“Well, it was a fortunate week for us. We get to sneak out a close win at Miami and then come home and catch NC State when they're depleted without their point guard. So it was a fortunate week for us, and we made some shots at times against NC State at the start of both halves and then at the end of the game. But we feel very fortunate.
“Got a tough week going to BC and they're really playing well and surprising some people in some ways probably that they really do a fantastic job of shooting the basketball and handling the basketball, so we've got to go up there and play probably our best game of the year to have a chance to win.”
I'm calling about Coach Bob Hurley. He's got 998 career wins. He's going to get 1,000 here this week. Could you just reflect a little bit on what it takes to get 1,000 wins and any good anecdotes you might have on your dealings with Coach Hurley?
“Well, one, I'm so far from 1,000, I have no idea what that would be like. But Bob Hurley is one of the greatest coaches I've ever seen at any level. You could put him in the college game, you could put him in the pro game and he would be very successful. He has a wonderful understanding about the game. He has a great demeanor with the kids. His toughness is perfect for his setting, and they trust him. They're loyal to him, and he's just a fabulous, fabulous basketball coach and a great person, as well, so I couldn't be happier for anybody.”
Any particular stories or anything you can share in your history with him?
“No, I mean, we've been around each other a lot, even going all the way back to recruiting Bobby when I was still here before I left to go to Kansas, and just a wonderful family, a wonderful basketball family, and to do it that long and to still have that same fresh approach and to have that same fresh care for each and every individual is something that is so, so impressive. But just a wonderful guy.”
Obviously it's been difficult and a challenge to keep John Henson in the game in really close games down the stretch because of his free throw shooting. Is there a certain percentage you're looking for him to shoot in order for him to earn your trust to stay in at the end of close games, and how much do you want him in that game when the game is close down the stretch?
“Well, I definitely want him in the game because he's such a factor on the backboards, taking away the other team's second shots, and I still feel like the second shot is the one that kills most people the most in crunch time, and he blocks some of those shots, as well.
“I do not have a certain percentage. I've got to get more comfortable and John has got to get more comfortable. He's working really hard at practice. He's shooting them much better in practice, and I see some improvement in the games. He was 4-for-8 Saturday, but two of the ones that he missed looked really good, and we came back in, he shot some yesterday and he looked good shooting it. He's getting closer and closer, but we need him in the game at the end.”
Have you had to tweak his form at all or is it really just a mental thing?
“Well, we've had to do some things with his form, but he's been shooting them great in practice, so now it's the mental part to take it from the practice court to the game day.”
I know you were saying a couple weeks ago that you were worried maybe your team was a little too passive on and off the court. Is that something you've seen improvement in the last few weeks?
“Well, I think since the conference season started I've been pleased with our toughness with the exception of one half, and we are getting more active, we are becoming more aggressive. Harrison Barnes, in fact, Saturday was the most aggressive that he had been in any game, and in the first half particularly, had six rebounds in the first half, came up with a couple of loose balls. So I think we are getting better. They're nowhere where I want them to be by any means, but I think we are getting better at that.”
Specifically about Harrison Barnes, is that something you've got to challenge him with, to be more aggressive out there?
“Well, I think he's just scratching the surface of what he can do. There's so much stress, so much pressure on him, and he's so analytical that sometimes you've got to -- you always have to think -- I believe when somebody says you've got to stop thinking and playing, that's a bunch of bull; you always have to think. But he does have to let go sometimes and realize how athletic he is, how quick he is, how big he is and he can do more things other than just scoring the basketball, and I think we saw a great deal of that in the first half Saturday.”
Is there anything you have to do to prepare for a team like the Eagles or for a player like Reggie Jackson?
“… To be averaging 18 points a game as a guard and be shooting over 50 percent from the floor and 45 percent or whatever it is from the 3-point line and the wonderful assist-error ratio, he's just been fantastic.
“We played Saturday and here it is Monday morning, so needless to say we don't have all the information we hope to give to our team this afternoon and still get more during the day tomorrow. But they have been really, really impressive on tape and really impressive on paper, and we just haven't seen them live yet.”
And can you talk a little bit about the year that Harrison Barnes has had?
“Well, I've done that every day of this past year it seems like. But he's a freshman, he's going through freshman struggles at times, but I think each week he's getting better, and I think it showed up as a great week for him last week.”
Are you expecting Justin Watts back for this game?
How much is his absence hurting you, too? It seemed like Saturday when Tyler and Justin Knox got in foul trouble you were almost painted in a bit of a corner there.
“It has been a problem for us because Justin has done such a great job, especially if other teams go small. It's really been a challenge. And then as you said with Tyler and Justin in foul trouble this weekend, you're sitting over there on pins and needles kind of thing, and trying to get two freshmen to move down to another spot, it's difficult to do, either Reggie or Harrison move down to that four spot. It's been something that's been a concern for us. He will not play Tuesday, but we do hope to have him by Saturday.”
What are the challenges in Steve Donahue's offense, and the way they sort of spread you? You're never really playing true post defense with them. What are some of the things you see with their offense?
“Well, you said it there. It is a challenge because it's a different philosophy, a different style than what we've played against so far this year. They do a great job of it. I'll go back, again, they have a wonderful field goal percentage and a wonderful assist-error ratio. They can shoot the ball, they can shoot the ball from three and they don't turn it over against you. They put a lot of pressure on your defense. It's got to be our best defensive game of the year.”
On Saturday John Henson was talking about how you guys had just won your fifth ACC game, and a year ago the fifth ACC win didn't come until March 2nd and how much of a relief that was. Just sort of reference the idea that this team can get better. Is there a greater room for improvement with a team that's not sort of dealing with that extraneous anxiety that was there a year ago?
“Well, that was hard last year because we just had so many guys hurt. We didn't have a set rotation, didn't have set players. Some guys were trying to play hurt, and it was -- and we didn't play well, and I didn't coach well. You add all those combinations and that's what made it.
“But it's a different year right now. The kids are a team that I said in the preseason I thought we would get better and better as the season goes along, and I still believe that. So far I think everyone has seen that now. The next couple of weeks are going to be pretty daggone challenging so we'll have to see how it goes there. But I do believe this team will continue to work hard and will continue to improve.”
What do you see as the keys to you guys having a good second half of the ACC season?
“Well, it sounds redundant, but we've got to continue to get better. We need to start shooting the ball better. I think we're really a good shooting team. We make a bunch of shots in practice. Got to take that over to the game, stop turning the basketball over and get just a little bit more consistent and better each and every day on the defensive end of the floor.
“But we had a big rebound margin on Saturday against State, but the rebounding consistency is something I always worry about, as well. I gave you about five answers there because that's how much we think we've got to continue working on.”