Interview with Tim Welsh, Part 2

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. 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 II

SH: As we know, the stat that hurt the team the most this year was turnovers. It always can hurt offensive production, but for Providence, it seems to have hurt them more defensively because opponents simply got too many field goal attempts against the Friars despite good defensive rebounding. Are turnovers now the biggest part of PC's defensive problems right now?

TW: It's a big concern and it's really our first team in a while that has had the turnover problem. I think sometimes when you play fast you can develop the turnover bug, and at the end of year when we did turn it over, I think it was just careless offense individually, and that has been addressed with the players who have had turnover problems. I think we have good, skilled players and it surprises me when I see us play that badly turning the ball over certain nights. For instance, in the Seton Hall game on the road, we just turned the ball over all night long and ended up losing by one point. You can't turn the ball over like that and it's something that we'll definitely emphasize and this season. We will have to cut the playing time of players if they continue to be careless with the basketball.

SH: Geoff McDermott is a great assist guy and a league leader in that category but he's also struggled with a lot of turnovers as well. Is part of the turnover problem due to the fact that Geoff is a unique player and so much of the offense runs through him in the forward position?

TW: No, he can be better. I think just needs to be more solid with the ball. When he has had those nights where he has problems with the ball, he usually trying to go a little too fast. He I think he understands that because he has a great understanding of the game. You can't be as good as he is on some nights with the ball, and then on other nights be careless, that's all. I think he is just so highly competitive and wants to make the big play for his teammates that sometimes he does force the issue. I think experience will help resolve the problem. He did play a little a bit of a different role for us this year like a point forward at times, where he handled the ball a lot more than he did previously.

SH: Geoff's assist/turnover ratio was still good overall, simply because he had so many assists, which is exceptional for a forward. Perhaps Sharaud Curry's turnovers were a little more problematic because he didn't have quite as many assists as Geoff, and his assist/turnover ratio was around 1, playing at the point guard spot.

TW: As a point guard, you can't have that. It's got to be 2 to 1 as point guard. If we're going to have somebody running the offense, whether it's a point guard, a point forward, or a player handling the ball in transition, you can't have a problem with the ball every other time down the floor. You can't develop any consistency out there doing that, and as you say, it kills your defense, it just absolutely kills your defense.

SH: Turnovers really may have hurt the defense more than the offense because the way PC shoots the ball, they've usually put up a lot of points even with the turnovers. You're #2 in the league in offense, but it really shows up in your defensive stats.

TW: We've discussed that as a coaching staff. I've got to make it a focus in practice and hammer it home that they can't be careless and it may eventually mean taking away minutes from people if they continue to do it because it's really hurting the team.

SH: Do you think it's a product of mental errors or perhaps is spacing a problem where guys are bunched up on the floor and throwing it in traffic?

TW: I think it's a little of both. I think it's more mental errors. I think spacing is an issue on occasion but you wouldn't be able to score as well offensively, have the points per game we have and with our field goal percentage if you always had bad spacing out there. I think that for the most part, our spacing was solid out there. Sometimes guys are standing around... too much dribbling, too much one on one, where guys are trying to make the play all by themselves instead of within the flow of the offense. I don't think it is one thing you can put your finger on, but it's a group of things that you have to keep your eye on all the time. If you improve some in each area, whether it is better spacing, less dribbling by one person, making sure the ball is moving, and setting better screens, they all contribute to addressing the issue.

SH: Is the motion offense that you run more susceptible to turnovers because of the nature of the cutting compared to say the flex offense that they run up at Boston College?

TW: The flex offense is more structured, but it's also more guardable I think, and more easily scouted. I also think it also takes away some of the flexibility of your players. I like what we do here offensively, and I just think we need to get better at taking care of the ball. The field goal percentage is very high, so hopefully experience, maturity and a better understanding the offense, the game, and each other out on the court shows itself this season.

SH: Speaking of understanding, I would think the veterans here have the slides of the zone down pretty well by now?

TW: Sure. Their understanding of the game is going to be so much better in every area this year because so many of them have the proper experience now.

SH: There was a view at times that Providence was hurt in their zone if Sharaud and Dwayne were on the court at the same time, as conventional wisdom would say that a lack of longer players at the top of the zone leads to defensive problems. Do you think that bringing in a longer player like Marshon Brooks or a Jeff Xavier who has a little more length and bulk will address that issue?

TW: It will help, but I also want to play more man-2- man defense this year, because I think we have more depth, and I think we can extend the floor with more pressure. We have more depth with this team and we have more athleticism, and that will make a difference in how we play.

SH: This year is a change from a number of other seasons where you have a lot of decisions to make about playing time, and situational defenses and such. In the past, you've had some thinner benches due to injuries etc...and you pretty much had to come up with a game plan and had to just roll the personnel you had out there. Now you have a lot more options and with it, a lot more decisions to make on how to play.

TW: Yeah, and that's a good thing to have. You never have to worry about having too many good players, and hopefully they're all good enough. You never really know how freshmen will react when they get on the big stage, but they all come from good programs, and Jeff Xavier is an established player as well. So, I think the more depth you have the better, you just have to manage it well and use it to your advantage.

SH: Has Jeff Xavier been able to improve his game during the past season where he had to sit out?

TW: Yes, I think so. He gotten stronger and playing against Sharaud and Weyinme every day in practice certainly has been beneficial to him. However, a year off is a year off, so like you say, you're not playing at game speed and in game situations so he'll have to get adjusted but he's certainly had days in practice where he's been very good.

SH: Do you foresee, given the personnel on this team, that you may go with a lot of 3 guard lineups at times?

TW: Yeah, I think we can go a lot of different ways. My early thought is that we can go with a with a smaller guard group like Dwayne and Sharaud and really exert a lot of pressure on people. We could also go with just bigger guards at times like Weyinme, Marshon, and Jeff Xavier out there as a set too. We could even play without a center at times. I'm not against going really quick and athletic and extending and pressuring people with a lot of substitutions. I think we want to focus on being more of a pressure defense this year.

SH: You actually had a pretty good press at times last year. You had to pick your spots due to depth issues and couldn't use it for extended periods but for the first five minutes you'd use it, it was usually very effective.

TW: Yeah, that was the thing. Of course, we slapped it on Syracuse early in the game last year and we got steals but also a bunch of missed layups...We got like 3 steals in the first four minutes of the game and we missed a layup every time right off the bat. But yes, we'll continue to use our press and work on it more. Sometimes, you can press without trapping, just press and pressure, just to extend the court and wear people out. If you have depth, that's how you use it and try and wear people out. Guys will have to understand though that when we're doing that, they'll have to come out of the game to for that type of play to work. There aren't going to be a lot 36 minutes guys out there with that style of play.

SH: Do you only like to press when you're in man-2-man or do you ever like to fall back into zone?

TW: We have used the press with falling back into a zone in the past. I wanted to use it last year but we never really got to that point. I've been studying what we used to do as well as some other new things that I've seen and I like it. I like it because the zone takes more time to attack so if you press and then fall back to a zone you're really creating some shot clock problems for the other team. If it takes 10 or 12 seconds to set up your offense against the press now you're down to 22 seconds trying to look for a good shot up against a zone so it puts pressure on an offense. We'll try a soft three quarter court press back to a zone at times as well.

SH: Do you try a half court trap using that type of press?

TW: There are two different ways of doing it. There's a soft sort of press like a prevent where you're there and just backing it up in a delay to take time off the clock. You're not really looking to trap but rather trying to slow an offense down. Then there's another setup where you're more aggressive and trying to force sideline and rotate and cut the middle off and trap on those occasions. Those are things I'd love to do and I think we can do more of that now because of better depth and because guys like Marshon and Greedy who are real good long, wing athletes. They are going to be good in traps and in the running game. In order to get the running game going, you got to force turnovers.

SH: Now that you should have more answers and options on the defense end, in the off season, have you contacted any of the "defensive gurus" that are out there like like Dick Harter to help maximize your defensive options?

TW: Coaches all exchange thoughts and ideas when we're on the road, and we've done some things when we've been to the Nike Coaches' Clinic... But, last year I spent some time with some NBA guys who I think are very innovative and creative because coaching basketball is all they do. The disadvantage for the college coach going to the pros is that they are dealing with guys who are so advanced because they have so much more time to coach and study. Jeff Van Gundy told me his phone never rings as an NBA coach because nobody ever calls him. He doesn't have to talk to boosters, he doesn't have to talk to scouting service guys, high school coaches, aau coaches, nobody. He just coaches the team, and can sit in his office, watch tape, draw up plays and work with his guys in the off season.

I think those guys are very good though and I've done some stuff with them in the off season and I spent some time with Mike Fratello last year and I'm actually going to try and spend some more time with him this summer. I think he's a very good defensive coach and there are always new schemes coming out. I also like to watch a lot of tape...Good teams that say have a great running game, or a great trapping defense. I've got a bunch of the UCLA tapes now, and I've been trying to watch them and try to pick up some of their schemes of the last few years. Ben Howland teams always play tremendous defense but more than that, you're trying to see how people are executing different types of game plans on the court. The key is that you don't want to get stuck in the mud as coach. Once you think you know it all as a coach and stop picking up new stuff, you're going to fall behind because there are new things coming out every year. That's the great thing about the game, it's always changing.

We spent two and a half days at an NBA coach's clinic last September and it was outstanding. There were a lot of good things we picked up, not only defensively, but offensively as well. There are a lot of new things they do now with their pick and rolls and what they can do when they spread the court. We'll continue to participate in things like that. I actually spoke to Jeff Van Gundy extensively when he was up here for the 1987 dinner...I think he's a brilliant mind and that he is a very, very good coach. So hopefully, I can continue to get together with him as well.

End of Part II
Part III begins with a discussion of more of the PC players and how the new recruits will fit into the program.

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