“We were not pleased at all, not satisfied, not happy about the way we played Saturday night, and yet you have to congratulate North Carolina State. They kicked our tails every which way it can be kicked. They were better in every phase of the game, more attentive, greater sense of urgency, and everything, and we've got a short turnaround now and go back on the road and see if we can play better than we have this year so far in arenas outside our home place.”
I was wondering if you could maybe look in a little bit of a different direction
“I'd like to look in a different direction (laughing).”
As far as a guy who maybe does some things that you can in some cases consider them a glue guy, but a guy that does some of the unheralded things that doesn't necessarily show up in the box score, who would be one of the guys you have this year and what he does for you on the court?
“Well, I'd have to start thinking about that. You know, the way we play, we're a freelance motion offense more than not, and so we do try to make sure that the better players get more shots, there's no question about that. But Desmond Hubert does a lot of little things for us defensively, and yet he's not much of a threat on the offensive end. We have guys like Jackson Simmons and Luke Davis in practice that just do great things for us to help our team. But the best teams that we've always had is when we were very gifted and very experienced, and those guys also did the typical things that people won't notice like setting screens and getting on the floor for the loose balls and trying to help box out when it wasn't even their guy to box out.
“The great teams that we've had, and we've had a few of those, has been where even the better players, the more gifted guys, do that. But right now I'd say Desmond doesn't get very much credit because people look at the offensive end of the floor, and yet he's our most sound fundamentally defensive player, a big guy, but yet he's got to do a lot of work offensively, and then at practice I'd say Jackson Simmons and Luke Davis.”
P.J. Hairston has played well offensively the past couple of games, yet he’s only played 17 minutes in each of those. What do you think is holding him back from seeing more time?
“Foul trouble, I think, in the game before. I think he and James Michael both had two fouls early in the first half. That was part of it. And then the other thing, if you go back the last two games, J.P. Tokoto has played probably his best two games. And so it’s not just P.J.’s right to be out there on the floor. Saturday I got so mad at him when he’s going after a loose ball and a North Carolina State player runs from behind him and dives for the loose ball when P.J.’s trying to pick it up. I just can’t stomach those kinds of things. I keep giving guys chances even when they do something like that, but there is no question that’s the reason he sat out for a long time on Saturday.”
You mentioned needing to play better on the road. I think heading into the season you may have had the best road winning percentage in ACC history. I'm just wondering other than having good players, what's the key to doing well on the road, and what does this team need to do to be successful?
“I think the key you said the key -- there's no question it's very good players. But I think it's a mindset that you can beat people on the road. I think having confidence that you can block out the crowd cheering like crazy for the other team, you can block out the runs that they make knowing that you're going to respond and make runs of your own. I think it's a toughness factor, handling the adversity and sticking to what you're supposed to do as opposed to trying to go on your own.
“I think it's handling the adversity that you have and making sure of whatever your job is that you do that job to the best of your ability. So to me it's poise, it's focus and it's confidence, and it's hard to get that, but I've preached it for 25 years, and we've got a great record on the road in the Big 8 and the Big 12. So far I haven't done a very good job of getting this year's club to handle that, and yet we are probably the youngest club I've ever coached, or the least experienced that I've ever coached.
“But we're trying to do the same things with this group that we've done in the past and hopefully it'll take hold pretty soon. “
Just to follow up on that question, it seems to be across college basketball that it's become tougher to win on the road. Is that, do you think, the environments, or do you think it's just the parity in college basketball?
“I think it's more the parity. I've never lost to a building. I've never lost to that guy in the 13th row screaming at me, cussing at me or anything like that. I think parity has a lot to do with it. In our case, last year we lose by 33 at Florida State, and we won every other conference road game. So I think that having good players, and as I answered the last question, too, having confidence and feeling that you can do it and having the poise to handle the tough moments.
“Again, after our Florida State game, I had some writers saying do you actually believe a team that loses by 33 on the road can bounce back and have a chance to win the whole blessed thing, and I said yes, and we did have. If we don't lose John Henson or Kendall Marshall, we could have won the whole thing, but that day we weren't very good, but we bounced back after that. But I think more parity than anything. “
Is it more of a challenge this season as far as having younger players and getting them to understand the little things like getting a loose ball or the things that go into winning road games or some of the intangible things that go into winning? Has that been more of a challenge this year?
“Well, it is more of a challenge when you have young guys. There were times our last two games I've looked out there on the court, and we've had four freshmen out there on the court at the same time. We only have one senior, and he missed over half the year last year with an ACL. We have two juniors and one of those missed the entire year last year with an ACL. It's really not only young but inexperienced as far as the older guys kind of thing.
“But it's more difficult with those guys, but we've played, gosh, I think 19 games right now. We should be better now than we were when we played in Maui, and that's where we've got to keep progressing and being able to handle the difficult situations.”
I know you've sort of taken a no excuse mentality, especially since N.C. State, but is it personally frustrating or is there a point where you're trying to figure out what you need to do to get this out of these guys?
“Well, it's both. It's extremely frustrating. There's not a word that you can use that explains it because extremely is not powerful enough, but it's extremely frustrating. But the fact of the matter is it's there and we've got to do everything we can every day to try to get better and try to be able to handle those tough situations.
I thought we were terrible at most of the game at Indiana, terrible most of the game at Texas, and yet we go to Florida State and bounce back some after losing at Virginia, as well. But those are pretty good teams, and playing them on the road in their home court is a tough task for anyone.
“North Carolina State is another example. They're really, really good, but we just need to play better ourselves.
So we've got another challenge right now because going into Boston College is not easy. BC, they shoot the ball well, they shoot more threes than anybody in our league, present some match up problems for us. Everybody will be fired up when North Carolina comes. That's the way it is, and that's the way I like it because if nobody is fired up when you come in there, that means they've been beating your rear end a lot, so I don't like that scenario for sure. “