How is the health of the team?
Not bad. P.J. (Hairston) only practiced three of the first five days because his grandfather died, so he missed time for that. Leslie of course is not practicing and everybody else has pretty much been there everyday.
How is James Michael McAdoo doing?
It’s a struggle for him right now. He’s head is spinning because we’re throwing so many things at him, which we do every year with freshmen. It’s been a little more difficult for him because most big guys in high school, never played against any other big guys. Yesterday at practice, it was Rasheed Wallace and Tyler Hansbrough. So he’s playing against some pretty good guys, too.
I think that experience is going to help him. Yesterday Tyler was vintage Tyler and he just dominated the game for a few minutes. I stopped him and said, ‘Do you have any more eligibility left?’ He doesn’t. James Michael is going to be a really good basketball player, but right now there’s so many things up there swimming around and bumping into each other it’s hard.
Harrison Barnes looks physically bigger. How much did you push that and how is that going to help him this year?
He’s about 15 pounds stronger; I’m not going to say heavier because it really is good weight. He worked exceptional hard in the offseason in the weight room. You guys have heard me say this a hundred times, he’s a very focused individual in trying to be the best player he can be. We talked about being more efficient on the offensive end and shooting a higher percentage. We talked about getting to the free-throw line more, we talked about rebounding more. We talked about being a better defender. Well, 15 pounds stronger helps every one of those. As a basketball player you have to improve your body and your game, too, because it is a physical game. I think he paid the price this summer and the offseason to do it.
He’s driving now…
I have no idea about that. He did drive I think today. I think he drove John, I was just worried about both of them falling asleep at the same time. But with John it’s hard for anyone to fall asleep.
He seems like a different kid, whether it’s not getting his license or staying off the internet…
It’s OK to be different. He handled his recruitment different than a lot of guys. He handled the thought process of trying to make the decision to go to the NBA or come back different from most guys. That’s him. The uniqueness there is pretty refreshing in a lot of ways.
Yet he laughs just like the rest of the guys. He laughs at them, he laughs at himself. He has his own plan and he has for several years.
What was different about the way he went about the NBA decision?
John and Z (Tyler Zeller) they had basically made up their mind, I just gave them some information and reinforced what they thought. Harrison didn’t have his mind made up. He was open; he was open to what material was there in front of him. John and Z made their decisions pretty quickly. Harrison is very analytical, he looked at it from every area you can possibly look at it. John and Z said I’m coming back. Harrison made a release that was probably more impressive than most of the things that everybody at this table, including me, ever writes down for a 19-year-old kid to say those kind of things he said. He has his own game plan about just about everything there is.
With all these guys coming back, it’s easy to point to 2005 and 2009. Did you see those similarities in those teams and this team?
Not in 2005, who wanted anybody in 2005? No, I’m serious. I said in the press conference in Colorado (after the final game in '04), somebody said ‘Do you think your guys will be coming?’ An NBA coach sitting in the back goes: 'Who the hell wants them?' We had gone 19-11. So, '05 not similar.
'09, extremely similar, with Tyler and three guys that tested the waters. That team was better than any team I’ve ever been around; not one time did I think they were concerned with how they were doing individually. Not one time the whole year did I say, ‘Ty why did you shoot it when Danny was more open’ and vice versa. That was a uniqueness about that team and it remains to be seen if this team can do it.
The other thing that’s not similar, in '09 there was North Carolina and perhaps there was a little gap. This year, you may pick Ohio State, Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Louisville, Ohio State - there are six or seven teams that are big time, big time teams. The team that gets it better together at the right time of the year is going to have a chance to win it better than anybody else.
Have you talked to the team about how to play with high expectations and how to deal with the pressure and scrutiny?
We’ve talked about it some. I think they became aware of that last year – you talk about those kind of things as your season goes along. We’re focused everyday on trying to be the best we can possibly be. Even in '05, if you remember back, some people picked us No. 1 and some people picked Illinois. Illinois made such a great run through the regular season. That team, until we got to the Final Four, they didn’t really think they could win it, which is OK. In '09, they sort of felt like all year long they could win it.
We always make a big deal out of expectations – but is that a selling point during the recruiting process? That they can come and be a part of team that is expected to be in contention for championships?
I think so. I use the fact that my goal, my dream is to be one of those teams that has a chance every year. I hope it’s a positive, because if it’s not I sure waste a lot of time talking about it.
What do you need to do better than last year’s team, in order to have the success you want?
We need to develop more depth at the point guard, we need to shoot the ball better from three and we need to defend the ball from three better. But I think we can also get better at every phase of the game. You give in one area and that makes you gain in another area and that’s what the game of basketball is. We didn’t defend the three-point line well, but we defended the basket area better than maybe any other team I’ve ever coached. I don’t want to say 'let’s guard the three-point line' and forget what you have inside.
Did your guys embrace that – defensively last year?
Down the stretch, we were pretty good defensively. John was the Defensive Player of the Year in the ACC and didn’t win the defensive player award on our team – because that was Z. Dexter defensively, at times, was sensational. Now we have to get Kendall and Harrison to raise their level up a little bit. If we do that, that can really help us too.
Mike Krzyzewski is going to set the wins record soon. How significant is it to get 903 wins?
It’s off the charts. He’s got the whole package. He’s got a wonderful university, a wonderful conference. He’s got wonderful support and enthusiasm. He’s very organized and he’s a really, really good recruiter. He coaches the game really, really well – there are no holes in what he has. The thing that’s been the most impressive to me is the passion and the competitiveness that he’s continued to have for such a long time. It’s what I admired the most about Coach Smith – it’s hard.
I’m asked to do 'X' number of things, Mike is, maybe, even moreso. Mike has been the face of college basketball; there for a while it was Coach Smith and Coach Knight. Since that time it’s been Mike more than anybody else. I hate losing to them; it’s been some of the toughest things I’ve had to put up with. The 88-point kick in the rear-end or whatever it was at the end of the 2010 season.
But it's impossible to respect all he's accomplished any more than I do. ... To be able to maintain that competitiveness and maintain that passion, while you’re asked to do everything from charity work, to this, to that, is just off the charts to me.
The stuff you said in the spring about ACC marketing, that the league during the first expansion didn’t do a good enough job promoting basketball. Do you still agree with that?
I don’t know. What I remember about expansion the first time, is even the teams coming in, they weren’t sure. We had to get a governor involved to get one school in. It’s not like Roy Williams or Mike Krzyzewski sitting around saying bad things about Seth Greenberg – we probably would’ve if somebody would’ve asked us (laughter). That’s not what it was.
Now I think for everybody, it’s just what it is. We understand it. Commissioner Swofford and their office and the presidents group and the four-by-four-by-four - or whatever the committee's name - I think they tried to stay ahead of the game. To me, it’s not similar. I don’t think we need to look at that time period and say 'well, we made 800 mistakes.' We can look forward and change some things if we need to. That time period was just so different to me. That time was drive by reason A or B, this time it’s drive by something different.
I challenge anybody to say that it was smooth on any end – whether it was a Virginia Tech fan, Miami fan or North Carolina fan. Now it’s just a totally different ballgame.
You think it’s all driven by TV money – then and now?
Oh, this press conference is driven by TV money. My rear-end wouldn’t be here if weren’t for that, I guarantee you. That’s still the driving force behind everything. You didn’t have the divided camps – 'this is awful,' 'this is great,' 'why are we doing this?' Now you have it about nation as a whole, not just guys in 70-year-old suits saying: 'why are they doing this to the ACC?' 'How is this going to affect the ACC Tournament?' Now it's just what’s happening in college athletics.
Did you understand why people would consider you an overwhelming favorite?
The only time that I’ve been really surprised was in 2010. I left here and somebody says ‘you and Duke are the co-favorites,’ I thought you guys went Looney Tunes. We lost six of our top seven guys and nobody had ever really done it.
We should be good this year; I have no problem saying that. We had a nice run at the end of the year last year, 17-3 against ACC teams or NCAA Tournament teams. Five starters back. Reggie back. Added James Michael and P.J., more experience, we’ve got some things. We should be good. I’d rather be picked No. 1 than No. 346.
Do you think it’s important for the ACC brand to begin to develop beyond just North Carolina and Duke?
I think it’d be really, really nice. But as a coach, you try to take care of your own situation and then try to promote your neighbors as much as you can. If we can do that in the ACC that will help. I think that the whole league is getting better and better. I think, whoever No. 12 is, I think is better than he was last year and the year before and year before that. I think ACC branding, as a marketing term, I think that is a lot easier when you succeed on the court.
I’m not one of those guys that gets disappointed or fired up about marketing – if we win on the court then that drives the marketing. I don’t think it’s the other way around – doing it on the court drives all that other stuff.
Are you OK with John Henson being a Duke women’s basketball fan (now that his sister is a Blue Devil)?
Yeah. I’m an Amber (Henson) fan. I want Amber to get about 40 every night. Joanne (McCallie) does a great job and I would pull for her and Amber both, unless they’re playing us.
Check back tomorrow for Part II...