“I just told them back stage it's the best few minutes I've ever had at a press conference. I about fell asleep back there waiting for the Westwood One interview. It's nice comfortable couches back there. We just got in late last night. We've already practiced off-site, had a good practice, good workout. We'll go out and shoot it around a little bit and try to get used to the surroundings, feel ecstatic about being here, and so far have made it through the first practice we've had today without anybody getting hurt, so we're feeling good.”
When you were on the coaching staff and Tommy Amaker was a high school senior, you guys had a pretty good guard coming in in Kenny Smith, so I understand why Tommy says you didn't recruit him. But do you see anything from him as a player at Duke or him working at Duke in this Harvard program, do you see that DNA there?
“Completely. Because I loved Tommy when he was in high school. I thought he was the most complete point guard out there in his class. He could score, he could defend, he was a coach on the court. He didn't make silly mistakes. He didn't try to do things that he couldn't do. And I'm not saying he was limited because he was not, but there were certain things -- he was not going to try to drive down the lane and jump over and dunk on somebody. He'd make the smarter play. And I think when I've watched Harvard, I've watched two of their games since Sunday, and I see the same kind of things in his team. They don't try to do things they can't do. I think one of the greatest skills in basketball is knowing your strengths and playing to them and knowing your weaknesses and making sure that's not the biggest factor, and that's what I see when I see his teams play. Tommy has been a guy that I've really enjoyed. We had a moment to visit out there before our required meeting, and when we say hello, it's a very genuine hello. It's not just wave or give him a dead fish handshake or something like that. I really did have a great deal of respect for him as a player, and we've sat in the stands several times over the years watching recruits play and had some good conversations.”
Harvard and its core group of players have had some success in this tournament winning the last two years in the opening round. From your vantage point, what's the value in that type of success, and is that something that you bring up with your players?
“Yeah, well, I think there is a value of playing in this tournament and being successful. I think you get rid of the jitters quicker, you get more focused quicker, you understand truly what is important. So I think there's a great deal of value, and I've even been on the other end, where in 2009, we walked in the locker room before the semifinal game and Bobby Frazier said, all right, remember what we did last year and what we felt like. So I think that is a value. In 2001 I saw Maryland make some mistakes down the stretch. In 2002 they won the whole thing because they didn't make those mistakes. I do think there's value in being here, and they've won -- Harvard's won last the last two years, and we've won games the last two years, and I would always rather have that with my club.”
Roy, Coach Smith used to treat every tournament, the ACC Tournament and then each regional, as its own separate tournament and you build momentum as you go along. After the success you had last week in Greensboro, how do you try to keep the ball rolling and re-create some of that?
“Well, I think you do gain confidence if you've had success, so you start at a little bit of a higher point. But I told our guys that we're going, and if we play real well and focus on Harvard, perhaps they'll let us hang around and play another game. We're not trying to win six games tomorrow. We're trying to win one game. We're trying to play exceptionally well and hope that that helps us win the game. But I do believe you build your momentum once you get into the tournament, and I think we did that in Greensboro in the ACC, and hopefully we'll do it here.”
I gather Theo made it through practice okay today. Do you expect him to be available tomorrow night? And also, bigger picture, he's been in, he's been out, he thought he might play against Notre Dame, decided not to. The players draw so much energy from him anyway, but how hard has it been for Theo to be going back and forth?
“I think it has been hard, but I don't think that he's been back and forth. He's been trying to get to a certain point where he feels comfortable and confident that he can do something, and he hasn't been to that point since, I guess, the Duke game. Was that the last game he played? He played Georgia Tech for a couple minutes, but I think he played at Duke and he hasn't been to that point. It hasn't been going back and forth with him. He's just had a little bit of a steady climb trying to get back to that point because he did bother it, and it was maybe the first practice after the Duke game at the end of the regular season. Before the Notre Dame game if you had asked me after our shoot-around, I would have told you I thought he was going to play, but when he got to it in warm-ups, he came over and sat down on the bench with me during warm-ups and we talked, and he decided that he didn't really have that confidence. Really that part hasn't been as bad on him because he's trying to get back to that point. Our players have accepted the fact that he's not going to play, and then if he does play, oh, well, we've got another player, and so that's the way I've tried to look at it, too.”
Justin Jackson says his ascension in play the last few weeks has been because he's been more assertive. Was there a conversation that you had with him where finally that light kind of went on, or was there a moment that you recall where, okay, he's a different guy now, he's that more assertive guy?
“I don't think there's been one particular moment. You know, at Duke he didn't play very well. We since got him to come up and sit beside me on the bus on the way over. It was only 10 miles so it wasn't exactly a two-hour conversation, and we talked at that time, but I've been trying to get him to understand all year long I want him to be more aggressive. One game, and I can't remember which game it was, we passed it around, he should have shot it and he didn't shoot it, and I said if you're going to be a baby, come over here and sit down. So he shot the next one and made it, and shot the next one and made that one, too. It's been a little bit of a continuous process but I believe it has been going up, but I don't know of any one moment -- let's understand, after the Virginia game, 22 points and the sky was the limit. What happened the next game? He was 0 for 7. He's still a freshman, he's still a wonderful kid, but he's not ready to guard No. 23 and play like him all the time.”
How important is tempo with this year's team or setting the tempo and kind of adjusting it as you go along?
“Well, I don't think it's as important because we haven't been able to set it where we wanted it very well, so we've had to sort of play other people's tempo more than I want to. We've had some teams in the past that were good enough to make them play our way, and we haven't been able to do that, not very often at all. It's like using that word again, assertive. We haven't been as assertive at establishing the tempo ourselves, which is okay. I've said a hundred times that I'd much rather win 90-80, but if we've got to win 60-50, you've got to be able to play different styles. If you can only play one way, you're going to meet somebody else that's really good at their way and then you're really going to have problems. I've never been one to say, Gosh, if we can't run the ball, we can't beat those guys. I've just never believed that. But there is a way I like to play so much more, but heck, we won a game a couple years ago, we scored 48, and I've had a team that scored 83 in a half before, so 48 is not a lot.”
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