Furjanic inducted Into Pittsburgh Basketball Club Hall of Fame
Matt Furjanic disliked the college coach who told him he didn't have "IT" as a basketball player. However, Furjanic has "IT" and more as a college coach.
Furjanic was inducted into the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Hall of Fame Saturday in his hometown.
The induction, the third for the Pittsburgh Basketball Club, was not expected.
"I was surprised," said Furjanic. "It's only the third induction class. Pittsburgh has had so many great coaches over the years. To be the third class - it's kind of a nice feeling."
Polk State College assistant Steve Perkins has been working with Furjanic for four seasons.
He's seen the success Furjanic has had with many players.
"I think the biggest thing with him is that he has a great way of communicating what he wants to be done to his players," Perkins said.
"It's a clear voice and he doesn't' waiver from that," Perkins said.
Polk State College athletic director Bing Tyus hired Furjanic.
"From day one, very few coaches commit to and care about athletes more than he does," said Tyus. "He cares about the whole athlete. He goes the extra mile in getting to know about them personally and he truly cares about them."
Furjanic played at his native Rankin High School while growing up.
He was the eighth man on the freshmen team at the University of Pittsburgh when he first learned he didn't quite "have game."
"I watched the varsity," Furjanic said. "They had three seniors. I used my common sense. What are my chances?"
He transferred to Point Park University in Pittsburgh, where the message was clearer after one year of junior varsity ball under Jerry Conboy.
"He told me I wasn't good enough," Furjanic said.
Furjanic was hurt and disappointed.
Through time, he's understood what Conboy was trying to tell him.
"I realized after I started coaching he was a very smart man," Furjanic said. "Now when I see him, I have tears in my eyes. I had a lot of learning experiences from those days."
Furjanic is in his 13th season at Polk State College, winning five Suncoast Conference titles and five Suncoast Conference Coach of the Year awards.
His record is 240-155 at Polk and he's sent on 46 players to four-year institutions.
However, Furjanic had a long and successful coaching career before he became an Eagle.
Furjanic coached at NCAA Division I Robert Morris University (Pa.) from 1979-1984, twice taking Robert Morris to the big dance – the NCAA national tournament.
He arrived at Robert Morris in the program's third year as an NCAA Division I program after the Colonials moved up from the junior college rankings.
Furjanic also led Marist College (New York) to the national tournament in 1986 with NBA player Rik Smits on his squad.
Furjanic also started the NCAA Division III program at the University of Pittsburg at Greensburg.
Looking back at his success, Furjanic spreads the credit around.
"Number one, it takes good players," he said. "I've also had assistants who are loyal, and hard working, and log a lot of hours. I've had the support of the school where I've worked. If they believe in someone, they stick with them."
Recruiting is also key to his simple philosophy.
"You have to have a system you believe in," he said. "You recruit players who you think are going to fit into your philosophy. We try to be selective and they are not going to fit in all the time."
Other intangibles include finding the best athletes, finding those with skills and quickness. It's also finding players who are coachable and who have character."
While the Pittsburgh Basketball Club is considered a regional club, it's still an honor, Furjanic said.
"You appreciate the fact that they respected the job that you did."
Furjanic has also gleaned his philosophy from what he's learned from other coaches.
"I think he's very proud of that coaching tradition," Perkins said. "He's very humble. He sees himself as just another spoke in the wheel, so to speak. But others have had those same opportunities and they haven't had the success he's had."
One of Furjanic's old coaches, Conboy, will be at the induction ceremony.
"He's one of my best friends," Furjanic said.