Was it tough to figure out the rotation after the return of Leslie McDonald to the lineup?
“Not really. People always make excuses for bad play for a couple of plays or a couple of halves but he’s been doing everything everybody else was doing. It does take awhile to get used to playing with somebody. There’s no question about that, and it does change the minutes played but it should help you if he’s a better player and it gives you a quality that you didn’t have. That quality is shooting the basketball and then you’ve got to be willing to go back and take that one step backwards so you can hopefully take two, three or four forward.”
What is the status of Joel James moving forward?
“Today he did running for the first time. We practiced early this morning so I could go recruiting this afternoon. We went at 9:30. He’s been doing well. They’ve really limited the things that he can do. He’s been in the pool, he’s been doing a lot of stationary work but today they did get him running some. He will not play tomorrow against UNC-Wilmington and I don’t think that he’ll really play against Wake (Forest) in our first conference game this weekend. He’s getting close and I don’t think that it’s going to be a long time that we’re going to have to do without him.”
Has your team missed the low post presence of James over these past few games?
“There’s no question we have. Brice (Johnson) was playing really well and then all of sudden I started Brice and he didn’t play as well as we wanted him to play or as well as he wanted to play. Joel does give you that size that’s really difficult for people to handle inside and we’d like to get him back. We’d like to get Brice playing better, Kennedy (Meeks) playing better, Desmond (Hubert) playing better and all of them.”
Comments on the team’s ability to block shots this season:
“Well, I do think we’re better at that by far. The rules this year, the change, the block or charge tends to make you think 'should I try to take a charge or should I block the shot?' For shot blockers it should make them go for the block more. I’ve always said the best I’ve ever seen about that is Lenny Elmore a hundred years ago at Maryland. He was a great shot blocker but he also knew when to take a charge and would take several charges. For us, Tyler Zeller and Tyler Hansbrough would both take charges and they would also try to defend the rim. With the new rules it is more difficult to get a charge so you’ve got to try to protect the rim and our guys did. (There were) 15 blocks but Northern Kentucky wasn’t very big so I’d like us to get 15 blocks against some of those people we’re going to play the next couple of months. Then I’d really be excited.”
What is the biggest surprise for you thus far this season?
“... I think J.P.’s (Tokoto) improvement. He’s got to get more consistent. I think Kennedy’s big play in some of the big time games has been a positive for us. You never know how a freshman is going to react in some of those big time games so I think that’s been good for us. Marcus Paige has just been off the charts. Even when he’s bad, he’s been good so I think there are a lot of positives that we’ve been looking for really.”
Do you think the criticism of passion amongst your players is a fair one?
“Well, since I didn’t start four of the five starters to start the second half, I questioned something. I didn’t know what it was but they’ve got to talk about something. You’ve got to talk about something. ... I was very disappointed in our effort. I was very disappointed in our concentration. I was very disappointed in so many things at that point. You haven’t seen me do that that often. It was something that I was disappointed about at that time myself.”
Comments on 2014 recruits heading to UNC next season that he saw play in Raleigh this past weekend:
“They played really well. Justin Jackson scored the second-most points ever scored by anybody in the tournament. Donald Williams still holds the record and I’m going to guess here but I think I’m right, Donald scored 115 when he was a high school player. This year, Devon Booker, who is going to Kentucky, and Justin Jackson, who is coming to us, both scored 111 during the tournament. Joel Berry’s team won his half of the tournament. In Joel’s last two games he had 40 and 34. They both played very well and made the all-tournament teams and are just wonderful kids.”
Is there a timeline set for how long you intend to coach?
“My wife wanted me to quit 10 years ago so that was her timeline. You know I’ve said that I’ve wanted to go six to 10 more years. As long as I feel okay, it’s got to be the health. Your health is the only thing, a guy told me one time that if you don’t have your health then you don’t have anything. I’ve had the scare last fall that shook me quite a bit to say the least. I really do enjoy it. This last seven months has been the most difficult time in my 26 years as a head coach but when I go on that court even when I get frustrated I love that. I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world, I get to go deal with Marcus Paige everyday and Tyler Hansbrough and Tyler Zeller and Ty Lawson and Kendall Marshall. I’m sitting at the game today at the Beach Ball Classic and I’m watching and I get a text message from Kendall Marshall. When I’m on the court, if you just let me do that then I could do that until they put me in the box. All the other junk hasn’t been much fun the last seven months but again I’ll still say six to 10 years as long as I’m healthy. I’m enjoying it and let’s go get it.”
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