What’s the relationship like between Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson?
They’ve lived together for four years. They’re the odd couple in some ways. But they really enjoy each other’s’ company. I would live with them and I have really nipped at them differently for four years. Great kids. Brice has learned a great deal from Marcus, and Marcus has learned some things from Brice as well, just as I have as well.
Is there anything in particular that they get on each other about?
I don’t see them getting on each other very often. They room together, so they’re bound to enjoy each other’s company and they’ve requested each other every year. Marcus always pushes Brice to do more and so do I. I haven’t heard Brice push Marcus to do more or that kind of thing. A couple weeks ago, Marcus’s article in USA Today was one of the nicest articles I’ve ever read. He talked about the former players that are around and ‘I’ve got to enjoy this moment, I’m at a special place.’ Everyone in here would like to have 15 guys like that. But if you read the article, who was the most positive person about Marcus? It was Brice. It’s been a good relationship.
Do you think you’ll be fazed at all by the 30-second shot clock with the way you get up and down the court?
I don’t think 35 to 30 is a big… I shouldn’t have probably said it, but I said it in the meeting in there, we’ve worked this year on a 15-second clock. Because I want them to play faster. I’ve never had a team that really wanted to run as fast as I wanted them to run, but we’re trying to get to be more aggressive, attack more and run more, and see what happens. But, I don’t that’ll that’ll affect us hardly at all.
Are you comfortable with this team being No. 1 in the polls?
I’m comfortable with this team and that doesn’t bother me when that happens. Some of you guys were around in ’09 and I think at that time we were the first unanimous pick in the Associated Press poll to be No. 1. And I was asked at that point does that bother me, I said ‘no.’ Because we were really good. I don’t think we’re at that level yet but the good news is we have the whole season to play and we’ve got some really good parts and hopefully we’ll be one of those teams that will still be talked about at the end of the year that has a chance.
What is Sean May’s role on your staff and what does he mean to the Carolina program as far as developing your players?
Well I have no idea what his role is going to evolve in except that he’s not coaching. He’s not on the court; he’s not pulling the kids over to the side during a game and talking to them. He decided to stop playing basketball for his living and his career. He wants to eventually get into coaching. I think this is one way to give him a great feel for what coaching is about. He’s going to work with our Rams Club in the spring and early summer and all the Rams Club meetings because I’d like a basketball player involved in that group. He’s going to do a lot of things for us, for (Athletic Communications) and Learfield and the broadcast and things from the media side of it. He’s going to watch very closely what we do as coaches. He’s one of the smartest players, if not the smartest player, I’ve ever coached. When he played I never asked him a question that he didn’t know the correct answer. I think he could’ve played all of the other four positions because he knew what each one was supposed to do. So this is basically giving him an up close, internship kind of situation for him to decide whether he really wants to get into coaching or move more into the media aspect of it or more into the administrative aspect of it, but that’s what it is.
So there’s zero player development or coaching work or anything like that?
Zero. He can’t. You can only have so many guys on the court and we’ve never had a guy who was our director of basketball (operations), we’ve never had him have meetings with teams, talk to players about their play, we’ve never had him coach on the floor. The difference is that Sean has played so much pickup with our guys, as recently as this summer, there’s already a little bit of a relationship there. But, he’s not going to be doing any of that.
How has Sean helped Kennedy Meeks in the system as they’ve had a similar path?
They have had a similar path, but I don’t know that Sean really has helped him in his new role yet. Sean was helping him when they were playing pickup about ‘come on, you need to run more. You need to be more explosive’ when they’re playing pickup. But Sean has only been in this role for a couple weeks and, again, we’re still trying to allow it to evolve and trying to find out exactly what it’s going to be at the end. But he has learned a great deal because I’ve told them, ‘Sean May made a decision to be focused and was extremely dedicated for one full year and look what he did with that.’ The players have heard that many times.
Is it more difficult to build a team concept than it was 15 or 20 years ago with players wanting to go to the NBA?
I’ll go back to that same comment that it used to be a thrill for kids to get a college scholarship offer and now we are a bus stop at our level. They always have that in the back of their mind. A youngster like J.P., that’s truly what he wanted to do. He didn’t enjoy college nearly as much as he enjoyed dreaming about being in the NBA. And it’s not over with. Go back and look, guys, last year at this time when they put the final roster in, James Michael McAdoo was not on the final roster for Golden State when they started the season. He went to the NBDL, he came back, he went to the NBDL, he came back, they kept him on the roster, they win a world championship and I think he’s going to make this year’s team. Just because J.P. was cut Tuesday night or Monday night, doesn’t mean that his career is over with. There’s no question that you motivate in getting them to focus a little differently now than you did 20 years ago, because now every kid thinks he’s going to play in the NBA. And most of the time his mother and father, his high school coach and his summer league coach think the same thing.
Do you think there are more kids than just five years ago who believe they’re going to be one-and-done players?
There’s probably more now. I know it’s a lot more now than it was 15 or 20 years ago.
How is it having three former players on the same NBA team (Charlotte Hornets)?
Right now, I’m a parent. I just look to see how many minutes and how many shots they took. I like having them here in Charlotte. It’s easier for me to see them; I can see three kids at once. All three of those kids gave a great deal to us.
Check back tomorrow for Part V.