Q&A: OSU Associate Head Coach Doug Stewart

The Bootleg's Kevin Danna was able to grab a few minutes with Oregon State Associate Head Coach Doug Stewart. Read about what his team brings to the table, his look back at the four-overtime marathon the two teams played last month, how the season has played out for the Beavers since then, and what he thinks of the Cardinal in this interview conducted before Thursday night's contest.

The Bootleg: I remember Coach Robinson being very confident about this team before the year started- ending the 5:30 am practices, playing a lot more man defense. What's the confidence level like with this team now?
Doug Stewart: I think this group still has good confidence in each other. First of all, they like each other as people and as players. They work together. You mentioned the transition from playing entirely man-to-man - there's a learning curve there and I think the group is doing a good job of transitioning now from being exclusively man-to-man to playing some multiple defenses and making it challenging for other teams. When we're playing very well, we're really together as a team. On the offensive end, we're getting help in getting somebody else a shot and on the defensive end, we're pressuring the ball in whatever defense we're in and got somebody back behind the ball pressure. So those are the things that we're kind of working on putting together for 40 minutes, and it's really been a matter of that type of consistency for an entire game. It's had some good results and shown we can beat anybody in the league, but if you don't do it for 40 minutes, then you take your chances.

TB: Joe Burton was a late scratch from the starting line-up against Washington. Was that more just of a match-up move to handle the Huskies, or is that something that might become more of a trend?
DS: They have a pretty good three-guard lineup out there and we were able to match up with the guards that they put out there pretty well and defensively that was a good move for us. It just kind of suited the game, and we'll see how it goes from game to game.

TB: Joe is one of the few players in college basketball who utilizes a true hook shot. Was that something he had already had before he came to Oregon State, or is that something you worked on with him as a staff?
DS: Joe kind of added that when he came here. He had a little bit of a hook shot; he's more of a positional post, and I think in order for him to have a shot to get it off against long shot blockers in the Pac-12, it was something we helped implement with him as a staff. He was very receptive towards learning it and has really made it a nice weapon in his repertoire in the low post.

TB: Jared Cunningham leads the conference in scoring and steals, but people are mostly talking about Gutierrez being the frontrunner for conference player of the year come March. Is that simply a team record thing, or should Jared be getting a little more respect?
DS: Jared is having a terrific year and we get to see the work that he puts in every day, so that's something that from our standpoint we could really appreciate him as a conference player of the year type. Gutierrez is a guy that is helping his team win a lot of games and in his own right is a tremendous player, a terrific leader and just a guy that never quits and somebody that everybody watches play has to admire.

TB: On the TV broadcast of the Washington game, they were saying that you guys as a staff would like to see Roberto Nelson look for his offense a little more. As a coach, how do you work with an unselfish player like Roberto to be more aggressive?
DS: When Roberto has a big game, we usually do pretty well. He is a guy who has recently not shot the ball as well as he could, but we are very much confident in him as a staff and wanting him to stay aggressive and continue to look for his shot. We just want to put him in as many positions as possible to give us a chance to be successful in terms of spacing and using screens and keeping his mindset at aggressive and attacking.

TB: Looking forward to Thursday, Oregon State and Stanford played quite the game in Corvallis back in January. What was it like coaching that game that had so many twists and turns?
DS: It was like playing two games (laughs). It's hard because you can't really forecast four overtimes, and Stanford really had a couple of guys who almost played two completely different games in the overtime than in regulation. I think Randle was really big in the overtime, and he is a terrific player. I really admire him a lot and think he has a great future in our league. Dwight Powell came off the bench and really provided a lot of energy and just some playmaking ability. And those kinds of guys, to have that kind of depth, is really a nice plus for your team and really energized Stanford in the quad overtime.

TB: Being a game that was essentially three halves, did you give your guys any extra rest after the game leading into the next week?
DS: Well, it's one of those situations where I think you need to have a fresh mind and fresh legs. Coach is very good at giving our guys ample time to recover their legs. We could only be proud of our team after that game because it was a slugfest back and forth to the last second, and we had a shot to win it at the buzzer, and it was just one of those things where it didn't go your way.  I think our guys knew that we were very proud of them as a staff and we gave them a little extra time to recover. You have to correct some of the things that happened in the game, but really take away a lot of the positives from how our guys competed. That's the type of thing when you've been through a game like that and you become battle-tested for the future.

TB: What did you learn about your team in that game that you perhaps didn't before that you could take into the game on Thursday?
DS: I just think you have to show a great level of toughness to really get into a four-overtime game to begin with, particularly with a team as talented as Stanford's that was really on quite a roll at the time, too. There were several positions where we had a chance to win, but there were also several positions where we had to come up with big stops to stop Stanford from winning the game. It's just from the level of competition that our guys were able to stand toe-to-toe in a battle like that. You learn that there's a level of toughness, a level of togetherness, and hopefully those things carry over in future situations.

TB: One thing I noticed about that game and the Washington game as well was how loud Gill Coliseum was. How have you guys been able to draw so well this year and have such enthusiastic crowds despite being outside of the Top 25?
DS: We have some of the best fans in the country. They're really educated fans, they follow the game and they're historians of the game from the past of this team and all the way back to having a guy like Gary Payton come back this year to watch us play. There's great history in Gill Coliseum, there are fans that are knowledgeable and they really enjoy watching good basketball. I think that comes down to kids playing hard, guys fighting for each other, and I think they really appreciate the style of basketball and the level of basketball IQ, and kudos to them for having the basketball knowledge themselves.

TB: At 15-10, 5-8, what do you guys think you need to do from here on out to get to a postseason tournament?
DS: I think we're just continuing to make some tweaks along the way and I think bringing a consistent level of effort and energy through 40 minutes of a game is important to us. Each game kind of have its own identity, but you really have to limit the number of turnovers, missed free throws, little things like that that can make the difference in a two- or three-point game like the U-Dub game. When you're playing a really good team like Stanford, all of those things are important, all the way down to offensive rebounds. I think we're really trying to hone in on those little things and become solid as a group that could really push this thing over the top.

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