Williams: How has this season been going for you?
Ellis: It's been enjoyable and fun being back at the top level again. The last five years have been a little different being in the MIC Conference as opposed to Conference USA, but it's been very exciting. I've always felt this is where I belong.
Williams: You received your first head coaching position at Chicago State five years ago. Are you disappointed you did not stay with the program long enough to turn the program around?
Ellis: Five years is a lot of time. Even though the record did not indicate it, I think the program is in a lot better shape than it was before I got there. Before I got there, they made me a lot of promises about putting things in place to have success through the years, but they were never able to do that. I don't regret anything I did. It was a great experience and I learned a valuable lesson in a number of ways. Things happen for a reason and that's how I look at the whole thing.
Williams: What is different about the guys playing for Marquette today compared to when you were playing at Marquette?
Ellis: I think the biggest difference now is that players are much stronger because of the weight training program and the sophistication of strength and conditioning. We didn't have a strength coach here when we were in school. The only real weight machine I remember was in the basement of McCormick Hall (now a co-ed dorm on campus). I don't think they "think" the game as well as we did back in the day. Back in the day, players were a lot more physical.
Williams: You were known to have an inside game and be able to dribble the ball like a point-guard before you were even recruited by Marquette. Did you ever consider yourself as just a post player?
Ellis: I've always thought of myself as a versatile player, and I patterned myself after a number of players. I wanted to shoot like Jerry West. I wanted to block shots like Bill Russell, and I wanted to handle the ball like Earl Monroe. It was just the attitude I had. I took pride in that so I always worked on my ball handling skills and my jumper, rebounding, and blocking shots. I wanted to be able to do a little of everything very good, and I thought if I could do that I would be a very good player. That's how it turned out for me.
Williams: Are there any similarities between Tom Crean and the late Al McGuire?
Ellis: I don't know if that's a fair question. In some ways, the fire that Coach Crean and Coach McGuire brought to the table was similar, but they were two totally different individuals. Like Coach McGuire, Coach Crean has his way of getting after players, being a psychological coach, and getting in the players' minds. Other than that, Coach Crean is his own man.
Williams: You played against Scott Merritt's father, Khari, in high school, what
kind of player was he?
Ellis Scott's dad was a very aggressive, tenacious rebounder. I mean a banger,
who was hungry and he went after the glass, a true warrior. Growing up on 39th Street in
Chicago will make you a warrior.
Williams: Who is the best player you ever played with or against?
Ellis: The best player I ever played with in college was Earl Tatum (1973-'76) at Marquette--bar-none. In the NBA, it was probably Dave Thompson with the Denver Nuggets.
Williams: How about against?
Ellis: That's a tough question because being in the league I had to guard great players like Julius Irving and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. But I would have to say the best player I ever played against was Alex English when he played with South Carolina--we used to have some serious battles.