Q&A: Washington Assistant Coach Jim Shaw

The Bootleg's Kevin Danna was able to grab a few minutes with Washington Assistant Coach Jim Shaw, Read about what this team brings to the table and how the season has played out for the Huskies in this interview conducted before Washington hosted the Bay Area schools this week.

The Bootleg: Where did you expect this team to be through the first five games of Pac-12 play considering how talented but how young this group is?
Jim Shaw: You know, I think that if you said we'd be 4-1, I would have taken that. So I think that sometimes maybe the path we have taken to get there has been a little bit rougher than we would have liked, but at the same time if you had said before this thing started, "five games in, you'll be 4-1. Would you take it?" I would have said, "yes." So probably right about where we are at.

TB: Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Thomas and Overton appeared to be your three most confident players last year. Do you think this team still has that vaunted swagger that makes you guys so tough to play against?
JS: Well, Isaiah Thomas was a humongous personality and presence. So I think that anytime you lose a guy who has got as much dynamic knowledge to his game and to his personality that it's hard to replace it hard all at once. So the answer to that would be no; I think that swagger as you put it or the personality of Isaiah Thomas is a hard one to replace, especially right away.

TB: Losing Scott Suggs to injury was another big blow; one you didn't expect to deal with coming into the year. What do you miss most about what he brings to the team?
JS: Quality depth. We are playing with a much thinner roster than what we have from a significant amount of years.  He's a guy that averaged probably 20 minutes per game last year, so therefore just his experience and providing the situations he has been in at home, on the road and the level and quality of our depth.

TB: Tony Wroten has been amazing for you guys this year. He was a very decorated high-school player, but did you expect him to average 17 as a Freshman?
JS: I don't know if I expected him to score as much. He's a little different in some ways as a player. He's a little better scorer than I thought, a little less of a point guard than I thought.

TB: I've heard second-hand from various players that C.J. Wilcox is the best shooter they've ever played against or with. As far as shooters go, where does he rank on the list of players you have coached in your time at UW, Oklahoma, Saint Louis, Oregon State and everywhere else you've been?
JS: Yep. Three best shooters I ever coached - Hollis Price at Oklahoma, Tre Simmons at Washington, CJ Wilcox at Washington.

TB: What makes him such a good shooter?
JS: He's got almost flawless mechanics. He's just like the guy with the perfect golf swing. He's got really, really good mechanics, and he's consistent with his release, and he's got really good form; it's picture perfect.

TB: Also, Abdul Gaddy has been leading the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio. This guy looks like he has come a long way from his freshman year. How impressed have you guys been as a staff with his play?
JS: Well Abdul does the No. 1 rule that you have to have in a quality lead guard - he takes care of the ball. He has done a really good job taking care of the ball and it's something that is really necessary if we have a chance to be successful.

TB: The Huskies are traditionally a lot better at home than on the road. What's the difference between UW at the Alaska Airlines Arena and then playing outside of Seattle?
JS: We've got 10,000 people that like us here (laughs). We usually go into arenas where we barely have ten that like us. So I think it's just the support we get from the fans and the energy in the building.

TB: You guys have started to consistently play your Seattle again ever since they re-joined the Division I ranks and your latest battle was a thrilling, high-scoring affair. Obviously you guys are the stronger team, but is there a cross-town rivalry brewing? That last game got a little chippy at the end.
JS: Nah, I think it's just a game where they compete extremely hard and put a lot of pressure on us in a lot of ways. Coach Dollar and I worked side-by-side for five years and I love him like a brother and I think he's doing a great job. But no, I don't think it's anything out of the ordinary, I just think it's an opportunity to play against people you care about. Sometimes when you go in the backyard and play softball, that's a lot more rigorous than when you're doing it against somebody else.

TB: What was it like staying in New York earlier this season for almost a week straight and only playing two games? Not too many teams have trips like that.
JS: It was an incredible opportunity educationally and culturally for our team. I mean, just an amazing opportunity. The weather was great. They got to go to two Broadway plays. They got to see places and historical things that probably most of them had not seen before and some of them may never have another opportunity like that. So other than the fact that we didn't manage to win at least one of those games, I thought it was an awesome trip all the way around.

TB: What did you take away from that trip on the basketball court? A tough loss against Marquette and then the Duke game.
JS: I thought with Marquette it was, and it's still a work in progress of being able to finish games. It was a winnable game, all the way down to being ahead by one with under five seconds to go, and finding a way to win a game like that, rather than just compete in it. Against Duke, it was the fact that we never gave up - we had a chance to give up and we didn't; we battled back. So I thought we showed good courage in terms of not giving up and against Marquette I thought we played well; we just didn't finish the game.

TB: What happened in the South Dakota State game? The Jackrabbits are a very good team that a lot of people don't know about, but it was still a game I'm assuming you guys expected to win.
JS: I think it was a combination of like what you said - they are a lot better than what people think - and I don't know if our players quite took them or the opportunity to compete against them seriously enough. I don't want to take anything away from [South Dakota State] because they are 15-4 and they're 6-1 in league and they have a great team, but we were really disappointed with our energy level, with the way we approached and played the game. Again, not to take anything away from them, but it was probably in my opinion our most disappointing effort of the season.

TB: You're coming off a rivalry win over Washington State in what was a tale of two halves. What was the key to figuring out that WSU zone in the second half and Ross exploding for 30 points?
JS: I think that we made an adjustment where we put Tony Wroten right in the middle of the zone, which put a lot of pressure in the middle of the floor and you're letting him work in that high post area. Obviously, Terrence jumped up and made shots and we were able to really have a good night in terms of rebounding, I think we ended up plus 24.

TB: It looked like Washington State couldn't get a rebound to save their lives. Was it just a matter of being aggressive or them not necessarily having the man responsibilities they do off the glass in the zone?
JS: Probably a combination. It's harder to block out in a zone, and then our guys stayed pretty busy.

TB: Looking forward to the Stanford game on Saturday, tell me your thoughts on the Cardinal and what problems that they can pose you this weekend.
JS: Well, I think they are a very good basketball team. I think there are two teams in our league that have put themselves in a clear position to be NCAA at-large teams even if they don't win the conference, which they both might, and that's the two we are playing this week - Cal and Stanford.  And I think with Stanford, they have incredible balance.  They just really have a lot of guys that can make baskets from different positions. They have extremely good depth, so they can rotate ten guys at least in a game. They play very hard; they have taken on a personality where they are tough, they are physical. They are very long, so it's hard to get quality shots against them. I just think they've just done an outstanding job of putting their team together, and they've got a good basketball team. I mean, they are the team that had the most legitimate chance to beat Syracuse of any team this year in the game they played back in New York.

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