The Tim Welsh Interview: Part 2

FI is pleased to present the Tim Welsh Interview, a conversation with the Friars' Men's Basketball Coach that is being made available to fans of Providence basketball subscribing to FI. This interview, which included over an hour of discussion, answered questions on a variety of topics, many which have been frequently asked again and again on the message boards of Friar Insider.

Some of these topics include insights and opinions on issues that Coach Welsh has never discussed at length before.

Due to the length of interview, the transcript has been broken up into segments. This is the second segment, which focuses on the Coach's thoughts on player improvement, allocating playing time in games, job security in college basketball and support from the college, and the issue of player transfers and retention in college basketball today.

This is a rare opportunity to get a glimpse at the coaching philosophy and decision-making process of Coach Welsh, and addresses issues of both the past and the future. Friar Insider is very appreciative of the time that Coach Welsh took to answer these questions for the fans of Providence College basketball. We hope you all enjoy this feature.

The Tim Welsh Interview - May 31, 2006 (Segment II of Three)

S.H.: There is feeling that the Friars may need a break out year from one or maybe even two more players to ease the burden that will be on Sharaud Curry and Geoff McDermott, who made the All-Rookie team this past season. Is there another player who has shown signs that he may have a breakout season this coming year?

Coach Welsh: Well I think of our guys that are coming back had games where they proved that they could step to the fore front to help you win. Jon Kale, the San Diego State game...Randall, we know what Randall has done in certain games...even in the last game of the year, you didn't see the game unfortunately, but he just played phenomenal against Marquette; Tommy Crean grabbed me after that game and said, "wow, your young players are really good, I didn't realize how good some of them were."

Weyinme had some very good games down the stretch. Guys were kind of up and down all year...Randall was pretty solid all year, but the rebounding and blocked shots weren't there all the time and that's where we have to get him to. Herb, I think is guy that we can lean on to get us a basket down on the low block. And always the unsung guy has been Chuck Burch, but he may in fact be one of our best 3 point shooters, at least he was percentage wise from the 3 point line.

So, I think all of them as a whole can be there, and Geoff included. I think Sharaud was the one guy who could go dominate a game offensively, the way he handles the ball, the way he can score. He had 25 points against Pittsburgh, he had 20 in a half against Florida... he played very well in a lot of games. But, I think those guys all have to improve individually, and I'm not going to say we're now going to run plays for just two or three different guys...we like to have a balance. More importantly, "breakout" for us is players coming out saying "I'm going to be a stopper." It's apparent that if we just put the league standings up on offense, we were doing pretty good....6th place? That's pretty good and we would have made the NCAA tournament. Eight teams made the tournament. I think our offense is going to be better next year than it was this year. We'll lose Donnie, and that's a big loss, but I think we'll overcome that with the growth of the other seven returning guys. I think with their improvement, collectively, we'll be OK, and they'll help us with Donnie's loss.

But defensively, that's another story. Are we going to be able to do it? I'm not going to give us any credit for that. We haven't done it. I'm not giving these guy an ounce of daylight in practice every day...And that's good because last year you go in not knowing what you've got on offense, not knowing what you've got on defense, because there are so many parts you're trying to piece together that are new. These guys all know each other now, and they know me, and I know them, so we've got a head start on what we need to do for next year...

We've had numerous team meetings since the season ended and I think the guys understand. They've talked to me a lot asking me "Coach, what do you think we need to do". They've said, "Coach this isn't going to happen to us... we're going to be in New York and we're going to be playing in the post season". I like hearing that from them...but I'm not telling them that, I'm saying to them you've got to show me, you've got to show it to me with your work ethic. That's good that you're saying it, it's good that you want to do it, but I told them after the Marquette game in the locker room; to take this feeling that you have and run with it...run with it all spring...run with it all summer.

Last night, all of these guys were here until 11:30-12:00 midnight playing in the gym. It was 90 degrees in there with no AC and they're playing. I said, if you want to get where you want to get to, that's what you've got to do. A lot of guys say that, but then they don't follow up with it... but as a group, I think these guys are pretty good with that.

S.H.: You've always said in the past that playing time in the games is predicated on practice...

Coach Welsh: Sure.

SH: You've also said in the past that guys aren't going to play if they don't defend. Sometimes people have questioned why this guy is playing 30 minutes in one game and a just a few the next. Is that because of matchups, or a lack of defense in practice?

Coach Welsh: The middle point of the season is probably what you're asking about...we're talking about league games I'm sure. As you get to that point, a lot of it is matchups but basically it's how you perform on the floor. If you're not going to defend...we have plenty of guys who can score, but if you go and try to outscore Marquette on the road you're going to lose...You've got to get some stops. If certain guys can't handle certain players or certain situations, unless their offense is so valuable...for example, you can't remove your best ball handler or you've got no one to handle the ball...but you can remove a guy who can shoot the ball if you've got other shooters...or you can remove a guy who can score around the basket if you've got another guy who can do that. But you can't have a guy out there who is a liability on defense.

I think sometimes the common basketball person will look at the game an say "well, his man didn't score..." but if you don't understand our whole team defensive concept...Sometimes guys get beat because it's the B or C guy that didn't rotate properly, that didn't call on a screen, that didn't help on a screen. If his man is setting screens all night long on a guy that is scoring, and he's not helping properly then that's his fault...and if he's not adjusting or helping in that regard according to our game plan then he's got to come out. But hopefully, all our guys will have a better understanding of all those things next season so it won't be such a yo-yo thing where you have one night 30 minutes, the next night 4 with a player.

I don't like coaching that way at all...over the years I've never coached that way, but this year's team was different...some individuals, some nights, guys got it, sometimes they didn't. But no coach likes to coach that way...you like to go into a game knowing what you have and what you're going to do. I try to prepare in my mind before a game starts where guys are going to fit in with their minutes. There's no way I go into a game saying, "Well, last game this guy played 30 minutes but tonight he's only going to play four." It's not a successful plan...there's no method that madness, but sometimes you have to adjust according to the situation. You just can't leave a guy out there where you're getting sliced every time down the court. But hopefully, we'll be good enough where that doesn't happen.

S.H.: Off the court for a moment, how important is the support of Father Shanley and Bob Driscoll in performing your job when you see things in college basketball like Herb Sendek moving on in frustration from NC State after 5 straight NCAA's, or a guy like Louie Orr being let go by Seton Hall after making the NCAA's this year...Does that make you appreciate the climate here more or does it make you worry more?

Coach Welsh: Well, that's been going on forever in college basketball, and it will always go on forever. I've been in college basketball for 22 years and it's always about who you work for...One of the reasons I came here was because this is a special place. It's always been run with class and you always know who you work for here. You work for the President, you work for the college and you work for the athletic director. Obviously, their support has been tremendous since I got here going back to Fr. Smith and John Marinato, and now Fr. Shanley and Bob...We've always worked as a team here. The thing I like about being here is that everything is on the table. There are always open communication lines. Every year I'm trying to improve the program and I think if we all do it together we can get back to where we want to get to. I think we've got good players here and we're on the verge of being back to where we've had success.

We've had tough seasons before and certainly we've worked our way out of them and I think we're going to work our way of this situation from last year because of the support of the people at the college and because of our fans too. It's not like you go on a four or five game losing streak here and the fans just abort. They don't. They show up, they care, and they want to win...but I knew that when I came in here.

When I took this job, I talked to a lot of people, but Dean Smith said to me, (who I'd gotten to know well through Nike) "You know it's a tough job, Providence, because they don't have all the facilities and where with alls of some of their competitors but their people want you to win..." And I said, "That's good! If they want to you win, then we'll figure out a way to win because guys have won there before." I said that at the time not really knowing but after being here for some time you understand the climate, understand who you work for, and what it's all about and I couldn't ask for two better people to work for than Fr. Shanley and Bob because I feel like they're teammates. And they want to win like I do...and no one wants to win more than I do. Fr. Shanley is passionate about winning and he's a big fan who loves talking basketball. He'll ask me questions about the team and strategy but it's as a fan and it's not as a person being critical. I like knowing what he thinks...it's positive because we're on the same team. If you have teammates that you work for and work with then you can go a long way.

We have had short comings here, we've had them...but you know what, you're sitting in one place where we've made a lot of strides. We've made strides with a lot of different things here. You hear that noise out back...we're building a 12 million dollar fitness center, the Dunk downtown...A lot of good things are happening and I think it's showing in our recruiting. I like our players right now and our program but you've got to keep going, you can't stop and that's what I like about Fr. Shanley...he's proactive and open minded about things.

S.H.: Another trend we've seen playing out nationally has been more players transferring and player retention issues...and Providence has had their fair share of that too. Critics will often place the blame for that at the feet of coaches and say there must be lack of communication coming from the coaches if players are leaving. Are player personalities and/or expectations more difficult to manage than they were say 10 years ago? What does a coach do to minimize this problem?

Coach Welsh: Well, I think you always have to communicate and the kids today probably need that more than ever because there is so much out there that can get into their heads. Our players, they read your board, our players do...and so if Sam from Smithfield says...for instance, I had a player's mother and father tell me once that I was replacing their son's spot in the starting lineup next year...and they read it on your chat room. It comes to the point where you have to have more communication lines.

I was never big where you talk to all the parents all the time, but now you have to...you need to. It's a necessity, and I've come to enjoy it because we have a great group of parents here and if you keep them in the loop early, and you keep them involved, it goes a long way; it's not always the parents, whoever their support group is...it's important to keep open communication lines. I think every story has a different reason why a kid leaves but kids leave. I was at Syracuse in the 80's and we had kids leave. I was at Florida St. in the mid 80's and we had kids leave. I picked up the paper this spring and we didn't have anybody transfer but a lot of other schools did. It's part of college basketball, it's part of life.

I don't know why people get so crazy about kids transferring... if he's a hell of a good player then I'd say yeah, you've got some issues, but the kids who have left here have never gone on to do anything any better anywhere else. It's not like anybody left here and went on to become an all conference player anywhere else, not one of them. So, sometimes we have to take risks on kids and sometimes they don't work out basketball wise, sometimes they don't work out emotionally, sometimes they don't work out at all, even academically. You hopefully minimize that and we have a core here that's going to stay together for the next two years...we only lose Herb next year so we've got some stability here in that regard.

But you never know...I've had a kid call me in the middle of June and tell me he's transferring. I had a kid, Sean Connelly, call me when I was in Italy doing a clinic, it was the middle of June, June 10th, this time of year...two weeks from now. I was with Leonard Hamilton, doing a Nike Clinic in Italy, and he called me in my hotel room and told me he was transferring; when he had gone to the first session of summer school, and sat right where you are and said everything was good after he was 2nd on the team in scoring... and then he goes home and calls to tell me he's transferring. And that's his right, so it could happen again...I don't think so, I hope not, but it could happen. I read this morning where a St. Joe's player is leaving, their leading returning scorer, 2nd team all Atlantic 10...you don't know.

I think the world we live in of instant success hurts college basketball because the patience is not there to wait two years any more...waiting until your junior year or middle of your sophomore year...If you're not getting the minutes when you're a freshman; hmm, you're thinking about leaving. You have to talk to these kids all the time and let them know where you stand with them, how they fit into your plans, and what they need to do. You've got be up front with them too. Most kids have no clue the level of work they have to do when they first get to college; they just think they're going to be a star again...and it's tough, because some of their high school teammates are doing well, and they may not be, so they're on the internet, looking up their stats, or somebody's saying "how come you're not doing this, I'm doing that...", so there's a lot of access to everything now, and it can really blow up so you really need to have a good handle on it. You've got to have a daily handle on it; not only as a head coach, but as a staff.

End of Segment #2 - Look for the last installment of this interview on Friar Insider in which the Coach discusses the difficult decisions that exist in evaluating and recruiting players, his thoughts on recruiting foreign players, the impact of facility upgrades, the key to sustaining consistent success, and the importance of the new Big East and the value of television exposure for promoting the program.

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