Coach Alford Discusses Burning Issues

The Iowa Leader conducted a teleconference with the media Friday morning. He addressed his critics, his teams academic concerns, Pierre Pierce's NBA chances, Saturday's game with Northwestern and much more. Read all about it in this Premium Report.

Does the big win against Purdue help to get some of the critics off of your back?

(Laughs) No. I doubt it. I'm in a business where we understand that there are an awful lot of professional critiquers out there. There are an awful lot of individuals that really have nothing better to do with their time than stand on the sidelines or stand in the stands, and they've got all of the answers. Believe me, as a former player and now as a coach, he would be very exciting to just change places for just one evening or one afternoon to see truly what a player goes through at this level; truly what a coach goes through at this level.

The naysayers and the critiquers aren't really what concern me, and I've never been concerned with that. My concern is are we doing things the right way. Are our kids learning life lessons not just basketball lessons? Are we preparing our guys the best that we possibly can? Are we working at it as hard as any group could work at it? Then we've got to let the chips fall where they may.

Yeah, we're as unhappy as anybody with not having a winning season yet in the Big Ten. That's something we all aspire to every single year. It's not because we haven't worked at it or we haven't done things the right way. Those are the things that mean more to me. And nobody is more competitive than I am. Nobody watches the scoreboard any more than I do. But I think there is a greater scoreboard than just the ones that sit in Carver. We hope that our guys are learning as much about that as they are anything else. ------

Unfortunately, there were some rumors flying around yesterday that Nick DeWitz might be done as a Hawkeye. What's his status and may he play tomorrow?

It's really the same as what I told you after the (Purdue) game. The administration is who you would have to contact. I've been told that it's all about paper work getting in and getting out from the finish of a semester of all record being kind of put out there. I would say that his status for Saturday is very doubtful. And then long term, we're just kind of waiting and seeing.

Has he inidcated to you that he wants to leave or that he's thinking of leaving?


Could you talk about Erek Hansen's situation? Is that different than Nick's case?

Well. Yeah. It's really hard to say. To be honest with you, we're still in limbo waiting for paper work to be done. That's really the same with Erek as it is Nick at this time. We're hoping that that gets cleared up here in the next day or two. That's at least my hope. (laughs)

Can you explain how you guys monitor your kids academically, and is there a way that it can be done better?

It's like anything. You get players, you get student-athletes that come into your program. And we're no different than players all over the country. You've got players that get the job done on the floor, and they get the job done in the classroom. If they don't do one of those two things, they become unproductive for you. That's why they call it student-athlete.

I like our system. Not only do we have grade checks throughout the semester, we have attendance checks throughout the semester. Of all the programs on campus, we demand more hours out of our student-athletes to be at the learning center than any other program on campus. We have got a great setup. But the bottom line is that it comes down to - Does the student-athlete want to be successful? Do they want to work to be successful. And just like a lot of different areas in life, youy either accept that and do it or fight it and take the chance of getting burned somewhere down the road. That's the situation we're in right now. ----

Do you think Pierre will be an NBA player?

He's got all of the tools to play at the next level. One thing that he has worked on awfully hard during the last year has been his jump shooting. That's something that he's got to continue to work on. As i've told him, he's about a 20-foot jump shot away from being in the league one day. All the other tools he has. He's strong. He's athletic. He's hard to keep in front of. He can really drive the basketball. He rebounds well. He defends. He's got a great personality as far as he competes. There are not a lot of weaknesses to his game, and he just loves to play. When you've got that kind of passion, usually good things happen. -----

You guys have played so well on defense this year. Is there anything different that you're doing?

No. We're a little bit more experienced. We've got guys that have been in the program for four years. And that sophomore class is so tough. The makeup of that sophomore class is just a tough group mentally. Pierre and Bru and Jeff really understand things and they fight. The seniors have a lot of knowledge of what we want to do and their experience helps. Those combination of things has really helped us defensively this year.

Is this the most difficult prep from a defensive standpoint as far as what Northwestern does offensively?

Obviously, they're a lot different than anybody else we play in the league. You've really got to be patient defensively. If you're doing a lot of gambling, if you get caught out of a stance, if you're not talking, they're going to hurt you. That's why their offense is so hard to guard. Most defenses are not patient. For us to have a chance Saturday, we're going to have to be very patient defensively. ------

Can you talk about Mike Henderson a bit?

Freshmen go through an awful lot of changes. It's a lot different than high school. He's had his number of distractions that he should learn from. It's hard enough to play at this level. When you've got distractions, it really complicates things. In the Purdue game, he just really relaxed. He was very aggressive. He's always been very sound in doing things for us defensively. But what he did offensively really helped us. If he can continue to do that, it gives us another option to score.

Do you think he's learned his lessons, and he can take off from here?

In this business, whether you're dealing with a 19-year old or a senior that's 22, it's always hard to tell. We as individuals probably are learning lessons every day. That's how we mature. We hope that that's the case. But I don't think there's any 100 percent there. ------

You and your staff stepped aside a little and let the players decided how they wanted their season to go. Could you talk about that strategy and how they received it?

We were a little tight and a little frustrated as a team. I wanted to make sure that when we went into a new season that everybody was on the same page; to make sure that if there were any frustrations offensively, defensively or role playing, that those things came out. I just wanted to get out in the open, among players and coaches, if there were any issues from an offense, defense or role playing type of thing, let's make sure we talk about those things. Everybody was on the same page that way. I kind of knew that when I said that. And also, just to reaffirm from a coaching point of view, that as a player that you do take responsibility. It is your basketball team. I wanted the team to know that. ------

Does the 3-point shooting concern you?

Not as much as what foul shooting would concern me. Foul shooting is something that we want to do every single game. It's a big part of our offense that we get there 20-30 times. The 3-point line can help extend things. In the last several games, we've played people that have pressured us. So, drawing people out hasn't been a problem. The 3-point line can help extend defenses. I don't know if that's a great strength of ours. Not that it's a weakness. But if you can beat a Top 25 team without making a three, it proves that you can do that. We'd like to be able to make eight threes a game. But if we're not going to be a great 3-point shooting team, then let's make sure we're pounding the ball inside and getting easy scores.

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