Men's Basketball

    Coach Crean Talks To The Media

    Go Hoosiers! Tom Crean
    Go Hoosiers!
    Tom Crean
    Go Hoosiers!

    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:

    Opening Statement
    "It dawned us that it's been about a month since we've been together in Atlanta, some of us, most of us. A lot has transpired in a short period of time and I think it's more what's happened inside these walls. Our guys have been excellent. They've had a tremendous three-week offseason. We are in a dead week this week because it's the week before exams. Then we will get a chance to work out with them after their exams are over next week.

    "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:
    "Well, but it's not that simple. It's more about what he wants to do right now. But Calbert has been outstanding and one way or the other, he has a great role in the program."

    On how early preseason No. 1 helps in recruiting:
    "I think that the perception of that is really good. I don't think that there is any question about that. I think it just helps. I think a lot of people saw us play. A lot of recruits had a chance, and their coaches and families had a chance to watch us play. Indiana is always going to have a lot of exposure, but I think it was the magnitude of the exposure this year and the success that we had with it. So I don't think there is any question that that helps. I look at some of those polls. The one last night that I looked at in-depth last night was the Dick Vitale one. The only one I don't get in any of those polls is how far down they have Wisconsin. I wouldn't be good at the polls I guess because I'd have them in the top 3 to 5 and that's where I think they are at.

    "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
    "Fit. Fit. We've got great chemistry. I had as good a staff and I had some great coaches. Bennie was the ninth guy to go off and become a head coach in my time as a head coach. We've had some great staffs, some great coaches, and last year from top to bottom was as good as I've ever been around when you start to include everybody that's a part of this. So fit is really big. Compatibility goes obviously into fit. There are certain things that we would want. Recruiting certainly plays a part in this. Player development plays a huge part in this. Because the staff is so strong, any coach that comes in has got to hold his own because this is a program where you would never walk in and just see one or two assistant coaches just standing on the side not being involved in practice. If you coach here, you are involved. That's the way I was raised and that's exactly the way I would want it. I would never, ever be able to work with a wallflower. I wouldn't be able to do that. There has got to be too much energy and enthusiasm and intensity and teaching ability going on. Those are big things.

    " 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 are nowhere. It's not that it couldn't happen down the road but I don't foresee it this year. I'll repeat it again. We have the Kentucky game which is still being talked about and worked on. It's not set in stone because as many of you know Kentucky doesn't want to play it on campus anymore. That is certainly not our first choice. Keeping it on campus is without a doubt our first choice, always has been since I've been here. Again when it was all said and done, to my knowledge, Kentucky was the one that moved it back to campuses before we came, to my knowledge, that's what I've been told. We've got that to play out.

    "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:
    "Leadership from the upperclassmen and I don't mean just tell them where to be. There is going to be a real accountability for that. We've got some guys that are getting ready to go into a `big brother' mode that there will be a big accountability there. Our upperclassmen will be as responsible for the underclassmen as the other way around when that time comes. I'm not sure on the exact date. It's when the second session starts. It's when the Indiana All-Star team is finished so it's sometime in June.

    "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:
    "That won't be a problem for the staff. It wasn't a problem last year. It's not a problem at all. When people make those assumptions and projections, that's all they are. They are just assuming. It'd be crazy for me to sit there and look at what a lineup could look like. The best thing for us and the thing that we have to have which we have still not had, it was much better this year than it had ever been without a doubt, but we've still never had great depth which allowed us to be truly deep. I'm not saying we will now. On paper we potentially could, but that's on paper. That's on past experiences and that's on potential of newcomers and you don't win games on past performance and you don't win games on potential. You win them on actual results and production so that's what has to start to get established.

    "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:
    "There is not a big plan and there really isn't a timetable. Those things work themselves out, they always have. It's just the way that it is. It's certainly something that's on the horizon but there is not a timetable to it." On whether it's better to see a recruit during an AAU game or a team practice:
    If I had my druthers, it'd be to see as many practices as you could, high level practices. But it doesn't work that way. Because you can't do it this time of year but usually when teams are practicing we are practicing. When we can hit an occasional practice, I always like to do that. I think it's the more real competition you can see them against, the more different competition.

    "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:
    "He's not going live. Maurice has got to become as hard of a worker as there is on the team and that's not always been who he has been. That's who he has got to be. He's got to get into that Will Sheehey, Victor Oladipo, Jordan Hulls, I'm going to be in the gym morning, noon and night type of mindset. Because he can't play yet.

    "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:
    "Christian (Watford) is resting his foot right now. He had some heel issues during the year that he really did a great job of playing through. We want him to rest right now and recuperate there but he's had an excellent off-season. He went all the way through the three weeks that we had. Other than that we're fine but everybody can be in the weight room."

    On Matt Roth's future:
    "He's keeping his options open which is good. He's focused right now on finishing up because he's had such a big road this academic year to get where he wants to be in his Master's program. He's got options. He's got options of keeping his eligibility and at the same time I think in his mind he is planning for the future and planning to make that next jump. The advice I gave him was just to keep your options open as you go through this and as we go through this."

    On whether or not Roth will be with the team next season:
    "We will have to wait and see. Any discussions like that would be in house and I just want him to keep his options open on what's best for him moving forward and there is no question that he is looking into his future. But he will be the decider of that for the most part."

    On Crean's advice for Cody Zeller and Christian Watford during the NBA Draft process:
    "Well I think the biggest thing was what we got back. It's not an opinion decision. It's not what I think. It's really not what they think outside of making a decision. It's what the decision makers think. I enjoyed that process. I enjoyed going through and talking to so many different General Managers, Assistant General Managers, a Director of Scouting, people that were excellent. We got a ton of great feedback but what they do is they give you the truth because it affects them. It's a trust basis. We're not going to be out saying so and so said this and so and so said that but all of the guys are able to look right at every note. I keep every note written out so they have it then we'll put it in a file now so it'll be there for the future. We can build a lot of improvement plans out of some of those things. When those decisions come, they have to make heart decisions, head decisions, and at the same time you've got to be able to look at business and what's business say. We can't call business, the NBA does.

    " 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:
    "I wouldn't discuss that. Where he was projected, it varies. Where he could end up, that varies. The bottom line is, he's on the radar in a really strong way. I think that's the most important thing and people are really paying attention. If certain things improve for him, which are basically the same things that need to improve for us, I think that really, really helps him."

    On expectations of the coaching staff
    "We're goal oriented, we're short-term goals. There are certain destinations that you want to end up with. We had the same thing this year and no one was asking us about them in the spring and summer, but yet we had them and the team had them and the team felt them. That's very, very important and I think that's what it all comes down to.

    "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 haven't thought about what reform would be and it would be just hypothetical for me to think about that anyways. I think the transfer numbers continue to go up, I don't think there's any question about that. I enjoy reading some of the things some different talent evaluators or writers point out in those situations. Every recruit is a different case study in themselves, just as every transfer is a case study unto itself. I think as long as there's going to be third party influence in these types of situations, and it's not just college basketball, it's college sports in general, it's high school sports. I don't think there's any clear cut answer and I don't know if there's a certain amount of reform or rule that would play into it. I don't think it's going to change anytime soon. I think it escalates like we saw last week. It escalates and becomes a main talking point. Situations have been going on as long as I remember."

    "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 think it's brilliant, to be honest with you. No, I think it can backfire. But, you know what, it's part of the game. It's part of where it's at now. A couple years ago they started counting seventh grade and above as potential recruitable student-athletes. I think we have some criteria that we're always trying to follow. I think we're trying to look at intelligence and academic upside. We're trying to look at athletic upside and, as much as you can, the character of that person and, most importantly the people around them, their family. It's very easy to say when a player is really young it's hard to gauge those things, and it is, but if you spend enough time.

    " 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:
    "They're working with him, absolutely. He's working on his rehabilitation here with Tim Garl. He had his surgery, he was home for a week and he's been back and taking care of business academically. They (the seniors) are all going to graduate and walk across the stage or have the option to walk across the stage in a week. So they're taking care of all those things."

    On the Fan Fest on Thursday:
    "I think it's a really big deal. It's an awesome way to include our fans and our students and so many people who have such a hand in keeping the enthusiasm and the energy and the togetherness alive in this program over the last few years. The Indiana fan base has always been nationally renowned, probably world-renowned. It's definitely been something that somebody like me, who didn't grow up here, always knew how great the Indiana fan base is. But, until you're inside of it and until you go through something like this then see the comeback of it this year, you have no true appreciation. Any chance we can get right now to keep including everybody inside of that and another way to say thank you, another way to say thank you, to interact, to bring it together. We'll get to the point where we have banquets again and have a formal sit-downs maybe, but this is great. I'm glad we're going to do it and thankful that J.D. (Campbell) and people in the athletic department and Beth (McLauglin) and Jayd (Grossman) in our office have been working so hard to put this together."

    On the 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes:
    "We've revamped it. Since we got back from Atlanta, we've really turned it up more in the 2013 class for somewhat obvious reasons but also to plan ahead a bit. I don't think there's any question about that. I think it's the same thing with the younger classes. We want to continue to make this program one of the strongest in the country. When you're at Indiana, the pool shrinks anyways as far as who is going to have the talent, the toughness and all those things to play at this level and be at this level.

    " 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:
    "We can sit for an hour and talk about all the what-if scenarios that could play out here in the next couple years. We're recruiting a high-level of player. We have some nationally ranked players but, more importantly, we've got some guys that are known in a lot of places. In this day in age, if you come in and you're successful, you are going to have options. There's not a real age limit on options, there's a performance level, there's a potential level. All those kinds of things play in to what your options are going to be. So we have to be really aware of that. You don't want to end up a player short or a position short.

    "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:
    "They're all important. It was as important to me and our coaching staff the first couple summers. Maybe the players didn't understand what that was all about, they probably didn't. Last year it really, really started to take shape. We've always had players that worked pretty hard. But there have always been guys where they aren't spending the time at it that they needed to spend. Those days are over. You can't function here if you don't have that kind of mentality anymore. I don't think you can function at Kentucky, at Louisville, at Michigan, at Michigan State, at Kansas, any of those places if you don't have that mentality and that's where we want to be. If you think you're going to be in an environment where `I'll just shoot a little bit tonight and I'll get back in in a couple days, but I'm lifting hard,' those days are gone. It's competitive. I think they're going to see that the deeper we can be, the better we can be.

    " 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:
    "It wasn't in any game. It was the day after the Michigan State game in East Lansing. I've mentioned other moments, the Evansville win was huge, the last 7.5 minutes of North Carolina State were huge, the joy in that locker room was fantastic. Certainly the ranked wins and some of the road wins in the league and some of those were great. But, when we came back after a tough film session after Michigan State, the practice we had, I started to think `we're going to be pretty good.' They went at each other and it wasn't chippy, it wasn't frustration, it wasn't `I'm better than you,' it was `we're better than this.' They knew they were better than what they played against Michigan State and they had an embarrassment about the way they played. That practice showed that they could do something about that. So, I'll never forget that practice, ever. It's one of my all-time moments, personally. You might get a different answer from different coaches but one of my all-time favorite days in basketball without a doubt. Then it turned around and we beat Ohio State.

    "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:
    "I think it's all how you define it. The perception on the outside isn't necessarily the perception on the inside. I don't think I look at it that way. The guys that I've been around in those workouts and the guys that have been in the weight room the last three weeks, I don't have concerns about how hungry they're going to be. That's even before we're all together in the summertime. Those things are fun to talk about and they're interesting, but when you're in-house, and you're inside of it every day, if someone was acting like that I think it would show up pretty quick. I haven't seen any of that and, if the day comes, I think it will be short-lived."

    On the rate of athletes earning degrees in three years:
    "You've always got to have special edges and hooks in how you're making your team better. I think our player development; I think the way the guys improve. You just look at the numbers year-to-year on how guys get better and I think that's a big deal. But, we have more guys that our going to graduate in 3-3.5 years than are going to graduate in four. I think it's a tribute to how hard they work, how they were raised academically before they get here. But, it's a big-time tribute to the way Marni Mooney organizes things, the way our coaches back it up and the way professors and teachers teach at the university. I don't know very many of them but, obviously it's going pretty good. I think there's an accountability that they know what's expected of them academically, they know the repercussions when they aren't there and we just move. It's a great place in this program.

    "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:
    "Absolutely, why do you write about that? That's a great question. Absolutely because there's enough negatives and there's enough things that take away points, to be able to do something like that, absolutely. It's all done in context, it's not like anybody's sitting there taking 21 hours and sleeping three hours a night. If they're sleeping three hours a night, it's not because of academics (laughs).

    "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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