Ben Howland talks on Tuesday:
BH: okay. Questions?
Q: how different does this Cal team look from what you saw before?
BH: [Mike Montgomery] is obviously a Hall of Fame coach. He's closing in on 700 career victories in his illustrious career. His teams have always improved throughout the year, and this team is no exception. They've beaten Oregon now and then Arizona on the road in successive weekends. They're really executing well offensively. [Allen] Crabbe is obviously a player-of-the-year candidate and arguably our hardest guy to defend in the league. He's leading the lead in scoring in conference games. I love [Justin] Cobbs. That backcourt duo is the best in the conference. They're just really playing well. And both teams are improving. I watched that game last night from the first game of the year, and we're a much better team, I believe, when we play at home. And I think they're a lot better as well.
Q: when you say that they're better, are they just doing the same things but just doing it better?
BH: yeah, just executing better.
Q: any sort of changes to…
BH: not really. They're just executing really well right now.
Q: you talked a little bit about their rebounding in PAC-12 call this morning. Is that the most frustrating part about coaching this team this year?
BH: well, you know, I knew that somebody would ask that question. What I first talked about. But you're not talking about it… is the [audio difficulties] field goal percent difference which I'm really pleased about. And prior to that, I talked about [audio difficulties] best in the conference in taking care of the basketball. If there was a negative to look at, which is what usually gets pulled out, would be obviously be our rebounding margin. If we're going to have a chance to win this conference, we're not going to win it continuing on the path we're on from a rebounding standpoint. We have to continue to do those things. We've done a great job all year of taking care of the basketball, and when you look where we were defensively in November compared to where we've been since the conference began, and the separation when you look at the conference stats between our field goal percentage defense and the next is minute. What's not minute is when you look at the rebounding margins as a team, it's huge. We're dead last in that area. We're #1 in field goal percentage defense against the 3. 26%. The next is 29%. We're #2 in field goal percentage defense. 41.6%. The next is 42.2%. So 0.6%. But what's alarming, and it's been alarming for us for awhile now, and we've just got to figure out, is our rebounding margin. We're at -6.1. Utah is -5.6. And the next is 2.2. So it's a big thing.
Q: you guys have worked on rebounding a lot. Do you try to change things? Or do you just keep going back to fundamentals?
BH: just keep emphasizing it. We need more rebounds out of our guards, primarily Larry [Drew II]. We've got to get more rebounds out of Jordan [Adams]. We have to get more rebounds out of Norman [Powell]. We have to get more rebounds out of Shabazz [Muhammad]. I'm talking about the defensive end. On the offensive end, Jordan, Larry, and Norman [audio difficulties].
Q: when you talk about needing to get more rebounds out of your guards, how delicate of a balance is that when you're trying to push the ball too? They're going to be wanting to get out.
BH: in other words, you can't push it unless you get stops, ideally. It's very hard. We've had more baskets in transition on made baskets this year than we've ever had in my tenure. But if you're taking the ball to the net, it's so much easier to defend than if you're taking it off the glass, and because we've been so emphasis-heavy on transition, that's been part of our issue.
Because guys are so anxious to get out and get going that they're not rebounding, Chris [Foster, Los Angeles Times], so it's a really important point that you're making. I think about this all the time. I'm alone in my thoughts constantly thinking about this stuff. And so it's a tradeoff. We're a much better transition team. But we don't have a Kevin Love getting every rebound for us so it makes it more difficult when you give up that kind of difference.
Q: what's been the difference? Early in the PAC-12 season, you weren't getting outrebounded by double digits. I think it was 1 or 2 a game for the first few games. But lately, it's been…
BH: well, I point this out that when we played Washington, if you go back and look at that box score, you'll see that the difference was we missed 11 more shots than they did from the field because we weren't as efficient offensively and that was like the difference in the rebounding margin. It's exactly how many more shots we missed. The difference was they had 19 turnovers to our 10. So some of that is that offensively, we haven't been as good in terms of field goal percentage efficiency, and we're not getting as many back. I talked about it with Travis [Wear]. We need Travis to get more offensive rebounds. And I thought that Dave [Wear] had a great practice today. Really shot the ball well. Did a really nice job. And was excited about that. And Norman had a great practice today. Norman was our best player on the court today in practice so that was good. We probably went a little long today because we had guys in the morning as well. So tomorrow will be a very short practice.
Q: is Travis fully recovered from the Strep throat thing?
BH: yes, but Dave has got a cough. Dave is seeing the doctor today because he's got a cough, and he was hacking. So hopefully, he'll get some kind of meds so that he'll be feeling perky for Thursday.
Q: how surprised were you to wake up yesterday and find yourself in first place?
BH: yeah. We knew it Sunday night. Yeah, but… I mean… you know, this thing I thought going into the season would come down to the last weekend. I still think that whoever wins the conference, it'll be decided the last weekend of the conference. And you know what? I just heard. I don't know if you guys are aware of this, not going to change the subject, but I guess they got [Chris Dorner] surrounded at Big Bear. That's so great. I'm so happy to hear that for everybody's safety out there. Puts it into perspective to have the police closing in on that guy. It's tremendous.
Q: we were talking rebounding margin before you came at us with...
BH: yeah, I'm sure of it.
Q: Coach, is there a sense from the guys that if they don't leak out that it will hurt their transition game?
BH: No, I don't think so. [audio difficulties] that's what you do. I want to get out there first and score, you know? You go watch the games in the summer, right? There's not a lot of great blockouts there.
Q: has that style kind of made rebounding a bit of a lost art among the younger players?
BH: not at all. If you went back and studied the Final Four say in the last 10 years, you'll see that almost without exception, every one of those teams, rebounding margin is close to double digits. So it directly correlates to dominating the glass. And we've made up for it by taking great care of the basketball, #1. And being efficient offensively for the most part during the year.
Q: Coach, what's the difference in having a higher profile athlete on your team like Shabazz now versus when Kevin was here?
BH: it's even more connected. Even in the last 5 years, how social media has just exponentially continued to grow. It's just like that thing… they're making such a big deal to… in this town, with the Clippers and the Lakers, our players are more closely treated like a pro than a college player in terms of how they're perceived because of social media and the media. Like the thing with Shabazz after Larry made the shot the other day, that would've never even been discussed 5 years ago. I just think it just continues to grow. And I think when you're in a town like our town, where the Kobe-Dwight Howard thing. Everybody just feeds off that kind of stuff.
Q: how do you think he's handled that?
BH: great. Unbelievable. Like I told somebody, there's nothing to it. Shabazz and Larry… I was talking today on a radio show, was on the radio show with Jeff Goodman and Steve Lapace and I was talking about… those guys… they're best friends. Larry's got the nicest place on the whole team. His dad's a multimillionaire. And he has his own apartment over here in an awesome area of Westwood. He's got a swimming pool, the workout room. His parents got him the nicest spot he could be in. It's decorated. It's nice. They're best buddies. So believe me. They were very happy after that game. I was so glad no one got hurt. We already got a guy get hurt in warm-ups this year. Imagine that. That was a possibility that somebody could've gotten hurt. They were jumping around just right now. You never know.
Q: is Shabazz unfairly scrutinized at times? From the backpack to…
BH: yeah, but any time you're the #1 player in the country and you have that… "He's a top-10 pick in the NBA draft right now"… any time you have that, you have so much more scrutiny because there's so much interest. And he is a great kid. You guys have all talked to him. Interviewed him. Couldn't be a nicer young man. And for everything that he's dealt with in terms of all that attention and all of that scrutiny at such a young age and because of where social media is now and because of the interest in college basketball, to me, it's just amazing how humble he is and what a great kid he is.
Q: Kevin… didn't he have an issue with the Internet and social media?
BH: well, you know what? He had a death threat on his phone on our way to Oregon that year. And that was pretty disgusting. But other than that, no, it wasn't close to where we are right now. Facebook 5 years ago is so different than it is now. It's just a totally different world. You guys are tweeting a lot more than you were 5 years ago. It's expected. It's expected during a game that you need to be tweeting to your followers and your readership and that wasn't there 5 years ago. It's just so different. And where is it going to be 10 years from now? No one knows. Who knows.
Q: does that make your job harder or just different in that way?
BH: different. Just different. It just makes it more… everything's more scrutiny. Everybody's looking for a story. Comment. Response. You know…
Q: does that [audio difficulties] from just 5 years ago when you could focus a little bit more on basketball and not every little media…
BH: of the changes that continue to happen, everything's evolving. So if you're stuck in the past… I'm trying to evolve too. I talked about, going into the season, we're running more. Things… we're always trying to evolve and we have to keep up with change. I'm not doing my tweeting during the game. Maybe that'll be next, you know. "Time out guys, I've got to tweet here."
Q: Ben, going back to the rebounding. I'm sure you're harping on it in practice until you're blue in the face, but do you think the guys really understanding? I mean, they're winning games, getting outrebounded.
BH: yeah, I think you should ask them. They're hearing from me until I'm blue in the face. And it'll be big for us here as we move forward. The closer you get to March… it's big. And people are looking at it. People are saying, "hey, they're getting outboarded. We have to kill them on the glass." It's a point of emphasis. I'm sure it was with the [Washington] Huskies.
And I just want to say this, but I haven't had a chance to reach out to him, but I was really sad to hear about Lorenzo Romar's mother. He's a former Bruin. Just a great person. I've known him since high school. I just found out Sunday that his mother passed away. There was no media coverage of that. And if you guys were listening to the conversation today, about whether… on behalf of UCLA basketball, our thoughts and prayers are with Lorenzo and his family. Both here locally where he grew up and with his family in Seattle.
Howland's Tuesday Press Conference
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