Your team seems to be head and shoulders above the other teams in the ACC. How do you think it’s going with regards to chemistry?
Our chemistry is really good, and everybody is working well together enjoying each other. As coachspeak I would say even if I were not the coach of North Carolina, I don’t think we’re head and shoulders above the league. I remember just a couple of weeks ago people were thinking what I’m thinking when Virginia Tech had us down 23. We are playing well at times, but in the ACC, you’ve got to play well on that night, I don’t care who you’re playing or where you’re playing. It’s that tough. We know that Saturday was just one game, and yet everybody is getting so fired up about that. Yet two weeks ago we were down 23, so I know what it’s like on the other end also.
Can you compare this year’s team to your championship team?
I’ll tell you one thing, this team is very gifted. But that team was very gifted and had great experience, so I’ve always thought the easiest way to be great was to have experienced talent. So this team is no where near as experienced as that team was, but we’re getting there.
On the overall team health -
I think Marcus [Ginyard] and Brandan [Wright] are the fourth and fifth guys that (the stomach ailment) has touched. It’s just that the rest of the guys it hit, it just didn’t do it on game day or the night before. We were much better yesterday. They were both in to see Marc Davis, our trainer. We did not practice yesterday. We’re hopeful everybody will be a go today. Bobby [Frasor] has been released to do a little more. Last week, all he did was dummy offense. We’re going to try to get him a little more involved this week to see if he has any pain in his foot.
On Ty Lawson’s recent play -
We’ve continued to try and push him to use his speed and quickness more, and I think he’s understanding that a little bit more each and every game. Both of (the last two games) were up-and-down kinds of games where it does fit in with the ability that he has and the way we want to play. I’ve been saying for a couple of weeks that I’ve been after him a little bit telling him, ‘Don’t forget, you have an outside shot, and if you’re open you can shoot the basketball.’ I don’t want to have a point guard that can’t score or at least try to score, so we’ve been trying to focus on that a little more so he has been looking for his shot. Both the Wake Forest and the Arizona games were up-and-down games, and in the open floor he’s awfully tough to handle.
Does it surprise you that you would have to push him to use that speed more?
No. Every kid I’ve ever recruited said, ‘Coach, I love to run up and down the floor.’ Then I find they don’t love it quite as much, because I want them to do it every single time. Ty has always turned it on and turned it off, and at this level you can’t do that. So getting somebody to run as hard as I want them to run on a consistent basis is difficult for the kids to handle.
On officiating in the late stages of a game -
I think it’s fine to say let the kids win the game, but if somebody gets clobbered you should allow them to win the game on the free throw line as well. If I have to lean in one direction, you should call the game the way it is. If you’re going to call something in the first half – and it’s a true foul - then you should call it on the last play of the game. If it’s not a true foul, then it shouldn’t be a true foul at the end. I think that way you are letting the kids win the game. Don’t call a cheap one, but I don’t think you should call a cheap one early in the game. It sounds a little like sitting on the fence, but I do believe it should be called the same. I don’t believe in that adage, ‘Oh, well, he’s got to make the play.’ If he gets fouled, he gets fouled.
Do you feel the same way about traveling?
Yes. If you gain an advantage, then why is it not an advantage late in the game? If you gained an advantage early in the game and you beat your guy, you should expect it to be called at the end.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski said he was rooting for you versus Arizona. Have you ever cheered for Duke before?
(laughs) In the ACC, I think you should root for the home teams, especially when you’re playing outside the league. People don’t believe this, but we want each other to win. I think our league got a bum rap last year, and we had a team that was 8-8 and a team that was 9-7 in our league not make the tournament. That should not happen. I truly believe if you go 8-8 in our league, you’re one of those top 35 at-large teams. I think all the coaches would feel we’ve got to pull for each other, because for some reason people have gotten the idea that the ACC is not as strong as it used to be. If you coach in this league, you don’t believe that at all. No, I pull for the home teams when they’re playing inside the league, and outside the league I always pull for the ACC.
There has been a lot of talk about the PAC-10 being the best league. What does your win over Arizona say about the ACC?
It said that we were better than Arizona that day. I don’t know that you can pick one game and say that was a standard for anything. We’re all in this very difficult position of you’re going to be judged on how well you do in the NCAA Tournament. It’s a pretty tough position.