Since the national championship this program has had a lot of different kinds of adversity. How do you regard these last five years?
In 2010 we didn’t play well on the court, had a lot of injuries; it was a tough, tough year. 2011 and 2012 I thought we were pretty doggone good. Then 2012, we were a broken wrist away from what I thought was the best team in the country.
The last two years has been more junk than I wanted to deal with. It’s made the job not as much fun, there’s no question. But one thing it’s done is just confirm what I truly love, is being on the court with the kids. Because the last two years that’s been my salvation.
It’s been something I always knew I enjoyed before I even became an official coach. When I’m going back to the summer time and helping out my old school coach with the players at Roberson high school, I really at that point knew that I was going to love coaching.
The last two years that’s what I’ve tried to dive into and do that as much as I could and enjoy that as much as I could to get by with the other stuff.
If you’re talking about the stuff on the court, in a lot of ways, I’ve been very pleased. We make a change a couple years ago to go small and the kids responded, even the kids that lost minutes sat over there and cheered like crazy and tried to be a great part of a team and we made a great run. Last year was the indecision about who were going to have even on our team. Yet the team performed really, really well. The last two years we’ve been tied for second, tied for third or third and there’s 108 teams in the league, so that’s pretty impressive.
On the court I’ve been not satisfied because you always want more, no question, but I’ve been really proud of the last two teams that we’ve coached.
This team you have now, do you think it’s more balance than you’ve had the last couple years?
I think there is more balance, now we have to play like it. I want the perimeter guys to play really well, the post guys to play really well and then you have a really good team. We had that, the last really, really good team consistently was 2012, even though last year at times we were pretty doggone good. That team had the consistency and the balance of inside and outside scoring. We do have some people there and now they just have to step up and just do it. Three practices is all we’ve had and I’ve been pleased with the workouts.
Is this the ideal makeup for your team?
It’s not ideal. If it’s ideal, I’d have Marcus (Paige), Marvin (Williams), Tyler (Hansbrough) and Tyler (Zeller) and John (Henson) — now that’d be a really ideal team because we could do everything. This team hasn’t shown yet on the court against other teams that they can do everything. We still don’t have anybody that’s proven they can be an inside scorer…
We don’t have anybody on this team that’s proven they can score against really quality opponents every night. We haven’t proven yet that more than one guy can step out to the three-point line and make the shot. I don’t think I can even answer that question yet because nobody’s proven all those different things.
With someone as talented as Marcus Paige, is it complicated to figure out who to put around him?
It’s not nearly as complicated as trying to figure out how to do that around a guy that can’t play. He’s a basketball player. Even his freshman year, go back and check your notes two-thirds of you thought I was crazy when I kept telling you he was going to be a really good player and two-thirds thought I didn’t know what the crap I was talking about. He understands how to play the game. He makes people better himself, and he sort of tries to figure out where he can do the best thing for everybody else. He’s more of a facilitator who can do things himself with a little help from those guys. He can’t do it by himself, he has to have somebody setting screens, getting the ball to him, getting it off the board, getting it out and all those kinds of things.
It’s not like he’s just a shooter, now what can we do to complement him? Or he’s he’s just a driver, do we have any other shooters that don’t allow people to back in? Is he just a defensive player? He’s a complete basketball player. He’s our best shooter, probably best driver, best defender. If I had five of him at the same size, we’d probably be really good.
Did you learn anything about this group from the Bahamas and the practices leading up to it?
You can bring them back for 10 practices, we only had four. You can make a trip once every four years and I didn’t want to take their whole summer. They’ve done a great job on the court and even better job in the classroom over the last year, I didn’t want to take their whole summer to bring them back for 10 days so we brought them back for four days.
A couple things, I think Isaiah (Hicks) was a positive. Now he’s gotta understand I need him to do that all the time, when the defense is aimed at you. It was great for the first game because we spent too much time on all the waterslides and everything during the course of day and forgot we had a game that night. We won’t be on the waterslides quite as much when we get down there in November.
The freshmen, getting Joel (Berry), Justin (Jackson) and Theo (Pinson) out there I think that was really good for them. We’d had eight practices, one a week during second-session of summer school, and then the four before we went down there. There’s no question I think it helped us, we haven’t shown that retention as much as I wanted to from what we talked about in July and August.
How do you envision the three point guards sharing those positions? How much do you envision Marcus playing with the ball and without it?
The best and most truthful answer is I don’t know. I have a track record, in 2002 we had a team that was pretty good and made the Final Four and we started three point guards. Because they were the three best perimeter players. Jeff Boschee was a senior and he had started at the point as a freshman. After that Kirk Hinrich came in and started at the point for two years and Boschee started at the ‘2’ spot. Then Aaron Miles came in and I moved Kirk all the way to the three, played Boschee at the ‘2’ and Aaron at the ‘1.’ I’ve done that before and I can easily do that again and I was very, very comfortable with that.
When decisions have to be made that determine the outcome of the game, Marcus is going to be heavily involved. Whether that’s with the ball in his hand to make the play or make the pass or make the shot or whatever, I don’t know that.
I think I’ve missed them up in practice for 11 practices. I have yet to put all three of them on the court at the same time, but that’s going to happen. … We’ve started three point guards and it was the easiest coaching I’ve ever done in my life. Now the two guys up front were pretty good too, we had Drew Gooden and Nick Collison and three point guards. So, we were pretty good.
What’s different about Kennedy that you’ve seen on the court?
He’s running better, he’s more explosive. I want him to be more aggressive thinking. That doesn’t mean foul people, get the ball and go stronger to the basket. You’re not carrying 285 to 295 now, explode up there and get it closer to the rim when you do it. I think he’s got to realize that he’s worked his tail off, off the court, to do something. To me it’s a lot more difficult than changing as a basketball player. He came in at 319 and he’s at 270-275 range right now, that’s a lot more difficult than what I’m asking him to do as a basketball player. He’s done the hardest thing. Getting him to understand that explosiveness, and you’ve got to have it more than once. You’ve got to be the second jumper, the third jump. Be more aggressive and the thinking part that I need you to score. Be more aggressive to get that low-post position where I want you to get it.
Is the body there for the quickness you need?
It’s a heck of a lot closer now than what it was last year. He’s not as explosive as he would be at 230, but he may not be Kennedy at 230.
Is this a time when you can teach a little bit more and do you enjoy that?
I love this time period. The teaching and trying to mold the guys. I’ve always said coaching is trying to get my guys to do what they can do, better than you get your guys to do what they can do. If I have more talent and get them to do that, then we’re going to be really good.
Trying to mold a team is trying to get everybody aimed at one objective. Trying to get everybody to make sacrifices for the common goal. Trying to get everybody to believe that how we do is going to take care of everybody individually. The culture that we have nowadays, in high school and summer-league basketball, is not a team culture. It’s an individual culture, so that’s a big challenge. Getting everyone to make sacrifices to a common goal is one of my thrills.
Check back tomorrow for Part II ...
Roy Williams Media Day Q&A, Part I
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