What is the game at Asheville going to mean for you? Will it be emotional?
I don’t think it’ll be emotional, but it’ll be a neat deal because it is home. Somebody says ‘Where are you from?’ I say ‘Asheville, North Carolina.’ I’ll have some of my great friends that will be there, my coach will be there. Jerry Green, they’re going to honor him by naming the office suite after him. One of the funny stories, if you’re really looking for something to write …
I’m with Bobby Cremins and he says ‘You’re really going to play Asheville on Sunday after you fly all the way across the country?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘When are you getting to Asheville?’ I said, ‘Mid-day Saturday.’ He said, ‘You play Asheville on Sunday. Roy, they’re really good. They’re opening a new gym, they’ll be fired up, they’re really good. You did that for us a few years ago and we beat you.’ I said, ‘Yeah, Bobby, I remember.’
It’ll be a big-time challenge. They’re really good. They had a great run last year and have most, I think, four of the five starters back. Anytime you open the building and have something on that scale, your team is getting more emotionally charged up than at any other time. It’ll be a big-time challenge for our time, but we’re supposed to be pretty good so we’ll see how we handle it.
Where is Harrison weight wise?
Last year he played at 210 to 215 and now he’s between 220 and 225. If you take the high and the low it’s probably around 15. To me it’s a muchstronger weight, I think I’ve said that every time I’ve said it today. I haven’t said he’s heavier, I’ve said he’s 15-pounds stronger.
Will he be in the lane a lot more this year?
I think he’ll be taking the ball to the basket more, getting to the free-throw line more. He’s not afraid to challenge people. He’s got to be aware that when you’re a great player and you drive the ball to the basket, people are going to take charges. So he’s got to be aware of that.
What do you want to see John Henson do differently, if anything?
We have a grading system that we grade every player on offense, every player on defense, on every play. It’s a plus-minus situation and Z had more of those games where he won the defensive player of the game award than John did. John changes things more abruptly, his is a blocked shot. Z may just cross the lane and the guy decides not to dribble in there. Z is philosophically in the right spot all the time. John may be completely out of position, but still has the ability to block the shot and abruptly change the play.
We even talked about (as a staff), and I thought about it a lot in the offseason, you get a ‘good defense’ for blocking a shot. You get a ‘good defense’ for crossing the lane. But if you block a shot and your team comes up with it, that perhaps should be worth more. So, we’re trying to make sure we’re that we’re doing the proper thing in giving proper value to some of the things. Same thing with the drawn charge, if you get all the way across there and draw a charge that’s a big-time play, it takes the ball away from the other team but it also draws a foul on one of their guys. I’ve thought a lot this summer about seeing if we need to change the value system of what we do.
Where John can improve defensively is guarding the basketball out on the perimeter so people don’t drive him. Now, a guy drives him and he just sort of stays on his hip thinking he’s going to block the shot anyway, sometimes he does but sometimes he gets fouls called. So we need him to be able to guard the ball, to not allow that opening if the guy drives in there.
He is also stronger so I think that will help him defensively, as a defensive rebounder. John is shooting the ball better and yet – think in terms of this – do you want John shooting the open 18-footer with Kendall over there open from 18 feet? You want John shooting with Kendall rebounding or you want John to pass the ball with Kendall shooting and John rebounding. So, that’s the difficult thing for someone like John who has improved his shot. Yesterday in practice, he took one that I thought was bad for that reason, and he took one that I thought was very good because it’s a shot we work on. That’s an experience that John’s got to be able handle himself.
Has Tyler Zeller established himself enough that maybe he starts getting a few more calls?
I would hope so. He does take a beating. Of course I’m his coach and I want him to get to the free-throw line and I thought he should’ve gotten to the free-throw line more. In my opinion, officials sometimes don’t give the guy an offensive break if it looks like the shot is hurried, or thrown up there or not a coordinated shot. And Z’s sometimes don’t look coordinated. His increased strength and power around the basket will enable him to be more balanced, because I think sometimes those shots, when they’re the slightest bit off balance, the referee doesn’t think he should reward you.
Last year you struggled a little bit when teams went zone. How will you adjust to that this year?
We’ll see a lot of zone and we have every year. We ran the same offense, basically, last year that we have with personnel. It’s been similar in the past, it’s been very good but last year the ball didn’t go in the basket that much. You’ve heard me say that ‘everything looks good when the ball goes in the basket.’ I think we’ll shoot the ball better, I think we’re a better passing team with another year’s experience playing against some zones, which means you’ll get the ball inside more and not just be content with the outside shot.
P.J. is known for being a great shooter. What else does he bring to the table?
He’s really done a nice job, which I saw in high school, where he did have a reputation of being a shooter but P.J.’s a really good defender. First seven games I ever saw him play, he took a charge in every game. He’s doing a better job right now at getting to the offensive boards, covering dribble penetration. I think he’s going to be a very good defender and yes, he can shoot the basketball.
Other coaches have noted that the ACC as a whole doesn’t get the respect of a conference like the Big East when it comes to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee …
I agree, there’s no question. But at the same time, I do not vote and I do not get involved in all of that, I think our teams are good enough to be in the tournament. I think our teams should’ve been in the tournament, I will always think that. I’ve always said marketing is driven by how you play. It’s not the chicken and the egg kind of thing – we need to play better and now when we do, it needs to be rewarded. I think we have done some of that, that hasn’t been rewarded. For us to get the minimum teams we have had in the tournament the last few years, I don’t think is right. But the one way to take care of it is to play it on the court. Perception is reality; people think the ACC has been down. Whether that’s true and I agree with that is another story. Bu that’s the perception people have. We have a fantastic league that I think this year will be even better. Whoever those teams are that finish in those bottom slots, I think they’re getting stronger and stronger and I think that’s making the whole league better.
How much has it helped this team to have basically NBA teams to practice and play against?
We’ve had some of the guys workout against our guys since we started practice. We’ve had Marvin, Sean, Raymond, Shammond, Rasheed, Brendan, Tyler Hansbrough and Bobby Frasor – all of those guys have done some those things even against our guys since the season started. It’s invaluable to us, because Tyler Zeller going against Stuart Cooper and David Dupont is not what he’s going to face sometime down the line. Tyler Zeller against Rasheed Wallace and Brendan Haywood is. James Michael coming in and playing against some of our walk-on guys is not the same as playing against some NBA guys. I’m hopeful that it’ll be something that’ll be very good for us.
When you look back at the Kentucky game, just name one or two players that think were impacted the most by the loss.
It’s hard to say just one or two, because I think our whole team was. It’s amazing, talking to them afterwards they were so confident because we had already beaten Kentucky, which I found -- and still -- do mind-boggling. I’m worried more about a guy that I’ve already beaten in some ways, especially if I beat them at home by one or two, and now playing them on a neutral court. I want to be confident, it’s something that if I beat somebody badly I think that I can beat you worse next time. I don’t think that we realized what a big-time game it was in the first half. You heard me say after the game that I don’t think we had the sense of urgency in the first half that we had in the second half. I think that in itself is what impacted our whole team more; we let a half slip away without playing the way we needed to play and that ended up costing us.
Talk about your relationship with Dick Baddour and what you’ll miss most with no longer having him around …
He’s a great friend. He’s a guy that I’ve had a great deal of admiration for, a great deal of respect for. A guy that I trusted. If he had not handled me coming back the way he did in 2003, I wouldn’t have come back. His trust in me to give me a little space and give me a little time was something that I needed. I’m going to miss him; I’m happy as I can be that we’ve got a guy that appears is going to be a great fit. But, I’m also happy that Dick is still going to be my athletic director when we go to San Diego.
What were your thoughts on the way everything went down with the football situation?
The Chancellor admitted himself the timing wasn’t the best in the world. But he did what he thought was best for the University. I didn’t agree that Dickie should leave just so the new football coach could know who his boss was, because I don’t know who my boss was going to be. That was just as much Dickie’s decision as it was the Chancellor’s. That shows a lot about Dickie Baddour because, in my opinion, he sort of fell on the sword for the whole athletic department. In his mind, deep down, yes, he was probably going to quit after this year anyway. But it wasn’t 100 percent, but he made the decision to make it 100 percent and sacrifice for our University and our athletic department.
You mentioned Holden earlier – talk about your relationship with the Chancellor…
I didn’t mention Holden. I don’t call him Holden, I call him Chancellor Thorp. I call Coach Smith, Coach Smith. If you see somebody says ‘Roy said Holden says this’ that’s a lie, especially if you see ‘Roy said Dean says this’ that’s definitely a lie. In my opinion, he has a tremendous conviction of making the University of North Carolina the best institution of higher learning that it can possibly be. I admire that in him. He had to have some strong feelings to do what he did and understand that he was going to take a quite a bit of criticism. That part I admire him as well. He admitted himself that it wasn’t the best timing. But it’s a kind of thing, he had that strong of a conviction to that. That’s something he’s been criticized quite a bit for, but he keeps fighting and stepping up. I think he’s just a great leader for us.
Check back tomorrow for Part IV ...