I can bring a chainsaw to College Park and cut their legs off. They are big, they're athletic and their skilled. They're very good. There's not much you can do – just try to do a better job boxing out and making it difficult for them to get them the ball where they want to get it – hopefully they can get it a little further out from the basket. And also make them guard us. I think it's tough to guard them but hopefully we can make it difficult for them to guard us, too.
Is this a game where the smaller lineup may come into play?
We're going to stick with the lineup we've started the last couple of games and hopefully that'll pay off. Again, they are a well-oiled machine. I think Coach Williams does a great job. Steve Blake, the more you watch him the more you appreciate him. I think he's going to be a good pro. He can really run the show and he's like an assassin. He may not have but five points in a game and all of a sudden they need a big basket and he nails a three. He's a clutch player, a tough kid and one that I think every coach would love to have on his team.
Talk about Raymond Felton's progress this season and how he's handled all the responsibility-
I've talked before that I think being the point guard at North Carolina is like being the quarterback at Notre Dame. There's a lot responsibility, you get a lot of accolades when the team wins and when it doesn't they look to you. He doesn't get caught up in that. He goes out and plays – I don't think he's cognizant of all that stuff, and if he is he doesn't show it. He's got one of the best attitudes that I've ever been around. He's a competitive kid, he's a very tough kid, he's a very talented kid. And I think everyone likes Raymond – no play on words there – and his players respect him, his coaches respect him. He's got a nice personality – he's quick to smile but he's also quick to fight you for a loose ball. He's a great kid who I wouldn't trade for any other player in the country.
He's shot the ball better the past month or so – anything you can tie that to?
I think he's, one, gotten more comfortable. There's a lot of responsbility and I think he's gotten more comfortable with what's a good shot, what's not a good shot, when to pull it back. I think he's just gotten more in the flow, more rhythm. Without Sean in the game, maybe he's not having to look inside as much, but when there's an opening, he takes it.
What type of leadership have you gotten from your seniors?
Every day they, one, lead by example. Those guys probably have more floor burns than anyone on the team. Then where there is time for someone to speak up on the floor, Will [Johnson] is quick to get on a teammate, which makes it easier for me. I know there was a time when Will called a team meeting (in late Janurary) and expressed how he felt. He and Jon [Holmes] called a team meeting just to say, ‘Hey, we've got a stretch run here, let's make the most of it.' And so I think they've been terrific.
At this point in the season are you putting in new offensive sets or just fine tuning the ones you already run?
I think, for the most part, we fine tune the ones we run and definitely throw in a new wrinkle, but not a major overhaul. You may see something on a play that you could create a derivative. Play 1 becomes play 1-A. So, I don't think you want to add a whole new series of plays, but out of the sets you do have you may want to add a new wrinkle to counter what a team is doing against you.
Is that normal or is it a function of your team's youth?
I think I've always done that in February because, especially the second time you play somebody and go through the league a second time, I think you want to add a couple of things. And some of it is a function of not having Sean.
Could you address the last couple of weeks and what is on the line?
We can [make the NCAAs]. I think we can. But the only way you can do that is by focusing on one game at a time. Yes, as a coach I look at the big picture and you try to prepare, but we've got to do our best to beat Maryland, and once that game's over we've got to move on as quickly as we can to the next opponent. We are in a situation where we can control our own destiny and it'll be challenge because we have some good teams to play. It can be fun – this can be an exciting finish, and that's what we're hoping for.
Some players commented after the A&T game that they learned some things from the Clemson game film …
I don't think we performed well at Clemson. There are games, Wake at home or at Duke, where we performed well but just lost. I don't think we had the best effort at Clemson. I don't think it was their intention going in, but that is a function of a young team, to be quite frank. We weren't as sharp in that practice Friday before Clemson. I talked to them at that practice and before the game, but that's where experience is such a big, big thing. Next year when we're in that situation, I bet we'll have pretty good effort because we have the experience to draw upon. When you're talking about the youngest team in major college basketball, we're going to have those ups and downs.
And that was disappointing – it was one of the toughest losses I've experienced as a coach. It'll be one that will stick with me for a long time. Like the Indiana game in '84, the Georgia game in '83, Providence game when I was at Notre Dame. There are some games that jump out at you that just hurt, because if we had won that game we'd be in fifth place right now. But like golf, I can't do anything about that last one-footer I missed for birdie. You've got to move on, and I think we did. We showed them the tape [of Clemson] and I think this team really learns from the tape because they don't know sometimes why we lose. Here – here's why we lost. Here's 40 clips and if we just fix 10 of them we'd win that basketball game. And that's not to take anything away from Clemson, because they played well. But, when you're talking about box outs, turnovers, bad shots – those are things you can control, and we weren't that sharp. I don't think our players went in thinking it was going to be easy, but we weren't that sharp and that's disappointing.
What specific defensive deficiencies did that tape show and how have you been able to address them?
We addressed them and our defensive effort against A&T was terrific. I think we would have beaten a lot of people Tuesday night. Granted, A&T's record is not great, but I think we played well for 40 minutes. That was important. We had a very good practice yesterday, and the things it showed we made mistakes at were poor box outs, poor job of trapping, dribble penetration, didn't help on drives, things like that. And the weird thing is that we did a great job of all those things against Virginia, and then three days later we went from having our best performance to having one of our worst. That was hard to swallow but that's part of college basketball. I'm not the only coach and we're not the only team going through that.
I know Sean [May] has an appointment this afternoon, but how much are you willing to get him out there as soon as he gets clearance?
First thing is that if the doctor's say he's ready to go, then I talk to Sean and his parents and say ‘How comfortable are you and how confident do you feel?' And that's their decision because I don't want to push that situation until Sean and his parents are totally comfortable with it. And if they say they're comfortable, then you work him into practice and see if he's comfortable. I'll go from there – does he come off the bench? How much does he play? Those are decisions to be made later – we don't want to waste our time trying to go through that right now. He's been going through shooting drills, what we call dummy office and he looks great running the floor, jumping, moving – we just don't have him going live right now because we don't want him to step on someone's foot or have someone step on his foot. He's done a remarkable job keeping his weight down, body fat went down from 17 to 14 percent. He's really shown a lot of maturity and discipline during this time period.
If everybody's on the same page and he gets the okay, could you play him tomorrow?
I think that's premature to talk about. I don't want to deal with hypothetical situations.
You talked about Steve Blake earlier, can you talk about the style he plays and how it's different from a lot of the flashier point guards?
He reminds me a little bit of John Stockton or a big Bob Hurley. The way he pushes the ball he sees the whole floor, he delivers the ball, he takes it to the basket, he guards you and then I think his jumpshot has really improved. I don't know what people say about him, but I know if some GM asked me about him I'd say "Boy, he can really play." I remember Mark Price was a second round draft choice and turned out to be a really good pro. I don't know where Stockton was drafted, he came out when I came out, but he turned out to be a really good pro. And I'm sure Bob Hurley would have been a good pro had he not gotten into that car accident. So, I think he's going to be really good. The toughest thing in evaluating players is evaluating a player's mind and heart, and I think Steve Blake has a great basketball mind and a big heart.