What are you looking for in the off-season when scheduling the non-conference slate?
I was able to add a couple of things that I may not have added if it had been 2006 or 2010. I think that sometimes it doesn’t work and the next year it does work because you lost a lot of guys. One of our home games, I tried to get it on the road this year – Texas. But, they already had 19 home games. I was trying to play at Texas; Rick lost some guys so it might be better for him and next year, we might lose some games, so it might be better for us. I do think you want to really challenge your really good teams and then hope you don’t kill those teams that come afterwards if you slide off a little bit.
Don’t you like to mix four or five really hard and four or five you’re going to win…
Yeah, but it changes a little bit depending on what tournament you’re in. The Maui Invitational this year is off-the-charts tough. And some of the other tournaments that someone else is playing in might not be so tough.
On comparing the talent on the 2009 team and this team -
This team does not have the scoring options that ‘09 had. In ‘09, can Ty get your 25? Yes. Could Wayne 25, could Danny get you 25, could Tyler get you 25? Yes. Deon – probably not, but Deon got 19 or 20. This team is not the scoring team that ‘09 was – not even close. Tyler Hansbrough made the other team’s defense change their game. Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson made the other team change their game.
This team you have Harrison, who can really score. You have Tyler Zeller, who is a really good complementary scorer. You have a shooter, whether it be Reggie or Leslie, who’s not there, being a complementary scorer. You have a point guard who is a distributor and not as much of a scorer. It’s very different now there, that is not similar to ‘09.
It was a hard to team to coach in ‘09 because I’d be preaching defense and they’d say we’re going to outscore them. This team will have a more difficult time just outscoring people, but as I said earlier we do defend the basket area much better than we did in ‘09. I don’t know we have five guys on this team that can score 25 points.
Is one template easier to build on?
I would always say I’d rather have the talent offensively and then try to become good defensively. It’s hard to make somebody a better shooter, it’s hard to make somebody a better scorer. But if you can really score and you get them to buy into what you’re doing defensively, that is much easier than the other way around.
Do you like Syracuse and Pitt in the ACC? And would you like Notre Dame and Texas or UConn or Rutgers – what are your thoughts on all those?
Pitt and Syracuse I think will be great additions to the league. Again, we were active instead of reactive. Looks like we’re going to be willing to sit around 14 until something jumps up that’s hard to turn down. To talk about specific schools, I have no idea. I think Pittsburgh and Syracuse are really good basketball-wise, but I don’t know if they fit the other athletic department sports because I don’t know enough about them. For me, I feel sure that the ACC office will really look closely and make the best decision.
Commissioner Swofford talked about maybe going to an an 18-game schedule and having a 14-team ACC tournament that necessitates a fifth day, how do you feel about that?
I don’t think there’s any way to do the tournament other than unless you leave somebody out and I’m never in favor of leaving anyone out. Who knows what the schedule will be, I told them I don’t even want to talk about the schedule right now. We have 14 teams today, we may have 16 tomorrow – I was in the league when we had seven. When we decided how many teams we’re going to have then come to me with some ideas about scheduling – but I have more important things to do than try to make those decisions right now. That’s the reason (ACC Associate Commissioner) Karl Hicks makes all that money.
How do you feel about divisions?
Present me the information when it’s time. I would probably lean toward divisions at least for scheduling purposes. We talked about it in our meeting, but there are so many decisions. Just this morning’s paper the commissioner of the Big East said he’s going to hold those teams to the 27 months. I hope to still have a job in 27 months.
If the divisions meant somehow breaking up the Big Four…
Again, that’s so far down the line… Who’s pitching for the Cardinals tonight? That’s more important to me today. I’m not trying to be belittling, but why do I want to waste my time thinking about something like that? Last year, I would’ve bet every one of you that we were set for 10 years there’d be no different conference movement. TCU said they were going to the Big East – they were so thrilled by that. Somebody else came across with a better offer, they’re out of there. I’m thrilled with Pitt and thrilled with Syracuse.
What are your thoughts on the Big 12?
Ther are some sad things going on. Big 12 is a good league, Big East is a great league. Who knows what’s going to happen? The thing that’s amazing to me is, a year or two ago, Kansas, one of the great, tradition-rich basketball programs in the world was an afterthought. I’m sitting here today and another one of the great basketball, tradition-rich places for 30 years or so is Georgetown and nobody is talking about Georgetown.
That part is sad, that it’s driven by the TV and there’s some schools that make more money basketball-wise than football.
How much more comfortable does Harrison look? Because he seems different this year …
I see a little difference. I see a little more of the relaxed feeling about him. But I tell you what, he’s still pretty focused, there’s not a change in the practice part. He’s more experienced now – he’s been through 0-for-12 against Minnesota and he’s been through 40 points in an ACC tournament game. With those experiences, you should be able to handle things a lot easier and more comfortably.
What do you think his decision came down to?
With him it had to be a gut feeling based on more than one thing. With John or Z, it might have been ‘hey this is what I want to do.’ But Harrison, before he gets to that stage of ‘this is what I want to do,’ he’s really going to investigate it and have a lot of information in that computer and it spit out what he wants to do.
Because if you look at numbers, he could’ve been a top guy…
I told him, I talked to 13 different teams. I said ‘you’ll be drafted probably four to six.’ That’s not bad. But there’s also the thing about the lockout, were they going to play, were they not going to play? No one even knows that today. That would’ve been very annoying to him. It’s very annoying to Raymond Felton and Tyler Hansbrough; it’s very annoying what’s going on right now.
High expectation and pressure, is that something that’s media driven or is that something coaches and players actually feel?
A little bit of both. It is media driven, if it’s not in the paper that we’re going to be picked No. 1, farmer John out on the tractor in the tobacco field isn’t going to figure it out, he doesn’t watch everyone in the country. We grasp that, we talk about it ourselves. I’d rather have expectations than no interest – it’s something I hope we’ll always have. I’d like for it to be realistic and there’s been at least one year that it wasn’t very realistic.
With Dexter, does he have any limitations after last year with the knee injury?
Does not appear to be – he and Reggie both have zero problems with their knees.
Are you conscious of wear and tear on their knees?
I’m probably more conscious of Kendall because who’s the backup? Dexter and Reggie and Chris, our trainer, are conscious of that stuff every single day. I know that I always try to think of the health of the whole team, but I am concerned about some of those little things too.
You said James Michael McAdoo had some tendinitis back on media day -- is he back to full practice now?
He’s practicing full time. Basically, the first couple of days we tried to get a little more of a substitution pattern to give him a few more breaks. But ever since then, we have not.
How big of an impact can James Michael have? Is he in the Marvin Williams mold, not style, but just…
I hope so. Marvin Williams and Ed Davis, completely different things they gave you but were really big time lifts. Ed was blocking the shots and rebounding, Marvin came in and you had instant offense. Guys coming off the bench have to be able to do some things. Leslie (McDonald), people think that’s such a minimum loss and it’s not. He was our best three-point shooter last year, had the best spring and early summer of anybody on our team. He was really focused to do some big-time things for us. For me, the way I coach, having a guy come off that bench to add something to raise your level of play is really important.
John Henson said that 2009-10 drives him, that he doesn’t want to forget it. Does it still gnaw at you?
It still gnaws at me. It’s a year I do not want to have again. It was my most unpleasant time as a coach, and I’ve had 34 years of college coaching. Last year, when everybody was abandoning ship, thought it was coming back, every day I said ‘my team is going to be OK, we’re going to get better and better as the season goes along.’ Again, there were a lot of people jumping off the ship, but I really believed that. And I really believe we have a chance to be really good this year. They have to be focused on what’s best for our team. If they do that, then we’ll be all right.
What do you want to see Kendall improve on this year and how has he looked so far early in practice?
It’s hard to say only after five practices how he’s doing. We need him to make a few more shots, shoot a little higher percentage. Need him to be better defensively and need him to stay as hungry, as focused as he was last year. If he improves in those two areas and doesn’t lose anything in another area, he’s really going to be a big-time player.
Have you ever seen a team rally around a freshman the way they rallied around Kendall last year?
It was part rallying around Kendall, there’s no question. But the other part was rallying around each other. We had lost the Wears in the spring and that shocked everybody. The bigger shock was all of a sudden suspending Will Graves. We went to Nassau in August and he was the leader of our time. Go through the early conditioning program and he was the leader of our team. So then he’s gone and all of a sudden Larry’s gone. So it wasn’t just rallying around Kendall, it was everybody getting together to say ‘we can do this.’ That was the message our coaching staff tried to put forward to the kids -- ‘we can do it, but everybody’s got to be willing to pull a bit more.’
But without question Kendall’s personality helps …
The neatest deal to me was, his first game without Larry at all was Florida State. Dexter was Larry’s closest friend and there was no one in the locker room more excited when I said that Kendall had broken the freshmen ACC record for assists than Dexter Strickland. That was the neat thing about our team, because Kendall’s personality does allow you to support him. It does allow you to cheer for him; it does allow you to feel good about his success because he really is about the team.
Check back Monday for Part III ...