"Well, we feel like we're going through an obstacle course, play at Miami, at Duke, have Virginia here, go to Georgia Tech, but that's what the ACC is. Some people that have negative things to say don't coach in this league and don't realize how difficult it is. But we had one very difficult game that we played pretty well at times over at Duke and then didn't come out on top and then against Virginia, who I think is just a big-time team. Tony has done a great job with his team, and we've made a bunch of shots and came out on top.
"Regardless of all that, now we have to go play at Georgia Tech, and they won a close one themselves this weekend. And we need to start getting more consistent on the defensive end of the floor and hopefully still make some shots like we did Saturday and then things get to be a heck of a lot better if we can do both of those."
If I've done my math right, it looks like the last eight years you've lost 11 underclassmen to the NBA. Can you talk about how tough it is these days compared to 10, 15 years ago to build a consistent year-by-year program that's a top 20 or top 10 program when these kind of things happen?
"Well, it is difficult to say the least, and this is my 35th year in college coaching, 40th year completely, and it's changed so drastically since we started.
"I used to think you could lose a guy maybe at the end of his junior year and then you went through a time period that you didn't even know if you were going to get them and now you know you're going to get them for one year. But that lure of the NBA is the strongest thing out there for kids that play at the ACC level, and it's something that you cannot plan for. It's something that we worry every year about numbers. Well, if so and so goes to the NBA or so and so doesn't, should we offer another scholarship because in the fall the players are still there whereas in the spring there's not very many of them still left that you have an opportunity to recruit.
"You can't plan like you used to in the old days when you thought you were going to have a kid for at least three years and maybe even four. It was a lot simpler at that time. Now it's extremely difficult. We have lost 11 kids in the last eight years. There's some other schools that have lost a lot of kids, also, and it's not easy for any of us. Yet it's going to happen.
"I don't mind losing youngsters to help them fulfill their dream. That means they've played very well for you and you've won a lot of games. But I do think that it's sort of pushed college basketball aside, and I hate that part of it because I think that we have a great game. Every single night you can watch great games in great atmospheres with a lot of people truly caring and having passion about the game. But it's almost like we are a bus stop, and I don't enjoy that part of it. But it's really hard to try to plan, that's for sure."
Does it change how you recruit, or do you still have to go after the very best players and not really concern yourself with --
"No, I think it does change the way you recruit. You have to be aware that you could possibly lose some youngsters. I've always said I want to recruit the best players, but I do want to recruit some guys that I think are going to be around more than one year, also."
What is P.J. Hairston doing differently now to justify 30-plus minutes a game that maybe he wasn't previously?
"A lot of it is too complicated to talk about. P.J. was getting good minutes, and the last two games, and it just happened to coincide with games that he started. We decided to shorten our lineup a little bit, shorten the substitutions. We may go back and start playing 10, 11 guys in the first half like we did for a long time there if the match-ups are different. But the last two games we've thought it's been good match-ups to stay small for a really, really long period of time.
"But P.J. was doing some good things, and he was not as consistent as he is now, but he was still pretty doggone consistent. You know, I think it was Maryland he was like 1-for-8 or something like that. But he's played well for us off the bench all year long, and then match-ups, and as I said, five or six games ago now I thought about making that change at that point, and it just didn't seem like the right thing to do at that time.
"But a lot of it depends on match-ups and what the other team does and a lot of that kind of stuff that would determine if we keep our lineup shortened, if you'll let me use that terminology."
Saturday you went up against Joe Harris. When you have to stop a guy like him, what is the biggest challenge about taking on someone like him?
"Well, I can't answer that because we didn't do a very good job of stopping him, so what we thought about wasn't very good. Erick Green, Joe Harris, Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee - there's some guys in this league that everybody has got some guys that really can go off on you, and Joe did, and we were trying to do a very good job of cutting his percentage down, and we weren't very successful."
Just wanted to check if there was an update on Joel James, if he was close at all to being cleared?
"Joel will not be able to play tomorrow night."
Is he progressing?
"Yeah, we think he's getting better, he thinks he's getting better, but he's not there yet."
You mentioned match-ups may dictate whether you play 10 or 11 guys in the first half. Does it also dictate how well or how often you can use the one big man, four perimeter lineup that's been fairly successful for you the last week or so?
"You know, you're always concerned about match-ups, but you're always concerned about how you play, too. And I think that we've done some things these last two games that have helped us, so we're not going to go back to exactly like we were before because I think during the course of the entire season you always see some things change with your team that will drive you in different directions.
"So we're constantly looking at different combinations, different lineups. We change lineups in practice every three plays, sometimes every two plays in practice. So the combinations that we put out there, we do that a lot. But as you go along during the course of the season, your team tells you some things, and your team shows you some things that are working better than some other things were. So I think it's an evolution of throughout the course of the whole season, evolution of your team to try to find the best players and the best combinations.
"But I think you also have to have some youngsters who are ready, and you get ready by playing a few moments. I've always thought I'd be scared to death if I was a fast break coach that had only played one quarterback, because how would you-- what would you do if something happened to him and he had to put a guy in there who had never been in there? That's part of it right there.
"And then I think what it does, it changes constantly from day-to-day. One week a guy will look great in practice and the next week somebody else will look better and that one player will move backwards. We like where we are right now with the small lineup, but we know we can't do that all the time because we've got to do a better job on the backboards."
The reason I bring it up is obviously Virginia and Duke, that you used it against so successfully, both sometimes go small themselves. Georgia Tech is almost always playing two big guys with Carter and Holsey and Miller. Does that make it more difficult, or do you like the match-up with a Carter trying to guard a P.J. Hairston?
"I think you answered it your question. It causes us problems, but hopefully it causes them problems, as well. And I think you've got to go with what you feel more comfortable with at that time. But I think over 40 minutes it's hard for P.J. to guard a 6-8, 6-9 guy for 40 minutes. We understand that part. But also it might be hard for them to guard him."