Coach Alford Teleconference 2/17

Iowa Coach Steve Alford conducted his weekly teleconference Friday, which fell a day after Indiana's Mike Davis resigned from Indiana. Coach Alford handled the Hoosier questions in a very consistent fashion on Friday. He also discussed the Hawkeyes' trip to Minnesota on Saturday, the status of sophomore guard Carlton Reed and much more in this HN.com Premium Teleconference Transcript.

Opening Statement (which he normally doesn't issue): Hello everyone. Out of respect for me and my program, I hope that all questions are directed at this year's team. For those of you who have that incredible urge to go elsewhere, out of respect for you, I have this comment – My entire focus and energy is helping my team win a Big Ten Championship and get ready for the NCAA Tournament. This is my only concern. You can underline "entire" and "only" for those of you who are writing.

Q&A

Coach, is it hard for your team, do you think, to stay focused with all of this stuff going on?

My entire focus and energy is helping my team win a Big Ten Championship and get ready for the NCAA Tournament. This is my only concern.

You guys are undefeated at home, but Minnesota came as close as anybody to beating you. Why Minnesota of all teams?

Minnesota is really good. They're a little bit like what happened to us last year in that they got off to a slow start. It's magnified this year because the league is better. We got off to an 0-2 start and it took us a long time to recover. We had a pretty good team last year, it's just that start that really affected us. That's what's happened to Minnesota. Now, they've really started playing well. Our first game, we were 1 for 22 from the 3-point line. Jeff is more healthy now. Minnesota has changed in terms of the personnel they're playing. We know that we're going to have our hands full up there. They play every well in that building, and we have great respect for them.

They have some different guys in the lineup now. What have they brought?

They've brought an incredible energy and toughness to their team, I think. That was a key change for them. When you're going in the other direction, you've got to make some changes. Putchel has energized them. He had 13, 15 points against Michigan State. He's a strong body. That does a lot of good things for them. Abu-Shamala is somebody now that's scoring. He didn't score in our first game. He didn't play much.

How are your guys handling the pressure and excitement of being in first place with four games to go?

Just watching practices and stuff, this has been a pretty focused team all year. Nothing was any different (Thursday). I didn't see a team that was overly excited or really any change to their demeanor. I doubt if I'll see that today. They're paying attention to what's happened in the league. It's kind of like Sunday of a PGA event. You look at the leader board and see what you've got to do. The guys understand what they have to do. They're excited about it.

Can you talk about the consistency of this team?

That's what we've been. That's what's been fun about this team. We've had 26 games and we've really been consistent at both ends. We haven't shot the ball well, but that speaks volumes about our guys' ability to guard. We've really made plays, even at Indiana where we missed some free throws. They made the plays they had to win. In those last five minutes, when we've had a chance to win, maybe with the exception of Northwestern, where nothing really seems to go right, we've done what it takes to win.

I understand your reluctance to talk about the Indiana job, but has anybody approached you about the job?

My entire focus and energy is helping my team win a Big Ten Championship and get ready for the NCAA Tournament. This is my only concern.

Have you told anybody out there that you'll be back there next season?

My entire focus and energy is helping my team win a Big Ten Championship and get ready for the NCAA Tournament. This is my only concern.

Was the a reason you shot poorly from the perimeter against Minnesota or was it just one of those games where shots weren't falling?

Minnesota is a very good defensive team. They're very physical. They're senior dominated. They have as many seniors playing as we do. That's what makes them very, very dangerous. They understand the defensive end. Jeff really struggled that first game. Our team has changed a little bit. Jeff is shooting the three again. Back then, we had to grind it our and win ugly. Now, we're putting some offense together. They're pretty confident. Obviously in their building we can't go 1-22 and think we're going to win the game. We know we've got to make some shots.

Is Carlton Reed going with you, and if so, what stipulations were put on him to allow him to rejoin the team?

He is going with us. He was back and practiced (Thursday). Kids go through different things throughout their career. Carlton would be the first to tell you that he just messed up. We learn from our mistakes. We went through the same protocol that's in our program for all of our players. He's met all of those things. We had good meetings. He wants to come back, be a part of this team and be a positive influence on helping the team win.

Are you surprised that Coach Knight is doing this show for ESPN?

(Laughs) Coach has always enjoyed sharing his passion for the game. He's always done that with me and done that with other coaches. I've seen the advertisements and I'm looking forward to it. I'd love to have a big win and then be able to watch the debut of that. The previews look pretty interesting.

Have you been in a conference race like this?

There are a lot of teams fighting for it. When you look at the scheduling, everybody assumed that we put two games between us and Michigan State, which is the league favorite. But if you look at their games, they've got all home games left. They're the only other team in the league that hasn't lost at home. We control our own destiny and we control just how many losses are going to determine this thing. Some others are wishing that it's going to be four or five losses. We're just trying to take it one game at a time.

In watching film of Abu-Shamala, can you believe no other Division I school offered a scholarship?

That's hard. That happens with kids. Some kids prefer to go to a Division I school and they have little success. All they want is a scholarship, they like the social scene and being at the bottom of the bench and not working to improve their stature on the team. And then you've got other guys that look like Abu-Shamala or other walk-ons that aren't only eager to be on the team but they fight so hard in practice that sooner or later, it's hard to keep them out of the rotation. That's what happened in the Minnesota case and what's happened here with walk-ons in the past.

You turn on the television, you open up a newspaper, you listen to the radio, your name is linked to Indiana. Do you block that all out or do you watch these days or what?

Iowa basketball SID, Steve Roe, interjects at this point and asks: "I'm sorry, is this Mark from WHO?"

Reporter: "Yes."

Coach Alford asks: "Are you just joining us Mark?"

Reporter: "Yes."

Coach Alford: OK. My entire focus and energy is helping my team win a Big Ten Championship and get ready for the NCAA Tournament. This is my only concern.

Do you find these questions unfair?

Mark, you really don't want me to read this thing again, do you? (Laughter) I've had to repeat it seven times.


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