March 18, 2013
On the Pac-12 Conference Tournament …
“The thing I focus on is that our guys played the best basketball at the proper time of year. Even going back to our Bay Area trip, it was one of those moments that was a turning point for us even though we didn’t play that well. At Cal during the first game of that trip, we played really good basketball for 16 minutes. The team has always had a great deal of resolve. We had a couple good practices at Stanford and then a disappointing game there, but we came back and redefined where we were going. We won a couple home games and then won a couple games (in Las Vegas). As a team and coach, you want to not be playing really good basketball at a certain point and then taper off, so it built a little bit for us. We obviously had some games that we would have loved to have won along the way that we didn’t, but I’m really proud of the kids and the fact that they stuck to it. It’s difficult this time of year. There are only a handful of teams that feel really good about how they go out. Oregon’s one of them, with the way they played in the tournament. When you get into the NCAA Tournament, it’s hard to finish the season with wins, but to know that we won four out of five games going down the stretch against some pretty good teams, it generates a little bit of ‘feel good’ as we move forward. We’re obviously going to miss the seniors on our roster and when we get back here after spring break and everyone decompresses a little bit, we’ll clean off the desk and have some staff meetings and some administrative-type meetings, we’ll get back in the saddle with some workouts and get after it again. Certainly finishing that way feels pretty darn good.”
“There was some potential in doing things (with the CBI). They gauged our interest in it, (and asked) ‘Is it a home game?’ ‘Is it a road game?’ We were waiting to see what happened with the NCAA, the NIT and then it all trickles down. There was no phone call here this morning with an opportunity so we’re okay with moving on. There’s some validity and value in continuing to play, but also at the same time, with where we were at, I felt like we finished off at a pretty good time. We’re all okay with not being a part of postseason at this point.”
On Pac-12 Tournament champion Oregon being seeded 12th in the NCAA Tournament …
“Yeah, that surprised me. They were one of the first ones to pop up on the screen and my first thought was ‘My gosh, if Oregon’s a 12, we might only have three teams in there. I think there are internal stories within conferences that would lead you to believe that a team is of a higher rank, but I think so much of it is preseason. I can’t imagine what’s going on behind closed doors with that committee and trying to sort it all out so I do know that an awful lot of 12 seeds win first-round games and I would want to be the five seed that’s playing them, Oklahoma State. I was happy to see five teams from our league be representatives there. It’s hard to sort out the numbers, but I do know that Oregon has to be one of the best 12 seeds in the history of the tournament, in my opinion.”
Reflecting on the season, where did this club make the most progress?
“What happened was that we were hanging our hat on our defense for maybe half the season, maybe more than that when we got into league, and then we were having a hard time with some turnovers and some efficiency from an offensive point of view. We got a lot better in our execution and sharing the basketball at the right time of the season and then we had a little bit of a wake-up call with our defense. At the end of they, we really got back to just playing really hard and challenging our guys to think about less in the scouting report and just going out and establishing yourself and know that energy and a little bit of fight takes care of a lot of things. That’s where right at the end of the season, maybe even into the game at Cal a little bit even though we stubbed our toe at Stanford, we were starting to figure out how to play really hard defensively and focused and then realizing that you have to play really hard and keep focused at the offensive end. We started putting those two things together. The ability to wrap some stuff up where we weren’t turning the ball over mindlessly, while we were playing hard, we started to figure out that we can play hard defensively and then have the discipline to keep that going on the offensive end and give ourselves a chance. That’s what helped us going down the stretch, tying the whole game in.”
On the next step in the game of Jordan Loveridge ...
“Just before the Bay Area trip, we watched enough video and he was a little bit enamored with the 3-point line, stretching the floor and we just didn’t see that aggressive nature from him, where he was playing with a little bit of reckless abandon. That’s the key to his game. When he brings his motor and his energy and he doesn’t think too much so he’s just flying around. That makes him a real efficient player. It’s a hard matchup for some opposing post players to keep up with him on the perimeter, but he can’t rely on that strictly. When we got to California, he was putting some people in a tough way, in terms of guarding him when he was attacking the basket and having a little bit of reckless abandon on the glass getting some rebounds and put-backs. As he continues to improve, he has to be more of a perimeter skill-set, where we get a little bit more efficient with attack moves from the perimeter. Maybe instead of relying on his strength, the “bully” mentality, just for lack of a better word, I’m certainly not calling him a bully, but when he puts the ball on the floor, at this level you can’t expect to dribble the ball three or four times and then get off a really good shot. It’s always been that he’s going to keep moving my way to the rim until I can get close enough so I can shoot it. I’m really looking forward to working on the perimeter game, pick-and-pop, real efficient shot fakes, one-dribble moves, two-dribble moves, to where he can get by a guy and not have to out-physical them to the glass. That’s going to be one of the areas. And just mentally, any time you get through a freshman season it’s important for our guys to know that they’ve been there and get a lay of the land. He has some potential to make some strides in his game now because the brain is going to have to quit having to work so hard. He gained a little confidence in his ability and now he can tackle some of his deficiencies and not have to worry about being caught up as a freshman in this league, worrying about things like referees, scouting reports or arenas. The familiarity with this league should give him a little bit of a boost going forward, not just him but all of our freshmen.”
On the progression of his program ...
“It’s a little bit of a gray area for me to use the word satisfied. During the season, we talk some times about the win total that is going to make (a successful season)? And I always said, we’ll wait until the season is over and then we’ll tally them all up and look back on it and then evaluate it. That’s what I’m doing now and I’m having a hard time with a Sac State game, a Northridge game and an Arizona State overtime game. As much as I want to be excited about moving forward, I’m going to take a period of time and beat myself up a little bit for some of the things that could have gone our way. I’m still in the postseason hangover, where my thoughts aren’t so much on the positive, but on what we need to do to fix it so we can get better in the future. But the reality of winning four of five games going down the stretch in the league when you start beating yourself up, you can pinch yourself and keep it in perspective. This is a hard time to be answering questions in terms of where we are because we’re decompressing a lot of adrenaline and emotion trying to win the next game. I always like to take a week or so, clean off the desk and sort it all out before we start think about where we are. We’ll put next year’s roster up on the board and then figure out what we need to better next time, but that’s always been our thought process anyway. What’s broken? What do we need to get better at? And not feel satisfied about anything. That might be a better question for me in a week or two. We’re making progress. I know that we’re building some things and making strides moving forward. I feel good about it. There’s a little bit of momentum with our recruiting and fan base. It was really neat seeing that group of people. When you’re in a hotel with that many teams involved, and it’s not just the Utah people who blew us away with their response. As teams start to lose, you realize from outside sources, whether it’s Colorado fans or talking to a number of fans as the week wound down, that people are taking notice of our program and gaining a little bit of respect for where we’re moving. We can all feel good about internally, but sometimes when your opposition and peers are at least making positive comments, that’s an indication that you’re moving in the right way and in the right direction.”
On what his team needs to improve on …
“When you take a look around, we were undersized. When you go through rosters, it’s not any one position, but we need to get bigger, stronger, faster, more athletic, and longer. When you look at a lot of situations out there when we’re warming up, a lot of times we don’t win warm ups because we don’t have that look of a rangy athlete. I have Oregon on mind where we had a heck of a time with size and rebounding in a lot of different positions and it put us in a bad way as they did at Oregon. We’re just going to have to make some upgrades along the way and that’s the nature of recruiting. We have to get involved in some higher-level kids in order to compete, but I also think that there’s a lot of over-rating that takes place when you’re talking about three, four, or five-star recruits and getting them. You have seen that at other schools within our conference that it’s hard to keep everyone happy. Sometimes through the nature of that, you don’t always have team guys and if you have a different set of those guys, you just have a different set of headaches. We’re looking for some solid guys and obviously, Utah is really strong in our recruiting base and we want to find the right kind of guys who want to be here and be a part of this program. That’s what it’s going to be built on and we’ll have to get involved with a bunch of people to keep it going. That’s what this time of year is for. We have a couple coaches out right now that are watching players and it’s never-ending. We’re looking at young kids and getting after it recruiting-wise.”
On recruiting for Utah …
“Winning the warm-ups is not necessarily what we’re trying to do. I’m just saying in regard to the look of players that we need to get better in a lot of positions. Internationally, we’re involved in some kids right now. We feel that within our Utah recruiting base, that there’s no reason why we can’t get the kids and keep them from going to California. It’s a big issue for a kid. It’s a big decision, one of the biggest that they’ll make in their life, where they’re going to go to school. It’s not a hard sell, where you’re telling them everything they want to hear, trying to win their heart over. It’s a little bit like building a relationship with them, letting them know what they’re in for here. There’s a lot of value with staying in state if we’re getting involved with those kinds of kids. That’s the main thing, the relationship. They’re going to make a decision. We’re not going to put a gun to anyone’s head to keep them in state. We’ll let them weigh all of their options and hopefully they can become familiar enough with our program that they’ll think it’s the right decision for them. This school has also had great success with international recruiting so we have that part of it covered. The list goes on and on in terms of foreign players who have been here and that’s an area that we need to definitely dive into.”