Men's Basketball

    Head Coach Tom Crean Talks NW State Game

    Go Hoosiers! Head Coach Tom Crean met with the media to talk about Saturday's game against Northwestern State.
    Go Hoosiers!
    Head Coach Tom Crean met with the media to talk about Saturday's game against Northwestern State.
    Go Hoosiers!

    Nov. 27, 2009

    BLOOMINGTON, Ind.- Head Coach Tom Crean met with members of the media on Friday to discuss his team's Saturday afternoon game against Northwestern State. The Hoosiers and Demons will tip at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday at Assembly Hall.

    Crean also discussed Saturday's Camouflage Kids event, as over 100 people will attend Saturday's game thanks to the organization, which provides basketball tickets to families that serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.

    Here is a partial transcript from Friday's Q&A with the media:

    On where the team is after this week of practice:
    "We've had a very good week of practice. There's been some time taken off because we had to do that, but it's just part of the process. It's a daily process with this team. I feel like we've had a very productive week and I know they're anxious to play tomorrow."

    On how many players he would ideally play in every game:
    "I'd like to play more guys. We'll just see how it plays out. We're not going to take away what we're trying to do in the sense of score points off our defense and get our running game going and things of that nature, we just have to cut down on our mistakes.

    "When you can cut down on your mistakes, especially the unforced errors - that's what's hurting us so much right now is the unforced turnovers and not reading a situation, not seeing a person back cut because we followed the ball and didn't see the person behind us - those are the types of things we've got to get corrected.

    "That comes from practice time, but it also comes from game experience. Even though we didn't win the games, the three experiences of those games [in Puerto Rico] were excellent for a team like this to go through situations like that to carry them forward when we're in those situations again."

    On whether games like these help the players understand that they have to play hard every possession:
    "That's part of it. You have to continue to learn that over a period of time, but there's no question that those became possession-by-possession games, especially in the Boston game and the George Mason game, where the other games we had played really hadn't been.



    "Before you can get consistent, you've got to be able to learn how not to lose, and the things that you have to eliminate in losing, and then you can really understand what it takes to win. And then all of a sudden you can do those more and more, and then you're starting to get consistent, and that's what you have to have. It's not about depth of bodies, it's about consistency of purpose and consistency of people coming in and understanding what it takes to succeed. We shouldn't be expecting them to understand all that yet, but the fact that they're getting to go through it at this level right now is really good and it will serve them well."

    On what the focus of the team has been in practice this week:
    "We just focused on getting better."

    On Matt Roth's status:
    "He's back with us and will start his rehabilitation soon. He's on pain medication and things like that right now, so we're not going to do anything yet. But he was back with us last night. He had surgery on Wednesday. It was very successful according to Dr. Ahlfeld, so we'll see how that takes us.

    "I keep telling him, `I hope you're a quick healer,' but it's still the same plan. We'll rehabilitate him and work with him and see how his body handles it, but there's nothing any of us can do to make those bones heal faster, so we'll see how nature takes its course with that.

    "But at the same time, keep him really focused on getting stronger, staying locked into the game. Like I told him today, he's as responsible for anything that goes on with the other team as anybody who's playing 30 minutes a game will be. And he wants that responsibility. We'll turn this into a time to build his body and a time to really build the mental toughness that he's going to have to have in rehabilitation and a time to really learn the game even that much more and hopefully that carries into some leadership."

    On a timetable for his return:
    "No, there's no timetable right now."

    On when a decision might be made on not playing Roth to preserve the possibility of a hardship waiver:
    "I don't think there'd be any debate [in February]. I think the decision comes sometime in January. I certainly wouldn't anticipate anything any earlier than that based on what the doctors have said. But you never know, there's no case to go on with him. There's the standard operating procedure in a surgery like that, but again we'll just see. There's nothing anybody can do to speed up the healing. We just have to make sure that his body continues to do everything it needs to do to get stronger and better."

    On whether someone needs to fill Roth's role:
    "Absolutely. We need Devan [Dumes] to make outside shots for us. We need Jordan [Hulls] to feel comfortable making those shots. We need Derek Elston and Bobby Capobianco to be able to step out and make those shots. We need Verdell's range to continue to improve as time goes on. And Maurice Creek just needs to stay consistent, in knowing that he's going to be one of the main focal points of defenses from here on out, and continue to move him around.

    "When you have a shooter like Matt hurt, there's no question that affected us in a big way on Friday night not having him against the zone, because he's just fearless and he can keep backing up. But hopefully we'll build on that. Jordan's starting to shoot the ball and Verdell has got that kind of range. We don't need anybody to come in and just be a three-point shooter per se, but we need more consistency from three-point range."

    On Northwestern State using a lot of players:
    "They play 12 guys 10 or more minutes. They have depth, there's no question about that. It's consistent depth. Two of their four leading scorers are coming off the bench, if I'm not mistaken. So it's not like there's a big give-and-take when they go to the bench.

    "So we think that they're very dangerous. I thought they were solid last year, they're much improved from last year, they know what they want to do - they have some guys that can really score the basketball. And they've got a good mix. They can get the ball at the rim, they get the ball up in transition and they've got some three-point shooters, so it's a game where we've got to have excellent awareness of getting back on defense, and then we've got to be really true to what we want to do when it comes to the ball screens, the cross screens, all those different things that go into it. We've had a solid time of drilling that inside of the concepts that we've tried to really work hard on this week."

    On what leadership has developed over three tough losses:
    "It's ongoing. There's just different times in practice that you can learn something from it. The one thing that we've tried to make a major emphasis of practice, especially early in the week, is that there's a pain in losing. If you lose a drill that's to 10, if you lose a quick scrimmage, there's a pain in that and you've got to feel the effects of that.

    "It's harder, everything's harder this year for the guys that play, because it all starts with the fact that there's not automatic minutes and you really do have to come in and earn it every day. We've stayed true to that. Other than today, we've had a lot of one-on-one film time this week. And there's been a real accountability for what you do when you're in the game on the defensive end, what it brings to the team in a positive manner, what it brings to the team in a negative manner. That includes the rebounding.

    "And not as much on the offensive end, showing offensive things, but we could be very, very raw tomorrow offensively. We have not spent a ton of time on breaking down the offensive parts of our team, even though we need it. But we need a mentality on defense and we need a mentality with communication, so that's what our main focus has been.

    "Even though we've had some unlimited times - we went twice yesterday - we don't want to destroy their bodies, but we have a lot to get accomplished. That's where leadership comes in, can you keep coming back day after day and bringing that level of intensity from drill after drill, day after day, and really start to hate losing, whether it's in a game or whether it's in a 10-minute drill."

    On whether the focus is on improvement or on the upcoming opponent at this point in the season:
    "Both. I don't think, even with my best teams, I have never believed in the adage of `we'll just worry about ourselves and let everything take care of itself.' Now, with that said, you try to spend time at concepts, you try to have a lot of your concepts down, so that you're not going to have to prepare for every single thing that another team does. `OK, our concept should take care of this, our concept should take care of that. We play the screen this way, we play the screen that way.'

    "We're not there yet, either. We're still learning those things, we're still introducing some defensive things today and yesterday, and that's all part of it right now. But again, we're trying to get that wherewithal that everything we do, every possession we play, if you're not up to speed with it, it's going to stand out. And it's not only going to stand out with the coaches, but the leadership of having teammates get after one another.

    "It's hard to get that accountability because we have a lot of guys that make mistakes inside of that because of the youth. But the more that they can get consistent, the more that they can put the hammer down on somebody else. Tom Izzo says it best, `A player-coached team is always a lot better than a coach-coached team.' Every day you want to keep trying to get closer to that point. The coaches are the leaders - they have to set the agenda. We come in every day, and I tell my assistants every day, `You're in charge of the intensity and the enthusiasm.'

    "But if it's just the coaches - and we learned that a couple days this week, starting over at something because the coaches' energy is higher than some of the players. You can't win that way. But we're still in the place where we're really setting a standard every day for what it's supposed to be like here, very much a foundation building process every day in practice. You never, ever pick up from where you left off, you're always starting over with that, getting those things accomplished until you can hand down year after year from the older guys, this is how we do it. So we've got to keep doing that."

    On whether this could become a player-coached team this year:
    "I just think every day, the more I ask questions of the players, the more it becomes player-coached. And it's not like player-coached means the coach just sits there and clips his fingernails and thinks about dinner, I don't mean that at all. With the players it's an ownership thing, so you're working on it daily. They have to feel some peer pressure on that when questions are asked and random things are done and how to adjust.

    "I'll do things inside of a practice that the coaches don't even know are coming just to see how everybody adjusts, because that's the game. The speed of the game doesn't wait for anybody. We spent 45-50 extra minutes with Bawa [Muniru] trying to get that through to him. There's no time to take a break when we're doing these drills. The speed of the game waits for absolutely no one. You've got to adjust to the speed of the game, not the other way around. That's what we're trying to get across, and that's part of players understanding how to push each other as well."

    On whether Bawa can make strides in practice or whether he needs the games:
    "Both. We just keep moving on every week and add different things, but there's no question we want to get him in the games here, we really do, because he's a presence. He's got to get a little swagger, that he is seven-foot and he does have a long wingspan and he does have to have a little more intimidation factor and he does need to have both of his hands available both offensively and defensively and not have somebody lock him up.

    "But he really wants to be successful. He's a lot of fun to coach. I get mad at him, but I don't get frustrated with him. We're not here to work our way through it with him. We're not going to put him out there for any consistent measure of time until he's ready, but practice is not that time. Practice is a time to go full-throttle at him and have him learn how to react and eventually be proactive. But we're high on him, there's no doubt about it."

    On whether Bawa has developed this year:
    "Sure, absolutely. I've got a better gauge of where he was when he got here. He's a willing participant. It's not like we're out there trying to fight to get him to do things. But you don't baby guys through this. You protect them - a parental figure protects somebody - but I'm not going to be a helicopter coach with him. He's got to work through it a little bit.

    "At some point in time, we're going to have to rip the nest apart a little bit and have him figure out if he's going to fly or if he's going to sink down. He's going to be a heck of a player, it's just a matter of time on that. He's always had a comfort zone to go stand on the side - we're not doing that with him. At the same time, we have to be in position to win the games.

    "But as you people know, that spot is wide open. I know we're not playing great at all, but I love being in a situation to be in a really competitive environment right now - it's great for us, great for the foundation of this program.

    "We lost a whole year of that - a whole year of fighting for minutes. We didn't lose a year of fighting to play and fighting to get better, but we lost a year of fighting to get on the court. Last year's a wash in the whole sense of what it means to really earn your minutes. It's not a wash in the sense of learning, but it's a wash in the sense of learning what it means to have to fight every day and have to come back day after day and if you don't bring it right, you're not going to play in those games. I said to the players all week, `you don't get what you want, you get what you deserve, and that's through the process you go through.'"

    On the Camouflage Kids program, and what it means to be a part of it on Saturday:
    "It means a ton because Jeff [Nix] has been a great friend of mine for so long and I know exactly what his passion's all about and when he's passionate for something he gets behind it 100 percent. And a few of us got right behind it with him. We just add to it a little bit, but he's the one that does the whole deal, he and a man named Ray Stults, that's where their passion is so we want to contribute to that as much as possible.

    "There's nothing like seeing the faces, and sometimes you see it on the videos that Jeff puts together, or in a case like tomorrow you see them in person. You see that there's an opportunity for them to come in, and whatever's going on in their life, it gives them an opportunity to do something different that day and I think that's a great feeling, especially when you're doing it in a place like Assembly Hall."


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