Coach Crean Talks To The Media
April 24, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Head Coach Tom Crean met with members of the media on Tuesday afternoon to talk about a wide range of topics. Here's a transcript of what he had to say:
"I think in summing it up, last spring, when we came back from spring break, is when things really started to take shape in here. The younger guys were driving the train even more so on the work ethic in the program. Christian (Watford) was really starting to making a turn, there was no doubt about it. This was before the freshmen were even here. We had an excellent spring and it carried right on into what turned out to be a great summer. We had another very, very good fall. The best fall we've had and it carried into obviously the season that we had.
"There's been a reason, obviously a good reason, that we've had a shorter off-season program this spring but the three weeks we've been together have been outstanding. I think to a man, as far as the coaching staff, the staff of the people that are around them, that the culture is continuing to shift and it's shifting to an even higher gear. When it comes to expectations, if this group last year would have been caught up in lack of expectations there is no way that they would have ever worked the off-season the way that they worked it. And it's the same thing now. Whatever expectations are out there are really irrelevant to what their goals are, to what their own personal expectations are and what they want to accomplish together. I think that is what we are really trying to focus on right now.
"We've had a great spring. My job has been to just nitpick every little thing inside of their games to make them better, to give them things to work on, to make them better individual players, to have all the different situations that they can control inside of ball screening, reading screens, the shooting, the driving game, adding things to their game, tweaking things, making things better, that's really been what our focus has been on with the team.
"If there were three things that we need to get accomplished this off-season, the individual improvement goes without saying. I wouldn't call that one of the three because you can't get better if your guys aren't getting better individually. But what really has to get better is number one our strength. We've got to become a stronger team. When we measure ourselves against the best players and the best teams, there were times when we weren't strong enough, whether it was just maturity-wise in body or whether it was age or whether it was just plain will-power. Whatever it was, we've got to be stronger in more situations. We've got to have more thickness to us. We've got to have more stability in that strength game. We made tremendous strides a year ago with Coach (Je'Ney) Jackson having a full year here and I think we will even make that many more this year.
"Number two we've got to win more one-on-one type of battles whether it is a 50-50 ball, whether it's stopping somebody one-on-one, whether it's the ability to break somebody down, not be better one-on-one players but win more one-on-one situations and there is a difference. Because our ability to share the ball this year, our ability to move the ball, our ability to play through and at Cody (Zeller) and have so many people do so many good things and so many people jump in numbers, it can really take another step if we can get better in those individual match-ups, if we can get better in those individual situations and that's what this time of year is for. How much better are you getting, how much stronger are you getting and then when you play?
This is the third thing for us to take a big jump and this is the biggest on-the-floor aspect for us is we've got to better defensively. If we're better defensively, we'll be a better defensive rebounding team, we'll be able to play at a faster pace because our defense will allow so many things to happen for us. We'll be able to get out in transition that much more. We'll be able to create off turnovers that much more and they all go hand-and-hand, especially the strength and the defense.
"We are really preaching a lot about quality not quantity right now. We are preaching improvement but more importantly we are preaching to the choir. We really are. They are absolutely locked in to what they need to do. They are hungry. I could see a hunger in this group a year ago but they weren't quite sure where they were going with it and I think this group right now, because they've tasted it, because there is going to be so much real competition that they can absorb, not that we talk about but that they feel and absorb, I think that gives them more room for growth, more room for enthusiasm and more of a desire to improve. We've had a very good spring in that respect.
"We felt the loss of Bennie. I felt it probably the second individual workout that he wasn't there and I'm so proud of him and happy for him and being a head coach. Here's his mindset. I texted him today I said how are your individuals? He said they are going to take another step today because now we have the hand pads and the football pads in. So the culture moves on, it travels. But we could feel him missing but Calbert (Cheaney) being out there with us has been really, really good too for him. It's been good for us, it's been good for the team, but we will talk about the coaching situation in a second. These guys are really, really at a high level of work right now and I have no reason to believe that it's not going to carry on but it has to. That's the caveat. It has to. There is no room for anyone in this program to not get better. There is no room for any of them to rest on anything they thought they did or think they are going to do. It's all based on continual improvement. It'll be the same thing when the newcomers get here, the same exact thing. Now these guys have to go into a mode of really, really teaching and demanding and holding these young guys accountable for what they're going to have to do to improve because the culture, like I said, is continually moving forward, it's escalating and I love it.
"As far as the coaching search, we're going to get through the rest of the week. We have a recruiting period this weekend. Calbert and I have been discussing what the next step is for him in the program or to stay in the place that he's at right now, which he very well may want to do. I've got some people in mind if he does decide to stay in that position and I'll move fairly quickly, I would think, once this recruiting period is up. I'm really not going to discuss the process of going about that other than that there is a process and I want it to move fairly fast. But I haven't wanted anything to get in the way of what we were doing in this off-season program because it's been such a short period. And like I said for great reason, but it's been such a short period. Other than that, I'll open it up and you guys can ask whatever you want."
On Calbert being Number 1 choice for Assistant Coach vacancy:
On how early preseason No. 1 helps in recruiting:
"But Vitale obviously has got Kentucky on there, he had us, he had Michigan, Michigan State, we could potentially see NC State or North Carolina potentially in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge then you've got Wisconsin down the line, you've got Butler in that group. We could see UCLA, we could see Georgetown, we could see Georgia. The people that we could end up playing, and that doesn't include Ohio State, who's going to be a highly ranked team. When you really start to think about it we are in the mix, I'm glad we are in the mix, but we are in the mix with a lot of really good teams.
"Again, it's the off-season and it's the expectations that they have in each other, for one another, and because of each other that I think really drive your team. It's one thing that you expect something out of yourself or you expect something out of a teammate because you're together and those expectations rise that's another level. I think we are heading there. Again, it's the work they are willing to put in but as far as recruiting there is no question, it doesn't hurt."
On attributes of an assistant coach
" I think past experiences would play into it. I'm way past going the stranger route, going the recommendation route, going the" well we've heard good things about him" and they've got a good track record but you know we really don't know him. I've not done well with that. Really we are in a situation where familiarity will be a factor inside of it as well."
On scheduling Lousiville and where that's at in the process:
"We've got UCLA, Georgia and Georgetown in a tournament. Butler is a top 20-25 team again and we play them in the Crossroads Classic. More than likely we'll have North Carolina or North Carolina State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and then we have the league. I don't think there is any question that the league will be on par to be the best in the county again.
"This is not the first time of having a good team and sometimes when you walk down that road you start thinking well we need to this for scheduling and we need to do that for television. That's not how it works. The RPI is always going to take care of itself in this league. We want to do things that make sense. Now, I said all that to say this. It may very well make sense to do that, but it's not this year."
On having a fluid transition with the incoming freshman when they get to campus:
"The great news is we get to work with the players this summer. There couldn't have been a better ruling in my mind, and probably in a lot of other guys `minds. The fact that we've been given April weekends to recruit which is so valuable, they've taken some away from July but that's fine because you still get enough time in July to go out recruit and see players but most importantly you get to work with your most important players which are the ones you have now. That'll be good. That'll help us get a running start with them this summer.
"But really it's going to be how the upperclassmen bring them in because it's going to be incredibly competitive and that's what I feel but I'm sure the players will feel that as well."
On how challenging it could be for the staff for former starters to come off the bench:
"I think it's always good when those guys get up here and they can be around the guys in the spring. I know they've done that a little bit. I've had a chance to see some of them during this last recruiting period going and make some points. I watch a ton of film of our incoming players and that's helpful too because now it really feels like we're getting ready to coach them. Before you were trying to help them be better in their own program. Now you are really getting ready to coach them and so there is a different transition period that you go through as a staff and that's all I'm concerned about."
On the scholarship situation:
"During the season I always want to see them at home. I want to see them on the road. I want to see them in at least one rivalry game and I also want to see them a lot of times in a game maybe where they are suppose to do well. Maybe where on paper or in the past they have been better than that team and see how they handle that game. Do they keep playing as hard through it?
"When you have a short window like this in April and you can see somebody play a couple of times a night or a couple of times a day, that's invaluable. It's a great, great evaluation time. You can gather so much and then you can start to compare that to their high school films and the improvement that they are showing and then you've got that much more of a gauge if you see them at your own camp or if you see them in July."
On Maurice Creek's recovery:
"We've put him in a few small contact situations but nothing in the sense of live and going up and down the court and he's not really playing in the pickup games and things like that. We have high expectations for him in house, there's no question about it and to control what he can control.
"Certainly he has got to get his lower body stronger and continue to it as his lower body heals up completely. We are still fighting some of those things strength wise because of all of the different injuries that he's had to his lower body. He needs to continue to build his upper body strength. But he needs to get back to being one of the best shooters really in the country because when he got the hurt the first time that's basically where he was heading. It wasn't like that his sophomore year because he just wasn't back enough yet. But he's got to get back in that mode because it's going to be very competitive for him. This is the time of the year where you can get a jump on that if you have some things you can really fall back on. His shot, his ability to shoot the ball and play in pick-and-roll and things like that are going to have to be things that he has to really do. I'm very optimistic based on our three weeks of off-season. He's been doing the same things that the rest of them have been doing inside of how we've been working on the pick-and-roll, how we've been working off screens, working through contact it just hasn't been in live situations against his teammates."
On other player's health:
On Matt Roth's future:
On whether or not Roth will be with the team next season:
On Crean's advice for Cody Zeller and Christian Watford during the NBA Draft process:
" I said this before but the Undergraduate Advisor Committee is just fantastic in the information that they provide. It's very clear cut and it's very easy to see. All you are trying to do is give your players options and help them in the decision making process. But the players and their families have to make those decisions and I thought each guy handled it the way they wanted to handle it and to the best for them."
On where Christian Watford had been projected to go in the NBA Draft:
On expectations of the coaching staff
"Outside expectations, they're fun to talk about, every once in a while they're fun to read about them but they have nothing to do with what's going on inside the building. What their goals are and where they want to go with it and what they're willing to get out of one another and demand from one another, that's what really drives it. This time of year it's that improvement, it's that togetherness, toughness and camaraderie in the weight room. This is a group that's had more 6 a.m. lifts than they've had afternoon lifts. There's a toughness that they're building, that they're continuing to build upon. If you start jumping ahead and get to caught up in the destination or the points that are down the road you really, really do your team a disservice and so no coach wants to do his team a disservice. We want to hold them to a very high standard that's continually rising on a day-to-day basis and I think that's what we're most locking into."
On transfers in college basketball
"I learned a lesson back at Marquette, after our third year we had three players leave and it was back when the five-eight rule was in effect. So we come out the next year and we're getting walk-ons. We had one walk-on who averaged eight points in high school, now that would have been a high score for us when we first started here, but we had to get enough guys to practice with, to get on the team because we could only have 10 guys on scholarship and we went to the Final Four. Of course Dwyane Wade had a little to do with that and Steve Novak and Travis Diener and all those guys. I learned a lot of lessons back then. I learned to always plan ahead when you have a potential great player. A lot of people want to have scholarships sitting there for them; I'm really not always of that mindset. I would rather be prepared for the rainy day. So that's where over signing in the past has come in and it becomes individual preferences. But I never want have our program falling short. We've been in situations in the past where we were a guard short because of injuries and we didn't sign an extra guard when we could have and all of the sudden we have a couple injuries. We played a year at Marquette where our power forward/center basically started our offense the last seven-eight games of the year because Travis Diener got hurt and we had a player transfer during the season and another player be injured. Those are hard deals."
On recruiting players at a young age:
" I know this, when we get involved and we get people on campus, we spend a lot of time talking about what they're doing in school, what they're potential for AP classes is, what their grade point's like. You really can get locked into somebody. You don't have to coach them and you don't have to tell them what to do. But, you can be really locked in to how they're going about things. Again, we're far from the only school that's offering younger players but it's the way that it is."
On how is compares to having a son of similar recruiting age:
"It's getting there, absolutely. Somebody would probably look at me and see Riley and say `he doesn't have any character or intelligence, look at his dad' (laughs). But I haven't had to do that yet with anybody. I think it does, as he continues to get older and I see him in more competitive situations. I think the family plays a big role in it. We're not really looking to find a lot of helicopter parents. If you're coaching you're child great, I think that's fine. It needs to be a long process, it really does. That doesn't mean there aren't going to be mistakes made. But, it needs to be a longer process. When it's a shorter process, it doesn't always work out great. There are a lot of different reasons for transfers, like I said; it can be a case study each and every one. I've never seen a study on what were the three, four, five main reasons. But, it really gives you a chance to get involved and gives you a chance to watch something up close when you've got that kind of an interest in a person and his family."
On Verdell Jones III and working on his recovery with the medical staff:
On the Fan Fest on Thursday:
On the 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes:
" Inside of that, there are still a lot of intangibles you want to study and pay attention to. There are things we don't want to get away from. We don't want to get away from versatility, we don't want to get away from people that have already pretty good skills but can continue to improve them. There's no question that the biggest offensive attribute to me is what's their shooting ability. The biggest defensive things to me are their awareness, their length and how quick their feet are, no matter what position. Awareness is probably more important than the length and the feet, and length and feet are huge, but awareness is even better.
"With what we're trying to do with switching and what we're trying to do with rotating, getting out and guarding people, you have to have great awareness, especially on the weak side. You've got be able to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. Awareness is a huge part of that. To be a great rebounder, you have to have awareness. So those are all attributes that we are really starting to at the forefront with and kind of building from there. I don't think there has been a day where we haven't been locked into recruiting or strongly conscious of it. But, there's no question it's picked up in our minds in the past month for what he have to prepare for."
On if the team needs to address a specific need through recruiting:
"In the case of point guard and in the case of that swing forward type of guy, to me, the deeper you can be at those positions with people who can play other positions, the better. The best four men for us have been people you may not necessarily look at and say `well, that's a four man.' With us, where we're heading with this, to be as multi-positional, to be versatile and have the ability to guard as many different people as possible, that's only going to make us better."
On the importance of this off-season compared to last off-season:
" It's like I said earlier, we've got to get better defensively. The better we get, the more points we can score, the more we can get out and play. We don't have any desire to build up guys individually and have them spend all this time getting better and then not play them. We would like to have a deep team; we've tried that already. So, I think every day is important. I think every day they utilize is important. What it becomes is a maturity issue. It's better this year because we get to work with them some. But you're not taking the next step on two hours a week, you're not taking the next step on lifting just three or four days a week, you're not doing that. I think we're getting a group of guys that understand that. The key is they need to make sure the young guys understand that. It's one thing for us to talk about it and for them to think about it and think they're going to do it. Until they get here, they have no idea how hard you have to work to be competitive at this level."
On one defining moment on the 2011-2012 season:
"We still had our moments when we weren't as good. There's not a doubt to me that we had a couple guys get a little carried away with themselves after the Ohio State game thinking they were a little bit better than they were, thinking this might be a little easier than we thought it would be and we felt the effects of that. But, coming off a loss like that and to come and practice like that, that was huge."
On not having the "underdog" card to play next season:
On the rate of athletes earning degrees in three years:
"We want to recruit players that want to be pros too but, if they can leave and have their degree, that would be even better. I think that's exactly how we're trying to set it up. In this day in age to just walk in and say `in four years, in five years,' that's not how you talk at this level. You can't, you get left behind. But, if you can give a player the opportunity to get better, give an opportunity to play at a major league program like this and be able to get this world-class education and get the support they get for that, now you've got a chance to be in the conversation with good programs. You've always got to find ways to differentiate yourselves or give yourselves a hook and an edge and what's going on here academically, we're not taking backseat to anyone on that. That's really good.
"Again, everyone will have graduated. I like to think we've always put academics at a very, very high premium. Tim Buckley graduated everyone he coached at Ball State, Steve McClain had a tremendous graduation rate and we had a 100 percent rate at Marquette. Everyone who played there four years graduated. We would like to see that continue. That's why getting involved with players at a young age, you can start to really have a hand on them as far as academically and I think it helps and I enjoy it."
On whether there should be a bonus in the APR for multiple degrees:
"This school is so strong. We went to Washington D.C. last week for an alumni event and Victor (Oladipo) went as well and he was the student speaker. Great crowd, it was like 355-360 people there. I wish we could have had every recruit, every parent of current players see this. See how these people feel about their university, how they feel about the program. To have somebody like Victor be there and having these people look at that. That's what you want. When these guys are done playing that they have options in their next life and career. That's what we're trying to build. It's a real village that's putting it all together, there's no doubt about that.
"That's a great call though on the APR thing, we've got to get (John) Calipari to run with that. He loves those causes, that would be good."
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