Nov. 5, 2002
General comments: "It has been a little over half a year since we got here, coaching this team. Finally we are about to play a game. I think we have come to a point where our guys, you hear it every year, are tired of playing against each other every day and they would like to play against someone else. We are going on our fourth week of practice we have gone hard. There were a couple of days where we had to back off as a staff and let our guys get their legs back and get their mental state right. We are pleased with the effort that our guys have given us. It has been interesting to see how each guy has been able to grasp or not grasp a brand new system. It is overwhelming for us at times as a coaching staff because there is just so much to do and so little time. Every little day we feel like we can get a little bit better. I think the improvement that we have made over the last week has been substantial within our team in terms of where we are supposed to be defensively and things that we are trying to get done offensively. I think it took about two weeks for our guys to understand what it was the coaches wanted from them and that is an ongoing process and will be an ongoing process all year. Not only do we have almost all freshmen in terms of learning a new system but we have a lot of new faces that are out there on the floor doing a pretty good job for us. We have to be patient with our group because the team that is out there today is in no way going to be the team that is out there two months from now. Because as we continue to learn and continue to come together as a team we think there will be improvement. I think the upside to our improvement could be even greater than it is right now."
On the team's style of play: "Our system starts on the defensive end. The things we want to do in terms of getting out on the floor and running and creating our own tempo starts on the defensive end. You can't find me a team that has won championships or done well that didn't play defense. You hear it so much you take it for granted that defense wins championships but it is so true. When you talk about our style it starts with a hard-nosed defense. If we could run the ball up the floor all game without running a half-court offense that would be the preference but teams are too good and they don't allow you to do that. When teams do stop us and prevent us from getting out on the floor we want to do a good job in our half-court offense. We want to force tempo defensively and offensively. We would like to be the dictators, we would like to be in attack mode on both ends of the floor."
On who has been impressive so far: "Anthony Washington is a freshman that a lot of people don't know a whole lot about in terms of his play. But we can slowly see him making a move up. He is a ferocious rebounder. He was one of those guys who was thinking so much he didn't just go get the ball. We have seen more and more his ability to go out there and do that. Offensively, at this time he is nowhere near where he will end up. But you can see him as he learns offensively what he is supposed to be doing he will become a little more confident in himself and what he can do. It has been all out war with our guards, trying to compete for playing time. It has been interesting to watch that whole development but again I know we play next Tuesday but it is still too early to start saying 'hey this guy is going to be special,' because they are still trying to grasp a whole new system."
On the big people: "I think we have got three guys that are different than the other two. I think Marlon Shelton and Ben Devoe are more big-bodied guys that are not as quick as the other guys, but they take up space because of their size. Anthony Washington does that a bit too but he is much more athletic than the other two. Mike Jensen and Jeffery Day are very athletic, they run the floor, they both shoot the ball, they are probably more versatile than the other guys. There is versatility with our inside players. Again the issue is their youth and their inexperience. That is the thing that continues to come up. The mistakes they are making now won't be the case later on. I like and our staff really likes the future because these guys are young and they are good players and we really feel like we can grow together."
On running an up-tempo system: "When we were at St. Louis we didn't have any fast paced teams because we didn't have a lot of fast paced players. We had slower bulkier blue-collar guys and we had to adjust to that. This is the quickest team that we have coached. It is our goal to play at a faster pace. When you play at a fast pace you have got to be able to handle the ball at a fast pace, you have got to be able to score on the other end. You can have world class sprinters on the floor and if they can't finish on the other end it doesn't matter. It they can't pass the ball from 'A' to 'B' it doesn't matter. Before we get to the point where we are really effective in transition basketball we have got to be able to complete passes. We have got to be able to finish on the other end and those are certainly things that we are working toward daily."
On the importance of guard play: "I don't think you win at a high level without good guards. Guards win ballgames. That is not to put down the significance of big people but guards run everything. They start your defense, they bring the ball up, they make the decisions. You win with good guard play. It is extremely important not only to have good guards but also to have good leadership at the guard spot. We place a high premium in having good guards and when you have them you know it. All of a sudden coaching becomes a little easier when you have good guard play. It is a lot more difficult when you don't. We have the potential to have them. We have got the quickness, our guards have a great ability to penetrate and make plays for others. Good guards do not only make the offense go a little better. They are able to break defenses down, they penetrate, they make big plays, they hit big shots for you and on the defensive end they make it more difficult for teams to get into their offense. Really good guards beat a lot of them with quickness, get to all of the loose balls. They just do the little things. Down the stretch that ball is in that guard's hands. Guards win games."
On Doug Wrenn: "I am stating the obvious because we all know how talented he is. What we have been impressed with Doug on the floor has been his ability to draw attention and make the defense pay by hitting the open man. He has been really, really good at that. The way we have been using him has been a way where he is constantly slashing, penetrating, and getting the ball on the block. When you double and triple team him you are going to pay for it because he does a good job finding the open man and he is talented enough to where it is very difficult to guard him with just one guy. He is a load for one defender to have to defend. He seems to be trying to do what we ask him to do and that is all we can ask for. If I told you that every day for two, two-and-a-half hours he has been the perfect guy, I couldn't say that. But, he for the most part has tried to do the right thing."
Goals for the season: "We would like to finish in the top half of the conference. I would think that given the fact that we haven't done that in the last three years if we could do that I think we would be making progress. That would be a goal, if we weren't able to attain that, two other goals that we have within ourselves that are very important. They are little mini goals that add up to big goals in the long run. That we compete every day in practice, get after it every day. We compete and pay attention to details in the games. Those little goals add up to big things."