We're obviously excited to still be in the tournament, and at the same time I think our guys are really hungry. And I have great respect for Georgetown. We watched them on tape. Really dove in there late last night. And they're an excellent basketball team.
So this is a great challenge for our guys. From where we were at the beginning of the year to where we are right now, we've improved a lot, we've gotten better, and I think our guys are really excited about playing.
Coach, what do you attribute the improvement on defense for you guys, too, the last two weeks or so?
I think that-- I don't know that there's one thing. I would think that we're guarding the ball much better, which has eliminated a lot of penetration. Which earlier I thought was an Achilles' heel for our team.
I think we're better on the perimeter. We're switching a little bit more than we did earlier, which I think has helped us. I think this group has-- I think they had figured out some things defensively that we want to do better than they did earlier, and I think our effort has been much better defensively as well.
Coach, can you just talk about the change that we see in recent years with fewer true centers being in the collegiate game? Richard talked about not wanting that tag and C.J. suggested the same. What's changed in college basketball that's led to that change?
I think the fact that most of the big kids that are really talented, they enter the draft early. We're all in this room old enough to remember Patrick Ewing going against Hakeem Olajuwon as upperclassmen in a Final Four.
Whether they were a junior and a senior, I can't remember, but they weren't freshmen. They were older. But, as a matter of fact, when "Never Nervous" Pervis was a freshman, it was a big deal because he was a freshman. Those guys leave. They're not in college basketball very often.
So the big guy in the college game is rare, and a lot of guys that are 6'8", 6'7", they have to play the post. And just a different game now.
I've heard Bill Carmody at Northwestern say that the one advantage he thinks he has by running the Princeton offense is that it's really hard for teams to prepare just for them because what they do is a little bit different. From a coaching standpoint, is it hard to play against a team that's a backcut team, like Georgetown likes to play also?
Well, it's difficult, because like you said, you don't see it all the time. Now, I think here's where you gotta be-- it's a little tricky. In other words, when you get beat on a backdoor cut, sometimes we feel like that was an eight-point play, just a two-point play. It's what they do.
They do that well. Somebody else may just be the post and power it in and do that well. They still-- it's still just two. But sometimes that backdoor cut, it just hurts worse. So mentally you've got to understand that they're going to do what they do. That's what they've practiced every day. We're going to do what we do every day. And we're not going to shut them out. It's not going to be a shutout.
So they are going to score and they are going to score the way they score, but what we've gotta do is figure out in the short amount of time how to take certain things away, disrupt just like they're trying to do with us, the same things you do every game. But that Princeton-style offense, it gets us a little bit woozy every now and then because it's such a unique thing.
Obviously San Diego State, some opportunities inside for you guys, for Rich and C.J. Georgetown, very different story. What do you do, one, to get opportunities for the inside guys; two, on the perimeter; and, three, Scott Wood, how do you get him open against a team this big?
Here's one thing about our team this year-- and we've talked a lot about our balanced scoring that our team has had-- and I think we're the type of team that whatever for the most part whatever is there, we've been able to adapt and adjust throughout the game.
In other words, there are big games where we haven't scored inside but our perimeter guys have stepped up and they made a lot of shots.
Then yesterday was a game where I think once the game started, we got into the game. We realized we could have some success inside. Richard was playing well. Calvin had a couple of nice plays early. And then we started going to the well more often.
But in a different game, I think with our team, that's been one nice thing about our team. We haven't had to have the same guys score every night for us to win a game.
By any metric they're an excellent defensive team. What impresses you about Georgetown's defense?
I think their length is impressive. They move their feet extremely well. They close down dribble penetration well. They really help-- they're quick, they're long, and obviously that's something that they take pride in their defense.
It's been interesting. They're such a great man-to-man defensive team and recently they've been really good in their zone as well. So I think they've added a second weapon defensively with the way they're zoning people.
First, C.J. Leslie sort of shows the growth that your whole team has over the year. Could you just describe the process, like how do you turn the light bulb on for a kid like that, or what's the process for getting him to be where he is now?
I think with Calvin, it's the same with just about every guy on our team. You come in as a new staff. They don't know you. Most of them they'd never heard of me. Because I had been out of coaching.
I think more than anything, over the course of the year just developing trust and a relationship. And I've always believed that, when Calvin or Richard or Lorenzo begins to truly believe that this guy's in my corner, he's really trying to help me, he's coaching me really hard, he's getting after me in practice.
Sometimes it's uncomfortable. But I think that those guys came to a point where they really decided to trust our staff. I really do. And Calvin especially.
And some guys it takes longer. We're all different. Some people trust you right off the bat, day one. Other guys there's a wall there you can't penetrate that wall. And you can feel it.
But I think there's been a lot of trust back and forth.
Follow-up to the first one, you get that trust when they start to see certain things getting better, right?
Was there a point where little things C.J. or the team saw that, hey, this is working?
You know, I can't recall a point, no. But I think our players realize when we got there this year that things were going to be a lot different than they were. There was going to be a lot more accountability. And it was just a completely different atmosphere that they've had. And it took a little bit of time at the beginning.
But I think that over time us winning some games, I've said this before, I think the schedule that we play forced everybody to get on the same page quicker, because you've got these challenging games. And we played well in those games. So all those things I think helped kind of bring it all together.
Just now that you've made the tournament, won a tournament game, do you need to sell the way you did in the fall? Do you need to consider jumping out of an airplane next fall?
I'll probably still do that. I actually wanted to do that. I still think that that's something-- we want to become a program that's relevant on the national scene. And to do that, you know, jumping out of planes is great, but at the end of the day it's winning. It's winning. And we know that. And that's what we need to consistently do over the next few years, not just because we won some games here. That's not going to answer all the questions.
We've got to consistently win, and we know it.
First off, what did happen on the sky diving, on the plane jumping? What happened?
Weather. It was raining that day. So pulled the plug on me.
Are you thinking about doing it again?
Yeah, if they want me to, I'll do it. I'm actually afraid of heights, believe it or not, of all things. So nobody that's close to me that knows me actually believed I would do it. So they might have to push me out, but I said I'd do it, so we'll see.
What did you see as the big challenges coming in when you took this job?
Well, I think there was a lot of them. Here you've got a program. You gotta remember I was at UCLA. I went there in 1988, with Jim Harrick, and if you go back and remember UCLA missed the NCAA Tournament five out of the previous seven years.
So when we walked in there-- I was young, I was a graduate assistant-- but very similar in that you've got great tradition, history, fan base, people want you to win. They expect you to win, yet they weren't winning. And starting with the recruiting, recruiting local players, getting the best players, and then building a program.
So when I got to NC State, it was very similar to me. You got a program that's been to three Final Fours, two national championships. You've got a hungry fan base. But it's just convincing everybody that we can win. And we still have to do that as we go forward.
But one thing that was nice, we inherited a group of guys that had the potential to get better. And I think, again, it was getting those guys to really buy into what we were selling, our system, every day, and I think that happened.
I covered that UCLA team and your first coaching position. Why do you call C.J. Calvin, other than the fact it's his name?
Those guys are local guys; they've heard that story. First of all, his name is Calvin. His dad's name is Calvin. And when I took the job, every time I turned around somebody was making a negative comment about C.J. Leslie: Doesn't play hard. He's disinterested. You're not going to be able to reach him. He's this, he's that. It was all negative.
And here you've got a guy that's got unbelievable talent. And the more I've gotten to know him, he's an unbelievable person. He's a really good guy. Yet everything was negative.
So my thing was it's time for a change. It's time for you to have a fresh start. So for me we'll change your name. It's Calvin. And I think at first he always looked out of the corner of his eye like what are you doing? But he's used to it now. But that's the reason.
Two C.J. questions, one Calvin and the other C.J. C.J. Williams, update on his ankle. What did it mean to you listening to C.J. Leslie in Atlanta when he talked about thanking you and all that?
C.J. Williams was-- he shot around today. He's a little tender. I think he'll play. And we'll get him a lot more treatment today. A lot of ice tonight. So I expect him to play. I don't know if he'll be 100percent, but he'll be okay.
As far as Calvin in Atlanta, it meant a lot to me. Any coach. I'd be lying if I said it didn't. It did. And I've watched that man grow up. He's getting better. He's maturing. And I think that he's responded to coaching in a positive way, so that makes you feel good.
You touched on the history and success of a program like NC State. Is that something you can truly sell to kids today, or is it-- are they too busy tweeting and worried about their media world and that they don't have any sense of history or that? How do you use that idea that you can resurrect a program to get kids to come in and think that that's important to them?
Well, again, a little bit similar to the UCLA experience I had. We had John Wooden and most of the kids we recruited, although they heard of him, they never watched his teams play. Might as well have been in the '20s as far as the kid is concerned.
Ours is similar. We have guys we're recruiting that they don't know who Dereck Whittenburg is. They don't know those guys at all, and I think that was 29years ago. That was a long time ago. But here's the key, I think. It has been done at this school. There are some schools that although they want to be great, it's never been done there. And I think that since it's been done, there's more of a belief that it can be done again.
And I think that's what we've tried to sell to young guys.
In the last eight games or so, Wolf Pack has shown a lot of maturity and a lot of growth. What do you attribute that to? Just growing up and everything finally coming together or what?
I think that our young players-- you've got to remember, Lorenzo's a sophomore, Calvin's a sophomore. I think those two guys, especially, have improved.
I think those guys are much better now at the end of their sophomore years than they were at the beginning. And I think that's helped us probably more than anything.
I also think that just as a group, our team started to come together as far as everybody's roles and what they truly should be doing for us to win. And guys, whether it's Alex or DeShawn coming off the bench, C.J. Williams, it just seems like their roles, they're fulfilling that role what they should bring to the team better I think here late in the year.
I'm just curious as, you're so swamped as a coach right now preparing, do you get a chance-- even sneak a peek at the tournament as a fan? And what did you think about the upsets? Everybody's abuzz about it might have been a historic day.
I've always said this, it's the greatest show on earth. I've always believed that, NCAA Tournament. Bowl games are great, Super Bowl is great. This is the greatest show on earth. Yesterday America watched. Probably the world watched. And anything can happen. That's the fun part of being in the tournament. So as we watched tape, last night I was watching tape on Georgetown. I'm watching the end of the Missouri game or the end of the Duke game. I don't get to watch them all start to finish, but we certainly tune in like everybody else.