Jan. 7, 2013
Any moral victories after playing so well in last weekend’s games?
“I don’t think it’s about moral victories, it’s counter-productive to us. One of the things we talk about is we don’t have any ‘loser talk’. Something’s going to happen in a game, it’s going to be a close ball game and you’re going to win or lose it, could be a 20-point win or a 20-point loss. At the end of the day we were in two close ball games against teams that 25-2 up to that point in the season and we were a possession away in each game. It wouldn’t have mattered what the results were in those games, our job as a staff is to come back and focus our attention on the areas we need to work on.
“We had a staff meeting this morning, just have to keep plowing through it and trying to get better. We think we have a decent plan moving forward and we get to play two more this weekend. Hopefully come out on positive side of it. You will have periods where you take steps forward and steps back, but they key is that the overall line on the graph keeps moving up. We did a lot of good things over the weekend and we have build on that and keep getting better.”
Is there any discouragement about working that hard and not getting the ‘W’?
“I think typically coaches take it harder than players. I read somewhere that if you have a group of players who take it harder than the coaches, then you have a pretty special group of guys. The first few hours of the trip, from Tucson to Phoenix, we didn’t have a whole lot of life in us. Everyone was still a little bit dazed from what took place or what could have been. But I think by the time we killed an hour in the Phoenix airport and got on the plane, the players gained some life. They’re a confident group and they know we’re not that far away. It’s natural to have a letdown for a day, but with a day off yesterday and school starting today, we’re right back in saddle and ready to get after it again.”
“I think it was a little bit of both. We have some to watch as a team today where part of our block-out technique needs to improve. There are situations…we used to call them Dennis Rodman rebounds…where it’s not about me getting it, but about making sure he doesn’t get it. So you you’re your eyes off the rim and keep contact on some guys. We did that when we had some smaller guys guarding their bigger guys, but at the end of the day, Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom and those guys are stronger and they accept that. So they would kind of swim through like a defensive lineman and found a way to get their hand on the ball. So a little bit of it was technique, where we didn’t do a good job putting body on a guy, or we weren’t in the right spot. To use another football term, talking about pad level…I believe if you go block a guy out low and violently, and your pad level is lower than his, the guy ends up tip-toeing around you and becomes more defensive. And some of our block-outs were not low and violent enough to have an impact. So we will work quite a bit on rebounding.
“With USC and UCLA coming in here this weekend, it’s kind of the same animal in terms of keeping guys off the glass. So it’s technique and also having all five of your guys involved is a big key. Sometimes the guards lose sight of the fact that they have to go in there. In my opinion sometimes our ‘one’ and our ‘two’, rather than think about the outlet phase and running the other way, they’re presented with one of two things that they have to do. They need to go and crack down on a big, or go and free-rebound it. Sometimes I thought our guards were in ‘no man’s land’ where they weren’t helping a big on a block out and they weren’t going to pursue it themselves either.”
Are you getting everything you want right now out of Glen Dean?
“There’s not a guy on our team right now who we are getting everything we want out of. It’s not a knock on our guys but I think that’s the nature of a coaches mentality, you’re never happy. I think Jason Washburn had a great weekend but there are still some things to deal with him on. So I think everyone can give us a little more. We do need some of those guys to step up and make plays. Besides Washburn and for a stretch, Jordan Loveridge, I think our backcourt was a little bit lacking. We didn’t have guys that were making great plays and jumping up and doing what they needed to do. We as a coaching staff need to address with them, ‘Here is what you need to do to make the team better, and that in turn will make you individually a little bit better’.”
What are some of the offensive keys you guys have been working on?
“I think we’ve got all of our plays in place. Now it’s not a matter of what we’re doing, we just have to do it a little harder. I think sometimes there is a misconception that you’re playing hard, but all of the playing hard focuses on the defensive end. Really good offensive teams know that when it’s time to run a set, all five guys have to be going hard. The screener has to screen, the cutter has to cut. We’ve got it in place, we need to clean up some things. But it’s more about a sense of urgency. When it’s time to run a play, we need to go really hard. I’ve talked to our coaches about that. It looked like there were a lot of clips where we were running in mud on the offensive end. The end result is that we have to go a lot harder and make some plays. If we run something a little crisper, I think some of those guys will be open with another second or two to shoot.”
Talk about playing in a lot of low-scoring games and having a defensive mindset
“When you go into Arizona it would be crazy to think you are going to get a bunch of transition baskets and playing catch-up with them is not a good way to win games. I know our point totals aren’t that high, but you’ll never see us walk ball up the floor. We’re not intentionally trying to slow the game down but we’re putting a premium on getting defensive rebounds. If you do that, you don’t have your wings taking off and cherry picking, trying to get an early basket. The secondary phase of our offense is not a slowdown phase. But we do have to do it together. If I had a guy like Shabazz Muhammad out on the wing, I’m not really interested in running an offense that takes four or five passes to get him the ball, when I can just throw it to him to start with and let him do his thing. So some of it is about where we are right now and where the opposition is. Arizona didn’t score a transition basket against us. I’m not sure if that’s ever happened at the McKale Center. We accomplished that, we took them out of something they wanted to do. As a staff you pick your poison. I never look at score and say ‘I want to get to 70.’ They key for me is that, whenever the 40 minutes is over, whatever the score, I want to be ahead at that point.”
What is it that has allowed you to keep teams from scoring their usual averages?
“I give a lot of credit to our assistant coaches. They’re watching tape…Coach Slocum has been watching USC and UCLA for two weeks now. So when it’s time to meet and talk about some of those teams we have a pretty good idea what trying to do. Scott McByrne is a full time video guy he will just watch 100 clips of player No. 1, and try to come up with what his personal tendencies are when he catches it. So that’s a little piece of it. I think effort is probably the most important, and knowing that defense is important. Our guys don’t have any problem doing that. There have been games when our offense isn’t flowing very well but they’re still going to come down and guard. And I think that’s the sign of a defensive-minded team. With some teams if you’re not making baskets, you can’t get them to guard. That’s not the case with this team. Some of it I think is the mentality of guys, it’s something we’re stressing. Some of it is the scouting report. And some of it is personnel. You’d like to think if you’re putting enough emphasis on those areas, you’re keeping teams below their averages, which we have.”
Do you try to take advantage of the altitude here and push things a little more at home?
“I think there might be a little bit, where you’re looking at that first phase [of a possession] and running. I think there is a road mentality, where you have to be more selective when those opportunities present themselves, but at home maybe you have a little more margin of error to get out and go. We had a little slower approach In Arizona and we turned the ball over an average of 11 times in each of those games, so I like that idea. We can get out and push it as long as we’re not having some of those mindless turnovers we’ve had in the past. I think it’s somewhere in between. You can put your foot on the pedal a little more here than I would be interested in doing on the road.”
Can you talk about UCLA, an iconic Pac-12 team, coming to town?
“I was thinking about that last night and this morning. As far as basketball and tradition, if you asked someone to name the top three college basketball programs, most people would say UCLA. Those four letters on the jerseys mean quite a bit with the success they’ve had. I think have a lot of great pieces to the puzzle right now with some NBA players. I see three or four for sure who will be playing a lot longer than their college career. So it’s a great challenge for us. I think our players should soak up the environment a little bit. When we recruited them, this is part of why we’ve gotten in their doors, so they can play at an elite level. All I would say now is be careful what you wish for, because now it’s coming to town on Thursday. I know exciting time for some of our fans and this is a proud basketball area too. For the opportunity to play against program like that, I hope people will want to come out and witness it and be a part of it.”
What kind of issues does UCLA present for you?
“It’s no disrespect to our guys, I’m going to tell them at practice, if we had to play one-on-one at each of the five positions Thursday, it wouldn’t work out very well for us if it was a wrestling meet. But team-wise, this is where we can talk about the beauty of basketball. It’s going take all five guys, or 10 guys, however many play, to put it together. That’s a challenge, knowing we have to do it together. We will have no excuses for not playing really hard. Like a lot of the teams in the Pac-12, there are some really talented players on the court, but it’s a team game and we get to go at it for 40 minutes and see if we can compete.”
How do you start getting scoring from the backcourt?
“I think it starts with a better first phase to our offense. That’s where we need to clean up tail end, once the play doesn’t work. I think what happened on the road is that we didn’t give ourselves a chance to have those plays work. So we put ourselves in a position late in the shot clock more often that we would have liked. So if we can fix the first part, hopefully we don’t get down too late shot clock as often. But when we do, we have to be more defined in what we’re doing and finish possessions with more intensity.
“I thought there were a number of times when we penetrated but weren’t willing to make the extra pass. Some simple stuff where when you get in there, it’s not about you anymore it’s about Utah. Some of that’s on the passer not making a great pass, but there are often times when we break down the defense and the guys on the perimeter aren’t ready to make a play either. So I’m not sure if I were [Jarred DuBois] that I would want to pass it sometimes, because guys don’t look like they are ready to jump up and make a play. So we will have a big week trying to tune some things up offensively.”
What do you think the key to UCLA’s turnaround has been?
“They’ve talked about how they have committed to playing defense and playing a lot harder. I think some of it has to do with the number of freshmen that come into a college environment and maybe don’t know what to expect. Maybe they think it’s going to be easier than it really is because you’re UCLA or there is something magical about that. But I think they’ve captured the formula right now in terms of playing really hard and when they execute, they have a great first phase where they are coming at you looking to score. And if they don’t, they’ve got a well-oiled machine in the halfcourt to try to get some shots.”
What do you think has been the key to Shabazz Muhammed’s improvement?
“I’m a long way from what’s going on in their locker room but I think the familiarity with the college game has a lot to do with it. He’s made the comment that he is playing a lot harder. We need to talk to our freshman and all our guys about that. Good things happen for you offensively if you get after it on defense. I’m watching him and he plays really hard. People also talked about how he looked a few pounds too heavy but he looks slimmer now than he did in those early games. He’s got it dialed in now and he’s the real deal at this point.”