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About this team:
“It’s funny; everyone that I have talked to in the last few weeks has asked, ‘What do you expect? Are you doing to be able to do this? Do you think this will happen?’ I’m being very honest when I say the answer is, ‘I don’t know.’ We did the four practices before we went to Nassau and the two games down there. Since then we’ve tried to put them through a conditioning and weight program; and I’ve been out recruiting. So the answer to all those questions is a very honest, ‘I don’t know.’ We’ll find out in five weeks. But I am excited. I love this type of challenge, if there is some experienced success back on your team. With this many freshmen on your team, they need a security blanket – a Sean May, a Raymond Felton, somebody like that who’s already been through the wars and has been successful. But we don’t really have that. David [Noel] has been in games at crucial points, but has never really been asked to be the focal point. Reyshawn [Terry] and Quentin [Thomas] were in the game, but neither one of them a lot. That’s the big question mark. It’s my hope that we’ll be an unbelievably tough team mentally, that we’ll be able to play pressure halfcourt defense, and on occasion be able to pressure and do some other things. I’m hoping we’re going to be able to run even faster than we did last year, and that’s my goal.”
Have you ever had a year comparable to this one when you’ve had so many guys leave?
“I’ve never had one.”
What’s the most players you’ve lost?
“I would have to go back and look. Every year for 15 years at Kansas, we would always have two or three starters coming back. It was always a very stable situation, and college basketball itself was much more stable than it is now. We’ve never ever had anything like this.”
Are you invigorated by this challenge?
“I don’t need to be invigorated by this challenge. I was invigorated when we had everybody coming back.”
This is something very different for you. Do you think it will help you find about you as a coach?
“I don’t need to find that out. I would like to have all seven of my top scorers coming back. That’s what I’d like to find out. It’s interesting. I’m fired up, but I was fired up last year when Sports Illustrated picked us No. 1. It’s coaching. I will say this, in some ways practice is going to be more fun, because there is going to be so much more teaching. And I’m talking about our players being aware of our fans’ expectations. But that’s all; just be aware of it, but don’t let it drive you. But we have our own expectations, so we don’t have those types of things this year. I did tell one of my buddies that, yeah, practice is going to be more fun, but game night is not going to be as much fun. So I don’t know; we’ll see. It has been a marvelous group through preseason. I’m telling you, they have been fantastic through the running program and the conditioning program. We had the second half of the conditioning tests yesterday, and they did about as well as any I’ve every had. Now I don’t know, they may have been just scared silly. But they really did a good job throughout the conditioning program.”
On speeding up the tempo even more this year:
“That’s it; we don’t have a proven scorer, period. We definitely don’t have a proven scorer inside. I think later in the year it gets to be more of a halfcourt game anyway. But we scored 88 or 89 in the national semifinals, had a huge second half and left a very good basketball team. So we’ll always try to be a running team. But I think, two things, it’s important if you can score in the halfcourt offense, that’s fine. But if you can’t, you better score in the open court where there’s not as much traffic. In addition to that, that’s the way I want to play and that’s the way I want to recruit. As I said, I’m in this for the long haul.”
On how life has changed since winning a national championship:
“Not much and I’m being very sincere. I made the decision not to take a lot of speaking or a lot of appearances so I took none ... More people yelled at me going through the airports. That was the biggest change. I really don’t think I’ve changed at all ... the difference is the way people look at you. The way people look at you, it is a little different and it makes some people perhaps think that it puts you in a different category whereas myself I really don’t think that. It’s also nice to know that you’ve got that in the back of your mind and that you always have that memory.”
On the first day of practice:
“It’ll be interesting. It’ll be scary too, but I’m not going to mind that part of it because I think, again, those first five weeks is my favorite time of the year. I actually get to coach, which is what I want to do. This is fun to me and going out there and trying to decide which guys to put with which guys and teaching them the fundamentals and teaching those guys our foundation of the pressure man-to-man defense, the running game, our freelance offense, the fundamentals of how we want to play the game. That’s what I love doing.”