I've said many times that exhibitions are like glorified practices and that's what we tried to treat it as – we tried to play different people, different combinations; we started a new group in the second half as supposed to what we started the game with. 1) Trying different combinations and 2) trying to make sure they don’t feel too comfortable that it’ll be the same five running out there every day. I was pleased with some things, I think we had flurries defensively where we were good, but I didn’t like our impatience on the defensive end of the floor. We seemed to just run around at times without any process or system – just running around trying to double the basketball and we can’t do that later on when we’re not just more talented than the other team is.
I liked how active we were, I liked how unselfish we were. I’d like for us to do a little better job in the halfcourt offense – they came out in some zone and we’ve practiced zone offense one day and have no zone plays, so it was freelance at that point. We got some good shots, made some good shots. Quentin and Marvin got a real taste of it and hopefully that’ll help them. I told their coach that I hoped it was good for them because I felt like it was good for us. It’s much better and our kids enjoyed it much more than two and a half hour practice which we would have had if we didn’t play the game.
How do you keep the players focused in a game where they are up by so much?
We challenged them to not look at the score. I can go a full half – the first half – and never look at the score because I want to make my decision on how we’re playing on what I see not by what the scoreboard tells us. One spot in the second half we did a really good job defensively and I said ‘We did a nice job,’ but I didn’t think we got our hand up enough on the defensive end. Basically how you maintain is by treating it like every possession as important and by doing the best you can every possession and that’s what we talked about.
How helpful is it at this point in preseason practice to put them in front of a crowd and evaluate them there?
I think it’s extremely helpful. Coach Smith a long time ago talked about ‘game slippage’- that once you have people in the stands you’re going to slip some and not be as sharp as you are in practice. There’s no question about that and there’s no question about the lack of patience on the defensive end. It will help us – it did help us – and the staff will stay here and grade the tape tonight because we’ve got an 8:45 a.m. practice tomorrow morning before the football game, so we’ll have a much better idea how we did after that.
Quentin Thomas looked like it got more comfortable as he played more –
Quentin’s had a good preseason. He’s been bothered by his knee a bit, but he wasn’t bothered by it tonight with all the people in the stands. He’s a good passer and he can be a better defender by being more patient. I think he did some nice things, he learned some things and hopefully next Friday night he’ll be even better.
On Jackie Manuel’s offensive performance (7-10 FG) -
He shot one three, it went in, and he’s worked extremely hard – but if you ask Jackie I don’t think he’ll tell you he’s our three-point specialist now by any means. I do want him to be more offensive minded, but most of his shots other than the three were taking the ball to the basket and he does that very, very well. I’m really not concerned about Jackie’s offense. I don’t think he has to this or that on the offensive end – he’ll do what he did last year and if he’s in the right place more often he’ll have more opportunities.
Has the defense come along the way you’ve hoped? I know you’ve emphasized it …
Not yet. Again, nobody’s practiced it more than we have. But we’ve got to get ourselves in the position where in the halfcourt situation we can just stop people. We’ve talked about needing a ‘must-stop’ – we haven’t gotten that yet, but at least they’re understanding the value of it more.
You’ve emphasized the need for better communication – how was that tonight?
I think that’s the thing we probably did best tonight – we communicated better and talked better than we did at any point last year. That’s a big step, that’s part of it. Defense is not just desire, you do need talent, quick feet, good hands, hand-eye coordination, good vision – but a huge part of it is desire, a desire to stop the basketball.
You thought the players did a good job hustling for loose balls and such?
I thought the kids were very good at that. I have no problem with our effort or our enthusiasm. Again, you’ve got to be more sound fundamentally, particularly more patient; you can’t try to steal the ball from somebody all the time. I’ve always talked about ‘Expect everyone, fear no one,’ and I think when you’re up 40 or 50 points and all of a sudden you don’t have as much respect and you start taking chances and you gamble more than you should.