We're coming off a really grind-out, gutsy game against Manhattan … We begin our final exams this week, so we have a few extra days before we play another game this Saturday afternoon. I think we've continued to make progress through the early season. Perhaps we have not been as sharp as we'd ideally like to be these last two games, but our guys have counterbalanced that with pretty steadfast defense.
(Your team is struggling with free-shooting so far. Do you think that's just a phase?)
Well, we have not shot free throws well through six games. That's only a small fraction of our entire season, so we still have many more free throws to shoot than we've already attempted, and I'm confident that we'll shoot better in the future.
Julius goes to the line a disproportionate number of times for our team. He spends a lot of time there, so in terms of our team's percentage [against Manhattan], although some others maybe missed them as well, we've got to get him back in the groove, because he's been a career 80-percent plus free throw shooter.
(You have a lot of games sandwiched together in this next stretch. Are you concerned at all about endurance?)
I think we have a reasonable amount of depth. I don't think the close proximity of the games is a big concern. In your conference season, you face similar swings, where you may have three games in a week or play a Thursday-Saturday combination.
(Do you enjoy playing one game a year at Reynolds Coliseum?)
I do enjoy that, and I think, even more importantly, our players have really enjoyed the experience. They get excited about it, and I think, each year, the new guys who experience it for the first time are taken back with the noise level in that building. It kind of just ricochets off the walls, as you know.
(Duke's Mike Krzyzewski is closing in on his 700th win. Can you talk about what has made him so successful?)
I think, if I had to just pinpoint one thing, and really that's an oversimplification because there's so many things that are necessary to enjoy the longstanding success that he's had, it would be leadership. I think it's a subject that he writes about, speaks about and takes a special interest in. I think he's a leader first, and I think a lot of other things emanate from that.
(Has Julius Hodge's free-throw form changed?)
We're in the process of taking a look at it. I'm going to talk with him … and we're going to look at it on film and just see what we can identify.
(How do you handle exam week in terms of working around players' exam schedules?)
We're always most sensitive to the academic schedules of our guys, even when we're not in our exam week. Sometimes we have to adjust practice times so that everybody could be there. When we get together, we want the entire team, so we'll try to get together at a time when everybody can meet.
(Cedric Simmons has not played as much lately. Is that a situation where he just is going through some freshman struggles?)
Well, all freshmen do, and Cedric is going to play for us, and I really believe he's going to be a terrific player. We're just at the very beginning stages here.
(Growing up a Steelers fan, have you been able to enjoy their run of success now?)
I don't get to watch them regularly on television. First of all, not all of their games are on in this year, and sometimes they overlap our practices and games, like [Sunday]. I caught part of it when I got home, but I wasn't able to sit there and just watch the game. But certainly, I follow it in the newspaper or on SportsCenter, keeping up with the scores.
I grew up a diehard Steelers fan, and now it's even more enjoyable because the coach is an NC State graduate, Bill Cowher, a person I have great respect for and have had a chance to meet and get to know a little bit. And the quarterback [Ben Roethlisberger] is from Miami (Ohio), where I got my head-coaching start, so that's kind of neat as well.
(Do you have any fond memories of Three Rivers Stadium? Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser was there for the "Immaculate Reception.")
I was never able to get into a Steelers game; in fact, the only time I've been to a Steelers fan in person was after I had graduated college and I came back one summer and caught an exhibition game up in the nose-bleed section when someone was kind enough to share some tickets. But that was the only time I've was ever able to go to one in person. I used to listen on the radio; I can remember lying on the floor, listening to the radio when Franco Harris made the ‘Immaculate Reception.' I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing at the time, but I just was never able to actually get through the gates. As you know, Steeler tickets are hard to come by, and I just wasn't among that group.
(Did you have a "Terrible Towel"?)
I did not have a Terrible Towel. Myron Cope was the innovator of the Terrible Towel, and really, Steeler fans are absolutely sensational fans.
(Can you talk about Tony Bethel's performance thus far?)
Tony has played well through the first six games, and I anticipate it's going to take him some more games before we even see his best. That year where you practice is one thing, but to get back in the game flow is another.