"In terms of looking at how things ended up, obviously if we had been more consistent during the season we wouldn't have been in the position of playing the No. 1 seed in their home territory. I think the progress of the team was good. I think we were playing our best basketball at the time when we needed to be at our best.
"If you look back at the last 10 or 12 games, I thought we played really well. Looking back at the tapes from Villanova and Wisconsin, we did a great job of moving the basketball and getting the ball to the open man. I thought our defense was good all year. Our rebounding was not as consistent as I had hoped, but I think the guys in the program made great improvements, starting with Ivan (Radenovic). He turned into a very complete player for us. He's going to be a great leader for us next year. Kirk's (Walters) improvement was great. He became more aggressive. The last game (Villanova) was a problem game because that's exactly the type of game that he would have problems in and that's the reason we didn't play him in the second half...because of the match-ups.
"I'm pleased with Fendi's (Onobun) progress. Mustafa (Shakur) down the stretch played the best he's ever played. I'm very happy with Daniel Dillon's development. He got to the point where he was a very solid defender. He did a good job offensively taking care of the ball. He took open shots when everyone knew he should take it. I think Daniel is going to continue to develop for us. Bret Brielmaier did an unbelievable job. With Mohamed (Tangara), it didn't show with the amount of playing time that he got, but he's coming along very well. Defensively he's always done a good job and he's always been aggressive on the glass. His biggest thing is adjusting to offensive moves and items like balance. But I think he'll be ready to step up big for us."
Do you think that you are a top 25 team?
"Yes. But I think people will have to make the decision themselves. Certainly the way we played over the last 10 games and when we had our opportunity to go in the playoffs, I think it was pretty obvious that we were among the top 25 teams in the country. I think (Villanova head coach) Jay Wright gave us a great compliment by saying that this isn't an eight (seed) vs. a one. This is more like a one vs. a one in terms of how we had been playing and how we played against them.
"There is a real question in my mind, in fact, as to whether a team should play the tough schedules. If you take a look within our league where Washington and ourselves split, we went a game deeper in the league tournament. Maybe it is best to play 10 of your first 11 at home. They say they are not going to be influenced by a team's record. But I'm not ready to buy that. I think, particularly when it comes to ranking teams in the top 25, they are looking at records. They are not looking at who you've played. We played 11 non-conference and five of them were in McKale Center."
That hasn't been your philosophy...
"Well, it's not been my philosophy. It's not my philosophy in terms of making teams better. I'm not sure they follow up with what they say. Maybe we should play more like some of the teams do where they play 75 percent of their games at home. It's certainly something that I'm looking at and thinking about right now because I think it does have an effect.
"I still think if you are going to develop as a team, you need to play the best competition you can play. But I do think it hurts you in your seeding."
Could you talk about Marcus Williams and his progress?
"Marcus made good improvement. With Marcus, his improvement has been amazing. But it's not amazing because the talent is there and he is an absolute gym rat. I remember talking with him last year after his (high school) season was over last year and said that he had to develop a left hand or he was never going to be able to go anywhere with the ball. He went from somebody who was strictly a right-handed handler to somebody that didn't make any difference whether he was going left or right. That's the kind of kid he is in terms of his work ethic.
"When I asked him what were the things that he thought needed to improve, he said I need to get stronger. It's not a case of putting on a lot of weight. I just need to get stronger. I need to be more aggressive in terms of rebounding. And he said, I need to make a correction on my shot. If you watch, it's not the normal backspin that you need. He already knows what it is, that it's his guide hand. That's what we had talked about. In his shooting, he's going to have to make sure that he leaves the guide hand right at the top of his head when he goes to shoot it because he has a little too much left hand on it. Instead of being on the side of the ball, it's a little bit towards the front so when he releases it, that's what messes it up. His shot from three-point range has to be a swish because if it gets any part of the rim, instead of the rotation that makes the ball sort of die and gives you the touch, his because of the rotation would spin it off.
"He's so aware of the things that he needs to do that he can't wait to start working on them. He's already got his plans for the summer and what he needs to do. He's asked Fendi if he wants to come up and spend some time in Seattle because they can work out up there against really good players. He's just amazing. He's a guy that we're probably not going to see around here for a whole lot of additional years. He's also aware of what I've always told our guys here. It's not about getting drafted. It's about getting there, staying there and playing. All too often young guys look at things like, well I can get drafted. A lot of guys can get drafted, but what happens then. Are you ready to become a player in that league. He really has his head on right.
"His improvement was amazing if you look at it. In that last game where he went to the line 15 times, that's an indication of how much there is to continue in his development. He needs a quicker first step and he needs to be more explosive with his jump shot. There a lot of times where he makes the drive and by the time he releases the shot there is a lot of pressure on him. That's because he's not quick enough in exploding into the shot. He is a very knowledgeable young guy and very willing to work."
What about Jawann McClellan?
"I frankly thought going into the year that he was going to be one of our leading scorers and leading rebounders because he's so aggressive to the boards. It's an exciting team to look forward to. I met with them as a group yesterday and just talked about our foreign trip and their plans for the summer and the plans that they needed to make. They are really fired up about it.
"I think Ivan really stepped up and Mustafa stepped up in terms of communicating more and being more of a factor with the leadership. I think Kirk's personality has developed a lot and I think it's going to be more so as he goes through the summer. In the past, he's talked about going home for the better part of the summer. Now, he wants to be here so that he can work on his game. He's around 240 (pounds) now, which is up 30 from when he got here, but he needs to have a target of 15-20 more pounds between now and next year."
I remember a few years back you saying that A.J. Bramlett had had the most improvement of any guy. But Ivan in the last two months has skyrocketed into a confident player. Would you compare him to A.J.?
"When you take into account all of the things with Ivan having to come to this country – all of the cultural changes, the language change – the first year was really difficult for him, probably because he had to play against Andre (Iguodala) and Hassan (Adams) every day. He learned to shoot and duck at the same time (laughs). That first year we finally made him go to every shot underneath had to be a reverse lay-in to where he could go to the other side of the bucket so he had protection from the rim from somebody swatting it. Adjusting to the speed and quickness of basketball in this country as opposed to what he was accustomed to in Europe. The European players are better fundamentally, but basically it's a quickness difference, an athleticism difference.
"But his improvement the last year and a half is comparable with anybody we've had in the program. A.J., yes, but if you take a look at Channing (Frye) and where he was when he came and where he ended up, that's the combination of somebody who is willing to work hard and is very coachable."
Could you describe what next year's team will look like?
"It's going to be very quick. We're going to be a much, much better shooting team. In talking with our guys, they are excited about the guys coming in because of the personalities and their abilities. They are fired up about that. They are anxious to get those guys here because they know that they are going to be the kind of guys that fit into the team concept.
"This team is going to be very quick. We're going to have good overall size. It's a very exciting team for the players on the team to look forward to and really exciting for us as coached for us to look at what this team will be like."
When you look back at Hassan Adams' career here, was it like what it could have been?
"The whole thing in coming in was with his athleticism. It wasn't a case of where he had played on the perimeter. Most everything was around the basket area. When you take a look at his development that way, from the standpoint of his ability to handle the ball, his ability to stand on the perimeter or inside, I think he made great progress there. From a coaching standpoint, the disappointment would be in his rebounding. I think he'd be the first one to tell you that, too. But as far as developing his shot if you could go back and look at him as a freshman and see him now, he has great arc and great lift. As far as the pros are concerned, he is a guy that is going to be able to knock down open shots, which I don't think you could have said about Hassan maybe even a year ago. I think he made good progress in all the areas. The disappointment to me is that I think he should have been our leading rebounder and that was something we talked about a whole lot."
You have a good record following foreign trips. What is it that you accomplish on those trips?
"It's a bonding experience for the guys. I think it's going to be a great cultural experience for them. The class that they are going to take they will spend the first week here studying about all of the places they are going to visit. And not just about the physical things there, but the cultural. When you take a look at Belgrade and what the people in that area have had to go through, it's really been about 5,000 years of war. From Ivan's standpoint, he's excited about the fact that the guys are going to see the differences in how they've had to deal with all of these problems through the years. We face the terrorism thing now, but that's something that's been there for thousands of years.
"Dr. (Donna) Swaim, who is going to be teaching the class, has a lot of experience in teaching students internationally and taking students on tour. I think it's going to be the kind of educational experience that they will look back on the rest of their lives and say that that was a wonderful opportunity. Playing in the games will be great because we can play everybody equal time, but I think that would be the third thing that I would look at. I'd look at number one the team bonding and probably the cultural experience that it's going to be.
"We'll visit the Vatican with probably the best tour guide I've ever had anything I've had to do with. In Florence it will be two people that I know that can present more than what the normal tour guide can provide.
"We'll land in London and go directly from there to Belgrade. We'll be in Belgrade for three nights, two games. Ivan's mom is going to cook a typical Serbian meal for the team. We'll fly from there to Milan and then right on to Venice and we'll tour Venice. We'll play in Treviso, which is fairly close to Venice – that's the home of Bennetton – and we'll play one of the Bennetton teams. So we'll go by rail through Italy. We'll play in Treviso and then we'll be in Bologna for two days and two nights. It's a college town. (Assistant coach) Miles (Simon) has played just outside of Bologna, and he said it was one of his favorite places. We'll go by train to Florence and do a half-day tour of Florence and there is still a possibility of playing a game there. If not, we will take the train down to Rome. We'll be in Rome for three days, two games. We'll take one day to tour the Vatican and the southern hills of Rome. The great thing about Rome is I think it's like an open-air museum. We play two games in Rome and then we fly to Barcelona. The day we fly there we don't play that night. We'll go to a seaside community called Sitges, which is an artist colony, and they will have a day at the beach. We'll play a game in Barcelona, fly to Paris. The first day will be for tours of Paris and then we will play two games there and fly back here on Sunday. It's a lot to happen in two weeks. We leave on the 21st of May."
What is status of guys entering the NBA Draft?
"I don't know, yet. If anyone did that I would the think the first one would be Mustafa. There has been some discussion that Marcus might. They may test the waters. I think both would come back with recognition of All-America-type teams which would be beneficial for us. We'll check that out. The key thing that I've always told our guys here is if someone is thinking about that, they need to make sure that they are not listening to the wrong people. Let us have the talk with people that are respected, honest.
"The NBA is made up of guys that if you are a great athlete, you've got a chance of making your mark. It's more open court kinds of things. (Hassan) would be great on a team like the Suns or someone like that, who really gets the ball up the court. If I had to guess, I'd say he'd be somewhere around 20."