Update on health of James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston:
“James Michael did nothing yesterday. I am concerned about him. Yesterday was just shooting. We were out on the court for a total of 40 minutes stretching and doing a few things like that. Then we had a nice little shooting period and James Michael did nothing. P.J. went through the whole thing and if we would have had a full practice I think P.J. could have done it. Since we just had a shooting I think it was easier for him. He’s still sore this morning but I think he’ll have full practice today. We’ll just have to wait and see on James Michael but yesterday he did nothing and could do nothing.”
How did James Michael McAdoo hurt his back?
“He hurt it on the play underneath the basket where he went down. He’s been struggling with his back for about a month. We’ve cut back on some things in practice for him. I don’t know if it’s when he landed wrong, jumped wrong or got turned around or whatever. I just know his back was really bothering him. Then when he went over and sat on the bench it relaxed a little bit and he said I need to go back in if I’m going to go. Sitting there for a long time he thought it would really stiffen up.
"He had four classes yesterday. He has a higher load on Tuesdays and Thursdays then he does on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. We did talk about sitting still for a long time and he said that’s the reason I told you that I was ready to go so quickly because I felt like if I sat there any longer it’d really get stiff. He has a bulging disk. They’ve done all of the test.”
Where does this team rank in terms of your satisfaction toward their improvement over the season?
“You’ve heard me say that nobody is every satisfied as a coach. We’ve done some nice things. This team has made some good improvements. They’ve adopted a sense of urgency. The unselfishness that we’ve preached so much they’ve adopted that. I’ve said since day one it’s really a good group to work with. You enjoy going to practice every day. I don’t want to just say boy this has really been great because we hope that we can do some more. This group should feel good about where they are right now considering the way the season started out. We got beat several times by about four hundred and lose the first two conference games. People abandoning ship but this team has had some toughness to it. It’s a good group to coach. It’s I’ve really enjoyed and hopefully we’ll enjoy it for many more games.”
Is there one area in particular that the team has made a major stride in as of late?
“I would say probably the urgency more than anything else. We still have those lapses but we’re still so young it’s ridiculous. I would go in that direction that the playing with a sense of urgency would be the one area I think they’ve made drastic strides in. Probably the other one is being able to handle adversity a little bit better. At Maryland, they got fired up there the other night when they cut it to six. We just kept playing and that’s a pretty good quality.”
Have you ever had a team take such a dramatic turn in the right direction at that stage in the season like this UNC team has been able to do?
“Oh man I’d have to think about that. We’ve had some good runs at the end of the year a lot of times. Even going back to 2005 I told those guys you win the last six games you’ll control everything regardless of what everybody else does. Got out and look we went and won the last six games and we were behind in the league at that time. I think one way to probably look at it is that we’ve never had a team as young as this team without the quality leadership we knew we were going to get with David Noel and with that team we also had that big rascal in the middle who was going to compete with anyone regardless of who and where.
"So we’ve never had a team so young and probably never had a team that faced that much adversity or instances where their confidence was really shook. Again, we got beat by I say four hundred but it felt like that. The most amazing thing was last year we lose our first road game by thirty three and I had one guy say do you still think this is a team capable of winning the whole thing? And I said yes. We never lost another road game in the league after that. We’ve had some teams turn it around but this one it was more unusual than any of the rest of them.”
How does Ryan Kelly’s return change the game plan against Duke the second time around?
“Drastically. Those other guys are really good players. I think Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston are really good players but thirty six in your first game back. I mean that’s outrageous. I’m sitting there watching the game and think oh my gosh it’s unbelievable. I don’t care what it is. You’re talking about Ryan being out thirteen games. The other thing is to get your stamina, your wind if you’re old fashioned. To get your wind, to be able to run up and down the court and still make threes. I mean, that was the most impressive thing to me.
"So their team changes drastically. You’ve got Seth (Curry), Mason (Plumlee), Quinn (Cook), Rasheed (Sulaimon) and all those guys who have really played well. Now all of a sudden they’ve got a huge shot of adrenaline here two weeks before the tournament starts. Who, according to Mike (Krzyzewski), may have been their best team defender, may have been their best talker on the defensive end of the floor. It gives them another rebounder and a guy who will take a charge or block shots. And thirty six points in the first game back. That’s mind boggling to me.”
Do you plan on keeping Hairston on Ryan Kelly or do you change a little bit to deal with that matchup?
“You change some. That’s what P.J. is. He’s a perimeter player so that’s probably what we’ll do there. There’s no question that James Michael will be on him sometimes but I’m sitting here trying to think and there’s only been two games that he’s been back. I saw both those games and I don’t remember any time where he was the five man. He’s usually in the game with Mason, Josh, Amile or somebody like that. Basically, Mike’s philosophy and ours too is that you don’t necessarily have to have a number but it makes it easier to explain. It’s not like Joel (James) will have to get out there and guard him. Ryan doesn’t spend a lot of time in the low post so that’s another challenge for P.J. too.”
What stands out about Dexter Strickland and his improved play as of late?
“He’s been a tough kid. He really has. Coming in his freshman year things were tough and he’s being asked to spend a little time at the point guard which was really hard and we’re having some losses and it’s really hard on him. His sophomore year I still remember the Kentucky elite eight game and I said at that time I don’t know that I’ve ever had a guard play a better game defensively as two man than Dexter did. To have all that positive going into last year and shooting fifty seven percent then all of a sudden going down.
"Then handling all of that and handling all of that stuff right at the end of the summer and early in the fall of his knee not responding and whether it was his fault, my fault, or whoever’s fault. It just wasn’t good for him. He’s a tough kid. He’s handled some tough times. He’s really done some good things and I’m really pleased lately that things have gone a little bit smoother for him. I think the smaller lineup has allowed him more room to drive the ball to the basket and that’s something that has helped him. Again, he’s a tough kid who has handled a lot of stuff.”