How are you feeling?
I feel good. They’re trying to limit me to four to six hours right now. Hopefully after another two, two and a half weeks I’ll be able to do a little more. I feel good. First day at practice I went wacko about 10 minutes into practice, so my determination to be calm didn’t last very long. I went home and told my wife 'I’m going to do better tomorrow,' then the second day I did it about 15 times.
The last two days have been good. There are just some things I can’t attempt to demonstrate that I have in the past, I can’t get too wacko and yell too much because it comes from your core. Still got those incisions, the stitching’s just gotta dissolve. I don’t have the stamina. The only reason I don’t have that is because I work out all the time. All of a sudden now they tell me the way to get better is to do nothing. So I have done not one sit-up, one push-up, anything since Sept. 19, since the surgery. A couple more weeks and I think I’ll start getting the stamina back too.
Did you let your doctor know about your dancing at “Late Night?”
I told him, I’ll try to do it gracefully about five to 10 seconds and then get off and try to get out of there as quickly as I can. I did tell Leslie, ‘I’ll do what you do, just don’t move a lot.’ I was trying to be a good patient.
Is that in any way affecting the way you can teach and build this young team?
In some ways, it’s made me more hungry. I do really enjoy teaching, I do really enjoy coaching. I do love being out there on the floor, trying to get five guys to pull together for a common goal. I do love trying to teach guys to make sacrifices and you will benefit from it greatly. I love that part of it. I think the bigger way it’s going to change me… I really want to enjoy the journey a heck of a lot more myself. I preach that every year to my kids and particularly the fans as well – my wife tells me I always do the worst job of it, but I’m really going to try and do a much better job of that myself.
Reggie was saying he thinks the team is trying to do better because they don’t want you to straining yourself yelling…
I think there’s probably something to that. Yesterday I was showing them one thing inside – I stretched up quickly and got my hands up and back, about not fouling somebody and I felt like my whole stomach was pulling apart. It’s like I’ve told everybody, I thought I was this tough guy but found out I’m the biggest pansy in the world. At that moment it really did hurt. I bent over for a second, I turned to Coach Robinson and told him ‘the next time anybody’s got to show the players how to wall inside … it’s going to be you because I am not doing that anymore. There will be no demonstration anymore of that from me.
What’s the timetable for when you can start going wacko again?
Six weeks after surgery, today is four weeks. Supposedly six weeks after surgery the doctor thinks I’ll be 95 percent of where I was before. Right now they’re telling me that I’m not supposed to lift anything over five to 10 pounds because they’re concerned about some other things that could develop -- a hernia or something. If I tell my wife to put a little extra food on my plate, that means she carries it to me kind of thing (laughs).
Six weeks is when I can start acting like a regular human being a little bit more. Then I think I’ll try to be a little patient about getting back to the workouts.
Have you been pushing it?
Everybody thinks so, I don’t. I had a doctor, last Friday night, and at that point it was three weeks and two days. He said a lot of people with that same surgery would still be home and possibly even in bed most of the day. The third day, I was operated on Wednesday, they let me out Thursday evening and Friday I went and watched preseason conditioning. I’ve been going to the office every day. To me I’m not doing much. To me I think I am really being very careful. Everyone else doesn’t have the same evaluation that I do, but that’s OK.
Was part of that to reassure your players that you’re going to be OK?
The first day it was. I went up on that Friday just to see the start of the conditioning program. I just wanted to show that I was alive and kicking, that’s all it was that day. The rest of the time I’ve actually tried to get some work done and been concerned with what we’re doing.
Right now I’m going in at 12:30 or 1 p.m. every day and staying through practice. I’m back now making phone calls at night and things. I really think I’ve slowed down a lot, but everybody else is telling the doctor don’t give in because if you give him an inch he’ll take a mile. That’s an email my wife sent to the doctor.
Speaking of recovery how is Dexter doing? What’s he been able to do?
We held him out of the Late Night with Roy scrimmage just because that didn’t mean anything. He’s 85 to 90 percent. I still see him limping sometimes. I think that within each week he’s going to get better. I think by the time the games start I will not be able to see him limp out on the court. It’s a huge process; it’s just eight months in. To go back and be 100 percent after eight months is not normal.
How do you go about judging how much he can play? Are you going to have judge game by game?
I don’t know that I can even answer it yet because I don’t know what I’m going to see. Tyler Hansbrough’s senior year, when he had that stress reaction condition, I was worried sick every day. I’d talk to the trainers and they’d tell me how much time I should try and give him. If I was going to give him 10 minutes in one drill, eight minutes into it if we were doing OK I’d stop it. I just didn’t want to push it.
Dexter’s is just a matter of getting everything around that knee stronger. They feel very good about the structure of the knee and the whole bit. Rehab is what he’s going through.
What’s the ceiling of this year’s team?
I don’t have a sense of that. Last year we were picked first and I thought that was fine, because I thought we could be the best team. If you don’t have that feeling, how do you tell if you’re going to be 3rd or 93rd? If you’re like we were last year and returned everybody from a team that won 29 and a couple of freshman that might be able to help us as well – when we played Duke at Duke, last regular season game, we have a great win. I go out on the bus and tell our staff that if we play like that, we will play the last Monday night of the year. I said that on bus and I believed that in the bottom of my soul.
The next game John got hurt and he never came back to being full speed and then second game of the tournament Kendall got hurt, so we never did have that team. I knew what the ceiling was for that team, I don’t have any idea what the ceiling could be for this team. And I don’t think we’ll know until we get into conference play.
Do you know what will determine that?
Yeah, first of all we have to stay healthy. The difference between 2006 when we had the great year after the championship, and 2010 when we had a bad year after the championship was that we kept people healthy. In 2010, Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller, one was picked 13th in the draft when he went out and the other 17th, and I think I’m right in my memory of this, they only played one conference game together. You can’t prepare for that. If you throw that out the window, the first thing is we have to stay healthy.
The other thing is guys have to play closer to their potential. We won games last year when we didn’t play great. We’d play OK; this year we’ve got to play closer to our potential or we’re not going to be successful.
How much different of a coaching challenge is it entering a year like this?
It is different. We have to go slower. We go out there Monday and Tuesday and it’s bang, bang, bang. I started to introduce something else at the end of Tuesday’s practice and I got two freshmen looking at me, and I can’t even see their face because all you see is their eyeballs. So I just said 'the heck with it.' Then we came back Thursday and slowed some things down, and went back and went through them again slower and tried to teach a good foundation, and it was a very successful practice. I didn’t have to do that last year, I could assume a lot of things because those five guys had started the year before. We could move more quickly through a lot of things. The other thing, last year’s guys were very, very confident. This year’s guys, they don’t know yet. I’ve always felt like the better your team is, the harder you can push them. If you don’t have that confidence and that talent you need to pat them on the back quite a bit more.
Is it in some ways easier without the burden of UNC’s usual expectations?
I don’t know because we say without expectations, but we’re picked third in the league. This is a pretty good league. I liked coaching last year’s team. Now, 2006 was the most fun I’ve ever had coaching. I don’t mind, if we’re sitting all here and you guys tell me I’m the best, I like that. I’m going to every day try and show you that you’re not good as I am, and that doesn’t bother me.
Last year, we get beat by 4,312 points at Florida State. And everybody said they’re finished, they’re not any good. Then the last game of the regular season, we won the ACC regular season and we were one of the two best teams in the country.
That team was able to develop last year and to take some mistakes and learn from those mistakes, and they didn’t repeat them. We were really good. We were a really good basketball team and never shot the ball well and I thought we’d be a team that really would shoot the ball. We never shot the ball well and, again, we were good enough to win the whole thing.
How do you approach coaching teams that have talent yet are so inexperienced?
The biggest thing is, you have to go slower. If I tell you 'let’s do such and such ok let’s do it,' and you don’t know what you’re doing, you can’t do it at full speed. If we’re trying to execute, 5-12 skip the 1 T, and you don’t know what the crap that is, you can’t do it at full speed. You have to go slower, we have to teach it and then go full speed.
We can’t hold everybody back, so I try to push the freshmen to grab things even faster. Going the pace that you go is the biggest difference. The other one is to understand they’re not a confident team because of what they’ve already accomplished. They’re all pretty confident or they wouldn’t be at North Carolina in the first place, but they’re not confident because of what they’ve accomplished in college.
Speaking of the freshmen, how does Marcus Paige look?
Marcus is doing really well. He has a tremendous understanding of the point guard position. He’s been a point guard since the first day he played basketball. We’re trying to help Dexter. Dexter never played the point guard ‘til college. Luke Davis played point guard at Gardner-Webb and then sat out. We’re trying to get him to be able to do it at a different level. But Marcus is the one that’s played it since the first day he ever played. Our players have a great deal of respect for him; I have a great deal of respect for him. But it’s a very difficult position and very difficult task that he’s trying to do.
Have you been able to see benefits from the summer practice sessions?
I don’t think there’s any question. It sounds all good, but really what it was, was four practices. You could have two hours of an eight hour week and you could only go one time that week, so summer school lasts four and half weeks, and that last week is exams. So we went once a week, for four straight weeks and we went an hour and 15 minutes. Trying to get Hubert involved, he did the shooting workout. I thought it was really beneficial to us. It would’ve been even more so, if we would’ve had a little more.
J.P. Tokoto sprained his ankle and missed the last two. James Michael (McAdoo) was sick and didn’t get to do one. When you’re doing something only once a week and you miss that one, that means you really miss something.
Check back tomorrow for Part II...