Last year in his first season as Nevada head coach, Mark Fox watched his Wolf Pack team get blown out, 85-52, by #2 Kansas on Nov. 29, 2004. A year later, his club is ranked and Kansas is not, but Fox knows the number next to his team’s name means nothing when you’re playing in a hostile environment like Allen Fieldhouse.
The following comments are excerpts from a conversation Fox had on KLWN’s “Rock Chalk Sports Talk” on Wednesday to preview Thursday’s game. In the interview Fox discussed the year he spent shadowing Roy Williams’ Kansas program during the ’93-’94 season, the challenge of winning in Allen Fieldhouse and how this year’s Kansas team compares with the last two Jayhawk teams he’s faced.
On lessons learned from last year’s game in Allen Fieldhouse:
“The one thing that last year's game did for us is it proved you can survive a train wreck. We just got pounded. It did allow our team last year to play a little better on the road because we never played in an environment as tough as Allen Fieldhouse, we never played against a team as good as Kansas. So, for the rest of the year every road contest seemed a little easy compared to that one.”
On what a win this year at Allen Fieldhouse would mean to his program:
“That would be historic. It's still the hardest place to play in college basketball. I don't care what they say about Duke. Allen Fieldhouse is the premier place to play a game. They've got great, knowledgeable fans and a terrific team. So, a win in that environment would be historical for us.”
On his relationship with Roy Williams and how the opportunity to observe practices during the 1993-1994 season came about:
“I was an assistant at the University of Washington and our staff was fired in the spring. Being a Kansas native who needed to get a master's degree, I contacted Coach Williams and just asked him if I could come back and (observe) the program while I was taking my graduated courses. He allowed me to do that and we've remained close since then. He's been essential in my development as a coach and I turn to him for advice. I've got a lot of respect for Coach Williams.”
On what he took from studying Williams’ practices:
“Last year we stole their early offense -- the secondary break that Kansas was so successful with -- and we ran that a year ago and had a lot of success with it. I think that Coach Williams gets a lot of credit for being a great recruiter, but he's an excellent practice coach. I think his practices were extremely well organized and efficient and I've tried to emulate some of that with my own practices.”
On what concerns him most about Kansas:
“I think a better question may be 'What doesn't concern you?' I just think they've got a terrific team. I said to somebody yesterday (they are) maybe the most underrated team in America. Arguably they are more talented than they were the last two years we played them – they're just much more inexperienced obviously.
“They've got a lot of weapons and I just give Coach Self and his staff credit for really assembling a very talented team with a lot of offensive weapons. Coach (Self) has been a great defensive coach. I just think they're very, very good. We're still trying to figure out what to do because they've just got so many different ways to hurt you.”
On one of the biggest keys for Nevada on Thursday:
“We have to be better in transition defense than we've been and that'll be probably the number one thing we'll focus on as we go into this game.”
KLWN’s “Rock Chalk Sports Talk” can be heard each weekday on Phog.net via the Phog.TV section.