Interview with Tim Welsh, Part 1

Friar Insider has once again had an opportunity to sit down with Friar men's head basketball coach Tim Welsh. Due to the length of the interview, the transcript has been broken up into segments. This conversation with Tim Welsh is being made available to the fans of Providence basketball subscribing to Friar Insider. Sign up today and get the latest on Friar hoops!

Part I

SH: Friar fans have been waiting 2 years for the team's nucleus to mature and become upperclassmen. Now that the time is finally herewhere you can say you have a veteran squad again, can you describe what you expect that to translate into for this team in the coming season?

TW: With any group of kids you want to see them get better and achieve more both individually and as a group every year so they can enjoy collective success. The group of 4 sophomores from last year have been together now since day one and have grown together. This year I think they generally did a good job of getting better and they had some success in this league which doesn't come easy but I think they know there is a lot more for them out there. We talked about it after the Bradley game in the NIT that OK, we made a step to go to the post season this year but we lost in the first round in the post season, both in the Big East Tournament and in the NIT and we've got to want more than that. We want to get in the other tournament, and we want to have success, both in New York and in the NCAA tournament. But, leading up to that, you obviously need to have a good season first.

The first thing we are going to focus on is getting out of the gates well early, and gearing up so that we are playing our best basketball in the Big East and later in the year. I think those guys understand that now. We've always talked about that, but I think these guys know so much more than they did two years ago with all the practice and game experience they've had. I expect a lot from them. In the past, maybe you could say ‘well, they're young or they're freshmen or sophomores', but that excuse isn't there anymore.

I can see the maturity already when I ask them what is different for them now from the past two years. To a man, they just say they know a lot more, what to do, and how hard they have to work in the off season, which is when the biggest individual improvement really comes. I think there is a better core of maturity on this team right now, especially when you also add in a Jeff Xavier and Randall Hanke who have both played at high level before. Even Dwain Williams and Brian McKenzie will come back with greater understanding having played a lot of minutes as freshmen. Now I think I'm hearing more of a team purpose from this group and I hear more talk about team goals and what we're going to do this season and an air of confidence, all of which is good. If a team carries themselves that way, then that means they will push themselves to make it happen.

SH: Do you think that the recent 1987 Final Four reunion ceremonies and speeches further fueled the competitive fire of the guys who currently wear the Providence uniform?

TW: I certainly hope so. I talked to them all before hand and said don't just come to the banquet and look at your watch... Listen, take it all in, and understand that this success can happen here. No one predicted that for those guys. I think every team at the beginning of the season aspires and has huge dreams but you've got to have some talent and some good fortune and really work to get to those places. I think we have good overall talent here now and it's our job as coaches to put it together and their job as players to make sure they keep it together all season long and keep moving in the right direction. It's a long season so you have to have a lot character built up and that starts throughout the off season. That requires team bonding and all the little things that add up to what we're trying to get to. The ‘87 dinner, the players all being here for the summer, the practices, the trip to Italy, and then when we get to September, we'll be farther ahead of schedule than if we weren't doing these things. I'll certainly keep referring back to that special night, because kids sometimes hear things but then sometimes put it in the rear view mirror but I won't let them forget what they heard that night. I told our guys that I remember that '87 team, and with no disrespect, I said we've got that sort of talent here right now, maybe more, but it's about what you do with your talent that determines how far you will go.

SH: What is their capacity for working on their game right now? What's the health of Sharaud Curry, Geoff McDermott, Charlie Burch, and how is Randall Hanke doing rounding back into playing condition?

TW: As of right now, they're all playing, with the exception of Jeff Xavier who as I told you earlier will be sidelined with a broken foot for a few more weeks. The rest of them have all been cleared medically and there are no medical issues to speak of. They're all playing, and Chuck Burch has been the most recent to get back out on the floor and he's playing pickup and going through workouts etc...There isn't any sort of pain he's just sort of sore from not really playing since February. He's an important piece that we're getting back.

SH: Is Charlie Burch still managing pain?

TW: He said the other day that he had zero pain when I asked him. He's had a couple epidural shots in that area and you can have three so he's saving one in case he needs one right before the season starts. We're going to give it a go in Italy and see how he does out there. Obviously we're not going to throw him to wolves right away but we'll test things in practice and see how it goes.

SH: Has the problem been more muscular or more disc related?

TW: It's a muscle surrounding a disc that gets inflamed. So, it's been painful. If he gets hit there it can flare up and spasm. He's seen a number of specialists including Larry Bird's doctor in Boston and really been through a lot. I really felt for him because he's such a good kid and he wanted to be out on the floor all year but that's happening for him now and so far, so good.

SH: I assume Randall Hanke is lifting weights and working on his game?

TW: Yes he's getting back into the right mode. He's been here practicing with us since January every day but his time away made his game a little rusty and he lost some of his weight and playing strength. Italy is going to really help us with him because he'll be able to get back accustomed to the speed of the game and regain his timing and so forth. We're going to play six games against professional teams. We'll get a good look at him over there.

SH: Will this trip to Italy be similar at all to the one that you went on with the team in 2001?

TW: Somewhat, but we're going to be playing in a different area. We're going to be in Southern Italy this time around but all the games will be against top A League teams so it will be a good challenge for us.

SH: Will you be crossing paths with Donnie McGrath over there?

TW: Donnie should be over there, but I don't expect that we'll be playing his team. At least at this point we aren't. He's up near Milan and we'll be down in the south. Donnie had a very good year playing pro ball over there and is supposed to be on NY Knicks summer league team so I'm happy for him.

SH: So with the players all here and working out on their own now, how does their off season regimen address flaws that may have been held the team back from being better this past season?

TW: We go through an analysis of each guy during the season but then we do an extensive analysis post season where we go through all the tapes and break down each guy's pluses and minuses, strengths and weaknesses, and what goals they have to work on in the off season. We have the time after the season ends to work on that and we can still work with guys individually on the floor right after the season ends. Everybody has something different they need to focus on and we work with them on that. Now this part of the year it's more difficult because we can't get out on the floor with them but we will revisit a lot of this stuff during the practices before the European trip, and I think the guys have made progress from March through May in what they needed to improve on. We've brought them in, showed them tape, and just made sure they understand where they are.

We break down stats for all our players as well. For instance, I broke down Sharaud's stats versus all the other guards in the Big East. Same thing with Weyinme, where I compared his stats to every 2 guard in the Big East. Sometimes these things are eye openers to players. I showed Weyinme he's got to become a better offensive rebounder in this league. I showed him the stats of a guy like McNeal or a Matthews who have 30 more offensive rebounds in the course of a season than he does. Those are things that players don't always think about. They think about improving their jump shot or shooting the three but I told Weyinme that he needs to set goals like getting five offensive rebounds in every pickup game this summer. Or Geoff McDermott's free throw shooting, or his shooting in general... or Jon Kale's post moves. We can't work with them right now on the floor but I know if they're working.

SH: You do get those 10 practices before the Italy trip though. How will that work?

TW: We'll break those up. You could take them right before we go, but I don't want to burn the team out and plus I want to give them a little time to go home and have a little summer vacation. What we're going to do is we're going to practice them here while they are in summer session in July. We'll likely break it up, probably have six practices then, and 4 on the other side right before we leave on the trip. They're here until August 2nd, and then they'll go home for about 2 and half weeks. Then they'll be back here for a few days and we'll leave for Italy on August 22nd.

End of Part I

In part two, the discussion begins with a discussion of the turnover bug that plagued the Friars throughout the year, costing them on both ends of the floor.

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