Jan. 21, 2013
After a couple of days to reflect on the win, can you expound on when you talked about the importance of trying to win every possession?
“It’s really easy to say that kind of thing but I think in talking about simplifying our approach what we are going to try to do to win some games, sometimes you’re looking at the big picture and the result and not what happens along the way. I was thinking about that all day at the hotel before we played later that night, we have to go out it’s like game point from the first possession on. That’s what I presented to our guys, the game is on the line from the first possession on. You don’t wait until the last possession or last three possessions, when you know everyone is watching and on the edge of their seat. Let’s go out and win this possession, whether we have the ball and we’re trying to make a positive play, or if we’re trying to defend. I assured the guys that you tally up all those points over the course of a game and that’s how you have the winner. I think it helped our guys to think about it on a possession-by-possession basis, rather than thinking ‘We need a win.’
“I was really pleased with the way we started the game. I think it was a 12-2 lead, we came out defensively and offensively and played a good basketball game. We put lot of things together. It was a fun college environment to be involved with, with the student section right there behind our bench. It was really gratifying. Now we are on to the next one Thursday night. But it was good medicine. It feels good for all of us to validate some of our efforts, get the ‘W’, and think about things in a more positive light.
Did Brandon Taylor do enough to garner regular ‘big-time’ minutes for the rest of the season?
So is the point guard job up in the air?
“No it’s not in the air, it’s the same as it has always been. I’m not planning on making any changes to the starting lineup at this point but we have a couple of days before we play again so things can change. We have a veteran group of guys starting for us and I think they do a good job of setting the tone defensively. So I’m not going to try to fix something at this point that worked well in the last game and Brandon didn’t start the last game. I’m more concerned with finding five guys who can close out some games and finish it for us.
Obviously you hope this is the start of a few wins in a row. What do you have to do to get some more wins after the first really good one?
“It starts in practice today. We will have an opportunity to practice today, Tuesday and Wednesday, and we’ve got some things we are trying to prepare for Cal and Stanford. In order us try to try to get any kind of win streak established, or get some confidence, it’s about the opening tip when we pay Cal. Until then, we have to try to improve in practice. We have a number of things we can identify, improve and get better at. The last thing I’m thinking about is a multiple win streak or anything. I wouldn’t want to fix the mentality that we need to have going forward. We can’t control anything about the Cal game right now. We can address a lot of things we need to do better in our practice setting, then do the same thing tomorrow and the same thing Wednesday. Then hopefully, Thursday we will be ready to make some plays when the game starts.
One of the things you did extensively was played Brandon and Glen Dean together, which worked well defensively and offensively. Is that something you can look towards down the road?
“I think Brandon is point guard, not a 2. He will be a 1, specifically. I think there is a bit of grey area with both Glen and JD [Jarred DuBois]. I’m not sure that maybe Glen isn’t a better 2 guard, with the ball out of his and coming off and making plays. What made that decision for me was that JD got in foul trouble and we didn’t have any other choice. It ended up working pretty well. Glen was dialed in defensively and so was Brandon, and Brandon gave us a big lift offensively. So it wasn’t any master scheme that we talked about. We did talk about Brandon playing well as the point guard, so we could play Glen or potentially JD as the 2, and move guys down the ladder that way. So the key for us is that we will be small a lot of times in the backcourt. But the ability to defend…I thought both of those guys did a great job of chasing people off screens. Sometimes it depends on the type of team you are playing. A team like Washington or Cal, where they are trying to get Crabbe, Cobb or Wilcox shots by screening for them, I don’t think it hurts you to be small when you’re trying to get through some of those screens. But if you have post-up guys down at the block, maybe you should re-evaluate, or have a backup plan. I thought Glen did a great job against Wilcox of fighting through and almost being invisible on some of those screens.
You took the shot clock down several times and still shot a really good percentage at Washington. Is that something we will see more?
“We weren’t trying to that, I think the credit there goes to Washington’s defense. There were plenty of possessions where we scored early and got our first or second option shots. But that’s where they have been building some of their record based on defense. They went on the road and won their first three road games by defending Stanford, Cal and Washington State as well as anyone. So we didn’t go in with the idea of ‘Let’s make sure we get the clock under five seconds before we shoot.’ But we managed to make some plays. We stayed aggressive and we ran our offense. We had our initial set and then the secondary part of our offense. We didn’t just put the ball under our arm. We got to a late clock situation and guys continued to make plays. We would like to score earlier if we could but a lot of that depends on the intensity and the opposition’s defense.
Can you talk about playing a Sunday night game [the regular season Sunday home game in school history]?
“We’re curious to see. Stanford will be in town. We’re trying to get creative to get people out to watch the game. The league schedule comes out and we don’t have a lot to say about who, when and where. But hopefully it’s an opportunity to get a win. And it’s not that late on a Sunday night in terms of kids going to school the next day. One thing you know is that there aren’t a lot of other things are going on that evening, so if we can dangle it out there as a product to come watch play, hopefully we can do that.
When you talked about simplifying your approach, was that strictly on offense or defense as well?
“I don’t think you ever really need to think about defense that much. It’s not a mindset thing. It’s something that starts with energy, passion and a stance. I don’t think you should be thinking too much about defense. We haven’t tried to complicate it too much, our schemes are pretty easy. We have a plan A, plan B, plan C as a gameplan. If plan A works long enough we keep doing it, and if we have to make some adjustments then we’ve usually worked on a backup plan or two. But once you get those plans in place…and our guys understand almost all those plans at this point in the season…it’s just a matter of implementing that one for that game. Thinking is more about go and making some plays and scoring the basketball. That’s where I thought we had to free up our minds better.
How much has the quality of basketball improved in the Pac-12 this season?
“I know it’s significantly better than a year ago. Someone told me we just had the first top-20 matchup game the first time since 2009 with UCLA and Oregon playing. We’ve got Arizona in the top 10 and a handful of teams floating around the top-25 level. Teams have proven there are a lot of competitive nights. Top to bottom it’s pretty strong. There are teams at the lower end, and we are one of them, that have given runs to some of the top teams. There are really no nights off. That’s not for me say because we are at the bottom tier, but if you’re a top tier team, I don’t think are any games where you can just punch a W and mail it in without knowing that you won’t have your hands full. I think the rest of country’s viewpoint is that we’re a lot stronger, from top to bottom.”
You have talked about the roster being fluid. Do you have a set eight or nine-man rotation
“I feel like we have a top eight or nine in my mind. Foul trouble always comes into play with that. Things are pretty well lined up in terms of who comes off the bench first. But it’s not always going to be set in stone, we’ve got three days of practice, and our guys know that. If they come out and have some solid practices they will be given an opportunity, that’s how you earn minutes. Especially our young kids. You have to remind the freshmen that they have a chance, with our staff, to come out and work and have an impact and not feel sorry for yourself. I was reading an article about C.J. Wilcox. He redshirted his freshman year and didn’t get much time his second year. It hasn’t been a bed of roses but he’s worked his tail off and now they’re talking about him as an NBA guy. So we have to remind the young kids, even if they were the star on their HS team or AAU team, it’s not easy. They have to continue to work, and for the most part our young guys have done that. There was a point late in the Washington game that we had four freshmen on the floor. It’s because those guys keep working in practice and making good progress.
I’m sure it was great to win against Washington but how quick were you to say it’s over and done and we are moving on?
“It was an enjoyable Sunday. It feels different for all of us. I just think winning is good medicine. My brother sent me a text giving me a hard time because I keep saying the sun still comes up after losses. So he said the sun did come up but it felt a little bit brighter than usual. So it was fun. But then you wake up this morning and you have one of the best backcourts in the league coming into town, and it’s the same thing we have been talking about. You try not to think too much previous game and focus on the next one.”
What has Jeremy Olsen done lately to earn more minutes?
“I think he’s in better condition, he’s getting up and down the floor better than before. He’s one of our guys in practice who, if you throw the ball in to him in the post, something good is going to happen 70% of the time or more. He is a solid post threat with his back to the basket. He might be the best on our team with his back to the basket. He has an ability to get a shot off. And he has improved defensively. He’s gaining confidence and he’s just been a grinder. He keeps after it, he’s a team guy, and he has put himself in position to play some minutes.
Can you talk about the job you have done on [Brock] Motum and Wilcox in the last two games?
“I think a lot of it starts with Cedric Martin. He was the guy we put on Motum to start the Washington State game. Brock is 4-man but prefers to be on the perimeter. He scores a lot of points on the perimeter against bigger guys. So by putting Cedric on him it was a little backwards offense for them. They have small guys setting screens on typically big guys and then Motum can pop and shoot. We felt like if we could invert that a little bit and put Loveridge on the perimeter and let him come in and set a screen on Cedric, Cedric would be more apt to get out, and he did a good job.
“I think that’s your job [as a coach], to find out the two or three key things that a team does to score points, then try to figure out a way to eliminate some of that. With Wilcox, Cedric is maybe not the best guy, because he is a bigger wing, in terms of chasing guys around screens the way we wanted to chase Wilcox off a screen. We don’t feel like Cedric is really good at guarding a guy like Wilcox. So we put Glen on him, and Glen did a great job of staying connected with him through the first half. I think that’s important. You come out and have a couple plans to make it hard on guys, but you can’t do it without some defensive-minded guys. When you put the challenge in front of them and someone is willing to step up to plate and do it…the plan sounds good on paper but if a player is not willing to do it, it’s all for not. And I think a lot of credit goes to those guys for taking the challenge.”
How special are these meetings with Coach Montgomery?”
“It’s a cool opportunity to get together with him. We’re both fighting and scratching right now. We haven’t had a lot of communication. They’ve been beat up and had some injury issues. I don’ think things have gone for either of us the way we would like, so we’re both a little on edge. I haven’t thought about it too much. It will be an opportunity to say hi before and after the game, but beyond that it’s a little more business. We enjoy company in the offseason at coaches meetings, but once the season is on there is not a whole lot of excitement or extra friendship about it.”