Q: Do you talk to the guys about tuning the crowd out?
A: "I do that all the time. I think that in order to be a great player you have to have such focus where you can't let the surroundings affect your play. I have talked to our kids about focusing on the game and what is happening on the court and focusing on our bench and nothing else. There is a couple play on words that you can have, one is 'let's listen to them get quiet.' Well you don't listen to people get quiet, I understand that, but I think that is important to you. A lot of times during the timeout they will come over and I will say 'doesn't this sound great, you can hear what I am saying. Just think about what you are accomplishing.' Fortunately for us, we did that at Wake Forest this year. We got off to such a great start. Duke is the big test. There is no question about that because of the success that they have had and the enthusiasm of their crowd. It will be a big-time challenge for us."
Q: What are the characteristics of a clutch player?
A: "You know since I don't have that personal recognition to draw from, I think I made a couple in high school, but that is about it that were really that important. ..... I think you have to have a certain mentality to truthfully want the big shot. Whether it is golf, whether it is basketball, you have to have a little different mentality that you really want the shot. We have all seen as coaches and players some of the guys who didn't want to take that shot. But when you have that mentality, whether or not you are born with it or you gained it I don't know whether I can say. I really think you can acquire it because you can see what it means to people, their successes and there failures. You can say 'hey I want to be in that spot.' Most of us that have played at one point on the playground, playing by ourselves counting the clock down and having the shot at the end and put in. I think that is human nature to everybody. But when it comes later on when it gets to be a little more public and a little more important, some guys don't want that shot."
Q: You guys have won four of your last five. Is the team getting to where you want it?
A: "We are starting to play better but I don't think we are starting to get where I want us to be. Well I guess we are starting, but we are not where I want us to be by any means. We have taken four of the last five, but the one I remember the most clearly is the Virginia game and that is the one we didn't get. I guess that is the way coaches are. I do think we are getting better. We are better on the defensive end of the floor. I think we are getting better about understanding what is a good shot, but this team is a unique team. The last two games, in the first half against N.C. State we were really good and we were really good on both ends of the floor. Early in the second half we were about as ugly as we have been all year. Here the other night we had some moments. In the first half I think we were one for eight on fast break opportunities when we had a big number advantage. That is not getting better if you are one for eight on fast break opportunities. This team is a little unusual in that not only can our game fluctuate from one game to the next, but it can fluctuate in one half. "
Q: How is Jackie Manuel's ankle doing?
A: "I don't know because we didn't practice yesterday and I talked to him and he said he felt better but that is all can tell you. Our goal is for him to do some limited work in practice today and hopefully practice full-time tomorrow."
Q: Do you have a special appreciation for Jackie taking a lesser role and accepting it like he has?
A: "Oh yeah, because what you are doing as a coach is trying to get everybody to sacrifice their individual wants and desires for what would be best for the team. What you try to do is convince them that if they do that effectively that they will still get personal recognition and awards and stuff like that. I think it is harder for somebody like Jackie because basically what we talked about was not shooting as much threes and not starting. It is really hard for someone like that to get as much recognition as he deserves. The other guy on the team that has done a nice job of that is Rashad because he hasn't taken nearly as many bad shots. He has worked hard on the defensive side. He has worked at getting a much better grasp of what we are trying to do. But his, in someways is a little bit easier because he is being greatly rewarded because his play is so much better. I think those little things I have tried to get him to do have really made him a better player. He has always been a scorer and if you just look at the scoring aspect of it, you might think he isn't that much better than he was. But I am telling you folks, he is a million times better than the time we started practice."
Q: What do you hope to get out of this game with Duke?
A: "A victory. I don't think you can learn that much more than what you have already learned in the 26 games you have played. If I haven't learned anything after 26 games, then I am too dad-gum dumb to learn them in the last one. It will be in a big-time environment, but we also played at Kentucky, which is a tough environment. North Carolina State is a big-time environment. Just like Duke, wherever they go they are going to get everybody's best shot. I think we are going to get Duke's best shot but I think we are going to give them our best shot. I don't think there is going to be any great mystery that is going to be solved up there, it is just a continuation of what we have tried to do all year long. To get better each game and focus on what we have to do. We are playing one of the best teams in the country. They have been over the course of the year. They have one of the best coaches of all-time. What they have accomplished over the last 10-12 years has been a tough period for a lot of people who have been unable to match that. We have got our work cut out for us, but I don't know that we going to learn any new secrets or anything different about our team over there."
Q: Do you like going into an environment where the crowd gets on you and do you listen to them?
A: "You don't listen unless you are forced to. You know at the free throw line or dead ball, something like that. Other than that it doesn't really bother me."
Q: Has last year's game at Duke stuck with you because of your back problems and the struggles you had in that game?
A: "It didn't really stick with me. I kind of put things like that in the back of my mind. It was my first experience of playing at Duke. I always wanted to play there regardless of whether I was playing with Duke or against. It wasn't a very good experience so hopefully Saturday's contest will be better."
Q: Are you enjoying basketball now as much as you ever have?
A: "No, not really. Most people think that when you are playing really good it is supposed to be fun. But if we win 50 percent of the games that we lost in, you know overtime games and games we should have won, it would be a lot more fun. To succeed you have to fail and we have come up short a lot of the time but I think that just prepares us for the tournament."
Q: How is it playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium?
A: "It is almost like their gym is a big high school gym in a sense. It's great though, the fans make you laugh, the things they do. I saw a guy in a bikini in the stands last year. It gets crazy over there, but you know that is what the excitement is all about, it is a big rivalry. I am looking forward to getting over there again."
Q: How do you like being the point guard, running the show and having the pressure on your shoulders?
A: It is difficult. It was an adjustment when I first got here, I was a scorer in high school but here you have to do so much more. You have to play defense and lead the team from the defensive point and from the offensive point too. That is a lot on the point guard's shoulders but I want all that pressure. I enjoy being a leader, I want to be the guy who tells everyone to get in the right spot and let them know when they are doing something wrong as well as something great. It is tough, but it can be done, you have to just keep your poise and keep the guys together.
Q: At Cameron Indoor Stadium, how much tougher is it to get those jobs done?
A: "It is difficult. We had a fairly good game down there last year, we could have won. They threw a little zone at us and it got us off our track on offense a little bit. It gets loud in there and it gets crazy. It is an atmosphere you can't really explain, but at the same time it is just like any other place. You have to try and get a win."
Q: What would it mean to beat Duke?
A: "I think it would kind of put a stamp on the season that we made a real big turn-around from last season. No one really thought we could go into State and beat State at State. A lot of people are counting us out at Cameron. They are saying the only chance we had was to beat Duke here. I think right now we are playing pretty good basketball. Except for the first 10 minutes of the Clemson game, we played pretty well. I think for us to go over there and get a big win would really put the stamp on the season of the turn-around that we have had in the past two years."
Q: Talk about Rashad and how he has progressed this year.
A: "Definitely. You guys don't see the type of person he is, only the things you see on the court. He brings his personality on the court sometimes, but a lot of people think Rashad is an arrogant person just because of the way he plays and he is able to back up with what he says. But he is humble at times this year and just interacting with us, he has been more of a team player. Off the court, going out with the players instead of being more of an outcast. It has been a great joy for me to see him develop as a player."