Did it hurt Leslie McDonald to have the leadership role taken from him?
I took the leadership role away from P.J. and Leslie both. At the time I didn’t really care how he responded, because he deserved it, he and P.J. both. But I think he handled it well. They understand that. They’re willing to be a part of the team and do what they’re asked to do and take a back seat right now to Marcus and James Michael more than anybody else. I don’t even think it’s been an issue.
Did it hurt him or make him mad? I don’t know, but either one of those I would accept.
Being the only senior on scholarship, what do you expect from Leslie this season?
I expect him to play his best basketball. He’s a shooter, but yet he’s been a streak-shooter. I need him to be a consistent shooter. I need him to make it in multiple games. He understands that, but I think this will be his biggest year.
Is he a definite starter?
Oh no, there’s nobody. I shouldn’t say nobody. Marcus and James Michael, but no, no, no.
Does the personnel on this year’s team mean you can attack people in different ways this year?
It remains to be seen. The big guys have to show that they can do more than last year. If one of them steps forward then that will be great. But I do think I want a more balanced, inside scoring and outside scoring. …
Can P.J. and Leslie regain their leadership roles?
They’ve really got to do a lot, there’s no question about that. It’s a role that I don’t take lightly and they lost some confidence by some actions. With Joel and Kennedy particularly, I say ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was worked on every day.’ And it’s the same thing, if you lose some opportunities in leadership, it’s not regained in a day but it’s worked on every day.
Is the plan still to announce P.J.’s suspension?
As I said earlier, I’m not going to game to game... We’ll go make a decision.
The season is only three weeks out…
Well, crap the NCAA made a decision on Johnny Manziel in freakin’ two days, so it’s not all my choice kind of thing. I really don’t believe I’ll suspend him for half a game either. You guys have to understand, you’re a coach. I don’t want to share everything with you. In your life, you don’t want to share everything with me. … Coaching, it’s a team and we keep things in the locker room. It’s a right that I protect quite a bit. I’ve said, it’s going to be games and I didn’t say half a game. I said games. And I said it will be announced before the season starts. And it will.
What does (S&C coach) Jonas Sahratian bring to the program?
He’s been with me, starting his 10th year. He was with me his last three or four at Kansas. He’s the best I’ve ever seen in the strength and conditioning role. He takes an interest in the kids’ entire day - what they eat, how they sleep, what they do. I just think he’s the best strength and conditioning coach there is in the country. I just think he’s drastically helped change people’s bodies drastically. Whether it’s Joel, Tyler Hansbrough, Tyler Zeller, Marvin Williams, Sean May. I just think he’s fantastic.
Was this among his most challenging offseasons with all he had to do as far as developing guys?
No, you know we had John Henson a couple of years ago. He had to get much, much stronger. We haven’t had too many guys that needed to go the other direction so he’s got one of those this year, so that’s a little different. It’s a 24/7 job and Jonas looks at it that way. Again, Jonas really does a great job.
In your mind, how much weight did Kennedy need to drop to be effective?
Somebody asked me what weight do I want him to be, and I said I can’t give you a number but I know how fast I want him to get up and down the court. It is an ability to run, so you’ve got to lose some more weight to run faster, then some more weight to have the stamina to do it more than once or twice, because a lot of times in our games we’ll go up or down five or six times in a row. I don’t have a number with Kennedy but I know he has drastically improved from what I saw this summer.
We had four practices, one a week during the second session of summer school. The things that Kennedy is doing right now are vastly different than what he did during those four practices.
I don’t think that would be the only thing. He’s a freshman. I say, ‘Kennedy go here and do this,’ the next play I say, ‘Kennedy I just told you to go here and do this.’ Part of it is learning the game, part of it is knowing his assignments and doing them instinctively. The biggest thing is the stamina question, there’s no doubt about that. You’ve got to be able to carry it from the practice court to the game. You’ve got to be able to carry instruction from the bench to the court. Every freshman has got some problems with that right now.
If he’s not getting up and down the court, how much does his passing ability bring a different element?
One of the things we’ve got to do is get everyone to run better. Kennedy can rebound it and outlet pass it to the top of the key or the foul line on the other end. But it doesn’t do him any good to be able to do that if guys don’t run with him. So it’s been a challenge to get everybody else to understand that as well.
Have you had other players at this stage that pass this well?
I really do believe that he’s the best outlet passer, rebounder-outlet passing big man that I’ve ever had. And I’ve had some good passers, Sean May was a good passer. But I think that Kennedy does that better than anybody. Now we have to get guys to take advantage of that skill he has.
How concerned are you with the tough schedule at the beginning of the season?
I was dumb enough last year, I thought we’d have Reggie and P.J. back, and Marcus would be so much better than he was as a freshman and I didn’t really care who we played. Reggie’s gone, P.J. had a difficult summer and there are some more concerns there.
I’ve got one of those magazines, Belmont was picked second in their league, Oakland was picked first in their league, Davidson’s picked second in their league, even the games of Oakland and Belmont for people here in North Carolina may not know who they are, but those are pretty doggone good teams. … There is some concern with me, did we over-schedule a little bit and if we did how do we get through it?
Would you ever schedule Maryland in the non-conference?
It’d be hard for me, because Turge (Mark Turgeon) means so much to me. Deep down, I don’t like to play people I’m close to because at the end of the day I’m either very disappointed for my players or very disappointed for that guy. But Turge and I would talk about it and go from there.
You seem ready to get back into the season…
Summer was a lot of fun with my grandsons and my family and some of the things that we did. It was a lot of fun with my most of my players. The distraction of what was going on with P.J. was not fun, who some guy is in Durham was not fun. The fact of the matter is, it’s what it was. I did want to get to the practice court and since I’ve got to the practice court I have loved coaching my team. I’ve only gone wacko one time in the first 12 practices and that’s pretty close to a record for me.
Do you think college basketball should have a commissioner?
I haven’t thought about that … To Roy Williams, it would be much better if North Carolina and programs like North Carolina made decisions for North Carolina, instead of those people and 300 other people making decisions, I’d like that no question. The talk about governance and breaking up and super conferences, I haven’t spent too much time doing that. I think football has figured it out better than we do.
They have 120 teams in one division, we have 345. I think when you have 345 it’s hard to make decisions on rules or governance that’s going to fit everybody. The smaller group you have you’ve got a better chance. I think there’s some merit to it, but am I promoting getting out of the NCAA? No, I’m not promoting that. I would think that North Carolina and schools like North Carolina need to be together making decisions for North Carolina and schools like North Carolina.
How do you like the new blocking and hand-checking rules?
The hand-check is something that will be adjusted more easily. Kids don’t want to be sitting on the bench. If you put your hands on the guy and they call a foul, then be intelligent and don’t do it again. The block and charge I think is going to be a very difficult thing to see how the officials are going to call it, and see if the officials are going to go back and watch the tape, and say ‘boy I did a good job with that’ or ‘I missed that one maybe I should have done this.’
So the block-charge thing is something I’m very cautiously awaiting to see how it’s done. The arc that we had there I think was a good move. Did we make a rules change again even quicker without letting us see how the arc took care of some of that thing? If I’m standing and coaching at school No. 200, that doesn’t have the shot blockers that I had with John Henson and Tyler Zeller, I may want to coach so much more by getting in proper position to take a charge. Have we taken that away from part of the game of coaching? Because everybody doesn’t have rim protectors. They’ve gotten by in the past by playing great position defense, and getting in there and being tough enough to take a charge. If all those are going to be called block, I think that definitely changes that coaching.
Do you think it’ll be a more free-flowing game?
I hope it’ll be a more free-flowing game. Some of the rules I really love. I don’t think you should be able to chuck a guy that cuts across the lane. To me, basketball is supposed to be a game of movement too. I’ve always been steered away from the more physical play. The block-charge, I just think I’ve got to wait and see on that one.
How are you dealing with the uncertainty of not knowing your starting lineup and how does that compare that to the past?
I’d have to think about how it compares to the past. When Z came back, and Harrison and John and Kendall, I pretty much knew they were going to start and Reggie had played, so that year I pretty much had it. In ‘06, I didn’t’ have any idea who was going to start, in 2010 didn’t have any idea. In 2010, even more because we didn’t have David Noel. So I think it changes from year to year. I do feel that Marcus really had a good year last year and at times got better and better and better as we went down. James Michael, I think, deserves what he’s done to step up there and be considered a starter. And yet I had Marvin Williams who never started a game for us an entire season and was awfully important to our team.
When P.J. gets back what do you expect from him?
I think he’s a more mature person already, a more responsible person. He was pretty doggone good defensively and I think he’ll be a little better defensively. He was pretty doggone good offensively… If you go back, I would say that James Michael may have taken more charges, but P.J. would have been second. The year before, I would say that Tyler Zeller took more and I’d say P.J. was second that year. He’s been a good defender, he really has. Rebounding, he has to do a better job rebounding the ball and I’m hoping he’ll do that. One thing that Reggie helped us with immensely that people didn’t give him credit for was his assist-error ratio. Reggie had quite a few assists and didn’t have very many turnovers. So we need P.J. to step in and gives us that too.
(Question about Paige’s shot selection)
I’m the guy that thought it was going in every time Marcus cocked it last year, I kept saying almost every press conference that he’s really a good shooter. Late in the season he really made some big baskets and I think he’ll make more of them this year. I would say in 12 practices this fall and four this summer in second session, I don’t think I’ve said one time Marcus you shouldn’t have taken that shot. I’ve said that to some other guys, but I don’t think I’ve said that one time to Marcus.
Why have you kept the JV team?
I coached it for eight years. It was a great experience for me. I think it helped my comfort level as a coach. The first game I coached at Kansas was, to most people, the first game I coached. I had five years as a high school coach and they all said… ‘yea but it’s different.’ But it wasn’t different for me. And for me I had eight years as a JV coach and everybody said… ‘well it’s still different.’ It wasn’t different for me. The comfort level of coaching the JV team really helped me.
The other reason, Coach Smith said a long time ago that everybody that came to the University he wanted them to have a chance to try out for the team. I don’t want to waste time and have a week of tryouts for guys to try and make the team as walk-ons, so we do it through the JV team. Also every year you have 16 guys when they leave, there are 16 more diehard North Carolina fans that understand college basketball, understand what our players go through.
I saw one of them on the golf course a couple of weeks ago. It was a thrill, I walked over there and look and I said ‘I know that guy.’ He yelled coach and he came running over to me. I got a letter from one of my former JV players this week, his son is trying to get in school at North Carolina. I think there are so many great things about the JV program and I don’t think there are any negatives.
Do you a favorite memory of a game you coached in those eight JV seasons?
We played some really good teams and had some good wins. One game that stands out was a big loss, except it wasn’t big. It was Greensboro Coliseum, we have it out of bounds with about four seconds to play. We run a play, and throw it in and the guy shoots it, makes it. They didn’t count it. We lost by one. Coach Smith comes out of the tunnel and goes to the scorer’s table to ask the clock operator, ‘Are you sure you started that the right way?’ We go back in the locker room before the varsity game and he says, ‘Show me what you did there.’ So we had that play on the varsity level later on. (It was against) Fork Union Military Academy. Chris Washburn and all those guys. We had our 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 frontline and they were a little bigger.
Check back tomorrow for Part IV...