together since Tyler was a tot. He became a regular living-room shooter on his mini hoop by age 1.

Even when Les was coaching at Bradley, he would send one of his video guys to Tyler's game to get it on tape.

A self-proclaimed "Type-A personality," Les never sits still. He paces the court during practices and stands throughout games.

"He's a very intense guy. He knows what it takes to win," Tyrell Corbin said. "A lot of the guys are buying into it because he's a former NBA player. He's trying to build success into the program. He's always talking about building a new, winning culture for UC Davis, because in the past we haven't been very successful."

When Les sits in the living room of a recruit and tells his parents just why their son should choose UC Davis for school and basketball, he knows there is no questioning whether his message comes from his heart. He went through it with Tyler only last year.

"It's funny. Now you fast forward a year later and I sit in front of parents who I'm talking to about their son and I say, 'You know what, I'm just going to ask you to do what I did,'" he said. "Before I knew I was coming here to coach, I sent my son here. That tells you what I think of this place. ... I think that's compelling. I'm not just selling this because it's my job and I have to. It's, 'I put my money where my mouth was and sent my oldest son here and he loved it.'"

Those who know Les say his best recruiting tactic is that he sells himself. Tyler still hears from people who loved Les for how hard he played, the energy he brought to the court, even at an undersized 5-foot-11, 165 pounds.

"He's phenomenal," said first-year UC Davis women's coach Jennifer Gross, whose team reached the NCAA tournament last season for the first time while she was an assistant under now-retired Sandy Simpson. "He is a name in the community and it's been amazing how much support we've already garnered just with him coming on board. I feel confident that he's going to get it going at UC Davis. If they do well, it benefits everybody. He has been at so many different levels, playing with the Kings, coaching with the Monarchs. We're thrilled to have him."

Had the Aggies job not happened, Les was prepared to take a year off from the bench and explore some television opportunities. He even considered volunteering for an NBA team.

"It was a long month," Les said of being without work. "I knew there was another challenge, I knew there was another opportunity that was going to present itself, I just didn't know where or when. When we had a chance to come back to this area of the country, which we love, the opportunity to coach my son and the opportunity to build this program from the ground up, you look back and go, 'Gee, it was kind of meant to be.'"

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