What are your impressions of how the defense has played thus far this season?
“Yeah, I think we’ve made some strides defensively and I think we can get better. You’ve got to hang your hat on something and you grab one of those stats and it looks good, it makes you feel good kind of thing. I think the kids are trying. We need to have a little more sense of urgency, a little more intensity on a consistent basis. I think if we get that then we have the pieces there to be a good defensive team. Right now, we haven’t done a good job controlling the dribble and getting a hand up on the outside shot either. There’s some definite categories that we can improve so I think we’ve got potential. That’s what gets coaches fired but I do think we have the potential to be a good defensive team and sometimes we have been.”
Are you doing more things defensively with traps, zone and a variety of other approaches this season as opposed to seasons past?
“Yeah, more so than we’ve been the last couple of years. Some ways trying to create some more offense and provide some more break opportunities. Then a couple of times out of necessity to try to just change something because what we were doing wasn’t working.”
How has your team responded in practice this week?
“Sunday night, we had a nice meeting, it was a long meeting watching the tape. Monday we had a good practice. Since we played three games last week we didn’t give them a day off so if you do that you have to give them two days off the following week. We gave them off Tuesday and Wednesday. Then they came back yesterday and it wasn’t perfect but we had a good practice yesterday.”
How do you anticipate the reaction to the pressure and stress of being 0-3 and needing to turn it around?
“Well we do need to but we’re human. They’re intelligent kids, they know what’s going on. I’m just talking to them about getting better every day. Let’s get better today. That’s our focus. We’re not talking about 0-3. I don’t think that I’ve said anything about that other than there’s a long season and there’s a lot left to play. I told them about the years that we were 0-2 and several of those years ended up alright.”
Is it frustrating not being able to get up and down the court and run your system like you want thus far this season?
“Yeah, I think if you don’t score well against a set defense then you better try to run faster. I’ll never forget in 2006, Eddie Fogler and Coach Smith saying are you sure you want to run this fast this year because of the limited experience and everything. I said I’m not coaching just for today, number one, and if I do that over a four year period then these guys will be pretty doggone good. Then the other thing, I really did think that we’d have trouble scoring and I thought running the ball up and down the court or throwing it to Tyler (Hansbrough) were our two options and that helped. If we get better defensively then we might get some more break opportunities and yet you still got to figure out how you can get better defensively too.”
Do you look at the numbers and feel as if this doesn’t even look like one of your teams?
“Well they’re my team because they have to live with me everyday. There’s no question about that. I’m not as comfortable. I really love pushing the tempo. I really do and we haven’t gotten into that nearly as much as I wanted us to. We’re still trying. I think if you ask the guys, the last week and half we’ve been focused even more on trying to run even more. We’re going to continue doing that until somebody says that I can’t practice anymore.”
What do you think has been limiting Leslie McDonald’s offensive production?
“Leslie’s what he is. I know that sounds stupid but he’s never been a guy that makes seven threes one night and six the next and seven the next so we’ve been trying to get him to focus on just playing basketball. Don’t worry about all of those other things. I’ve been really stupid with him. He made every shot he looked at yesterday so I said how about doing that in the daggum game? That’s really bright for a coach to say.
"He’s been a streaky shooter. The only time was the summer that he got hurt, I thought he was getting to where he was making every shot every time he looked at it. He is a threat. He has gotten better in other phases of the game. He’s trying really hard. He’s doing a better job defensively. He’s more aware of what’s going on so I’m hoping that over the course of the next 15 regular season games I’m hoping he can get that consistency that he wants more than anyone with the possible exception of me.”
Comments on slow pace in ACC and facing teams with a slowed down approach:
“I’d hate to make a generalization like that of teams in the ACC. I think Duke early in the year was playing faster than they’ve been playing. I think North Carolina State with Cat Barber was playing faster. First off, I’d hate to make a generalization that the ACC is trying to play slower. I think that Syracuse for example, Jimmy (Boeheim) wants to run if they have a distinct advantage. That’s the way he’s been his entire career. When he had Sherman Douglas and Pearl Washington, they were made for that kind of game so they ran more. Jimmy Larranaga last year, they were a high scoring team. Shane Larkin pushed the envelope but right now his personnel doesn’t fit that. I think it’s just coaches deciding what they’re comfortable with, number one and number two, seeing how it fits their personnel. In my chair we’ve done that for 26 years. Nobody’s ever wanted to run faster than we did so it’s the same thing for me.”
Comments on Boston College:
“Well they’ve really started playing better. I mean they have Syracuse nine or ten the other night with single digits left in the game. They’re making nine threes a game in conference play. They’ve got a guy in conference play shooting almost 60 percent from the three-point line. I know earlier in the year (Reggie) Jackson missed a couple of games. A couple of other guys have been hurt. The big guy has been hurt. I think he played some two games ago but didn’t play in the last game. I haven’t talked to Steve (Donahue) about it but I would think that the injuries have a great deal to do with it (struggles). I’ve been a little busy myself.”