Walk into the office of new Kennesaw State men's basketball coach Lewis Preston and one thing immediately stands out - nothing.
Just over two months since taking over as the leader of the Owls, Preston has nothing on any of the walls in his office. Just like the relationship he has with his team, it's a blank slate.
It would be a great story if that was the reason the walls were left uncluttered. It could serve as a motivating tool to Preston and his players to fill those walls with memories of future successes.
Instead, the walls are empty because of office renovations and the fact the new coach hasn't been able to get the pictures to campus yet.
But he understands and likes the concept.
While Preston can't officially work with the team on the court until Aug. 17, the first day of fall semester, he has used the first 2 months on the job to take the first step toward building a legacy worthy of hanging on those walls.
To combat the recent APR score of 874, and the NCAA-mandated penalties of reduced scholarships and practice time, Preston is trying to institute a new system of checks and balances. He brought in an additional academic advisor to work with the team, and the coach is getting daily and weekly breakdowns of how each player is performing in the classroom.
To this point, he appears cautiously optimistic.
Preston has watched his players interact with young, up-and-comers during his summer basketball camps. He has been able to see through instruction how patient his players are. Preston has learned about their basketball IQ and their communication skills.
So far, he's been impressed.
The classroom and camps have been a barometer for Preston as he tries to get his team into a new five-step process toward building a new mindset - accountability, responsibility, commitment, passion and hard work.
"The sum total (of the steps) wins championships," he said.
Anyone who has been around high school or college athletics for any significant amount of time could hear these things and say all it's coach speak. But the initial impression is that Preston believes the message he is conveying.
One thing he did have in his office that lends credence to everything he is saying was a trio of books by former NFL coach Tony Dungy.
Preston has met Dungy and said the impressive thing he learned from the Super Bowl-winning coach wasn't so much a lesson he conveyed, but more a way in which Dungy carried himself.
"He proved you could be a man of God, faith and family and still be a professional," Preston said. "He is a teacher and mentors guys on a daily basis and shows them that every action has either positive or negative consequences."
When Dungy took over as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, he entered the team meeting room on his first day, walked to the podium and said nothing. He watched and waited until the room quieted down. Once it did, he introduced himself and said, in an even, almost monotone way, that he would not speak any louder than his usual calm, conversational voice.
Initially, that's the way Preston comes across, but it's hard to believe it's going to stay that way. The coach's eyes light up every time he talks about Aug. 17.
"They have no idea what they are in for," Preston says of his players.
It's a safe bet the Kennesaw State players will get a coach that's a mix between Dungy and the not-as-levelheaded Bobby Knight. It'll just depend on what day it is whether the team gets the former or the latter.
Preparing the team is not the only thing Preston and his staff have been doing the last couple of months.
They've been reaching out to the high school coaches around the state and especially in Cobb County. Preston said he has had a number of good conversations with local coaches, including Wheeler's Doug Lipscomb and Harrison's Robert Churchwell, among others. So far, Preston said he and the staff have been well-received.
Most of the scheduling for the 2011-12 season was completed before Preston's arrival, so there likely won't be any big-name teams coming to the Convocation Center this season.
The new coach did make calls to Clemson and is waiting to hear about a potential game with the Tigers. And Preston will soon be getting in touch with Georgia State's new coach, Ron Hunter, in hopes of setting up an annual matchup between the metro-area program.
The Owls are already scheduled to play at Georgia Tech during the 2012-13 season, and Preston said he will be trying to set up a series with Georgia.
He also said he will be calling Florida, one of his former employers, but it's unlikely the Gators would agree to come to KSU, even if it was a 5-for-1 deal, and that's OK for Preston.
"I don't want to go down there five times, either," he said.
Going back to the walls in Preston's office, the new coach does know what trio of pictures he is going to hang when he gets them there:
a photo of the first ring he won while at Notre Dame,
the celebration photo from 2007, when Florida won the second of its back-to-back national championships by beating Ohio State,
and a similar photo celebrating the Gators' NIT championship over Baylor in 2009.
Preston said he hope the pictures will provide a focal point for the Owls to strive for.
And, with just three photos, it should leave plenty of space on the wall for the future.
John Bednarowski is sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal. He can be reached
at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @jbednarowski.