For the high school class of '04, Welsh, DeMeo and Seymore had five scholarships to hand out. (Their early target list was dubbed "the Friar 40," a number that, after additions and deletions, would swell to 53.) Privately they called it the most important recruiting class in Welsh's six years at the school.
The 44-year-old Welsh, who grew up in Massena, N.Y., is one of the coaching fraternity's most sociable members. An amiable bachelor and avid golfer, Welsh played guard for his father, Jerry, at Potsdam ( N.Y.) State, then learned the effectiveness of the 2-3 zone and the value of networking while scouting games as an assistant to Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. He was head coach at Iona for three years before going to Providence in 1998. Welsh, not his assistants, plays the good cop with his players. On court and off, he is intent on putting his school in the spotlight.
DeMeo and Seymore are the kind of yin-and-yang assistants found on any successful coaching staff. From April to September each spends some 60 days on the road. After snaring DeSean White, DeMeo made one other huge acquisition: He bought his first house. "It feels a little weird, like I am putting down roots or something," DeMeo says, laughing.
DeMeo, 39, who is now associate head coach, is a New York City native (and former insurance broker on Wall Street) who coached at junior colleges in the Bronx for five seasons before joining Welsh at Iona. As a recruiter DeMeo is as dogged as they come. "Steve can hear no a hundred times, and he will keep calling, keep coming at a kid, keep working it," Seymore says. ("He's the same way with girls," Seymore adds with a laugh about his bachelor colleague.) DeMeo also has a keen eye for talent. He once gave his business card to a nine-year-old named Cliffy Clinkscales, whom he saw shooting jumpers on a New York playground. By the spring of 2003 Clinkscales was a highly touted 6'1" guard at Shores Christian Academy in Ocala, Fla., and was, not surprisingly, among the Friar 40. (He ultimately signed with DePaul.)
Seymore is a 43-year-old Brooklyn native who played guard for Canisius and coached there and at Richmond before joining Welsh's staff in 2000. Married with a 10-year-old daughter, he is also the only African-American on Welsh's staff. Seymore's approach is subtle. He often looks past the big names to the players whom he connects with personally. "I think I can communicate with young people," he says. "I can go down on their level and keep my dignity and respect."
Much of Seymore's success has come from seeing a kid's potential before coaches from bigger schools do. It was the method he hoped would work with his dream recruit from the class of 2004, a 6'8" wing player named James Gist.
In September 2002 Seymore got a call from Tim McKenna, then Gist's coach at Good Counsel, a private school in Wheaton, Md. "You've got to see this junior I've got," said McKenna, a Providence graduate. Seymore took a flight to Maryland, walked into Good Counsel's gym and fell in love with James Gist's game in less time than it had taken him to pick up his rental car.
"This kid is like Vince Carter," he whispered to himself. Seymore took in the alley-oops and driving dunks, and he smiled at his luck. Here was a kid playing 11 miles from the Maryland campus who hadn't attracted the Terps' attention.
Seymore offered James Gist a scholarship on the spot, and the kid was giddy but noncommittal. Seymore quickly developed a good relationship with Gist's mother, Linda, who liked Providence's small classes. Gist's visit to the Providence campus a few months later went well, so in the spring of 2003 Seymore decided to try to close the deal by bringing in the heavy hitter: Welsh.
Their objective was laid out on the flight down to Maryland: Don't leave without an oral commitment. Both of Gist's parents had graduated from Maryland, which had won the national title only the year before, so, Seymore warned, "if Maryland offers, we're done." When they arrived at Good Counsel, McKenna stopped them at the door. " Maryland offered last night," he said.