I want to compliment you all on some outstanding athletic abilities. Now I see why a lot of you chose writing. I did not introduce the one new member of our staff, John Sanderson. He's our new strength coach for men's and woman's basketball as well as other sports. What I love about John is that John is a former player. John played on the Ohio State team that went to the Final Four before he transferred to Ohio University. He has been a wonderful addition, and he has big shoes to fill as we thought the world of Mike Curtis as well. But we did everything we wanted to do with this replacement and more. He knows basketball and he knows strength training. We got the real deal with John Sanderson.
Can't hang on to last year much longer… We have a couple days here and we get into the new stuff and the new routines. We're really excited about it. We've had a good preseason, but a short preseason here at Michigan because we do start school after Labor Day so it's really only four or five weeks of workouts so you're limited to the two hours of skill work per week. So we only have eight hours of work. To put that into perspective, after three days of practice, we will have about ten to twelve hours a day if we go three hours a day with film and everything. So I can't really give you a whole lot of really accurate information on what I think so far as far as playing and rotations and things like that. I'll have to see after two weeks, I'll be able, not certain, but heading in that direction. But after four weeks I like the attitude and the leadership. It's a good group that's going to tackle an amazing schedule. I feel good about the direction where we are and we're just going to keep working to get better.
Q: Ben Cronin's health?
A: His red-shirt time is over, that was cleared, and he was granted the extra year. He ran a 5:53 mile today, and he has a little bit of a natural gait to his walk which is more habit I feel than issues. When he runs, for a 7'1" guy, he runs pretty well. I do like what I've seen so far, and in workouts he's been good. He hasn't been in this type of shape for at least a year and a half.
Q: You mentioned you can't live in the past, but what did last year mean to you guys?
A: You know, it lent so much, my favorite word is credibility and credence to those ideas to what we're trying to establish with teamwork and cohesiveness and a bunch of talented players. You have to have talented players, but talented players who work together.
Q: Building on that, the guys who went through that, who had to scramble to make the tournament and then play in it, what will that do for them this year?
A: Well we can't lose that hard edge this year. That hunter, the guys said it out there. I sent them a long note just before we got back here. Guys, we are still hunters. You see these preseason projections and all these things, no. As long as I'm coaching here we are always hunting, no matter who the opponent is. Our guys battling last year, right until the end, because I think that winning the Minnesota game was a huge battle for us. I think our kids learned a lot from that, had we maybe played better earlier in the year, and not had to battle, maybe we don't beat Clemson. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that carries over to this year.
Q: You mentioned the word amazing when describing your schedule, is this kind of typical of how you want your non-conference schedule to look like?
A: No, I think it has to go up and down. I think that just based on, when you have so many players coming back and having opportunities. The Kansas game was a nice opportunity. I said wait a minute. You want us to play Kansas and they'll come back here on a Saturday for our students, we had to do it. This is the year to do it. It may backfire, but I don't think Connecticut backfired on us last year on us. And that was the extra addition. I think what adds to it is the Old Spice tournament has seven teams that have a chance to go to the NCAA tournament. I think Iona is the MAAC team that will give everybody fits as well. If you look at it, it's Creighton and then Marquette or Xavier. Some of those other tournaments or home games before you move on. This has none of those elements. Then you throw in the UConn and Kansas, not a lot of people did that. And the ACC/Big Ten challenge. Stop, my stomach hurts.
Q: Do you like some of those tournaments better than…?
A: I think we'll mix and match. We have opportunities to go down to Maui down the road. Those are the really attractive ones. The Old Spice's, the Maui's… Those are the three games in three days tournaments. The four are good if, at a place like Michigan, you can still get two home games.
Q: John you talked about still want to be the hunter and yet, do you welcome or embrace that there are high expectations?
A: Yeah, I think that's, hopefully we get used to that type of image that there are high expectations here. No one has higher expectations than I do. We want to compete, and also I know we finished seventh in the Big Ten. We didn't finish first or second and have these high expectations. We finished seventh. We had games, Michigan State at home which I think was our only home loss, we were clearly not ready to win that game. And at Ohio State, we lost by a large number. We had a disappointing, Wisconsin, we still haven't beaten Wisconsin. There is a lot of hurdles we still have to go through. I don't see an issue with maintaining that hunter and still playing with confidence because we've done it before.
Q: Will you address the rankings?
A: No, I probably won't say one word about it. I'll just go, alright. We'll just do what we always do. If I see them playing like they think they're better than what they are, then they'll hear about it. But I don't expect to even address it.
Q: Where might you get your frontcourt depth?
A: That's a great question. If we, I said today in Detroit at a U of M club meeting, I said we won because of small ball last year and many times we lost because of small ball sometimes. The next two weeks we'll be able to see what Ben does, what Blake does, what Anthony does. Can Zack or Deshawn multi-task at different positions? We're still going to put the best five guys out there and we'll see how it all plays out. I think all those guys, somebody is going to step up. We'd like to get a nice nine or ten man rotation.
Q: Is there a point you'd like to see and get Jordan Morgan back to practice?
A: Yeah, I think we're hoping he's going to be cleared to practice. He's been doing individual workouts and we'll do some things with him tomorrow. It'll be interesting, we haven't seen him play in a long, long time, all the way back to his high school season. It's important to see where he is, and I expect him to be, he's been dormant for a long time now. I don't expect him to come flying out of this thing ready to roll. We have to keep in mind his age. He just had his 18th birthday last month and keep in mind when we make decisions.
Q: Can you talk about Lavell's summer and all the camps he's been to?
A: Yeah, I thought Lavell had a very good freshman year as well. Just take his performance on the road at Indiana and Minnesota. We don't win those games, we're in the NIT. If you look, he and Novak, I've seen, and there's other guys too, but in particular those two, I've seen their bodies change. They're leaner, they just seem like they're quicker. I like what I've seen from them so far. Answering that primary ball handling, the point, is a big issue for us. So Lavell, Stu, Darius, the true freshman, are ready to play there. Eso, who knows. We're going to throw a bunch of guys there and see what happens.
Q: Could you see a true freshman taking the point?
A: Yeah, we did a few years ago when Kelvin Grady was our point guard. I mean, we can see anything at this point, and after another two or three weeks of practice, I'll know a lot more.
Q: What do you like about Darius' skill set?
A: His length is not a skill set, but it's certainly an advantage to us. What I've liked is he's brought a lot of energy to us at practices. He wants to play defense, he really wants to guard people. He has good vision. He's a typical point guard. Now he has to play in college in a tough play of the Big Ten is a whole different issue.
Q: Manny and Deshawn talked about the bad season of conditioning….?
A: I hope so. If not we'll make sure they understand in the next month. I don't mean we're going into a situation where it's a battle everyday, or survival of the fittest, but I think they understand there is one way we're going to play and our coaches work with them to know that's their mental attitude that we're going to play all out every practice, every film we're in it all the way. I think that they understand, that might have motivated, that wetting their appetite should be more motivating. I think the freshman will follow what Manny and Deshawn and Zack and Anthony do.
Q: So you think last years success was just wetting their appetite?
A: I hope so. That's what I think. That's the way I see it. We realize these things can be done. Hopefully there is more out there.
Q: What is the next step?
A: You know, I don't know that. I think stability, if you look at the really good programs that are continually trying to get a better seed in the tournament, or jockeying for position. To get into the tournament now is a reasonable goal and advance after that. But I think we want that stability. If you look across the board, there is going to be slippage by all teams in different years as we recruit further and further out and try to predict the future two or three years in advance. That stability you see in the really good programs.
Q: How are Manny and Deshawn better players this year?
A: I think they know the level they're playing in and how they have to practice to be successful is number one. Both of them, just watching them assume ownership of the team, that's usually a pretty big step. They need to do that 100 percent. Until they are cast into that, like they are right now, you don't know how they'll respond.
Q: There is more depth on this team then there has been in a long time. Does that pose certain problems on keeping an environment…?
A: One of the issues if you look at David and C.J. last year is, C.J. was shagging balls the first week of practice and not in there very much and he emerged as a starter. He was always great with team chemistry, and that's always an issue. The depth, right now, we still on the wings, we're trying to get longer. Until we get there we just got to continue to work through the depth issues. Play small, play big, I don't know.
Q: 2400 student tickets were sold… was that kind of your vision?
A: I'm very pleased with that. We're on campus, and we've already had two Maize Rage meetings. You watch them at the football games and see 24 or 30 thousand kids up there. There is a culture here for athletics, and we don't want to lose that. Business as usual at Michigan, students attends games and they love their teams and the teams love their students.
Q: On Darius, he's from the West Coast. There's swagger…?
A: You're stereotyping here (laughter). I think he's confident, and we want all our players to be confident.
Q: In terms of on the court, what's the biggest leap you want to see from Deshawn?
A: Probably just, he's, I know his dream is for us to go back to the NCAA tournament and have a great year and I know he wants to play at another level. And that's always a focus for us, is to get those guys ready to play. He's 6'7 and a half. I want to see more assists, have more gritty type rebounds, to defend a four man on another team, not just a five man, creating mismatches for other teams. Those are things he can do. He evolved last year, and he's got to continue to do more.
Q: Pretty happy with how the guys have done in the classroom over the summer?
A: Yeah, we had a good semester last spring, we had a good summer. All in all, I'm really pleased. They're accountability is really good, and we have great back up here with our academic center. Tommy Jones has done a really good job for us. We feel good about the direction.
Q: Can you talk about Kelvin Grady reinventing himself as a football player?
A: Yeah. I think it's a great story. I try to follow the football team as closely as I can. I just think it's a great story. Our whole team is wishing him great success, and I'm hoping to, I wasn't able to watch the Iowa game. I want to see someone kick the ball to him one time, it seems he hasn't received a kickoff. I want to see him get some space to run sometime. He's got to catch the ball and someone's got to kick the ball to him.
Q: The practice facility. How pleased are you that it's finally coming around?
A: Yeah, it's really… every month or two, depending on where we are we have another meeting. The quality this thing is going to be is great to have. It's really going to be special. I'm so excited to be apart of the planning and the finishing, and moving in there is going to be a great day.
Q: When you look at the stats from last year, when 48 percent of your rebounding comes from Manny and Deshawn… trying to figure out how to get the proportions down?
A: You know, I don't know if those proportions are bad, to have that many, when you're gone, you just have to find guys to take over those proportions. I'm pleased with the shots they get, the opportunities they get, and that's strategy has worked well for us in the past as well. To try to really have an offense, a lot of people have opportunities, but you really try, as people grow and they evolve, you try to get those people opportunities but you know where they can score. I feel good about those two having an inside and outside threat. We really haven't had that since we had Gansey and Pittsnogle, like we do with Manny and Deshawn.
Q: You talked about Manny being a complete player, what can he do to get to the next level?
A: This is crazy because he's one of our best shooters, but I really want him to shoot the ball and find balance between his drives and his three point shooting. It's almost, we have guys like Stu and Zack we want balance the other way. We want them to drive a little bit more, but we want Manny to shoot a little bit more. Pick his drives as well, that's his strength is his drives, and we can't forget that. But this kid is a great shooter. When given a choice, he's got to make that decision. Is it better to drive into a crowd or I'm wide open right now and I'm going to knock it down. That Minnesota game, that last shot he took in the left corner that really put us in the tournament, he thought about it for a second, he was wide open and said I might as well shoot it and in it goes and we're a good team. I want him to continue to learn to do that, and I think he's capable of being a very, very good defender.
Coach B at the mic: Complete Transcript
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