Average attendance here last year slipped to an all-time low in this building. What's it going to take to turn that around?
Well, obviously, we've been through a lot. That always affects your attendance. And when you're not winning at an incredible rate, that's not going to help things.
So, all of us know within our program that the cure-all to all of that is win. We've got a chance here in 13 non-conference games. It's a great home schedule. It's a great neutral site schedule. We've got a pivotal road game at Drake that's in-state rivals. The schedule is set up to where it gives us an opportunity to get out of the shoot and get some wins under our belts.
Hopefully by winning and people seeing the kind of enthusiasm that our guys play with those attendance numbers will grow.
What prompted you to make the changes in the coaching staff?
Dad being in it 40 years. It wasn't any change that I made. It was all my father's decision that it was time to get out. When he retires then it opens up a spot on our staff.
I certainly appreciate everything that my father has meant to my career in a vast number of ways. I'm very happy for he and mom. I hope they get back to Iowa City in awhile. They've been gone forever. He's jumped into the retirement thing with both feet.
Hopefully he can get back here. He's going to be on the sideline. He's going to continue to help. Now, he doesn't fall under rules and regulations. Yet, he's still my dad. So, he can help in a vast number of ways with me.
Yet, that opening has created a spot to where I can get Coack Walker who's been on the road a lot and has an incredible amount of experience at this level get to him to where he's more of an in-house figure to where he's around the guys 24-7 and can have more of an impact in-house than he's had to do in recruiting.
It's also opened up a position where I can bring in a very dear friend of mine; somebody that's my age; somebody that's had a career similar to mine as far as playing at a high level collegiately; a high level professionally; and he's been in the NBA the last eight, nine, 10 years, so he's got great ties there that will help in a vast number of ways.
It's kind of a freshness and yet he understands how I like to do things. We can tweak things that he brings and yet keep the system intact of what we really like to do.
I really like the mix of what we have. It was a great September of recruiting. I probably haven't had that much fun recruiting, it's probably been three years since I've had that much fun on the road recruiting. A lot of that has to do with bringing somebody like Craig in because of the relationship that we had before he was here.
Nobody on your team has played in the NCAA Tournament. What effect, what impact would that have on the team?
You always look at it again as a different spin. I hope the spin that our guys takes is that they're hungry for that. They understand how close they have been.
You look at last season, and we've said it before, Northwestern makes a shot inside one second and Jeff misses a shot against Wisconsin at the buzzer. So, we're litterally a second and half from being in the NCAA Tournament and winning 11 Big Ten games.
The understand how close they have been, and they're gym rats. They love the game. They compete like crazy. That's what's made it a lot of fun over the last two years the kind of quality individuals they are. They deserve it.
I hope that they'll continue to stay to it and keep working and hopefully get some of those good breaks that have kind of gone the other way.
You would rather have 10 guys on your team that have NCAA experience and yet this year we can use it to our advantage in that our guys are highly motivated because they want to taste that.
How confident are you that this will be the year?
I was confident last year. There was a lot of curveballs that were thrown. Sometimes you hit the curve, sometimes you don't. Last year's team did a great job with everything that was thrown at them; did as much as they possibly could given the circumstances.
We've gone into it saying this is the year of the fastball. We're throwing all fastballs. You've got to step up to the plate and be able to hit our fastball. We're going to be very aggressive with how we play. We're going to be aggressive offensively. We're going to be aggressive defensively and put as much pressure on people as we can.
We've just got to hope for the best that we can stay healthy and keep improving. Of those things do then I think that there's enough here. Not just talent. Talent is one thing. But we've had talent before and we've had teams with talent before. I like the makeup of this team - its demeanor.
The Big Ten will have a better national reputation this year than it did last year?
Yeah, and when Big Ten basketball takes a hit, it's not down very long. We took a hit last year. I'm not so sure it was all together fair either.
The Big Ten had probably it's worst non-conference won-loss percentage in years. I don't think that you'll see that this year. You'll see it on an upswing.
When you look at the upper echelon of our league Illinois returns everybody. Michigan State returns everybody. Michigan returns everybody with the exception of Bernard Robinson. You've got Wisconsin that's had incredible success over the last three years. They lose a lottery pick in Devin Harris, but have Chambliss who was sitting our; a Brian Butch that was sitting out with a redshirt.
The top half of the league, us included last year, are better. You're going to see the lower half of last year's teams get better as well. It's going to be a very, very competitive Big Ten season.
Can you win 12 or 13 games in the league?
We've got to wait and see. I'm hoping that we can do very well in the nonconference and gain some momentum.
If you look at it two years ago, we were hit with some things in October and November that kind of affected the whole year. Last year, we were doing some really good things and academically we were hit really hard in the month of December. It affected us a lot.
I benched Mike Henderson up at Northern Iowa so he doesn't play. Then we have all kind sof problems with a lot of other individuals academically in December that affected how we played. So, we weren't really smooth going into Big Ten play.
We went through a year when we never got on a roll but never backslid either during those two months of Big Ten play. Hopefully this year it can be smooth through November and December so we can get on a roll in January.
The Big Ten is hard. It's going to be possession by possession. We've got to make plays. We've got to be a better foul shooting team because there's going to be some close games. And then I really think the measure of our success this year will be how good we are defensively.