Josh Schertz is the new men’s basketball coach at Saint Louis University. I like it. Billikens fans like it. And here are are five reasons to explain why you should be fired up, too …

1. The SLU program has faded and needs a strong leader. After Rich Grawer revived the program, rescuing the Billikens from nothingness, only two Billikens coaches took it from there to turn SLU basketball into something special: Charlie Spoonhour and Rick Majerus. And Schertz has many of the same attributes of the two great leaders. He’s incredibly smart about basketball. He is an excellent teacher, and a bit of a basketball savant. He has a charisma that comes smoothly and naturally without being forced or performative. He’s a motivator. He knows what he wants from his team, and has a true and successful system instead of a helter-skelter jumble. He builds relationships that strengthen his team on the court. He likes to network (read: raise money) and is good at it. He cares about the players in a way that fosters respect and loyalty. He has a sense of humor. A very cool sense of humor. He has the gift of the gab. He makes basketball fun with a style that appeals to potential recruits and his own players.

2. Schertz earned this job the right way. He endured adversity during a childhood that included a contentious dispute with his father, dropping out of high school and living on his own for a time as a teenager. He pushed through it to make something of himself, step by step. He is a self-made coach. He wasn’t a fortunate-son coach who latched onto a prominent power-five godfather who had contacts and connections to put Schertz on a fast-track with shortcuts. Schertz had success at a couple of places that weren’t exactly prestigious, glamorous or even recognizable in a mainstream way. They weren’t the kind of programs that attract the young hotshots as they bounce from place to place on the Monopoly board, desperate to land on the most lucrative address that has all of the advantages.

Schertz did it the hard way: transforming two programs, far away from the big time. Two largely forgotten programs that had little funding and little upside. And he turned those programs into something special, exceeding all of the start-up expectations by a significant measure.

And because he did it the hard way, and knows what it’s like to get knocked down, Schertz has inherent empathy that’s part of his coaching DNA. He sees the best in his players. He does not put hardcore limits on them. He doesn’t treat them like greyhound racing dogs. He motivates them to believe they are better than they realize.

When I covered Jimmy Johnson when he took over as Dallas Cowboys head coach in the spring of 1988, he referred to this as the “Pygmalion Effect” which he studied and put into practice.

I wrote about it at the time. “If you expect a low performance from those you work with, those expectations often lead to a low performance,” Johnson told me way back when. “But as a leader, if you expect players to enhance their performance and you strongly convey a positive belief in them, you’ll see them aspire to a higher level that makes it more possible to deliver that higher performance. Performance can be effected by expectations. And performance can become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

3. The two Schertz reconstructions came at Lincoln Memorial University (Division II) and Indiana State. The first institution, situated in Tennessee in the Appalachian Mountain Range, was named in honor of a great U.S. president and had a charming nickname: the Railsplitters. The second school was briefly famous as the college-basketball home of the legendary Larry Bird. Other than that – and with all due respect – there wasn’t much going on when Schertz showed up to take over. Both jobs looked like coach-killer assignments, but Schertz beat the odds. And it wasn’t because he was lucky. He was just damn good.

Lincoln: the Railsplitters were 31-77 over the four seasons preceding Schertz’s arrival. After one rebuilding season, Schertz had Lincoln at .500 in his second year and jumped to 20-9 in season three. In 13 seasons at Lincoln, Schertz produced a 337-69 record (.830) and a trophy case filled with conference titles.

Indiana State: after Bird moved soared to the NBA and a career of immense stardom, the Sycamores made it to only three NCAA Tournaments from 1980 through 2024. Before Schertz was brought in, Indiana coach Greg Lansing generally did a good job, going 181-164 during an 11-season term that ended after the 2020-21 season.

With the chaos and danger of a pandemic – and players transferring out – Schertz had an awful situation to deal with in his first season (11-20) at Terre Haute. But he followed up with records of 23–13 and 32-7 in his next two seasons. The 32-win haul this season was the best by the Sycamores since Bird’s team won 33 games in 1978-79. Indiana State had the obvious credentials for an at-large bid to the 2024 NCAA Tournament but was shunned by the predictable Power 6 conference enablers on the selection committee. Schertz took his ISU team to the NIT and advanced all the way to the championship game before losing to Seton Hall.

If we don’t count his first rebuilding season at Lincoln and also his first season at Indiana State, Schertz had a preposterous .834 winning percentage at his two fixer-upper gigs. Ridiculous. Yeah, he does a lot more with a lot less.

Give me a coach who knows how to build something below the ground – putting in his own foundation from scratch – rather than just taking over something that already was in grand shape. No question, SLU requires a rebuild. Director of athletics Chris May and Dr. Richard Chaifetz recruited the right guy to do it. It’s an exciting hire that fits the mission at hand.

4. What can Schertz do with SLU’s ample (and hopefully growing) resources? He’ll have so much more to work with in his new job: a gorgeous arena, awesome facilities, solid funding, a charged-up donor base, and fans that he’ll soon energize. He’ll have access to coveted recruits on both sides of the Mississippi River. Schertz will work hard on the recruiting circuit. But like Majerus and Spoon before him, Schertz can identify talent that other head coaches can’t see. That’s such an advantage.

5. The Schertz offense should be soundtracked by the St. Louis symphony. It’s that beautiful. Schertz’s offense was inspired by several influences, especially Brad Stevens, the esteemed Butler coach who was hired to coach the NBA Boston Celtics and now runs that team’s basketball operation.

The 5-out motion offense is seamless and captivating. Schertz has players on the move, going fast in a free-flowing attack featuring high-percentage shooters and opportunistic scoring in transition. There is symmetry and fundamental excellence in the passing, cutting, and screening. The creative but disciplined patterns that his teams run disrupt a defense  – think of Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt running precise pass route – and creating confusion all sorts of scoring opportunities. Defensive backs would stare and think Who am I supposed to cover? 

This 5-out motion offense is a team-oriented offense. If you don’t have a dominant, alpha-dog scorer, then empower all of the players to contribute and play a substantial role in this philharmonic basketball style. Because of the trust that’s  necessary in a balanced offense, the players work in harmony and aren’t obsessed with individual stats. Schertz’s players put the team first. Those familiar with the Indiana State culture describe a roster of players that are a close family and play with a commitment to one another. This holistic approach fosters unity and the desired teamwork. That might sound syrupy, but it’s true and it works.

This season Indiana State had five players average double-digit scoring, ranging from 11 points to 17.4 points per game. Opponents must worry about shooters all over the floor, and the scrambling on defense creates coverage gaps that can be exploited for uncontested threes or easy-ride layups.

This season Indiana State was ranked 13th nationally in the adjusted offensive efficiency rating at KenPom and had the No. 1 effective field-goal percentage in the land. The Sycamores had the nation’s 11th best shooting percentage from three-point distance (38.1) and the top shooting percentage (62.4) on two-point attempts.

I’ll pass along a comment that appeared on SLU’s official release to announce the Schertz hiring. The tribute is from ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas, a starting power forward (and later assistant coach) for Mike Kryzeyzewski’s elite program at Duke.

“Basketball coaches don’t have levels. Josh Schertz hasn’t been a great Division II coach or Division I coach. He has been, and is, a great basketball coach, period,” Bilas said. “Once you study Schertz’s teams, it’s clear that he sees and teaches the game on a different level of innovation and ingenuity. His teams perform at a masterclass level with disciplined freedom. They are like classically trained jazz musicians, and the result is beautiful to watch. Schertz is a prime example of how a great coach can demand excellence with empathy, caring, and a ‘we first’ attitude. The masses will soon learn what Saint Louis already knows: Josh Schertz is the genuine article. Saint Louis just hired one of the brightest minds in the game.”

Saint Louis hasn’t been a true factor on the national scene since the Majerus-inspired three-season run from 2011-2012 through 2013-2014. During that time, SLU had an overall winning percentage of .786 and went 38-10 (.791) in Atlantic 10 Conference play. The Billikens qualified for three consecutive NCAA Tournaments and won three first-round games.

Majerus, who had a failing heart, couldn’t coach beyond the 2011-2012 season. He died during the next season on Dec. 1, 2012. His top assistant, Jim Crews, did a really good job of leading the Majerus-recruited roster and sustaining the Majerus system of play over the next two seasons. But when the Majerus impact wore off, decline set in, and the house built by Majerus could not stand.

Josh Schertz is here to make Billikens basketball whole again and strong again and fun again. He’ll be the next transformative coach, following the lead established by Grawer, Spoonhour and Majerus.

Those three coaches faced different challenges during their time but were the right leaders for their time. Schertz will be that too. Heck, if you look at some of the photos, he even looks a little like Spoon and Rick. Let us declare: it is  time to bring back the turtleneck … and time to bring back the winning.

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.