Nov. 3, 2005
What is your overall impression and feeling about the team through the first few weeks of the preseason?
"I have a pretty good feeling. I also had this feeling last year. But we haven't had any injuries which is always a good thing. I knew going in that we would have a little bit more depth than we've had in previous years. I think after the first few weeks of practice that is an accurate forecast. We have at least nine guys that I feel pretty good about. We'll have to see how that plays out of course, but right now I think guys are measuring up and we're a little further along than we were at this time last year."
What is it about this team that has you feeling a little bit better in the preseason?
"Guys like Vedran (Vukusic), Mohamed (Hachad), Mike Jenkins and (Evan) Seacat have been here a long time. Mike Thompson has played a half a year with us, but isn't a newcomer because he's played at a high level before. Same goes with Bernard Coté. A coach always has to motivate, but I feel like I'm doing a little more instructing. They're starting to get it and there is an urgency in the way they practice and carry themselves. They sense that this is it. We have to get it done right now."
What players and/or areas of the team have you been pleased with in the preseason?
"I think some of the older guys are showing a little more responsibility. That leaves me more time to instruct rather than try to motivate. And they're helping the younger guys stay motivated and helping each other more. Guys like Jenkins, Mohamed and Vedran. So that's a good sign. As far as individuals that a lot of people might not know about: Sterling Williams is playing pretty well along with Craig Moore. Craig, there is just something about that guy. He has a passion for the game, has played a lot of basketball and has a good sense of the game."
In practice you do a three-point drill with the guys where they have to make 60-65 three-pointers in four minutes? Is that something you have always done and what is your philosophy behind that?
"At different times during the year we try to shoot for 80. It's a drill where you have to shoot quickly, where you're on the move a little bit then hustle after your own ball. It's a teamwork drill as much as anything because you have to get it back, call the next guy's name out and pass him the ball while he's on the move and so forth. There is a good chance that something might screw up in a drill like that and I like to see how guys respond because there is a penalty for not getting to a certain number. There is a human element involved. I care about making a lot of shots, but I also care about seeing how guys behave and how they work together to make it happen."
There is a lot of size in your frontcourt with Thompson, Vedran, Vince Scott and Coté. Is that an area you feel you can take advantage of and can serve as a strength for your team?
"I'm not sure right now. I think we have some more versatility that goes along with having a lot of depth. Right now you have Thompson and Scott sharing that center position. Can you play them together or can you go big with Coté in there with them sometimes? I think you can, but we'll have to see. So as a staff we have a lot of options in that area. We've been experimenting with it in practice with all different combinations to see what works best. Against certain teams we may be able to do certain things that we may not against other teams. Normally I like to have a good ball-handling team in place of size, but it's something we're definitely looking at."
A lot of people are anxious to see Bernard Coté (transfer from Kentucky) play after having a year to sit out, learn the system and get stronger. How is he doing so far?
"He is doing fine. He was a second team player last year and wasn't quite held to the same standard being on the scout team. So now he has to take advantage of all his cracks in practice. I think he can open things up for us. He's a good low-post player and a good outside shooter. You can never have too many guys making shots.
"Right now, you don't know what Bernard is going to do. You don't know what Sterling Williams is going to do--two guys that were here last year and didn't play. You hope Tim Doyle and Mike Thompson contribute more because both were disappointed in their play last year. Tim has come back in much better shape and same goes for Mike. He's running much better and taking care of the ball a lot more and those things are very important."
How is Michael Jenkins handling his new leadership role with the team as the starting point guard?
"Mike is doing just fine. There shouldn't be any problem there. This is what he has always done. He's always been very serious about playing and he has the opportunity now to take advantage of. There is not much in the way of transition and I never worried that there would be. I keep reminding him every day to play as a walk-on."
Do you think this team has a hunger and determination after coming so close to reaching the postseason the last two years?
"I hope so. I really hope so. We're not quite there, but we're almost there. We're starting to see signs, but it has to be consistent. We have to play hard and well on a consistent basis in order to have the kind of year we want to have."