Dec. 31, 2008
Coach Tom Crean met with the media at his weekly press conference on Wednesday to talk about his team and the upcoming game at Iowa. Freshmen Tom Pritchard and Daniel Moore also spoke with the media. Audio of the weekly press conference can be heard on All-Access at the links below.
Coach Crean Weekly Press Conference
Pritchard Weekly Press Conference
Moore Weekly Press Conference
Tom Crean Press Conference
Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008
"We've been busy, focusing on our team, getting them better, spending time trying to improve on the million and one things that it takes when you have a young team and at the same time getting ready for Iowa. I think it's great that the games (Big Ten) are on now so people can follow the scores and get a feel for it because it's an exciting time. It's the start of league play across the country. I know our guys are excited to play.
Iowa does so many things differently than what they did last year when it comes to their execution and when it comes to the way that they play. I thought they got a lot out of their team last year, but now it's almost like a different look. Their drive and kick game is outstanding. I think they are second in the country in made 3's. They are playing great basketball, especially in the second half they have become an outstanding defensive team. On watching more film of them today, they do a great job of putting their heels on that 3-point line and forcing you to play on the outside. We're going to have to come in with the ability to execute and come in with a strong mindset. We are going to have to be sharp, and full of life and energy. That's what practices have been like. So we're excited. We're going to go again today and get it rolling again tomorrow and Friday, and then get a on a plane and start the Big Ten season."
On the comparison of Iowa to Butler:
"I think the players that he (Todd Lickliter) inherited are a year better in understanding what he wants. He has some good young players. When you look at (Matt) Gatens and (Anthony) Tucker, and certainly Jake Kelly is playing well. They just have a very solid team. There's a commitment to defense and there's a commitment to what he wants on the offensive end. They do an outstanding job of getting the ball driven to the middle and they utilize the corners very well. They shoot a lot of 3's off the corners. They reverse the basketball. I think they are getting a lot off the drive and kick, where at Butler they got more off their sets. Their sets are setup for their drive and kick game at Iowa and he's got some players that can really get it off the dribble. One of the other key things with them is the strength in their team. Cyrus Tate is playing very, very well, in the sense that's he's very physical. He's tough. He's trying to win that battle in that matchup every time. Their guards are strong. They've got guys that make shots. It will be a great battle."
On the difference between non-conference and Big Ten games:
"I think it's the same. I don't think it's the Big Ten as much, I think it's the conference play. Right now I really need Jeremiah Rivers to cosign things in practice for us because he's coming off two years in the BIG EAST. We can stand there and talk until we're blue in the face, but it's not going to make a big difference because they haven't been through it yet. We have to make everything as competitive as it can possible be, make it combative, and get it to the point where they are getting on one another, getting into one another and encouraging one another even more. That's part of the growth process that we've taken baby steps on at times. That's what it is more than anything else. It's just a matter of us getting better and going and playing the games. The last thing we need to do is spend a lot of time talking about something that we haven't seen yet. It does help that the games are on and it does help when they can watch the film. But we're going to have to go through it."
On returning to venues where he coached as an assistant:
"I won't think much about it. I've been in a lot of big arenas. With me in my game, I've never made a basket in one of them, so it doesn't have anything to do in that sense. I'll be excited. I love going to great college basketball places. I love being apart of league play. I think it's a great time of year. As a coach, you want every game to be the biggest game of the year, but when you get into league play there is something a little different about that. I'll be very excited. I think the staff will be excited for them. It's been so long that I have memories, but I don't have a lot of awareness. I'm excited to go and play."
On where the team is at this point in the season:
"It's so hard to do that. I think when you ask a question like, I think it's more like this - it's tough when you lose a game, and when you lose at home. But as bad as that is, nothing is going to compare to what it was like when you get here in April, in May and June to deal with this. When you get hired on April 1, you know there's some issues at Indiana. I'll never forget watching Dan Dakich's press conference after the Arkansas game, and you're sitting there going, `What is he really saying?' And if you're on the outside, you have no idea. You get on the inside it doesn't take long to figure it out. I read that loud and clear. He was one of the first to come out and really say it. He didn't spell it out, but he laid it out there for people. When you get inside of this, you understand exactly what he's talking about. Those were the hard days. That's when my stomach hurt more than anything else. Now it's a matter of us understanding that we don't really know where we're at so let's just take each day for what it is. Let's really make sure that every practice is as thorough as it could be. Every thing we're trying to get across keeps coming, but at the same time we keep that competition and that chaos, all that stuff that you've got to have in a practice that comes in a game. This statistic blew me away yesterday. When you look at the returning points in the Big Ten, we have 19 points going into the Big Ten. The next closest is Iowa. They have 405. We've got five teams that over 850-some odd points. That's not a woe is me me, that's wow. This is all different. We try to measure every practice and then after you get a string of them, then you can look at where that growth is. We're making growth and progress in practice. It's really like on April 1 and April 2, you come in here, you're getting hired to come in and uphold a tradition. Which I was well aware of and excited about. You get inside of it, it's not about upholding it, it's about holding on to it. It's about rebuilding it in the sense of not rebuilding and moving some things around. This place had to be completely gutted. It had to happen and now we're living it. As long as these guys work hard, and as long as they understand what we're trying to do, before you learn how to win, you have to learn what causes losing. And before you can understand what causes losing, you have to hate to lose. You have to keep teaching those things on a daily basis and teach these guys what winning is all about. Even when it's not happening in a game, it has to be there on a daily basis because it's not engrained and there's no one to say `Hey, this is how we did it.' And that's why I brought up Jeremiah Rivers because it's so important that he can cosign with what we're saying. He did that for two years. That's kind of where we're at. We are making progress. I have no doubt about that. It has not shown up in the last few weeks of games. And I was pretty forthright when I wasn't seeing it in practice. But we are trying to get better and I have no doubt that we will, and that's how you have to measure it."
On keeping the players positive:
"If there's one place in a 24-hour day that it better be real, it be better inside of Assembly Hall. It better be on a practice court if we're in another gym. It better be when we're together. I don't surround myself with people that are going to do the `Well, you may not do this, you may not do that.' I don't have any time for that. It's all irrelevant. To me, as long as we're trying to put our best foot forward everyday in what we're trying to get across, that's what most important. We've already lived the hard part. This is going to get worse before it gets better. If there was a time to pick up the ball and get out of town and go home, that was in April and May, and no one did that. So here we go. Now we're living it. I say this to my wife all of the time, this is the stuff that we couldn't see. This is what we couldn't see when all of this was going on. And thankfully my family wasn't around for all of this in April and May. We couldn't see it, but here it is. It's plain. I don't want them to travel in those circles.
Like I told them on Sunday, you're phone will ring a little less. You'll get a few less text messages. That's okay. Surround yourself with people that are going to make you better and tell you the truth. I want to do the same thing. We're in a business where people get so consumed with their own lives that you need to appreciate the friends that you have and the rest of them are just acquaintances. You really don't need to hear from them anyways.
We come in here with a passion and rage every day. That's not going to change. I don't want to say that any of this is easy. That's not how I view it. But coming into a program with this tradition and seeing how it changed so quickly, now that's hard. It's just different. It was a spirit that had to leave, and it did. And now we have to build a new one. That's what we're trying to do."
On balancing abilities against other teams:
"I'm not being critical of them, I'm being truthful. Part of winning and losing is understanding what you can do and what you can't do and getting the most of what you can do and then trying to get better at what you don't do. That's just the truth. We have to become more physical. We have become more aggressive and certainly we have to get stronger. Verdell Jones III had already gained 14 pounds. It would be his fault if he only gained five, but it's not his fault that he hasn't gained 16. He's doing what he can do, and our job is to keep making sure of that. No one will ever get me into being critical of the team where I don't come in on a daily basis and we as coaches don't try and make them better. That's the bottom line."
On getting the team to learn to play within those limitations:
"They have to trust each others and make each other better. That's the hardest thing. The biggest thing to get a player to understand is the strength of the game. It's completely different as you go up levels. They say the same thing when you go into the NBA. And I'm sure all college coaches vs. pro coaches vs. high school coaches say the same thing in no matter what sport it is. That's a given. But it's the communication that goes into it. The ability to focus on your teammates when you're dead tired, when your lungs are hurting, your legs are hurting, when you don't feel like you've got anything left and still be able to get energy by making your teammates go. That is hard. It's hard for any of us. But as coaches, you have to try to get that out of your team every day. Really, the step that have to taken for that, is until they learn how to make it personal and when a teammate doesn't do something that has to be done. When they get upset with them, until they take that away from the coaches, then you don't have true growth yet. We're not there. We're learning that. We're not even close to that yet. That's the difference a lot of times in what a veteran, close-knit team does. They will police each other in a way of not letting each other down because you want to escape the wrath of one another. You don't want to not call out a screen or make a bad pass because you don't want to let your teammate down. Players have to learn how to make it personal with one another and they don't sometimes understand that that's how friendships build. Relationships build through confrontation and conflict, as much as they build through anything else. That's where we're in the habit on a daily basis of taking those steps to understand that. You're still going to go out to eat and go to the mall with the same guy that you're trying to tear his head off in practice, because that's how you build a relationship. We're just not there yet."
On creating veteran leadership:
"What we're seeing when it's an isolated situation, we've had far better practices than we've had bad ones if you have to look at the whole year starting in October. You'll never see at practice when any of our guys are standing off to the side. That's one reason that I've always had a lot of pride when it got down to two or three on guys getting head coaching jobs because you could sell that they had coached, and that they had been in all these different situations. No one would ever come into a practice seeing any coaches keeping a chart over here or standing next to the basket clapping. They coached. With that in the games, they make it a little harder for that. Referees have this thing about the coaches standing up and we get warned a few times a game. That's where the more combative you can make, that light bulb goes on, it doesn't just flicker and it continues to take shape. They have to go through it. You try to make it as combative as it can be, as physical as it can be. You get pads out. You get foam rolls to whack at guys when they are driving through the lane. You do all those things to replicate physicality. But in the end, they have to go out there and do that in a game and it takes time to develop that mindset that they can do it against the opponent."
On Steven Gambles:
"He's trying to get better. You have to earn your way in. That's just the way that it is. Build that confidence and show what you can do in practice. For guys like that, that are going to play a role for you, it's really not getting away from what you need inside that role for you. It's rebounding the basketball, playing with great energy, playing with toughness and not turning the ball over. He's a good kid. He had a heck of a GPA. He earned his way on and now he has to earn his way in."
On players in practice being the most combative:
"I don't think I could pinpoint one person, because it's not as consistent yet as it needs to be. Once you get it to a point in practice where you're doing it on a pretty consistent basis, well now it's going to be back up in the games. Where the numbers really reflect that a lot of times are in your rebounds numbers. The turnovers show inside, because then it gets to how are we turning it over. Are we weak with the ball? Are we making a bad decision? Did we bail out on a play? Did we keep the dribble too long? Its things like that. The rebounding numbers is the biggest thing to me because you need everybody to be a defensive rebounder, so those things are huge. Everybody has their moments, but again as you measure it, so and so has more good days than average days. When a guy's having a bad day, then we'll get that corrected and it's usually going to be that night or sometime early the next morning. We're trying to build and go from average to good on a consistent basis. Then we have a chance to take the good to another level."
On players being more active on their own:
"That's not being critical, that's being truthful. If you don't get in the gym and if you don't have that passion, it really comes down to your passion and how bad you want it. A lot of times, when those guys start to smell that they are on the cusp of `Okay, can I be an NBA player? Can I make money from this game?', if it's not engrained at the beginning, that's when it kicks in. Obviously, we're not sitting in that situation right now, but there's got to be a passion and a drive. You've got to have a starting point. So every body has got to find that starting point when there's no one to lead the way. If you've got a group of older players that say `Hey, we're shooting tonight or I'm grabbing you two and we're coming in here tonight at 7 or I'll see you in here tomorrow at 8,' that's how it gets maintained. But it's got to start building somewhere. Building it for me is not coming in here once in a while. Building for me is coming in and doing it on a consistent basis. We have to put those guys in those kind of situations until it becomes part of their own idea. It's like individual
instruction during the season, probably 80 percent-plus of players are not going to come in on an early morning in between classes or before their classes and come out there for 40-45 minutes and work their tail off and sweat and go through all these actions unless they have to. Once they start doing it, they see the value of it. They start to see their game go up. It's the same thing in another degree when you've got opportunities like this over Christmas when there is nothing else to do. Yesterday, I didn't see them at all. The coaches had a film meeting. The only thing that they had to do was lift and stretch. I think everyone of them came in and shot. That's a start. That's part of the process. Let's build on that and go along."
On the team's academic performance during the fall semester:
"We're sitting there right around a 2.9, just under, with one incomplete out. That's just a matter of it's not an incomplete for eligibility, it's just one grade to another. We had a very good semester. I'm proud of them. For a bunch of new guys that hadn't been through anything like this, and certainly the guys that have been through it with Devan Dumes, Kyle Taber, Brent Finkelmeir, Jeremiah Rivers, those guys did an excellent job. Tijan Jobe got 100 percent in a class, and there was a guy that we were obviously very concerned about dealing with the English language in a University like this. It's such a world-class place. He did a very good job. But you know what - we're not going to have a party for it. Maybe we'll have one in May, after they have another really good semester. But they did the work. There isn't anyone in here that's lazy, there isn't anyone in here that's not trying to do the right thing, and there isn't anyone in here that's not working hard. There's nothing like. There's a big difference between not knowing how important it is to be in the gym extra, rather than when the lights go on you can't find anyone. That's part of getting this culture back to where it should be."
Your thoughts on Iowa?
"They are second in the nation in made three-pointers, so obviously that is something that we have to stop and get out on shooters."
Is there a different level of excitement now that Big Ten play is about to begin?
"Yeah, I think there is. Guys are going to pick up their games. Practices have been getting more competitive and intense, that's something we need to bring to the table entering the Big Ten."
What have you guys been focusing on in practice?
"Mostly competitiveness. A lot of balanced teams and guys going after it. Just being competitive and playing strong. It's getting a lot more physical in practice."
Are you starting to feel more like a sophomore and not a freshman having played so much this early and against good competition in the non-conference?
"Coming in here and having the opportunity to start right off the bat and trying to become a leader has made me become a better player. I need to pick up my game and become that sophomore."
Coach Crean talked about the competitiveness between players at practice, are you seeing that?
"We saw it today. We had two pretty balanced teams and guys were getting into each other. There was some talking going on and it was getting a lot more physical. That's something we need to bring to practice every day."
Are you guys starting to get the level of competitiveness at practice that Coach Crean has been talking about?
"Today was one of the best days we've had this year practicing and getting tough with each other. It was a lot of fun. Coach was jacked up, all the assistant coaches were jacked up, the mangers were jacked up. Today was just a lot of fun to see that competitive edge come out of my teammates."
Coach Crean talked about the importance of you guys coming in on your own time and working on your game, talk about that...
"Everybody was here yesterday. After the game the other day, I can see that we are coming together now, holding each other accountable for our mistakes. We don't let other people get by, we challenge each other. We listen to each other now. It's going to be fun to see how the rest of the season comes out."
Do you have a feel for the level of play in the Big Ten?
"Not really because we are all new to it, but Jeremiah (Rivers) is helping us out with that every day in practice with him playing in the Big East for two years and seeing that competition every day. Coach is banging it into our heads how tough it's going to be to play in the Big Ten. We are getting ready for it by the way we are playing at practice."
What did you see in the Iowa film?
"They shoot the ball well. We are going to have to get out to their shooters, close out and box out. We have to go rebound the ball, because we are undersized and have to have a team effort on the boards."