Coach Lickliter Press Conference 11-28

Basketball 101 was in session again on Wednesday when Todd Lickliter met with the media at Carver. The Iowa coach touched on numerous subjects including the return of Tony Freeman, the future of in-state rivalries, the talent left to him by previous coach Steve Alford and much more in this premium press conference transcript.

Opening Statement:

Since we met last, I've watched the (Wake Forest) game again as painful as that may be. We'll continue to evaluate and move forward. It's OK to be disappointed but not discouraged. You appreciate the opportunity to be in a gym and to work and to be around good guys. These guys are good guys.

I would say this, as I assess it, it's interesting as you look, and we've talked about putting in a system and all the things, but right now, more than anything, its is a situation that too often we place primary importance on secondary matters. It is that that we've got to work through and establish. You do that in practice. You do that with edits. You show the clip and allow your guys to see where they should be position wise.

It's so hard for players to understand that there is a constant, and I'll repeat that, a constant adjustment in relationship to the ball, their man and the basket, a constant adjustment. Right now, our choice of positioning has led to too many open opportunities, uncontested opportunities.

At some point, we hope to be able to value the ball at a much higher level. That will help tremendously. I believe that that's much more of a mindset than anything else. It's a habit of allowing yourself to play at a level where it's acceptable to not be in control all of the time. I can't imagine that. I don't like it. We're emphasizing it. Our guys have embraced it, they have to have a greater level of commitment to saying, "We're going to control the ball."

That's my assessment of it for now. If you have any questions I would be glad to try to answer them.

Q&A

So the players being where they're supposed to be in relation to the ball, man and the basket, that seems pretty basic. Is that something they've not learned in the past, with all due respect?

It is basic if you isolate it. Everybody could tell you where to be. But when you're going against an opponent at an opponent at a high rate of speed and they're running pretty intricate things or you just have to help, then it becomes more difficult. Do you return to the right place? How much help do you give? There are a lot of teams out there and a lot of players that feel like if they help they're safe. How can you criticize helping? But over-helping can be just as detrimental as under-helping because it causes rotations. That's what's happening to us some. We've got to strike that balance where we know how much help to give, how much support. We really prefer just to support and not ever have to help, but that's probably a little bit idealistic, if that makes sense.

How much of that is conceptual learning rather than it just being on the court and having it pounded into your head as a player, going through same situation over and over again?

When you say pounded into their head I'm a little concerned. We really don't use those tactics. (laughter) I really understand what you're saying. I think it's a balance, too. That's why I say if we look at tape and we say look at this situation now the problem is that you're going to gravitate back to what's comfortable I'm afraid. And it's just too difficult to play in the comfort zone. If you really want to be able to compete at a high level, you're just not going to be able to play at a comfortable pace, in a comfortable posture. A stance is required and it doesn't always feel that great. But the reward is pretty appealing.

Is it pretty important at this time that you're at least in a stretch now that you get more practice time and the games are a little bit farther apart for a while?

Without question, game after game, for this group, and not just for this group but for us because I'm a big part of this. I'm asking them to do things that they're somewhat unfamiliar with in the context of what we're doing. So, I'm a big part of when they're stymied a little bit. A couple of years ago we played back to back games in an exempt (tournament) three of them and there wasn't a big crowd there but it was a team that I had had for a couple of years. We almost treated it like a controlled scrimmage. It was very beneficial. This was not like that. We are unable at this time to correct during the contests. So, practice will be beneficial, yes. It was a long answer to what should have been an easy one.

Assuming that they understand what you're saying to them conceptually, and...

When you say assuming, I'm a little bit concerned. (laughter) Yeah, I think they do.

I don't want to put words in your mouth.

No, I feel like they do.

So, saying they understand that conceptually and having to get back on the practice court and work on that are you hampered at all by the short bench at this point?

That's a good question and I really appreciate you saying assuming because I think we do assume some things. We always start at a certain level. Our expectations are that you know these things. And sometimes we have to go back and say, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. There is something here that I think we should have emphasized or we should have developed. That's just part of this process. I honestly think it's the reverse of that in the short bench in that during practice there's more of a chance to get your repetitions in.

It's an interesting game and I've told our guys this and I may have told you all and I apologize if I did but I've heard people say that it's 80 percent mental, 20 percent physical or whatever. I prefer to think that one doesn't detract from the other. I prefer to think that it's 100 percent mental and 100 percent physical. Why would one detract from the others? So, you definitely need the repetitions just to perform the habit. You also need to be very in tune. It's a situation where you can work very hard. I tell them if you go to practice and it's not deliberate practice, somewhat like, and I'm sure we've all done this, never with the media around here or a newspaper article but sometimes in a text book when you'll ready the page and you won't get the content. You'll have been thinking about something else. You read every word but you didn't really soak it in. And you'll go back and read it again.

Sometimes in practice and we just think we're going to show up and that's going to be enough, we might as well just run around the top of the arena if all we're going to do here is run around and work up a sweat. There are those two components to it. Yes, it will be physically taxing. There will be improvement in your physical conditioning. But as you're doing that, you're also developing the mental skills that we need. It's that balance and that commitment to both areas in that.

What do you say to Iowa fans right now based on…

Sorry. (laughter) Sorry, It just popped in. Go ahead. I'm sorry.

That was good. (laughter) But based on the evidence so far they might have concluded that it's hopeless.

Wouldn't you hate that? There's two parts to it. If you're not realistic you'll have a tendency to be despondent. You need to be realistic. What's in front of us? What can we do? And at the same time you have to maintain that you're in control of some of this. There are ways to counter difficult situations. We need to do everything we can within our power to overcome some of these obstacles. That's what we're working towards. I would hate to think that I would ever give up before the final bell. I'm going to work through it. We're going to try our best to put our signature on this and to fight the good fight and to compete. I told the guys the other night that as long as there's a scoreboard we know what the goals are. So, let's pursue it with everything we have.

There might be a reluctance to criticize your predecessor but how would you evaluate the talent level that you inherited?

I would be more inclined to say this if you don't mind. Somebody asked me the other day if I'm a baseball fan because I mentioned hitting singles. I don't dislike baseball I'm just not somebody that knows anything about it. I just watch. I don't follow it. I watch football. I don't analyze it. I don't know anything about it. But I love all the aspects of basketball. I even follow the transactions in the NBA. I love to watch teams be out together. How do you do this? What are you looking for? The diversity of skill. The unification of purpose. That's what a team is. You measure talent a lot of different ways. All of these guys have talents and skills. What I've got to do is try to find out how we complement one another. If I were putting it together, maybe I'd have a different vision for the skill sets. Well, I didn't really put this together so now I have to figure out how these skill sets…and I wish that I could have done it before this. I don't want to do this while competition is going on. But I don't know that I've come to a complete grasp of it and I have to get there. The responsibility is on me. I need to make sure it happens. So, I've got to figure out how we're going to complement one another.

After the Wake Forest game I asked you about Jeff's minutes and you said that if you take a look at your practices that (the players) are not going to be over taxed during the week. Is that something that you've done throughout your coaching career or is that more with this team with a short bench?

That's a good question. I don't profess to have all of the answers by any means but I do know that what we've done in the past has been…and I know somebody has questioned about our league and a mid-major. Some of the teams that I coached at Butler it wasn't about mid-major. They're Top 10 in the nation. They are major. It's in a mid-major league, possibly, but they're major. What we did with them I'm going to do here a lot because it's been tested. I'm not going to make a lot of adjustments. We will. We'll evaluate and make adjustments. But we've always done it that way. We've always thought that efficiency was incredibly important and that it was our responsibilities as coaches to know exactly what to work on and not bog down teams with things because of my fear of not covering everything. There's a fear there, but if I cover the right things then I can go shorter. My guys can be very in tune and they can be fresher. That's been our philosophy. And like I say, I'm not blindly following it. It's worked.

Will you use the same players that started the second half Monday this Friday?

You know what, we really haven't made a decision yet. In that particular instance, when they started the second half, I don't think there was any question that that group was giving us the best chance to compete. So, that's what we went with. I turned the radio show over to Joel Cornette last night because I got to go to a high school game. I saw a couple of really good players. So I turned it on and was listening to it and he said that this might seem very simplistic but whatever we do in the game is motivated by what we're trying to do is win. That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to win that game and that's the motivation in whatever moves we make. He also mentioned that people talk about short bench and different things but we've got media timeouts. Those are long. The deal is that if you're in good condition you recover quickly. So, I'm not opposed to playing guys a lot of minutes if need be to win games.

At least until Tony comes back is it important for you to find a dependable No. 2 scorer or is that overrated?

Scoring is never overrated. I don't know if you can find a No. 2. And I've said this a number of times, I was fortunate enough one year to…well, Lavall Jordan, I think his senior year, the leading scorer throughout the whole season was never the same the next game. It was never duplicated. It just kept rotating. I've had teams where we've had five guys (average) double figures. That's not because they all scored 10 a game. It's because somebody scored 20 and then the next game somebody else did. We need to have more than two scorers. And we need to figure out what shots we can make and only shoot those shots. That would be terrific.

Is it fair to say that the challenges that you've been facing with this team are maybe greater than you anticipated?

Was it the picture in the Gazette that makes you ask that? (laughter) That was the paper where I was meditating? (laughter) No, I didn't look out and say, "OK, here are the challenges that are ahead." I kind of knew what we wanted to do and each day we'd knock away at that. You always want it faster. I appreciate people saying that they'll be patient. But, to be honest with you, I don't want acceptance of that. I don't want it to be OK. That's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for us to be successful.

What's the latest on Tony Freeman?

He's doing really well. I can't give you a time. I'm sorry. I do know that they said four to six weeks and I have to think that six is going to be the latest part. I would think that that would be at the most. He just seems to be dong really well and all indication is that.

You said earlier this week that there might be some X-rays this week. Has that…?

They mentioned something about it and I haven't followed up on it. As far as I know, it hasn't been done at this time.

Has he ever talked to you directly about the possibility of redshirting?

No. We sort of made it clear that we didn't think that was an option if things went the way that we anticipated. I just don't think it's an injury that warrants that. If you've got a complication or something then we'd look at it differently.

How would you assess your team's shot selection to this point?

That's a good question, too. I want our guys to have freedom, but gosh, you need to be responsible if you have freedom. We got anxious the other night. I tell that, you shoot this ball for one reason only – to make it. I know that sounds silly, but if you watch teams, not our team, I don't think our team is like this, but if a guy hasn't had a shot in a while he's liable to try to find one. Some players do that. That's a bad reason to shoot. Another bad reason to shoot is because you're open. There are a lot of times that you're open. The reason is because it's a shot that your opponent wants you to take. Don't shoot it because you're open. Shoot shots because you know you're going to make them.

Most of these players weren't asked to do much scoring since they've been in college. Do you see that? Do you see them having to step out of that shell a little bit?

You know, I think back on my college days and I wasn't either, but gosh I wish somebody would have asked me. I wouldn't have declined it. I would have thought they must be crazy. But there's probably a comfort level to that. But most college basketball players have scored some time in their career. So, they're capable. You have to get them to believe that there are shots that are better than others. I just can't fathom shooting shots that you can't make. Although, right now, I'd almost rather have some of those (instead of turnovers). At least then maybe we could rebound it or do something with it. I don't want to trade off, but a bad shot seems to be a little bit better than a turnover right now.

A clarification on Freeman, tomorrow makes four weeks. So are you saying that you anticipate him playing within the next two weeks?

Yes. Now that comes from me. That's what I think. I have not pushed it because tomorrow (Thursday) does make four weeks. I thought that would be the minimum, and I'm waiting to hear. John Streif will let me know exactly what is going on.

What can you say about the job that Jeff Peterson has done so far this season?

More than anything, what I've seen from Jeff is that he has a tremendous ability to focus on the task at hand. What's happened is that his responsibilities have broadened. That's made the game a little bit more difficult for him. You see that he's having to adjust to that. What I saw the other night was an incredible competitive spirit. I knew he was competitive, but now you start to add these things up. As you go through that's the development of your college career there. You get put in these situations, you respond and you develop into this is the way the college career is going to be. He's responding in the way that I want him to respond. I'm excited about that.

Who does the non-conference scheduling for you? I'm presuming you're working on next year's.

They just handed it to me this year.

How would you change that next year?

We're just going to have to look. And you know with the added games in the Big Ten now you've got to look at…it used to be that you could have a possible tournament during your winter break. Now, you're not going to be able to do that. Everybody loves the exempt tournaments, but I didn't think the (South Padre) was structured all that great. To fly home from South Padre (on Saturday night) and then play Monday night, I don't know that that's a…we did it, and I've seen teams handle that and even handle more adverse. But as I look at it I'm saying, "What best prepares us to compete in the Big Ten?" A lot of our next season has been determined already. The following year is probably closer to what I'm working on. There are a few things that I could alter next year, but for the most part thing have been…and Jerry Strom and Steve, I think, are the ones that worked on the schedule together. The head coach should have a lot of input in that. It just makes sense.

Are you in favor of continuing to play Drake, Northern Iowa and Iowa State, the instate rivalry schools?

Can I tell you in a couple of weeks? (laughter) You know what, when I was at Butler, I would have loved to have played IU and Purdue every year but there was no way they were going to do it. I think it's really interesting that Iowa and Iowa State plays Drake and Northern Iowa. I know the people enjoy it. I've got the utmost respect for those programs. You've got to look at your total schedule and where it lies. When you look at adding two Big Ten games your degree of difficulty and the times that you have, it's not just the difficulty, but who you're playing and where you're playing them. Those things come into account. So, we need to evaluate it.

So, you're iffy that they'll stay on your schedule?

I think it's iffy…we're going to be in the Big Ten. I'm not probably going to be able to do anything with that. But everything else I think you should always evaluate.

What you like to comment on the new point guard (his son, John) at City High?

I was going to say something like I'd like to recruit him but his mother is so difficult to deal with that's the problem. Yeah, he did OK.


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