Listen to Audio (4:39)
It was a ‘W.' It's Christmas time, I'm not going to be Scrooge by any means. We were really good for about the last four minutes if the firs half and the first four or five minutes of the second half and then we went brain dead there for awhile, but you have to congratulate Jason and his club for continuing to play and doing a nice job defensively, making some shots.
At times I thought we did a nice job defensively, but then in that stretch in there in the second half—somebody said our biggest lead was 29 and all of a sudden it was 15 or something like that. That happened in a stretch where Kendall pushes off, throws a pass behind his back—tried to throw it between 21, 750 people, no 20, 892 is all that was here tonight. He tried to throw a behind-the-back pass between those guys, and then we took bad shots.
During that stretch they really did some good things. We might have to look at that five minutes on tape, but it is a ‘W,' I'm proud of our guys right after exams. App may have been in exams as well, but it's been a tough week for us. Again, I had 11 guys who had an exam yesterday, and one of the guys was even late for practice yesterday because of exams. That's more of an excuse than we usually like to use, and we are just going to say that we need to play better. Again, congratulate Appalachian State.
The stretch at the end of the first half when you went on that run. It happened when Dexter went in—was that coincidence, or was there cause and effect?
I have no idea. He had been in the game. The first half he played 15 minutes so he had been in there some of the other times we were screwing it up too, so I don't know. I think during that stretch Kendall was still the point guard. I think Dexter played the point around the 13-minute mark. It may have been one other time, but I don't think it was the last four minutes. But he did some nice things. First have he was 3-3, and I think he had one assist, zero turnovers.
But Z running the floor and Kendall looking for him on the break was big. We were making some shots, but you go back and look at it—Kendall missed a dead layup, John missed a finger roll, Z goes up to dunk it and gets it knocked out of his hand, Harrison missed one when we posted up in the first half, so we didn't even shoot it as well as we thought we would've. But again, that last four minutes was big for us.
Was that Tyler's best game of the year?
No. I thought he scored. Like he said, he threw one up there, it hit a light bulb and went in. He turned to the bench and said, ‘It's just one of those nights,' I think. But it's good to go 11-15, and 31 points, 10 rebounds is a good night. We'll take that.
Listen to Audio (3:40)
Tyler, you couldn't miss it seemed, early.
Ah, yeah, sometimes it just, it happens that way. That one, I don't know how it went in; it went in, but sometimes it's just like that.
Where does this performance rank for you this year? Roy was saying it wasn't your best.
Personally, it's probably up in the top. As a team we have to get better. We have to do a lot of things better. You've got to give them credit; they hit a lot of really tough shots. Personally, I think I did very well tonight.
Tell me about how you and Kendall got going on the fast break together and what that meant for you guys.
It's something that I think we're always looking for, but it's kind of funny—their guys, heard their coach one time. I ran down and got a layup, and he just looked at him and goes, ‘I told you he was going to do that.' So it's something they all know we are trying to do. It's tough to get but I was open tonight.
Talk about getting into a rhythm. You've been off for a week, now you've got three (games) in five days.
Tonight, like I said, as a team we've got to get better, be a little more crisp. At times we were very, very good; other times we played very poorly so it's something we've got to be able to get, like you said, in a rhythm and be able to keep that up for 40 minutes.
Listen to Audio (3:05)
…we've been off for a week, but we got our feet wet. Game on Monday, game on Wednesday, so I think we'll be ready.
How does it feel to have Tyler out there, kind of--
He was great—great, man. He played really well tonight, and gave me an early Christmas present.
When you all are trying to practice together, to coordinate through exams, what is that like and how was this past week?
Everybody has their exams at different times. Worst ones are 12-3 when we have something at 3, everybody's a little late or something. We worked through it, I'm glad it's over and now let's move on to next semester.
After a little gap in games you have three games in five days. How will you be able to adjust?
We'll be ready. Like they always say, the best part of playing basketball is games. That's one thing we won't dread is a game. It will be fun.
Is this a fun part of the year were your academics are on hold for a few weeks and it's nothing but basketball?
It's a beautiful part of the year. I love it. We can focus a little more on the games and hopefully keep, you know, the win streak alive.
Typical, this time of year when it's mostly just basketball, what kinds of things do you work on—what do you expect to work on in practice?
Defense—um—defense, and more defense. You know, practice D, and just try to get better every day as a team, that's what we try to do.
Listen to Audio (12:32)
First of all, I'm proud of the young men in my locker room. We have talked about his being a building process for six new guys, building a culture for Appalachian State. We've had some struggles, and we worked this week to understand what it means to compete—not just play hard but compete. Nothing can prepare you for that, nothing can prepare you for what you are going to see out there, but we tried to simulate as much as possible. I'm proud because we competed. We didn't just play hard, we competed. We didn't take a step back; when they punched us in the mouth we kept coming forward. We got down 30, or 28, whatever it was, we stayed together. That's a part of the process. I'm proud of the young men in my locker room. There are no moral victories. That's a heck of a team. We fought them tooth and nail and gave it our best shot. It's something we can build upon and we have to carry over to our next game. I'm proud of my guys.
You said that nothing can prepare you for that, the players, but what about you—how prepared were you to see things from that far bench instead of the one you were used to as a player?
It's funny because everything they ran, I knew it was coming. It's just, I mean I'm screaming out everything that's going to happen, but it's a little different. We tried to simulate all week how fast their break was going to be, Tyler Zeller, dah, dah, dah. We let our guys take the ball out of bounds, we started managers at halfcourt, but nothing can prepare you for a seven-footer running that fast. It's just impossible to do.
For me personally, once the game starts, once the ball is tossed up, I'm in my zone. I could be anywhere, I'm coaching, I'm coaching my team, trying to get a win. But it was good to come home.
But you first walked out on the court and you looked around, what were your thoughts at that point?
Little nervous. I have to say that Coach Williams definitely took some of that away. Again, he and I shared a moment. I haven't been back here a lot. I was here in '05 to see Jawad and Raymond and those guys. I came to the 100-year [Anniversary]. I came to my wife's graduation. I haven't been around a lot so it was good to come back, it was good to share that moment with Coach Williams. It was good to see a lot of faces that I know, familiar faces, people that meant a lot to me. So, it was good to be home.
You came here as an educated player; your dad was a coach. This place has been an incubator for coaches. It has produced a lot of good ones. Now that you look back, as you have grown older and are a college coach, did your experiences here help prepare you for what you are doing now?
It prepared me for everything, not just in my profession but life. Life, you work hard in life because you want to achieve great things and anytime it can go south on you. What are you going to do, how are you going to respond? That was my experience here. It was a dream of mine to come here. Some great people recruited me here, some people treated me pretty well here—people I love forever.
Coach Gut[thridge], he came to shoot-around. Nobody understands how much that meant to me. But life deals you different things. You have to be able to respond to them. That's something in this profession—again, I added six new guys to our roster. Do I think we'll have tough times? Absolutely, but do we understand what it takes to overcome them? That's what we're learning. That's the process we are in right now. That's the foundation that is being built for what we want Appalachian State basketball to be. The ingredients are there. A lot of that I learned here from Coach Gut, from Coach Smith, from Coach Ford. Those guys instilled a lot in us, on the court, off the court, and exactly for what I'm doing on the bench right now.