For the most part, it was fun out there tonight. I think our kids had some fun, and that's important to do. It hasn't been quite as much fun with some of the things that have gone on the last several months, and I want them to enjoy playing the game. The best way to do that is to play your tail off.
I think we were tight early, and I don't think we shot the ball particularly well early, even though you look at the percentage and that looks good. We are much better shooters than 1-8 from the 3-point line. I think for us to be the kind of team we want to be, we do need to shoot the ball in the hole, but we need to be more consistent with our effort.
You've heard me say before that all kids get excited when you say you're going to run. They think it's a lot of fun and a good way to play basketball. Yet, when you have to do it, sometimes it's not a lot of fun because it's a lot of hard work, and I think we gave into fatigue a couple of times tonight that we can't afford to do.
We didn't do as good of a job on the backboards as we need. I look down, and they have 15 offensive rebounds--we can't have that. They did miss a lot of shots, so they did have some opportunities to get those, but we have to do a better job on the backboards and be more consistent with our effort and our running every single possession. Defensively, we can get a heck of a lot better. That has to be an emphasis for us.
I was really proud of a couple of guys. Jawad Williams, a guy who is a junior and been through some really difficult times here, at halftime had zero points. In the second half, he didn't come out and take bad shots. He just kept playing and got 12 in the second half. That's the kind of attitude we have got to have.
For Rashad and Melvin to have their career high in assists is nice. Melvin asked me how many he had, and I told him one, but he did have a few more than that. For us, it's got to be a situation where everybody is willing to play the game together, be willing to sacrifice each and every possession. The only thing we have any concern about whatsoever is how our team is doing. Three or four bad shots, three or four times we didn't make good decisions--Melvin took one shot and it went in, and I told him he was lucky it went in because it was a sorry shot.
I told the kids tonight, that's number one, and now we talk about this year. We don't talk about the rest of the stuff in the past, and that would be a lot of fun for me.
When your team is not as big as, ultimately, you'd like to have them, rebounding is going to be a problem, do you have to try to make up for that by forcing turnovers?
Defensively for us, we always try to turn the ball over. I think defense is pretty simple: our first goal is to steal the ball. We do want to do that, but we didn’t' do a very good job of boxing out tonight. I think we've emphasized it in practice, but we haven't emphasized it enough. We not only have to box out, but everybody has to go get the ball. There were three different occasions where guys were taking off to the other end trying to get out on the break--best teams I've ever had at Kansas always rebounded the ball first, and that is what we've got to get used to. I do want them to change ends, but somebody in a North Carolina uniform has to get it before you take off. To answer your question, we want to turn the other team over anyway. But you play defense until the very end and you finish it by boxing out and getting the rebound.
What was this night like for you?
I maybe had a few more chills when I came out of the tunnel. It was an unusual afternoon. The football game--I was very disappointed there. I go home after pre-game and took a short little nap like I always do, but it was a little more unusual. I wasn't nervous. I haven't been nervous since I played in about the tenth grade. You are too busy to be nervous, and I think that was it. But I don't mind telling you there were a few more cold chills.
As I came out the last time and brought the T-shirts for the kids, my first thought was that I didn't ever see myself walking out of that tunnel as the head coach at North Carolina, particularly after three years ago. When I said no at that time, I thought that was it, but it worked out that it wasn't it and I'm here. Last night before I went to bed, I wanted to make sure I knew how Kansas did. Tonight, before I go to bed, I wanted to make sure I knew how we did.
Did you reflect at all about sitting in the same seat as Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge?
I don't know if it's the same seat or not. I don't know if my butt's any bigger than theirs. I didn't really think of that. The first day I got here, when I went and sat behind Coach Smith's desk--as far as I'm concerned, it will always be his desk--I had some thoughts the first day. But I didn't think about that tonight. It's good material for you guys to write about, but I'm too busy to think about stuff like that. Coach Smith came to the game tonight--I knew he was coming; we talked about it. Coach Guthridge was at the game. Some of my buddies from Kansas were here and some of my buddies from the west coast. We'll go to my house in a little while and have a good time.
For a seven-minute stretch in the second half, you went on an 18-0 run. Is that the kind of defensive effort you want?
That's close to the result I'd like, that's for sure. We did get a couple of flurries in there. John Wooden said a long time ago that you only have to have a couple of runs in every game and that usually can decide the game if you can stay pretty even the rest of the game. We do look to have some runs, but we did give in ourselves a little bit there. I was impressed that [Old Dominion] kept fighting. They made three or four 3-pointers down the stretch there. They didn't pack it in. I think it was good for them and it was something they can build on. Hopefully, we can build on it too.
We'll have a short practice tomorrow and look at the tape and let the kids learn from it because we did do a sorry job of boxing out. That is something that can be corrected, and those kinds of things to me are what we want. We realize that we are going to face some teams that are a lot bigger than Old Dominion and probably more gifted than Old Dominion--that's not a cut against them. We have to get better.
It wasn't very good, but he's trying.
Is he getting better?
To us--maybe we're comparing it to the past--it looked like he was doing a lot better.
My guess is you just don’t' know much about defense. To answer your question--and I joke--he knows. He is trying harder. I really believe that. I've said before, if Rashad McCants is my biggest problem, I've got a pretty good deal. He knows that he has been a liability in the past, and he is working and doing a better job at it. He has good feet, and I think his concentration has [to be there]. You can become a better defensive player if you'll work at it, and he will, if you have good feet. I think that's something we'll see from him.
The play that really stood out is when he went baseline to baseline and got his hand on the ball at the defensive end of the floor.
If our guys don't give effort and don't concentrate, it's going to be a tough night for us to win, and it's going to be much tougher day the next day in practice, so I think they will do that. A couple of those blocks Rashad had tonight were really impressive. When he chased the guy down and blocked the shot, he had made a sorry play on the other end so he better do that. It makes me stay off his case right there. I did think a couple of times there was a frenzy out there, and I think that's what we have to have.
How do you think Sean did tonight, running the floor, blocking shots?
I was really pleased with Sean and yet the ball just didn't bounce his way in the second half. I think he had six or seven rebounds at halftime. Probably the two guys who have been most impressive in the preseason are Sean and Jackie. Jackie Manuel, I can't say enough about him. I talked to him early to see if he was happy here. I told him he couldn't shoot much, and there are not a lot of guys who would accept that the way Jackie has. I told him yesterday if he was better looking I would have kissed him because of the way he was playing in practice. He's got to keep doing that, and he's got a big-time fan in me.
He played well tonight, didn't he?
Things that you don't see--big guy is setting the screen, our guy is fighting over the top and they have what we call a piston where he is on the weak side and comes over to help on the big guy, stops him from scoring a lay-up, and then gets back on his own man. Then, one time he crossed the lane and got a double-team all in the same possession. He guarded three different guys in one possession.