Operation BKB: Around the ACC, Part III

GREENSBORO, N.C. --- You already know all about the Tar Heels, but Inside Carolina talked with some coaches from around the conference at the ACC's Operation Basketball event to gain insight into their teams ...

SIDNEY LOWE, NC State

How comfortable are you this season compared to last year – you know your way around and all?

From that standpoint, yes. I knew what to expect here (ACC Operation Basketball) coming into it. Last year, I hit the ground running and I had no idea what to expect.

When you reflected on (your first year), what kind of things stood out?

I guess I didn't realize the attention….as a player back then, you really didn't know. While I knew ACC Basketball was big and being at NC State was big, now to live it and to have it all right here, it was quite an adjustment for me. I'm kind of a low key. There are times I want to go to dinner and I just want to go like a regular guy, and I'd realize or Quinton would tell me, "Coach you have to understand, you are the coach at NC State so you can't just sit down at any restaurant and have a quiet dinner."

You would have to go out of town (for that)?

Yea, but I'm not used to that. But it doesn't bother me. It doesn't bother me that I'm sitting down and someone comes to ask for an autograph or wants to talk. I'll just say will you bring your plate over here so you can eat with me because I want to eat. (laughter) Let's do that and not let the food get cold.

How many times have you done that?

Twice. It was like four guys one time and then a guy and two ladies. I just said ‘bring your stuff and sit down' and they were like "no, that's ok." I knew they would say no (laughter). They don't want to sit down…..but had they sat down it would have been fine, I would have asked them to buy dinner (laughter).

Do you have a sense yet on the minutes your guys might play this year?

I don't. I haven't really thought about it yet. I do feel comfortable that we have good players off the bench. I've told our guys already that I'm not going to dictate your playing time. You are going to dictate your playing time. That's my approach to it. When you have enough talent that you can go to your bench, I think that's the best thing for those guys that are in the game. They know if they come out of the game, they might not get back in there for a while. That's the incentive to play harder and get things in done. But I haven't thought about it as far as time and minutes yet.

How much of what Brandon (Costner) did and his improvement was a tribute to what Ben (McCauley) had done earlier in the year as far as getting the defensive attention?

I think with Ben's beginning, what he had done, opened it up for Brandon and most of our guys on the perimeter. As we got deeper into the season, you started hearing people say that they had to stop McCauley. So they start double teaming him or they are going to front him or do something else. Now that opened it up for Brandon.

That said, it wasn't for Brandon to shoot jump shots. We were telling Brandon "now you have to get down in the post and work. Not only was Ben scoring, but he might get a couple fouls on the other team which was big for us. I think they couldn't focus on one guy because we had two guys down there they had to worry about.

Now you have four guys down there…

Now we have some pieces we can throw down there. I think it's still important for us to understand that we are still an inside/out team and we'll play off of that. While you are in there, you have to get it done.

You talked about when you came back you realized the passion of ACC Basketball and all of that, but talk about it on a smaller scale as far as the rivalries between Carolina/Duke/Wake/State. Compare coaching in it verses playing in it.

It certainly there. I feel the same as I did when I played. The only difference now is I actually could get out there and do it. Now I have to do it from the side. I couldn't do it if I wanted to right now. So it's a difference there, but I think the passion and the understanding of what it's all about is the same. It's something that is in me and will never die. The fact that we have these four schools down here in the ACC, the fact that we have national championships with these schools, the players that have come from these four schools….If you can't get excited about that and understand what it means to wear that red and white and what it means to represent us, then you have a problem. I told our guys that from day one. If you can't understand that, you are in the wrong place and you might need to play for someone else. I think it's important that they understand that so we try to educate them on that.

Last year you were last in rebound margin. I take it you won't have that issue this year.

I should hope not. I think at times we had guys, Ben and Brandon in particular, that didn't want to get into foul trouble. So as far as offensive rebounds, they certainly were as aggressive as they can be this year.

AL SKINNER, Boston College

What do you think about the new rules of decorum…not a new rule, but rather a new enforcement of it? Do you think it is necessary?

I don't think they had to make a press release for it. The rule is in place. You tell the coaches you are going to enforce it then enforce the rule. Now it implies there is something wrong. Now, what you've done is given the public a chance that every time a coach steps out of the box "Hey he's out of the box! Call a T!!" That's exactly what is going to happen. Now does an official respond to that or does he just ignore it. You just made it difficult of them.

I don't think it was a problem. Yea, there are a couple coaches, maybe a hand full of coaches….there are 300 schools, and maybe 30-40 coaches have a problem…so you are still looking at a small percentage. All you have to do is give them a couple of T's when they get out of the box and all of a sudden, everything will be ok.

I think you've brought attention to something that allows the public and your fans to involve themselves in and they are going to be watching carefully. So, as soon as I step out of the box they are going to be yelling at the official to call a technical. Now what does he do? If he doesn't call it, then he misses a call….you just bring more criticism for them when you don't have to.

Do you think it will impact the flow of the game or your style?

I don' know if impacts me or not. I couldn't tell you if I was in or out of the box. That's not what I am looking at. If I want to communicate with a player, I have a tendency to lean and point. If I start leaning and pointing and I walk out of the box, I'm just trying to get my players attention. Do I deserve a technical for that? I don't think so. I don't think I am imposing myself on the game.

If the guys out on the court foul line extended, that something different. If I am on the sideline not being rude, I mean I understand needing to get back, but does that deserve a technical. An official can walk by and say "coach you got to stay in the box" but that means I am drawing attention to myself. But once he says that one time, if I get out again or I am rude, the of course, I deserve a technical. That's what the rule says. But I don't think they need to make a press release for it.

Did Coach Prosser's passing make an impact on your thought processes concerning how much you work and travel?

Good or bad, I didn't need Skip to pass away for me to do those things. My health and my family have always been first and foremost. My family, my health in that order. I personally, I exercise, I take care of myself, I eat properly. I don't know if you've ever seen me coach, I'm not really going overboard. We compete, we play hard and hopefully we play well enough to win. That's really what my feeling is on that. I have 40 minutes to get my job done and I do it. I did not need Skip's example, this way, for me to decide what I need to do for myself. I've always had that responsibility. But if it is a wake up call for someone, hopefully they will take it and run with it.

Are you in favor of some sort of rule for a long dead period so coaches will take vacations…

It doesn't matter. Guys are going to work…everyone is their own individual. Rules don't decide how hard you work. I read that for some coaches, this is their life, this is all they do. I love the game, I've played it and I've coached it. I'm older than most here, but it ain't my life. It's part of it. I'm not saying that it's bad, but my point is that it's their choice and decision. I think each individual decides that. Rules do not determine how you work and how you respond to your work.

You've been around the ACC a couple years now so talk about the differences being in the ACC versus the Big East and how it's benefited BC, if it has.

There's no question that it has. The ACC has been a great fit for Boston College. The only thing that hasn't been is geographically. But other than that, it's been a great fit across the board whether it's been being with like institutions, just attitude. I think it's been tremendous. The community of Boston has embraced it. One of the things that I truly appreciate in this league is that every building we go into is full. People support their teams. It's been very encouraging so I am very excited and my players are very excited for the league.

It was the top conference in the country last year and we were part of that. I think those things have made this a very positive move. Credit to the ACC community and administration because they have not allowed BC to feel like they were a step child. They've made us feel like we are clearly a part of this. I think some of our success has helped that but we are clearly wearing the ACC brand right now. The fact is, our students coming in think of us as an ACC school right now. They don't carry the Big East logo any more because that's not what they know. That's who we are and like I said, it's been positive and it's all good.

I asked Ty (Rice) if he felt like you guys get the respect, specifically like the four schools here in North Carolina do. He said he didn't really think so and it was a mix of the newness and geography. What do you think?

Yea, I think the geography has the most to do with it, but at the end of the day, the fact that Jared Dudley was chosen ACC Player of the Year is an indication that we've earned out respect. We aren't going to get as much coverage because we aren't the local team. We don't have anyone to bounce our ACC ball off of, whereas down here, you have someone to bounce it off of. That's the real difference. Sometimes we are out of the loop, but at the end of the day, I think we get as much respect as anyone else. The best indication of that is the amount of TV coverage you receive and that's been pretty equitable. I really don't have any real complaints about that.

You said Tyrese said that and I think the reason is he's not down here reading the papers every day. We have to remember that we are in a pro town and not only that, we are in a town that has the Patriots, the Celtics that are bouncing back, the Red Sox along with hockey. We are part of the conversation, but we aren't going to dominate. That's the difference. There is good and bad with that. Down here, North Carolina, Duke, Wake, NC State, all those schools dominate the environment they are in. We just aren't going to do that and we never will.

Does that hurt in recruiting?

It doesn't hurt, and as a matter of fact, it enhances our recruiting. What better association to have than to be at Boston College and be about to rub elbows with Paul Pierce….with a Tom Brady. These guys are in the same city as you are. They are all young people at the same clubs; they socialize in the same areas. You might not be the star, but you are among the stars. I think your life experience is much better enhanced and it gives you a much better perspective as to you who are. In the long run, it is a tremendous benefit and our guys appreciate.

Do you sell the pro athlete thing?

I don't, but I am sure my players do. It's who we are and the environment we are in. My players talk bout their experiences that they were able to meet and socialize and all that. Those guys in the professional level, lucky for us, set a good example of how things should be done. Everyone knows about (Randy) Moss and supposedly what his history has been. Now they are reading about what a great guy he is and how he's been no trouble and how he's adapted. If you can't understand that, well you aren't going to play for me anyway so….

How has BC football helped?

Again, what it's done is keep BC in front of people. We have had our share of success but now football has really embraced it and taken it to another level. All this keeps us in the conversation in the city of Boston. You have to understand, when you are talking about championships and you are part of that conversation, that's pretty high level. You just aren't talking about it because they are there, you are talking about it because they are competing at the highest level. So to continue to be a part of that conversation is a sign on excellence. And, you have to share the spotlight. They all do it. I am sure the Celtics are glad to be back in the conversation, but the Patriots and Red Sox have to share that spotlight. That's the way it is and usually that is the way life is. You aren't all to yourself. Sometimes there are some environments, that's all it is – you are it, you are the focal point – and it gets a little obscured because it's not realistic.

Doesn't that take the pressure off you guys?

Oh yea, I agree with that. I won't deny that. I am very comfortable in the environment I am in. I've been in an area where you are the show – the University of Rhode Island – and I understand the difference. I can appreciate both, but I don't mind being in this situation because at the end of the day, you have to earn what you get anyway. Eventually, you will get your share of recognition and be well appreciated. That's really all you are looking for is the appreciating and recognition for the successes that you've had.

LEONARD HAMILTON, Florida State

Looking back, how tough was it to go from the pros back to the college game?

It wasn't a very tough adjustment. I've probably got 20 NBA playbooks with every play known to man (laughs). The college game, the whole college scene is different. (The pro game) is a strictly business community. When ownership, management and the players are on the same page, it's a very efficient system because everybody is in the trenches together. But when ownership and management and coaches aren't all on the same thing, it can be miserable. The bottom line is the number of people they put in the seats and whether or not the guy is going to make his budget is what matters. There are some owners that have so much money, they don't care. But for the most part, the bottom line is if you make the playoffs, for the most part, you make ends me. If you don't, it's a problem.

Is it easier to adjust to college since you had the college background….Coach Lowe came in without that though he played the game?

Coaching is coaching. But for him, I thought, with the exception of the kid that got hurt, North Carolina State was a pretty good basketball team. It wasn't like they had hit on hard times. Maybe they weren't going to the Final Four, but that had pretty decent talent. And they were fairly well coached. So he didn't start from rock bottom. He came in and tweaked it and put his hands on it and I don't know if you say he took it to a higher level, but he did a pretty good job. He had some talent, but he did a great job of coaching them.

Sometimes it's different when you start from rock bottom. It's a little different when you go to Oklahoma State and they hadn't to a post season tournament for 32 years and they you go to Miami and they hadn't been to the NCAAs since 1962 – no on campus arena.

I will say this, in college, you are developing husbands, fathers, citizens, neighbors and you are taking people from teenagers to adulthood. If you don't accept that as part of your responsibility, then you are losing sight of what you are supposed to be doing. See, when you get a youngster, the more you help them mature and grow as individuals, the more they can use their God-given talent. But if they have the talent and they don't mature….all you guys might have been very mature when you 17-18 years old. I wasn't. (laughter) I can relate, maybe y'all can't. But these guys have the same issues you guys have. I know you don't want anyone to know you were perfect or whatever (laughs). But the bottom line is they are in the public eye, and then academically, socially, athletically. That's your responsibility as a college coach. In the NBA, I mean you are done by two-thirty every day! I'm working my brains out with film and all….and they are out playing golf. (laughter) Don't get me wrong, NBA coaches work. But they don't have to worry about the other stuff. But 82 games? You couldn't grind it in the NBA like we do in college because you don't have off time. Practice to recruiting….I'm at practice with the phone ringing….AAU coaches, parents….I'm not going pass up a phone call because we are running three on three or two on one. When I got a stud's momma on the phone. (laughter).

But when you get it going in college, you just keep it going. But I have not had the luxury of going to those programs. I've taken over a program that I've to give a little shot in the arm. I left a good team at Oklahoma State, I left a better team at Miami, but I don't intend on leaving here.

Have you talked about this year being a key year to this FSU program in terms of getting over the hump…your guys have talked about being a ‘football school' and wanting to change that…

That's the young people talking. In the first place, what is a football school? Is it Ohio State? UCLA? Texas? Boston College? My point is those schools that have great football teams and fan bases, it really makes difference in the non-revenue sports. That's why our track team has won two straight National Championships, that's why our soccer teams compete, our baseball team, our swim team…..because they generate the dollars to support all the other sports.

In a youngster's mind, sometimes these clichés might lend him to give a response, where in reality, the best thing I had at these other schools – Oklahoma State, Miami, Florida State – I had Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas when I was at Oklahoma State. So they were on top of the world. Miami was the winningest program in college football during that timeframe. And Florida State. I was so happy they had great football, it was a great plus for me that they already had name recognition. I make phone calls and I'm Leonard Hamilton from Florida State, they don't ask "where is that?" So from that standpoint, it gives you a tremendous advantage. It would be difficult to not have the name recognition that we've had.

However, when you go back and look at the history of Florida State basketball, they've had the ups but we haven't been consistent. The fans are already there, the arena is a great place to play. It's right there, it's loud, and there are a lot of people interested. We just have to be consistent. We've made a lot of good decisions. We've had a couple kids go prematurely to the NBA but I'm sure they didn't want to go in the second round but somebody told them they were going in the first – (Von) Wafer, (Alexander) Johnson. But I am sure if they look back now, they would have loved to be in that senior class with Al Thornton. That might have not been too bad. That's not what's going on in college basketball right now.

But, I don't know. Yes it is an important year as is the next year. Every year as a coach and as a player is an important year. They are hungry and I think we'll have a good year because they've learned and they have a sense of urgency. Our practices have been reflective of their hunger and their leadership. All of this is a result of what they've been through the last two or three years. We've had good teams but we haven't been able to get over the hump. When you building a program, you are not quite as equipped to adjust from the speed bumps as you are when you are much further along. There are teams in this league that can lose players and not be as effected as we were (last year). That was traumatic for us.

I think we have the right pieces and if we can just stay healthy and avoid those speed bumps, I like our chances.

OLIVER PURNELL, Clemson

Clemson has high expectations certainly after last year's start and the way you finished.

If we can become just even a slightly better free throw shooting team, and certainly a better free throw shooting team coming down the stretch, we have a chance to live up to those expectations. We have a solid chance to live up to those expectations. That's the fun part. We are setting are goals high and I wouldn't set those goals high if I did not feel like we had the ability to accomplish those goals. You have to use those as motivation. This group is really capable of competing in the top echelon of the ACC which is also competing with the top in the country. But capable and getting there is a whole different deal but it will be fun trying.

Talk about how you'd like your point guard position to progress.

The way I would like to have it is Demontez Stitt start as a freshman and have Cliff (Hammonds) there as a security blanket to spell him and get solid play out of Cliff for 10-12 minutes a game over at the point guard position. That's the way I'd like to see it, but that's not the only way to be successful. It may be Cliff starting and bring Demontez along slowly and then by the start of the ACC season, he's progressed and we are in the situation I described before.

I asked James Mays what he thought about what happened when you guys were 17-0 and the bottom fell out. He basically said most teams get a loss out of the way early and they learn how to handle it but we lost and we were in the middle of the ACC and it's tough every night…

He gave a better answer than I did (laughter). That's accurate. We had a great great start with a lot of publicity and a national ranking and all of that. We you go that high, the air is rarified up there. For eight to ten weeks, people were talking about Clemson Basketball and for the last three or four, I mean every time you turned on ESPN, you couldn't mention college basketball without mentioning Clemson. And it went further than that with PTI, Jim Rome, and every one of those shows that they listen to, you heard about Clemson Basketball.

So it was a big disappointment when we lost a game at Maryland. So that was an experience this team had never had before so that (May's answer) was accurate. Now we lost, we lost a controversial game at Duke, then we lost at home to Virginia and you in the middle of the ACC and you are reeling a bit. That's what happened. But I really liked the approach of our guys because there was nobody going to help you up. They really regrouped and battled back. We beat Miami at home and we went up to Virginia Tech and beat them on Senior Night. We went into the ACC Tournament playing good and lo and behold we have a controversial finish and lose a tight game to Florida State. Another huge disappointment. For this group to regroup and take pride in their program and their team and play well enough to get to the final of the NIT says a lot about their character.

But I love his answer. That's pretty good and we certainly want these guys to take those kinds of lessons from last year. With our success early, and we intend to be, understand that that comes with the territory – dealing with winning, but also dealing with a loss, a second loss or a third loss.

DINO GAUDIO, Wake Forest

Do you talk about Coach (Prosser) every day?

Absolutely. I think we have around 12 or 13 sayings that Skip used to say around the locker room, around the hallway, on the steps into the gym. We talk about it a lot. I don't say "Coach would have done this" but I was yelling at Harvey (Hale) the other day and I was telling the guys, "You know if Coach Prosser was here, he'd be hitting you in the chest telling you, ‘You need to take a charge.'" You know what I mean?

We scrimmaged a little yesterday and our defense wasn't where I wanted it to be and I said, "We are practicing two hours to keep you guys fresh" because we've got ten guys. Coach used to say, "Do it right, we do it light. Do it wrong, we do it long." Just those things pop up.

Do you think you'll feel him during the games?

I think the first game will be tough. I think that's going to be a difficult time. Chris Paul had a function and took everybody off guard. He had a Winston-Salem Weekend, and he got up and spoke and on the screen, he put up images of Coach and boy it was hard. Everybody in the whole place was crying. Somehow we have to get through that. The first game is going to be tough.

Cameron said he still had Prosser in his cell phone…

Yea, honest to God I still have a message from him. You have to renew it (to keep it on there). I don't know why I have it, but I won't erase it. I go through my messages and all of a sudden it will say, "You have one saved message….Tuesday, July….." so I just hit 3-3 and 9 and save it. It's weird.

It's funny because Nancy, his wife, will call me from their house and in my phone; I still have "Skip". It will come up and the first couple of times it did that…wow…..

Talk a bit about the Prosser you knew and your relationship with him.

When we (Gaudio and Prosser) were coaching in high school, we would always say "right profession, wrong level", we would always say that. And I loved coaching in high school. For him, he dreamed of coaching in this league. It's amazing how it all turned out. He loved this stuff (speaking with the media). I don't care what he said, Skip loved being here at this. He would come in and say "I talked to Izzo last night"….you know he loved those relationships. He loved that. He'd be on the phone to tell you he talked to Izzo, Tom Crean and Eddie his buddy. He really valued those relationships.

When he first got in the league, he was happy when Mike called. Those relationships were important.

Have you really thought about the path you and he followed, from high school on…

You know, it's weird. The only thing that will help me with this (coaching Wake) is I have followed him once before. It's all relative. Believe you me, he was a bigger legend in that little high school where we were than he is here. Like I said, I was never threatened. He was like an older brother to me.

He was the boss. I don't care what you said, I might have suggested stuff, but if he said go ahead and tell‘em, he was making the decision. And if it was ever a wrong decision, he never said, "Dino suggested that". (laughter)

You have typically given a lot of instruction from the bench yourself. Will that make the transition easier for the players looking over and seeing you?

I told someone earlier, our first game at Wake Forest, we are playing UNCW. We are down one with like 2.7 seconds left. We've been running this play since high school. We call it Hale Play. It's from Steve Hale when he played at Carolina. We got a lot from Coach Smith.

We have the ball out on the side and we have to score. I looked right at him (Prosser) and I go, "We have to run Hale Play" and he said, "yea, go tell'em." So that first game, he wasn't threatened by that either. Some guys have such a big ego that they wouldn't let the assistants go in the huddle and say "alright fellas this is what we're running." I remember that night I walked over to him and the only thing I said, the only thing I'll add "Skip, who do you want taking the ball out." And he said, "Ervin Murray" because he was a bigger guard for us at like 6-3 and see could see over. We were going to (Darius) Songaila.

So I walked into the huddle and said "fellas, we are running Hale and you are going to take it out. Darius is here…." And so we took it out and it was like this. Ervin Murray threw the ball over this kid's hand for UNCW. If the kid wouldn't have cut his fingernails before the game, he would have gotten a deflection. And we scored.

In this business, so many guys are like "I'm the head coach" and all that. He wasn't like that and I'm not like that. I thought we had a very very good staff last year and we have a great staff now. Good coaches.

Even though it's still early, do you find yourself looking for him to tell you to do something?

Not in that sense. Honest to goodness, maybe twice, something has happened at the house and you almost feel like, I'm going to call and ask Skip. Things like that. Whether it's personal stuff or whatever. I'm still finding that person. I've been married 25 years and my wife's a superstar. A- to put up with me. (laughter) You always need someone else you can bounce things off of.

Do you have a favorite Skip saying?

I don't know if I had a favorite Skip saying, there were just so many of them. I was telling the guys earlier, when I first starting teaching, I'll never forget. I had a rough group of kids and I was a first year teacher. I think this saying is applicable.

Skip taught honors history. He's got several kids in there with 4.2 or 4.3 GPAs. 3.99 or whatever. I got these guys, once a week I am breaking up a fight in class. We would lean up against the wall after class. My room was there and Skip's was here and my kids were loud that day. I was 23, they were 18. Guys want to fight you, girls want to date you. (laughter) It was unbelievable. So I am leaning there and he goes, "You have a pep rally in there last period?" The kids were loud, I'm climbing over chairs breaking kids fighting up. I said, "You know what Skip, I have 28 kids and it's loud and some of these kids are just bad kids…." Honest to goodness, he just leaned up and said, "Kids are as bad as you let them be." And he walked down the hall to go to the bathroom.

You know what? That's true with life. Kids you are teaching, kids on the team, your own kids. It's true. Kids are as bad as you let them be. I think when you are in education, that's a pretty resounding little phrase. I never forgot that and it was 27 years ago.

What do you think about the conference naming an award being named after Skip?

I think it could not have been for a better person. When you walk about academics, you talk about every kid that played for him at Xavier that stayed at that school, got their degree. And six years at Wake Forest, 15 seniors, 15 guys walked across the stage in the Quad on graduation day at got their diploma. That's unbelievable. The only young man that never had his degree that played for us? Chris Paul. And the four semesters Chris was there, he was Dean's List every time. Chris took a class this summer and right now, he's taking a class independent studies. That kid will get his degree too. It could not have been (better) for a student athlete award. Nobody has emphasized it more or cared about it more than Skip.


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