Have you heard the thing that's going on with J.R. Angle? (click here for details)
I saw an article that came across my desk. That's about as crazy as…
Have you spoken to him or his dad?
I have not. I think dad has talked to Coach Angle because they talk a lot. But it's typical jealousies that go across this country. When you've got the talent to get 28 a night and be second in the state in scoring and rebounding in a state like Indiana, there are going to be a lot of petty jealousies. Obviously, there are a lot of petty jealousies on that team.
Have you ever encountered that playing?
No. I had very good teammates.
According to a lot of the preseason annuals, you started the season on the hot seat. Now, you have a chance to go above .500 in the league. What would you say to those critics now?
I don't know who those people are, but they've got to sell magazines. It doesn't matter what we finish out now. Whenever that season's over, and I'm sitting at the Final Four and we're not a part of it, I'll feel like I'm on the hot seat. Come next fall, I'll feel like I'm on the hot seat. I don't know of any coach in this business anymore where you don't feel like your seats either warm or hot. That's all part of the territory. To be real honest about it, I can't pay any attention to it. It's like I tell the players, "Worry only about the things that you've got control over." That's something I just don't have control over. Whether it's luke-warm, warm, hot, cold, I don't have any control over it. I really pay very little attention to it.
Let's say that you get a Big Ten winning record and you get to the NCAA Tournament. What are they going to get on you about then?
The way that things go each year, you never know. People will always try to look at a positive and a negative. You try to find a positive. You try to find a negative. You spin a positive into a negative. You spin a negative into a positive. It's always been relative. It's always been about the spin. Hey, nobody's more upset than I am about our Big Ten regular season record the last five years. I'd like for that to change. Do I know that in that five-year period we've had an awful lot, an awful lot of bad luck? Without question. If you don't think we've had bad luck in the last two or three years, then you haven't followed our team. We had our share of tough luck, and yet we've still managed to have winning seasons. And we've still managed to get to the post season, where a lot of teams would crumble and not even be a part of the March situations. But then, how do you spin it? I've only been in the league four years, but our teams have had the best record of any team in the league in the history of the Big Ten Tournament. So, it's all about what you want to look at. We know that. I've learned in this business that you don't fight these things. You don't try to argue those things. It's there. There are facts both ways. I know how hard we work to prepare our teams. We do a very good job of that. If you can get to March and still have your kids playing hard and at a very god level, and doing that with a lot of depletions, that speaks volumes about your program.
What can you do at this point of the season with Pierre's free throw shooting and his shot?
Leave him alone. Not talk about it. Let him figure that thing out. He's a very fierce, tough competitor. Right now, it's eating at him more than we'd like for it to eat at him. Again, it's kind of the spin. He's not shooting the free throw well. It's affected his jump shooting. But, he's the best driver in the Big Ten. I wouldn't trade him as a defender in the backcourt in the Big Ten. He's the best defender in the Big Ten right now. He does a great job of rebounding. His assist-turnover ratio in the last three weeks has been outstanding. He's our best drive and kick guy. I'm not going to change a whole lot now. Those are things we'll work on in the spring. I just want him to get there. In the last few games, he's been a little passive about getting to the line because he's worried about the miss.
Overall attendance is down a little bit, per game. Any more thoughts about why that is? Is there more that can be done? Is it marketing?
All of those variables come in. We're not 20-4. The big time winning always takes care of that. The expectations three years ago were at an all-time high. Again, it's the spin. Five years ago, there was no student section. We created that student section. Were there students that were coming to the game? Sure there were. Just like we have students coming to the games now that aren't part of the Hawk's Nest. That group grew to almost 3,000, which was the largest in the country. It's still hovering around 1,000, which would still rank in the Top 10 percent of all student sections in the country. Our attendance is down a little bit, but when you compare it to other Big Ten schools, we're right where we normally are even if we're getting 15,500. Ohio State is down. It has the largest arena in the Big Ten. I would guess that we're anywhere from 4-6 in overall attendance this year in the Big Ten. That's where we are record wise. A lot of those things kind of parallel one another. If we beat Wisconsin and Northwestern here, probably the three or four games are sellouts instead of the last couple. You look at some schools that are having incredible success, and they still can't get sellouts. I don't think that's the case here. When we've been at a high level of success, we've had those sellouts. Right now, we're in the middle of the pack.
Is this a trend nationally?
There are a lot of variables. Times are tighter. When the team's not a lock to make the tournament or a lock to compete for a championship, people have choices. Now, there's a chance to stay home and watch TV. All of our games are on television. But ultimately, the winning always takes care of it. You win at a high level, and it's really hard to find a seat.