Bball Assistants Roundtable – Part 2

GoBlueWolverine's Sam Webb goes in-depth with Michigan basketball assistants Bacari Alexander, Jeff Meyer, and LaVall Jordan during their annual roundtable session. In part two the crew focuses on the different approach the staff took in coaching last year's team.


Sam Webb:  I don’t know if the answer will be different for all of you guys or the same… but this team had a lot of young parts with guys that hadn’t been in the roles that you asked them to be in.  Now Mitch goes down and a role definition changes al over again.  Did you coach this team differently in any way?  Did it manifest itself anywhere or did you approach it like you did any other coaching year? 

Jeff Meyer:  “There are obviously differences, Sam.  I always say this about coaching.  It’s more of an art than it is a science.  At some level, you are more like the chemist that is going to add some different parts to the formula rather than an architect that is going to have one blueprint or a product or a building.  It’s more like a chemist than it is the architect or the builder.  With this team, you do have some foundational points.  Your core values of team defense and we don’t turn the ball over.  That is a game changer, a deal breaker for Coach Beilein and it’s one of the reasons we have success offensively is that from day one (we) talk to our kids about value, possessions, and making sure that we are together in everything that we do.  I think with this team, because of the departure of Trey Burke and how dependent we were upon him as a point guard, it became more of a leadership by committee, move the basketball.  It ends up that we have three players that have over 100 assists, which is really unique on any college basketball team for a season.  It was a little bit different.  I would say defensively, our core values, our principles remain the same and trying to bring our young kids up to speed early on what we expect defensively.  Offensively, it was more fluid obviously.  We had to make some adjustments in how we approached each possession in our philosophy.  Coach Beilein does a great job of seeing what our kids need skill-development wise.  That is part of the portion as the chemist.  And then, the ability to put them in positions where they are going to have success together on the court became important as we moved down the season.” 

Sam Webb:  What I’m getting at is was it more necessary to be hands on with this group?  When you’ve got Trey Burke, you can kind of let them go.  Did you have to be more hands on with this team?  Also, with so many young guys moving into new roles, can you be as hard on these guys as you are on a more veteran team or do you have to encourage a little bit more as opposed to scold? 

LaVall jordan:  “You know Sam, I think the personality of your team is something, when you have a Trey Burke, even two years ago you had Zack Novak, you had Tim Hardaway, and you had Stu (Douglas).  So you had some guys and I think when we sat down together and talked about, okay, the personality of this group, you didn’t know yet what it was.  You knew with Novak, you know how he is, you know how he operates, you know he’s going to get on guys... he’s going to be tough and he’s going to be vocal.  You knew with Trey there was this extreme level of confidence.  With Tim, you knew there was a certain swagger in terms of their leadership and it permeates through the group to give your team a certain personality.  With this group, early on, we were trying to gauge that, just try to see what is going to be the personality of this team.  You’ve got Jordan Morgan who is coming off a lot of adversity from the past season, trying to reestablish a lot of credibility with his teammates on the court and performance.  You’ve got the young guys, Mitch and Glenn and Nik stepping into different roles.  What is going to be the personality of the other group?  How is this team going to come together and where are they going to draw strength from in the midst of adversity.  You look at a guy like Glenn Robinson and Nik Stauskas and how they developed and then Jordan Morgan on into the season as a leader.  I think that part we may have coached a little different to instill a little more swagger early on to inject some confidence.  You didn’t have to do that with Trey.  You didn’t have to do that with Tim as much.  But to inject the confidence, you remember Coach Beilein, when we were at Wisconsin, he draws up a play for Nik Stauskas.  Nik Stauskas defers and passes to Glenn and coach in the next time out says, ‘Hey Nik, if you don’t want to take the shot, let me know and I won’t call your number.’  So he was injecting the confidence in him, look, when I call your number, go, that’s your time.  Nik makes the shot at the end of the game to win the game and has a little conversation, but he has some confidence from coach giving it to him.  I think that was a bit different with this group.  There were times when you had to do that.  Coach did a magnificent job of that, giving the Glenn the confidence, ‘Hey Glenn, we are coming to you at Purdue.  We are going to throw it up, go get it, make a play.’  You didn’t worry about that so much with Trey, not worry, but you weren’t as concerned with a guy like Trey.  He came in with that.  And your toughness and your personality with Zack, whether you play well or didn’t, you knew what you were getting from Zack Novak in terms of mentality and what he brought to the table there.  I think there were adjustments and tweak along those lines, not the strategic stuff as much.  Coach Myer did a great job of getting guys in spots, getting them shots.  I think Coach B, our staff, we had many conversations on that level about the personality of this group.  We found something interesting that when Glenn Robinson and coach had many meetings and conversations with Glenn, when he had a little swag about him and a certain level, you look at him in the tournament, shooting 45% from three and when he had something going, we were a different team.  So there was a lot of talk between coach and G and that partnership of being the personality for our group.” 

Bacari Alexander:  “I think quite frankly, when you look at team 97 and team 98, there are two distinct differences in terms of how you approach them coaching wise.  One of the things we identified with team 97, the Hardaway and Burke group, is that here was a roster that had five unique seniors that sat in our locker room, you know, Blake McLimans, you talk about Josh Bartelstein, Matt Vogrich, Eso Akunne and Corey Person who, for a lack of better terms, had a real keen sense of ownership.  They really embraced the core values and so with that team, we needed to continue to establish, if I can concise it in one word, trust.  Trust the system.  Trust what we do.  Let their talents flourish within that paradigm.  Then when you move on to team 98, here was a team that needed to inject maturity, how we prepare, how we handle adversity, how we handle success.  So, the coaching approach was a little different with both groups.  If you were to hone in on just a couple of words, one was establishing the trust in what we do as a program, the team, the team, the team, if I can use that axiom.  Then, with team 98, you are talking about a maturity, how we approach the weight room, how we approach film session, how we approach individual skill workouts, practices, classes.  It’s so important as we continue to roll out with the type of attrition that we see all throughout college basketball.  You are going essentially have a young team every year.  Specifically, team 98, we wanted them to have a maturation level and an increased understanding of how we go about our work.  In essence, no pun intended, we worked.” 

Sam Webb:  I hear that, and you had a shirt that said as much.  As a model of the team, there is a moment, at least it seems like for us on the outside looking in, there is always that moment when you kind of know, they got it.  You can kind of see it from the outside; you guys can probably recognize it sooner.  When did you guys know?  We will get to that in the next segment.  What moment in the season did you realize how good this team would be?  What game… what play did you see… maybe it was something you saw in practice that carried over to a game?  That moment when you know, alright, ‘now they have it.’  We will get to that in the next segment.  


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