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“I think the head coach is probably the final closer but it still goes back to building relationships and feeling comfortable,” Graves said. “And the assistant has as much responsibility for that as the head coach in closing the deal and to make the recruit feel as comfortable as he can.”

At Texas, Springmann said sometimes the decision on which coaches take the lead on a recruit can be a matter of pairing the personality of a Longhorns assistant with that of a parent. Or maybe it comes down to which assistant has had a previous relationship with the recruit’s high school or AAU coach.

When dealing with elite talents, those decisions also include how soon to get the head coach more involved.

“You say, `Coach, we’re in a good spot, but in order to stay in this kid’s top three, it’s going to be important for you to communicate with this kid and this family more,” Springmann said. “Sometimes they might get tired of talking to me and you’ve got to make an adjustment. We all need a breath of fresh air. It’s good for a kid and his family to hear from someone else.”

In the case of UNC preseason All-American Harrison Barnes, he said Robinson was the first to talk with him and served as his primary contact for several months before head coach Roy Williams took the lead in the recruiting battle for his services.

“Usually the assistant coach would start off by making the contact, kind of laying the groundwork and establishing the relationship,” the sophomore said of his early recruitment. “Then I started hearing a little from coach Williams as the process went on. He would call me, I would call him, but it was mostly through coach Robinson.

“Coach Rob, he was very relaxed, very cool. So it made it a lot easier for us to communicate.”

That’s one of the assistant’s primary goals, to make the recruit comfortable. Do it well enough, and the prospect will put his name on the dotted line. Botch the handoff to the head coach, well, all that’s left is to swallow that hollow feeling and start calling the next names on the list.

“Sometimes it’s not just coordinating who you’re recruiting _ it’s making sure you’re spending your head coach’s time efficiently,” Rohrssen said. “The worst place in the world to be in recruiting is runner-up, because that means you’ve just logged a lot of time, miles, energy and expense not to cross the finish line.”


AP Basketball Writer John Marshall in Tempe, Ariz., and AP Sports Writer Michael Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this report.