I don't think it's entirely the economy. But I don't have any doubt in saying that that is a huge factor. It's not that exorbitant compared to some other means of entertainment, but still it's pretty difficult because now you're adding hotel rooms and meals where prices are higher than they were the week before. I also believe the nature of conference tournaments – I hate to say this and people get mad at me all the time, but the ACC tournament is not what it was 30 years ago. When I first came in as an assistant, you had to win the league or conference tournament or you don't go. I wouldn't mind a little expansion of the tournament. I don't want us to go wacko because I love the specialness, but I would love to see every automatic qualifier to be the teams that win the regular season, to make the regular season worth more. The ACC tournament and all conference tournaments have lost their luster because of this overwhelming monster of the NCAA. I've been very fortunate, I've been to seven Final Fours and only one of those times did we win a conference tournament. You just get worn out.
That was 25 years after they expanded the NCAA tournament, before that seemed to have an impact…
The NCAA tournament, we went in 1982. I'm at Kansas and Coach Smith and I meet in Indianapolis in 1991. North Carolina had skipped nine years. The first thing Coach Smith said to me at the salute dinner is, man this has changed since 1982 hasn't it? It shows how long we've been gone. The drastic, drastic changes in the Final Four were mind-boggling. In 1982, we played Virginia and then we played Indiana and it was in the Final Four. My gosh, now we have police escorts, we've got all kinds of things going on. The Final Four just exploded. I don't know when it did, but it just exploded and the difference was between '82 and '91.
You said you'd rather reward the regular season champion. Would you still like that with the unbalanced schedules? People don't play the same conference schedule…
They don't play the same teams in the NCAA Tournament either. Teams have won tournaments playing a two seed, a four seed and a seven seed. I guess it was 2005, three of the four No. 1 seeds made it. And in 2009, two of the No. 1 seeds made it – that happens all the time. When I went to Kansas, the year before they talked about how everything fell in place, Kansas won the National Championship and until the Final Four never played anybody better than a six seed.
Who is the best defender on your team?
It was Will. I think it could very easily be Harrison.
Is that rare for a freshman?
Nick Collison was his first year he stepped on the court at Kansas. He was the best defender for four years in the post. But it's rare I'm sure. Marcus was really good his freshman year. This is not a cut, but didn't get a heck of a lot better. It shows what a bad teacher I was. He didn't get much better than he was as a freshman.
Tyler Zeller said earlier that he thought Reggie Bullock could possibly be the best defender on the team…
Reggie was in the mix when I was going through the thought process. I think down in Nassau the three guys that did the best job defensively was Reggie, Harrison and Will. Dexter should be. If Dexter ever decides that's extremely important to him and steps up and does that, then it will help our team and help him a great deal.
I read that you said you were going to be meaner this year…
Yeah, our preseason conditioning program was tougher than it had been in any year since I've been there. I'm less tolerant of the same mistake over and over and over. I made this statement earlier, in the finals of the Postseason NIT against Dayton, I spent one time talking about the same blessed thing I talked about the first game of the year. That's ridiculous. Kids have got to accept the responsibility and be held accountable and go ahead and do it.
Have they responded?
In the conditioning program, I was very pleased with what they did. With a couple of exceptions, I was ecstatic with what they did.
When, and why, did you decide to put in this new conditioning program?
I just didn't like the toughness that we had. I was the guy that did the conditioning program when I was Coach Smith's assistant. I loved it and thought it made our teams realize what they could do, even more than they thought. I just decided I was going to do it.
Was this the same program you did in 1981 and 1982?
The program that we did this year was the exact - except for two rain days that we had change - the exact program that I did in the fall of 1981 that I did with Michael, James and Sam. It was four weeks long, three days a week.
When you think back to that time, there was a lot of pressure on that team. There were a lot of expectations. Is there little pressure on this team?
It's totally different. That team had James Worthy… and Sam Perkins. That team had four starters who had been extremely successful who had gone to the championship game. We lost Al Wood and replaced him with Michael Jordan. From that part there is no similarity. But, the expectations. The expectations were unbelievably high for that time, but they couldn't be off the charts for that team. The expectations can be totally unrealistic for this team. We're coming off 17 wins, lost our best player - the 13th player picked in the NBA Draft - lost a tremendous amount of depth, lost our best three point shooter. The expectations can't be anywhere near as high, but there are some hopes. I'll be honest, 32 seconds to go in the National Championship game against Georgetown, we got the ball out of bounds. That's the first time the whole dadgum year that I thought we weren't going to win the National Championship. I thought we were going to win it in the middle of the night when I woke up, December, January, February and March, and with 32 seconds to go, they come to the bench and have this look on their face and I said ‘Oh my gosh, maybe we could lose.' I never had entertained that thought. Hell, I'm hoping we just find a way to get on the bus with this club.
Have you ever had a team without a recruited senior before?
I don't think I have ever had one. I'm concerned about the fact, that when I look on the best teams I've had, there was a lot of experience and talent returning. In 1997 we returned five starters, 1998 we returned three starters. 2002 we returned four starters, 2003 we returned three starters, in 2005 we returned basically five starters because I just switched Melvin and Jackie. In 2009, we returned five starters. There's no question that those best teams have always been ones with experience and talent returning. We don't have that level this year.
How do you see your frontcourt playing out?
I hope this would be one similarity to 1982, if you were looking for one, except for the fact that it was Worthy and Perkins, this time it's Zeller and Henson. In the national championship game, I think Chris Brust was the only point we had from anyone off the bench. He was the only substitute who really got major minutes. Warren Martin got in a little bit, but it was Sam and James and Chris was the next guy. They were able to stay healthy the whole year. We lost to Wake Forest when Sam got sick during the pre-game meal. Z and John have the experience of playing for North Carolina. Justin had the experience of playing for Alabama. They're going to get in foul trouble; they're going to have a hangnail or flu or something. Where do we go next? Right now I don't have the answer. I think we'll be OK offensively with the way we do things. But who is going to guard that second post player on the other team is a major question for us. Will Graves was going to play almost 90 percent of his time at the four spot. I spent a good portion of the summer, having some fun thinking about what we were going to do with Will and how deep we could take him, having the other teams four-man having to go out and guard him out there. Offensively, you don't worry about size as much. It's better to have Sean May or Tyler Hansbrough, a guy who score all day inside. I don't worry about Z being out on the court at the three-point line. He can shoot the ball, he can make good decisions. John can slash. I'm not going to go screen on the ball for both of them and ask them to beat a guy off the dribble. Defensively is where you have the problem. Who else is going to guard the post player?
So Harrison is more of a 3?
Oh, Harrison will play the three completely. In Nassau he didn't play anything but the three. But now we had Will at that time as the fourth big guy. I really don't know who is going to be the fourth big guy.
They're talking about this idea of changing summer recruiting – more like removing summer recruiting. Where is that coming from?
It's got to come from Siberia. That's the most asinine thing I've ever heard of. It's extremely cost effective, it's time-consuming, and it's the easiest and best way to do something. Nobody can convince me there are any positives with getting rid of summer recruiting. Well, they say in the July period you can be home with your players. Second session of summer school started June 13 for us. I was there from June 13 to July 6 when we went out on the road. Telling me that me being home is going to make Harrison Barnes have a better grade in his math class is asinine too. That's the reason we have an academic support services program. I don't tutor my guys, my gosh. It's just some NCAA staff member or person that says summer recruiting is bad. Then all of a sudden we have to answer this question. I can make one stop and see 300 kids or I can go 300 times and see 300 kids, anybody can do the math. The coaches are 12-0 in favor of keeping summer recruiting and I think it's the most asinine things I've ever heard of.
And if you went out individually to all these places, you'd be leaving your team during the season…
I mean it just doesn't make any sense. You give those people - or whatever it is that you're trying to get out - free reign without you watching them. If you're a crook, I'd like to watch and see what you're doing; it may give me a little bit of an idea how to catch you. If you're an unsavory character, at least I'm around and you may not do it quite as much if I'm around.
Is that a distrust of the summer coaches?
Let me get this straight now, there are great summer coaches…
Not from the college coaches, but the people who want to make this change are they saying it's kids being unattended in some way?
That's asinine too. I could get up on a soapbox and Obama would lose a battle against me and I love him. They took away April recruiting and they said the reason we take it away is if the coaches don't go it'll make the high school kids not skip class on Friday, they won't go to these events. If you're 14 years old and someone says you want to go to Fayetteville, Arkansas and play in a tournament you're going to say yes. Las Vegas, you're going to say yes. Houston, you're going to say yes. I would say yes and I wouldn't care if a college coach was around. Boo Williams, in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach area, has an event in April on Easter Weekend and his enrollment is off the charts. No college coach has ever been able to attend, because he doesn't care and it's not even sanctioned. All those kids still go; they don't worry about whether we're there or not. Kids are going to go play. I would go play right now if you said you want to go to California and play, I wouldn't even care what you said. Next, I'm in.