John Beilein: "Thinking on the way over here it is hard to believe, you are #35 (season openers), somewhere in there… 34 or 35 (years) of getting ready for the first game."
Question: Of 60?
John Beilein: "Of 60… no (laughing)."
Question: Have you thought that?
John Beilein: "Of how long?"
John Beilein: "Oh, boy, as long as I can, as long as I love it."
Question: Don't retirement questions come at the end of the season?
John Beilein: "(Laughing). Just thinking, I always go back at this time of the year and think about those first games back in Division II and Division III and if my gut feels the same, it is good news and bad news. You're excited about it and at the same time, it is nervous energy that goes on. Nobody likes to have anxiety. You always have anxiety at this time of the year."
Question: How are you feeling after what you've seen in practice?
John Beilein: "I like some things. I think we do so many different things that I don't feel like we are sharp at anything just yet and it is very common and the only way you can get through it is to play the game and going through some of the pain…it takes pain to get there and it takes a lot of practice."
Question: Why do you play this game against a Division II (Northern Michigan) school as regular opponent?
John Beilein: "As I researched the RPIs…first of all it is good to play another team from the state. This is a big event for the Division II, knowing that I came from a Division II school to play these games. When we study RPIs, this one is a bit of a neutral RPI game, where if you were playing a typical guarantee game, it may hurt you more than it helps you. So with this idea that you play 30-31 games, I think these games are always good and it just makes sense, both financially and from a standpoint that it is not a RPI game – it is a nothing RPI game."
Question: Is that not to think about all the way at the end of the season, but is that a weird thing that a game like this would be a non RPI game?
John Beilein: "No, because I think it is good for Division II and there are a lot of issues in this level of division with getting home games and the price you have to pay for home games. This is a win/win because we play 30 games. If you play 18 games, a little different deal. If you don't play a hard schedule outside your conference, different deal. It is a good way to start."
Question: How's Manny's (Harris) hamstring and is it limiting him?
John Beilein: "He's pretty good right now. He's still going through therapy but in practice he has been full go for a week."
Question: What about Jordan Morgan?
John Beilein: "He is still not cleared to go, but we expect that soon."
Question: Coach would you say at this point that you are still better off playing with a small lineup or is it entirely depended on matchups?
John Beilein: "No, I think we're more comfortable right now. I think we just got to keep going through it to get better if we did play larger. Right now that is our comfort area is what we know the best. Despite the loss of four players from last year, the people that played the majority of those minutes are still there and that's where they are comfortable. I think we just keep expanding…hopefully expanding our versatility as the year goes on."
Question: What have you seen from Laval (Lucas-Perry) in terms of strides?
John Beilein: "His defense especially away from the ball has been a thing he has worked on a lot. A lot of people think they can play defense and then when you got big guys setting screens on you and people that don't miss much that you're guarding, it is difficult. That's a big thing. Then trying to offensively trying to be more of just offensively be more than a scorer or a shooter, be an assist guy as well. He's made good strides."
Question: Do you think your off the ball defense will be one of the determinants on how good you can be?
John Beilein: "Yeah. I think just overall defense field goal percentages last year, they were not good. Let's face it, they were not good and we have to improve that area. Not a whole lot but just enough. Because the three point field goal percentage defense was good, the overall defense – a lot of that has to do with giving up fewer offensive rebounds that's an easy stick back and that can change percentage points. Like a baseball player that bloops a couple of hits in. It is a fact that our better teams have been between 42; we haven't had the gaudy numbers of the Illinois and Purdue at 39 defensively. Usually 41 to 43 have been really good numbers that you'd like to shoot for."
Question: What was the primary factor there defensively; was part of it misses on your end?
John Beilein: "For the bad field goal percentage? Oh I think size. I think people shot over us very easily especially in the guard positions we were smaller and then in the center position we are small. There is a big thing. I realized that when we played our first Division I teams at Lemoyne, we'd play Sienna or something and our kids would be looking at the basket. There would be taller people there to shoot over and we weren't very tall to shoot over and I also think the zone at times will give up a higher percentage than you'd like to. But it also creates turnovers, so it is that trade off."
Question: Do you anticipate your starting lineup changing from the exhibition?
John Beilein: "I'm leaning that way right now, but we'll wait and see how these last two days shake out here. I've told you guys before, it is about who comes off the bench as much as who starts for us. Because those first two guys off the bench, I like them to be seasoned players who can come off and just say, I'm not starting, give me the ball because I can't wait to shoot it in. So that's what I like having come off."
Question: On whether he'll redshirt anyone this year…
John Beilein: "There is a couple of guys, particularly Blake McLimans and Jordan that we are not going to play them until they are in a situation where we think they can help us. It just doesn't make sense at this point. If we think they can help us this year then we will play them. If we don't think they can help us, I'd hate to trade 30 seconds or two minutes in one of these earlier games for a whole season in the event down the road he doesn't get to play much more, doesn't make sense."
Question: You said in the past you're willing to start out with a 10 man rotation in these first games; at what point as coach do you start to seriously consider whittling that down to nine, eight?
John Beilein: "I think probably when we get into the Big Ten schedule. I think that's what we did a little a bit last year too. So we're going to get spots and see how people perform. You're playing somebody 10 or five and they're playing pretty well, then you move the minutes up and you stay there. You play them 10 or five or 15 minutes and they're not playing well, then you scale back."
Question: Have you been in a situation before where you've played 10?
John Beilein: "Yeah, we've had three headed centers. We've had all kinds of situations but the best teams usually have about seven or eight but right now we're not ready to determine that yet."
Question: Your second point guard, you said it was kind of between Stu (Douglass) and Laval, has either one of those guys separated themselves?
John Beilein: "I think if they are in the game at the same time right now, I think Laval would be the guy; it would be better to have the same guy playing defense who we would have guard their other point would be Laval and there is not a significant difference between the two but a comfort level and Stu is very comfortable. We can't have Stu out there worried about running the team sometimes when he's got a dagger for a jump shot. He's got to know his talent and what it is and look for that. He's passed up several shots thinking like a point guard. We can't have him passing up shots in practices, in scrimmages and in our game."
Question: Is that tough sometimes with young guys to get them to understand what maybe their role should be?
John Beilein: "Yeah that's what you're fighting through the whole year. What's your best role on the team for this year to help this team win. We'd like to expand the role, everybody would like to do more, but what can do you for us right now. Stu, he should be going out and thinking that I'm a sniper. I can really shoot and I'm hunting shots that are open for me."
Question: Is that maybe the biggest difference potentially between this year and last year that you won't have guys like that who have to do more roles than they are ready to do?
John Beilein: "Yeah. I think they should be more comfortable and have…guys can change from one position to another and still multitask a little bit. I would think that Stu should still be hunting even though he could be running the team at some point. Laval is a hunter too. He should be hunting shots while he is still running the team. They have to be shooters who can play point guards still. Darius (Morris) is a point guard that can score. So that's the difference between those."
Question: Do you have to remember that some guys play better when the lights come on, because Zach had said he hadn't hit a shot in two weeks or you said and then he comes in and he is just drilling them.
John Beilein: "Yeah, it is very true and we like those guys a lot that can play when the lights are on. I think that everybody will go for a while here, especially the young kids. They'll get used to it."
Question: Does Darius have enough of a scorer's mentality or do you have to convince him sometimes that he can be more of a scorer?
John Beilein: "I think that will come as well. I don't think we have to convince them yet, but we have to direct them. Here's an opening, there was no play to run here. This was you taking it to the basket, they help, do your thing, dish it off, if they don't – score. I think he's pretty grounded with that. He's pretty good with that."
Question: You just signed a couple of kids at least somebody thought were in the top 100 in the country, as you've gotten this more established has that end gotten a little bit easier?
John Beilein: "Yeah I think so. In those first two years that we were here, we certainly didn't get the highly rated kids. Both Tim (Hardaway) and Evan (Smotrycz) are not only highly rated by others, but they are highly rated to me and that's the most important one. They really are going to add some great things to this team. I'm really enthused about what they can bring."
Question: Does Tim have the same sort of qualities of his dad?
John Beilein: "Yeah there will be times that he shoots that a jump shot. We call it a Hardaway actually. Where you dribbling the ball and you start to dribble again and all of sudden you go up, so it is either a crossover; we call that a Hardaway – we've called it a Hardaway before I knew Tim had a son. He does that well. He does that well. He is really a pure shooter, way up there."
Question: What are some of the things that you almost kind of saw, something like that are or some other flashes, right away, before you even knew his name?
John Beilein: "Yeah. We like guys that can have that jump shot that is up nice and high and when it goes in it is even better, he does both of those things. He also sees what's going on, which is big. Evan at 6'9" can really shoot. I mean can really shoot. He is an exceptional passer. You know how I like passers, this guy can really pass. So that's going to give us a great dimension, because there are a lot of things that we couldn't do in our first year that we could do last year because we could pass. We're a little bit better this year. Manny gets open – just this much sometimes, but that is big when you got a guy that can get him the ball right there."
Question: This might sound like an odd question but do you feel like in your system everybody on your team needs to be an above average passer?
John Beilein: "We'd like that and we'd like them all to shoot. That's highly skilled."
Question: When did you find out that Tim Hardaway first had a son?
John Beilein: "John Mahoney told me about him back when he was a sophomore. That's the first time I had realized.'
Question: Did you know Tim Sr. before that?
John Beilein: "No I didn't know him. I watched him quite often."
Question: Tim didn't have a funky shot like his dad?
John Beilein: "Did his dad? I just thought that his dad had a shot that would just go in. His shot reminds me a little bit of when Manny really gets up on his jump shot. It reminds me of that a little bit, really a pretty thing."
Question: You talked about how you are more comfortable going big this year, obviously is curious to see what Ben (Cronin) can do, but regarding him and Zack Gibson together, as coaches how curious are you to see their growth?
John Beilein: "If we could be that diverse with a seven footer and a 6'9" at the same time when we need to that's going to be very good. We're not going to do that unless we think we can be productive. Since the three point line came in, having two big post players from a defensive standpoint, isn't what you want to play against some teams. It is just hard to do it. It has its advantages in the two point game. It's has its disadvantages in the three point defensive game. We got a lot of developing to go there, but we're trying to get there."