Dec. 11, 2007
Utah Head Coach Jim Boylen Press Conference
Dec. 10, 2007
"In Saturday's game, I thought we had our opportunities. I thought we got enough stops to win the game. We didn't execute down the stretch, didn't play with enough grit down the stretch. All that said, we still had a chance to tighten that thing up. An open shot goes in there, a layup goes in here.
"I got asked a question in the (postgame) press conference about "your team plays hard and are you happy with the competitiveness?" I'd like to revisit that. I am happy with my team's competitiveness. We have improved our defense from last year. We do get down in games and fight our way back. What I try to figure out is why get down. I'm thankful that we fight our way back. We are learning how to compete. We have to take the next step that the competing is taken for granted. That's our foundation is competing and now we learn how to win. That's what I've been focused on for the last 36 hours or so since I saw you guys last.
"That being said, we're in finals week. School is very important to me. The goal for our program is graduation, not just eligibility. Graduation is what we strive for. This week's a big part of that. I'm not a big believer in finals week as the tell-all. I think you've got to build up to that. That's why I talk about preventive maintenance versus crisis management. Right now, we're in preventive maintenance. My guys are doing well in school and we need to finish it off similar to a game. We've done enough to be in the game, academically, now we've got to finish it off. Again, I think that's a big part of this process. My guys are students first. They're young men who go to school. It's important to me.
Question: Are you worried about anybody's grades or eligibility for next semester?
Answer: "No. I don't have any guys that I'm worried about who won't be eligible. Do I have a couple guys who I'm on to do better and not be average students? I am. We are still fighting a culture in this program where my players were allowed to be average and it was accepted. We're going to change that. We have changed it. It is not where it needs to be. We're fighting that on all levels. I'm going to keep fighting the good fight and we're going to build this thing with guys that think an A is acceptable, not a C; that think winning is acceptable, not just playing hard.
Question: About working practices around finals
Answer: "We've got one guy who has to leave early. We try to schedule it around. I like to give my guys time to recover after practice for their exam. But I also think there's a big misconception. Having the whole day off isn't good either, as far as basketball. It's nice to break a sweat, clear your head; hit your books before, break a sweat, clear your head, hit 'em after, get something to eat, hit 'em again. That's kind of the way we do our (game) preps. We hit it for an hour, come back, hit it again, hit it again. That redundancy, going over it and over it. We have kind of the same philosophy academically. I think breaking a sweat this time of year is a good thing. We're not going to go three hours like we did in preseason. But we'll go an hour and 20, get some skill work in and try to use this week to get better individually at both ends of the floor. That's our focus (Monday). Our focus Wednesday will be similar. Thursday and Friday, we'll do more with our game plan and prep. I call it kind of an individual getting better week, with skill work and school."
Question: How do you teach a team or how do they learn to win?
Answer: "You have to explain to them where there was a chance to take it, where there was a chance to grab it by the throat and take it over. You have to explain to them where those opportunities were. We had that in Washington, up two with three minutes to go. They put a little press on us, we turned it over and changed the momentum. That was our opportunity to break that press, handle that situation, get it to four, maybe it's over. We didn't do it. The other night, we had four stops in a row, when they had a four-point lead. If you get four chances to get it to two or one, you've got to do that. It was a turnover, a bad shot, poor execution. Then it was a run-out layup, an and-one, an offensive rebound. Making plays at the end of games is not always a bucket. To me, it's a rebound, a cut-out, a charge. Something that gives you a chance to take the lead, something that stops them from extending the lead, something that shows them that they're not getting this one, whatever it is. But you give up a tip in, you give up a transition bucket after a bad shot, that tells them that you don't want it. You aren't going to steal it from them. You're not going to grab them by the throat and take it over."
Question: What's the difference between making those plays in earlier parts of the game, as opposed to the end of the game?
Answer: "I think it comes down to toughness, mental toughness. Understanding that that point in the game, you've got to play a little tougher, be a little tougher, grit your teeth but be mentally tough. Everybody thinks I talk about toughness as, you know (puts up his hands like a boxer). It's not that. It's some of that. Physical toughness is important. Conditioning is very important. Our conditioning is 10 times better than it was last year. But it's a mental approach to the game that you understand what needs to be done, you understand how to get it done and you make the adjustments through the adversity in the game. We have to learn that. This team won 14 games two years ago and 11 last year, so we've got 12.5 wins average in two years. We haven't won a lot of close games here, lost six by three points or less last year. To me, it is a process. We've improved our defense, we've improved our execution. Again, we held (Oregon) to 75 points, which I think is good. They did shoot 53 percent. They only made four three's, they were making 8 or 8.7 I think. As a coach am I going to evaluate us on some small victories and some games inside the game. Yeah, I'm going to evaluate that. But it comes down to can you make that one play or those two plays that get you over the hump. It's no different to me when you're up 15, they cut it to 10 and you make a three. That run's over. That one's stymied. You're up 10 and you take a charge, when they cut have cut it to eight. Or you're up 10 and Kim Tillie comes over and tips the ball in to go to 12. That might be it. That might be the play. It's no different. But because of the score, sometimes people evaluate it differently. Those are winning plays. They might come when you're four down, they might come when you're 10 up. They might come up when you're 20 up. This is all part of the process with this team. My job is to explain to them where they need to be accountable for what they've done and then take ownership of next time of it not happening again."
Question: About inconsistency in the guard play, different leading scorers, etc.
Answer: "Lawrence (Borha) is a guy who plays off other people. He gets open looks from passes out from the post, from drive-and-pitch. He is going to be like that. Our team is like that. We've had six different leading scorers in eight games, or maybe it's five and Kim Tillie was the second-leading scorer when Luke had 20 the other day. Our team is going to be like that. We have an offense and a system where we take what the defense gives us. We can play inside. We can play outside. We can run. That's going to change who your main guys are that night in scoring. I don't look at it as a negative. Our assist-to-turnover ratio is very poor. That is a negative and a reflection of guard play. But we're going to have different scorers and guys who have big nights and guys who don't, because we're going to try to attack the weaknesses of a defense with the weapons that we have. That's going to be different guys on different nights. I think that makes you a hard team to guard. Did Oregon think Kepkay was going to get 23 and just kill 'em on the high pick-and-roll? I don't know if they did. But that's what was there, that's what we took and for a while I thought it was damn effective. They had to change their defense on the pick-and-roll in the second half. They did. We had a couple opportunities for Luke because of that. He made two baskets in a row, gets a bloody nose, comes out. It's no excuse, but it changed the game a little bit."
Question: About Tyler Kepkay's progress ...
Answer: "I just met with Tyler. He was in our office, studying for an exam. I met with him for five minutes and I just told him `I never felt more connected to you than in that Oregon game.' He looked me in the eye, he was attentive in the huddle, he communicated to his teammates. What I said was `That's gotta be there when you're not scoring. That's got to be there when somebody else has the big night.' Again, he's a developing player. He's eight games into a totally different system, level and opportunity than he had before. He's not the best player on our team. He's one of the best players on our team. He doesn't get to play through his mistakes as much as he used to. He has to take more ownership in how the other guys do. He hasn't had those responsibilities. Again, it's a process for him like the rest of this team."
Question: Does Tyler Kepkay have a hard time getting dialed in when he's not scoring?
Answer: "I don't know if he does. But I posed that question to him, that it's got to be that no matter what you're doing. If you're assisting every play, because we're going inside or if you're starting what we're supposed to run it's got to be the same thing. I used to say this about the pros and it can be this way in college, too. Everybody wants to win, but only if they can be the man. I just want to make sure that he understands that we're going to win and he's got to be whatever we need him to be on that night. It just happened to be that he was scoring at Oregon. Against Utah State, he came out and made plays, got the break going. The one thing I'd like to say is he's doing a better job in our transition game. He had one turnover at Oregon, throwing the ball over the top and getting the ball to the wings, he's doing a better job and our running game is important to us."
Question: About Missouri State on Saturday ...
Answer: "I haven't watched a whole lot of Missouri State film. I've been working on our team and getting ready for finals. They (Missouri State) come from a very competitive league. They have a terrific coach. They've been a bubble team in the NCAA Tournament with over 20 wins, probably should have gotten in. Everybody knows how tough it is to get in the tournament now. Another quality home game against a quality opponent. Again, another proof that we are scheduling a big-time schedule. Utah State, at Oregon, Missouri State at home, at Cal, Idaho State and then at Gonzaga ... that's as good a six games as you're going to have at this time of year. That's what we need and I've got a lot of respect for our opponent coming in Saturday. But we're going to spend these first two-three days of the week on school and getting better and then, Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning we'll do our prep."