There is a big game tomorrow. Michigan is coming off a win and playing well. They shot it well. We are coming off of a loss in a game that was disappointing. I didn't think that we played particularly well on either end. We probably played with less purpose in that game than we had in a while. And still in the middle of the second half we were up one. I have said this all along, I have never faulted our effort. I just wish that we could be more consistent with our play. We are practicing and guys are back and they are focused, they understand that Michigan is going through a little bit of what we are going through, getting to know one another. They are making strides and playing better. I think in this league, you are going to have to assume that it will take your best effort to be successful.
Q: Is Jake Kelly hitting freshman wall?
Todd Lickliter: I don't believe that. It depends on who it is. Gordon hasn't hit the freshman wall. Carmello, when he was a freshman, I don't know when he hit it, they won the whole thing. I don't really believe in that. If he will make good decisions he will play well.
Q: Talk about David Palmer, he has not played in 10 straight games, left at home a few times for a number of reasons.
Lickliter: He has had some responsibilities. He is practicing with us now. I just think that as we got into conference play, I purposely shortened the rotation. I think that the rotation is working, they are playing well. He has been active in practice, he has done a good job there. He has been supportive and he has been a good teammate. I have said this so many times, and I know everyone wants to play, but I don't think you can gauge someone's worth by how many minutes they play or how many points they score. It takes everyone to be successful. I saw an interview by Pete Campbell who plays at Butler now. He didn't play hardly any at the beginning of last year all the way through til conference. When he was called on, he made the most of it and was ready. He had helped us all along. That is the way that a team should be. David worked out this morning with us and he put in a good effort.
Q: What kind of future do you predict that he has here?
Lickliter: I honestly don't deal in that very much. We will come back this afternoon and what I deal with is giving a great effort, continue to do that, we are in the middle of the season. We will all sit down at the end of the year and do individual evaluations and talk about what we all need to do to get better.
Q: It seems like in some of these games, there are some offensive droughts for minutes on end. Is that something you have focused on in practice, finding ways to score because it seems like a lot of times, Tony tries to take things on himself a little too much?
Lickliter: I think what happens with Tony, he ends up with the ball in his hands in tough situations. It's not fair to put it all on him with the shot clock running down and create a shot. That is hard. Droughts, it's a combination of things. I would almost rather have that situation than what we have done where we have thrown them the ball real quick and have to try to guard in transition. We just try to play higher percentage basketball. One of the things we addressed, if a guy is shooting it well, let's see if we can't get him more shots. If they are doing something to counter that, what do we need to do then. If they are switching, how do we counter what they are doing. It's a process. The other thing is that you may go through droughts. It just might happen. Offense is a skilled aspect of the game. But you can maintain your defensive intensity and focus and purpose. I thought at Minnesota, we really broke down defensively.
Q: Do you anticipate anything different from Michigan the second time around?
Lickliter: I think they are more comfortable. I think they are playing more man and a little bit less of their zone. Whether they do that or not I don't know. What they are trying to do is do what John has always done and do it well. It's proven. They are making those strides. Coleman is a guy who is playing a little more. I don't know if he was injured or not. He is a capable shooter. It looks to me that they are focused more on Sims in the post and going to him a little more. We will have to be aware of that. Other than that, I think they are just probably trying to continue to improve and to get comfortable, like we are.
Q: Speaking of zone, are seeing more zone this year? From other teams across basketball, not just against you?
Lickliter: I don't think so; I think it's pretty balanced. I have never really taken a gauge as to how much zone is being played; you are just looking at your opponent. There are some teams, Syracuse, you will see zone from them. Then there are others that just use a zone. Ohio State, I don't think they have used a lot of zone in the past, but they are almost exclusively zone this year. It depends on the personnel and what the coach feels comfortable with. I admire guys that think they may need to adjust and change, not stick with something that will not be effective.
Q: I know that you have lost three of four, but do you worry about your players taking this game lightly since they beat Michigan?
Lickliter: I sure hope not. I don't see how in the world you would take a game lightly in our situation and you know that everyone in this league is capable. You have seen teams that their records don't prove it, but in a given game…we have won a few more games than Michigan. Michigan won their last one, and we lost. I can't imagine being anything but 100% prepared and engaged.
Q: The NCAA rules on permissible phone calls to recruits, are those clear rules?
Lickliter: We know what they are and we monitor those. You need to stay on top of it and also not just phone calls, but rules change so your compliance keeps you informed. I am comfortable with saying that we know what is permissible and I think we do a good job of record keeping.
Q: Is it easy to make a mistake? In your years of coaching, have you made a call that you later realized might have been out of bounds?
Lickliter: It's easier for me, because I am old and I don't like the phone. The assistants come and say could you please call this guy, so they take care of me. I do think its easier for a head coach as far as it being pretty well laid out for you. That is the way its been for me. The assistants, the recruiting coordinator spearheads that and then directs me. It has worked for us.
Q: The NCAA said they spoke to a lot of people about the Indiana situation. Did they talk to you?
Lickliter: No. I haven't spoken with anyone about it.
Q: Aside from trying to improve and win the next game, is there a bigger goal with a few weeks left?
Lickliter: That is a good question because in some years, you look at February and say OK, we have been going at this for a while, now what do we need to do. Do we look at a bigger picture? I don't really think so. I think that where we are at, we are still trying to commit to playing the game a certain way. I think our goal should be to play the game the right way. What we need to do is continue to stress what that is, show it, and then encourage that we do that. I just think we are better served right now of being focused on today and to get better today.
Q: Would you ever say to the guys, if we can get to 15 wins, it would be a great year?
Lickliter: I would never say that. Again, I think that will take care of itself. It's like the game, if I start thinking about the final score or anything at the end of the game, I will slip right now. I need to think about my job during this possession,. If you win enough possessions the end will be in your favor. I think seasons are the same way, or the next two weeks. If we can take care of today, we have a lot better chance of finishing where we need to.
Q: Has the team embraced that?
Lickliter: I haven't asked them. I don't know that it's something that is typical. It may be somewhat new to them. We haven't laid out any long term goals per se. I would rather them embrace the way we play. I don't have any complaints with the way they approach things. I appreciate them. I don't know that we have gotten through to them with regards to a sense of urgency. You saw on Saturday, I wish we could get through to them. There have been times we have, but I want more.
Q: Matt Painter has bought fans pizzas while they wait in line, other coaches do things like that. Have you done things like that?
Lickliter: I am probably a lot cheaper than Matt. No, we do things like that. I kind of allow marketing to do their job and to come to me and suggest things. Then I will try to prepare the team and compete and try to stay within my job. That is not to say that we don't share ideas, or not to say that if they have an idea like that, I would be glad to offer assistance. I have met with the student organizations in the past and discussed different things. It's something we need to continue to work at. It seems like during this time of transition, the focus has had to be on implementing and making progress with the team. As we get some of that done through the course of the year and start next year, I am sure we will branch out a little bit.
Q: Have you had time to reflect at all on the Big Ten conference? I know you played Big Ten teams before at Butler, but not in a conference season setting.
Lickliter: I have always had respect for it, but I haven't reflected on that per se. It's been demanding to have a level of competitiveness that we want, and that has consumed most of my thoughts and time. When the season is over, that is for reflection. I will see what adjustments we need to make.
Q: Would you tweak your philosophy due to how things are in this conference?
Lickliter: If we look at it and if we think things won't work, we won't do them. My bottom line is that I want to win basketball games. I want to do it within the rules, but I want to compete and win games. It doesn't have to be my way. If someone offers an idea and it works, I will even give them credit. The only thing is that I want you to make sure to publish whose idea it is. Everyone will know who to give the credit to, or if it doesn't work….