Q&A: Colorado Assistant Coach Tom Abatemarco

The Bootleg's Kevin Danna was able to grab a few minutes with Colorado Assistant Coach Tom Abatemarco, a man who has been in the coaching business a long time and was a recruiter for Maryland when Stanford head man Johnny Dawkins was looking to go to college. Read what happened, plus a lot about the Buffaloes, in this interview conducted before Colorado headed west to face the Bay Area schools.

The Bootleg: First off coach, welcome to the Pac-12. It looks as though you guys have made quite the home for yourself in this conference so far.
Tom Abatemarco: I think Coach Boyle has just done a great job of developing this young team. We were lucky enough to have three home games, and we protected home court. We struggled a little early in the year because of losing four starters last year. I think coach has done a great job of making us a competitive team in the Pac-12. And we're just looking to take it every game at a time and just survive and advance in the league, that's all.  Protect home court and steal some on the road.

TB: What's the adjustment to the Pac-12 from the Big 12 been like? How much of an adjustment is it?
TA: They're both great leagues. Right now, obviously the Big 12 has more talent. The Pac-12 has lost a lot of its talent to the NBA. I think the Pac-12 talent is very young and everybody in the league seems to be recruiting well, and it's a good league. In my opinion, Stanford and Cal right now are the best teams in the league. Stanford is my scout, I'm very familiar with Johnny Dawkins - I'll tell you a great story. I tried to recruit both Johnny Dawkins and Tommy Amaker. And I signed Tommy Amaker to a letter of intent on a napkin at the University of Maryland, but I couldn't get to Johnny; Johnny wouldn't even talk to us, and they both went to Duke…Through the years, [Johnny and I] have been friends. I have a great respect for him and what he's done at Stanford. They had a great recruiting year this year and they have a great young team - that is an athletic transition team that can beat anybody in the country. They're very, very good. Stanford fans should be very happy because they are going to have a power for years to come.

TB: I take it you didn't get a chance to talk to Johnny all that much when he was in high school but now that you are both coaches, have you been able to interact with each other a little more?
TA: Oh yeah. I always see Johnny on the road and I have a lot of respect for Johnny. We have recruited against each other, and a matter of fact, we recruited a couple of guys this year and obviously, Christian Sanders is a guy our staff tried to recruit and Johnny did a great job with him and he's going up to Stanford. Stanford is just a great academic institution and it has always had great basketball tradition and I think Johnny's got ‘em back where everyone wants to see ‘em.

TB: Going back to your last year in the Big 12, how did you guys not make the NCAA Tournament last year?
TA: I don't know. It was one of those things - we had a great year, we beat K-State three times, we finished in 5th place in the league, we went to the semis of the tournament. If you complain about those things, it doesn't do you any good. You just have to win on the court and do a great job.

TB: At the beginning of the season, Tad Boyle was considering this a rebuilding year. Now that you're 3-0 and the only undefeated team remaining in the conference, has the bar been raised a little bit?
TA: Sure. Like I said, we want to survive and advance. We want to survive an 18-game schedule; we want to get better every day. That's what we are working at. We've got some young players and we do have some veteran guys that are playing very well. Carlon Brown, who transferred in from Utah, is our leading scorer and he's really come into his own and playing very well. Nate Tomlinson is playing half the game at point and doing a great job, and Austin Dufault is scoring inside. So those are the three guys that are veteran guys with the young guys, and next year we're really excited about the five guys that we brought in our recruiting class, which was ranked high, as Stanford's was.

TB: You mentioned the newcomers that you have that have been providing some scoring for you this year- Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie have been very solid and then you have the two transfers in Carlon Brown and sabatino chen. I'm sure Carlon figured to be a major contributor.
TA: Yes, yes. Carlon was off to a slow start, which a lot of transfers are, and he just had to figure it out- the style of coach's play, how to play- not to play too fast, shot selection, and he's figured that out right now and he's playing very well so we're excited about his play. And Jeremy Adams is just coming in on his own - he had a concussion early and missed some time, but he is going to be a very good player for us. Those guys have been a factor for us.

TB: Did you figure Booker and Dinwiddie to provide this much punch in their first year?
TA: When our staff recruited them and evaluated them, we liked them as players and we thought they were both going to be good. They're freshmen - they are up and down like all freshmen are, and as the growing pains Johnny went through with his young team for a couple of years showed, you can't depend on freshmen to carry you. You have to have some veteran guys, which we do, and that's a plus. And Carlon Brown has been a guy we've counted on. Obviously losing Alec Burks we needed a veteran guy to be able to step in and Carlon is starting to do that.

TB: Andre Roberson has been an absolute beast for you guys, averaging 11 points and 11 rebounds per game. He's not a small guy at 6'7, but he's also not the biggest by far out there either. How is he able to have so much success on the glass?
TA: Great rebounder…He's just a guy that has a knack for rebounding and a knack for the ball. A competitor, a great defender, and he's getting better as a scorer, and he really embraces the role as a rebounder. He had only eight the last game - that was a bad rebounding game for him (laughs). He can put up around 12 or 15. The guy is just a pocket full of energy and just a terrific player.

TB: You guys are coming off a home sweep of the Washington schools. What did you learn about your team in the 87-69 win over Washington? Was that kind of the moment where you guys said "hey, we're right at home here in the Pac-12?"
TA: First of all, we came out a little nervous and made some bad plays. We were down 7-0, we were just proud that the guys re-grouped and came back. Washington is very talented, a very good team. This place is a very tough place to play. When you come into altitude, and we play fast, it's tough. It doesn't matter how much you slow that baby down, the altitude hits- it hits and it hits hard. And this place when we pack it in - we haven't even had the students for the first three games - it's a very tough place to play. And when you're in conference, you have to win your home games, as many as you can. And when you go on the road, like I said, it's just like Coach Valvano (he was an assistant under Jim Valvano when NC State won the 1983 NCAA Championship) always said going into the NCAA Tournament- survive and advance. That's our motto. Coach Boyle is a very good tactician, does a very good job of preparing our team. Out of all the guys I've worked for, he probably does the best job of preparing the team, and I've worked for some giants in the business. And I mean that with all my heart - he does a tremendous job.

TB: The road has been pretty tough out there for visiting teams and the Buffs haven't played a road game since November…
TA: It's going to be tough. Yep, we just gotta tough it out, buckle up and go win and just try and improve and try and steal ‘em. Each game we play, we try and steal, that's what you try to do on the road.

TB: I'm sure you've watched it more than once since you are responsible for scouting the Cardinal, but did you get a chance to catch the four overtime game against Oregon State live or did you have to watch it back on tape?
TA: I watched it yesterday. It was a great game, both teams played very, very well, I just thought that down the stretch, Stanford executed better than Oregon State and they made the plays. They've got a very good team - Josh Owens is a tremendous low-post player, Bright is dangerous from inside and out, Randle is terrific, Powell - moving down the line, they're nine or 10 deep, they've got good players.

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