In basketball terms, Tad Boyle, Jean Prioleau, and Mike Rohn have worked together for an eternity.
It's a relationship that dates back 16 years, a stable union of coaches that has helped the University of Colorado men's basketball team maintain a level of success previously unseen in the program's 116 years.
Rohn and Prioleau arrived in Boulder when Boyle took over prior to the 2010-11 season. Together they have led the Buffs to the NCAA Tournament in four of the past five seasons, returning to the Big Dance last spring after bouncing back from the group's lone down year in 2014-15.
With another expected run at an NCAA berth beginning in less than two weeks, CU's combination of coaching stability and consistent success is opening more doors on the recruiting trail.
"Kids want to go somewhere where they have a chance to win, and they want to go somewhere where they feel like they know who they're going to play for," Rohn said. "There's so many transfers anymore, and a large part of the transfer issue in college basketball is the coaching changes, right or wrong. Most kids are going to choose places because they're successful, they're going to choose places because they play in a good league, and they're going to choose places because of the head coach. That's the bottom line."
The trio first worked together at Wichita State, joining head coach Mark Turgeon's staff in 2000. After scattering in the latter half of the decade (Boyle returned to his hometown as the head coach at Northern Colorado, Rohn went to Texas A&M, and Prioleau spent time at Iowa State and Texas Christian) Boyle brought his former co-workers to Boulder alongside Tom Abatemarco for his initial CU staff in 2010-11.
"From the time we were all together we've always had a common thread, a common philosophy, which is defense and rebounding wins games and wins championships," Prioleau said. "When we go out and recruit, the philosophy always has been from Day 1 to try and recruit skilled and versatile players, and teach them how to play defense.
"That's always been the staple since we met in 2000 when we were with coach Turgeon. But our defensive philosophy has always been what it is right now. I think that's what's helped coach Boyle now in terms of having a stable staff that has the same thought process — philosophically on the floor, and philosophically in recruiting."
Three coaches working together for more than a decade is a rarity in college basketball, and it hasn't happened by accident. Rohn and Prioleau both could have explored other opportunities over the past seven seasons. But the atmosphere fostered by Boyle — growing, and maintaining, a national profile in an elite conference — means those other possible opportunities have to be slam-dunk fits, like former CU assistant Rodney Billups returning to his alma mater this year as the head coach at the University of Denver.
Billups was replaced this season by Bill Grier, a former Gonzaga assistant who also enjoyed success as the head coach at the San Diego.
"What (Boyle) has done here, and done for us, to make this a more attractive place to be is a big part of it in some instances," Rohn said. "Just like coach Billups, just like coach Pri, we would all love to be head coaches. Those spots are just very, very difficult to find. It's just hard. I've had some opportunities but maybe just didn't feel as good as what we have here. If the chemistry wasn't really good and coach didn't treat us right and let us coach and have some ownership of the program, that's where you see a lot of guys try to leave."
More and more, recruits are starting to take notice. This year's freshman class is likely to feature two regular contributors in guard Bryce Peters and forward Lucas Siewert. The Buffs added Missouri transfer Namon Wright, pegged as a key cog in the next two seasons. Arvada West 7-footer Dallas Walton has the potential to be a diamond in the rough. And while freshman guard Deleon Brown may have trouble cracking the rotation this season, Boyle lauded Brown's skills as those of a possible four-year starter when he signed.
It gets better next year. Verbal commitments from four-star recruits Evan Battey, Tyler Bey, and Sand Creek's D'shawn Schwartz gives the 2017 freshman class the potential to be the best of Boyle's tenure. Currently CU's 2017 class is ranked 15th by Rivals.com and 18th by Scout.com.
With the exception of former Overland star De'Ron Davis, the Buffs generally have nabbed the few in-state stars they have targeted, with Schwartz set to continue a homegrown run under Boyle and his staff that includes Josh Scott, Wesley Gordon, Dominique Collier, and Walton. The addition of Grier, who has spent most of his career on the west coast, should continue to expand the impressive recruiting connections Boyle, Rohn, and Prioleau have made in Southern California.
"These guys have been very successful and they know what they're doing," Grier said. "I'm just maybe throwing out a different thought, a different idea, and seeing if it's something that fits what we're doing. Initially, when Tad called about the opportunity, I was ready to go right then. I've really admired and respected what (Boyle) has accomplished with this program. It's not just a one-hit wonder. It's something he's building here, and I'm excited to be a part of it."