Dan Bernstein: We are going to be joined instead (of Bruce Weber who is recovering from his appendectomy) by Illini Assistant Coach Tracy Webster on the Score. Hello Tracy.
Tracy Webster: How are you doing?
Terry Boers: We are doing well, how about you my friend?
Webster: I'm doing well.
Bernstein: What signs do you look for at this point in the season to determine the readiness of a team to be good?
Webster: I think the consistency with how they work in practice. How hard the guys are coming out and working, and seeing how much they are picking up things and how quick they are picking things up. You can just tell in their conversation and their work ethic and their communication as a team.
Boers: By all accounts, this is a team that shouldn't be a problem with, right? The veteran players are pretty good leaders.
Webster: Yes, they are. Dee Brown does a great job of leading the guys, and I think every once else follows. I had a conversation last night with Dee about it, and I think when the guys see him 'Rah! Rah!' then they follow behind. We have other guys on the team that will do a great job, as far as Deron and Luther as well. But Dee is that guy who really gets those guys going.
Boers: I remember the days when Tracy Webster was every bit as quick as Dee Brown.
Webster: *laughs* Those days are over.
Boers: *laughter* What do you mean? You've got no quicks left, or what?
Webster: No quicks. I just play horse, shoot jump shots and stand behind that three point line, now.
Bernstein: Yeah, he's old Jordan.
Boers: Can you still shoot?
Webster: I try to. I think you get better as you get older because you can't move as much. So I'm a stand still shooter now.
Bernstein: Hey, Tracy assistant coaches have varying roles depending on the personality of the head coach of the team. Very often it allows for the classic good cop / bad cop kind of arrangement where the head coach can get to scream and yell and bark at guys, and then you can kind of put your arm around them and say 'Come on man, that's just coach being coach. Keep your head up.' But with Bruce, who really has sort of an effervescent, positive sort of vibe, do you ever get to be the bad cop? Does it change the dynamic at all?
Webster: I think it changes, but at the same time I am kind of like Coach Weber in a way, too. I can be that bad cop, but I try to be that good cop as well. Just playing at the high level you understand that some guys have it, as far as the IQ of the game. You have to figure out who really needs to get pushed. When the time is right, then you have to be that bad cop. I think all of our assistants do a good job of handling that when needed, as far as getting on the guy when Coach Weber can't.
Boers: As we look at the Illini bench this year we can see you occasionally throw an arm around a player?
Webster: Oh, no question. It's about teaching, and trying to point mistakes out. Trying to let them know what they've done good. It goes both ways. You have to let them know when they are doing good, but at the same time you got to get on them when they are not doing so well.
Bernstein: Does Bruce actively solicit your input during a game, or do you have to come up to him and say 'You know Coach, I think this guy is gassed', or 'I think this might be a match up we want to look at'? Does he come over to you and say 'Hey, Tracy what do you think?'
Webster: I think from the first two exhibition games we have played in, he will ask your opinion. Sometimes I will go up to him, or sometimes the staff will go up to him and say 'Hey this is what we see'. Sometimes he will come and say 'what do you guys think?', or 'do you see anything out there?' That helps us become better coaches as well as it helps the team become better players. We also feel that we help Coach Weber out as well.
Boers: Now, when your playing career ended you bounced around a little bit. This is sort of the life of an assistant coach these days, isn't it? You have been to a few different places already. I would guess the ultimate goal is to coach a college team, or are you thinking pros? What are you thinking in the future?
Webster: As an assistant, if you don't have that goal of trying to be a head coach at the college level, then you are really sitting in the business. I definitely want to become a head coach one day at the college level. I tell people who say to me that I am almost there, that the thing I want to do is work the job I am at right now. Try to do the best job that I can, and learn as much as I can. Then let the chips fall as they may.
Bernstein: One of my concerns as an Illini fan this year would be who's got the ball and when between Deron and Dee. Even though both have some abilities to play on the ball and off the ball, it has always been a question in a given set who's going to be better of zipping around the screens and who is going to be better with the basketball. Are you going to define the roles to start, or is it going to be play to play, match up to match up and situation to situation?
Webster: I think it is all of those. I think that you just have to understand who is hot at that particular time, or who is defending who. For example, last game Dee Brown maybe hit two or three in a row, and Deron being the smart player he is kept trying to find Dee in those situations until Dee cooled down. It was just a great thing to see. Those guys do the same thing for Luther. They are going to keep feeding him until he wears down. I think that is what good players do. They find the shooters, they find the post players who have the mismatches, and they just have to react. That is all about game planning and paying attention to detail and just knowing the game of basketball.
Boers: As we let you go here, Tracy it is interesting to me that when Dee got to Illinois, he was sort of the man and no one knew that much about Deron. Obviously that he was a guy that looked like he was going to be a great player, and then the roles sort of shifted. I am encouraged by you saying that the friendship and the basketball smarts between the two has remained. Because the natural thing I think for some guys, maybe on the next level, is the jealousy getting into it, or whatever, but these guys don't seem to feel that way about one another. If some body is hot, the other guy is going to get them the ball.
Webster: Yeah, I think that is huge in order to win a Big Ten Championship, and a National Championship. Those guys played with great players on their high school teams. Bracey Wright was probably the man when he played with Deron in high school. Dee also played with Shannon Brown and guys like that, so he had to share the spotlight with those guys. All in all it is all about really understanding the game and understanding your role at that particular time. You say well Dee Brown was the man his freshman year, I still consider Dee Brown the man. I think all those guys are the man depending on who is hot at that particular time. They have to just read each other and just feed off of each other. As coaches we have to continue to understand and just continue to let them know that on any particular night, Dee you may have twenty points and ten assists, Deron you may have twenty points and ten assists. It is not always going to be Deron Williams, Luther Head, or Dee Brown. It may be James Augustine or Nick Smith night. You just have to play and try to make sure these guys understand that you have to share the juices and the basketball.
Bernstein: Tracy I am glad we have had the chance to converse. I know this is your fourth stop as an assistant coach, but just judging from this conversation, you sure sound like a potential head coach. I'll give you that.
Webster: We'll see what happens. I'm having fun, it's a great situation for me, and I definitely look forward to working here.
Boers: Coach Bruce do you want to say good bye to Tracy?
Bernstein as Coach Bruce: Tracy I just wanted to say thanks. I'm in my hospital bed. We're really pleased with the medical care I've gotten. I'm happy with my recovery. Just coach the kids up and make sure they play defense and rebound. (Laughter is heard in the background from Webster)
Webster: Oh, come on get off of my coach. Get off of my coach, now. (Laughter from all three is heard)
Tracy Webster on Boers & Bernstein
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