Q&A with Mike Petersen -- Part I

I had a chance to watch a practice session for the Wake Forest women's basketball team and then sat down with Coach Mike Petersen for a far ranging interview. Hating to lose, working his team hard, and working hard on the fundamentals are what you will get from Coach Petersen day in and day out.

DeaconSports: Okay Coach, who do you think will be this team's emotional leader?
Mike Petersen: That is something we are still developing and is something that is real important to this basketball team. Cotelia Bond-Young does a really good job with that. She is a very competitive person and plays with a great deal of passion. So she has done a good job of that and I think Porsche has done a good job there as well so those two are the ones who do the best job and lead by example and also in their play. They have stepped up into that kind of senior leadership role a little bit.

DS: How do you feel about your freshmen so far?
MP: Good. They have adjusted to college life well which is the first step and they have adjusted to college athletics well as adjusting the academics well. It is just a matter now of continuing to grow and they are in a situation where there is some pressure for them to come in right away and play. A lot of freshmen don't have that, they can just kind of come in and get a feel for college their first year and they have a little added pressure of coming in and having to play right away. Overall they have done a good job adjusting to the social, academic area as well as the athletic area.

DS: Corrine and David Weaver played at the same school and she was highly touted coming out of high school. Do you think that she is progressing the way you hoped?
MP: Yeah, good. Everybody has a ways to go and a lot to learn but Corrine has done well given the fact she has worked her way onto the starting line-up. She still has a long way to go but she is one of those who have done a good job in the transition from high school to college and is doing a good job of competing right now.

DS: Last year your team showed improvement over the previous year. What does this team HAVE to do in order for you to be successful this year?
MS: We have two, we have to defend better and we have to rebound better. Most of that is near the goal, we have got to defend the post better and rebound better. This team will be good offensively we have several ways to score. It is a team that is very unselfish, shares the ball but for us to be the kind of team we want to be we have to defend the post better and rebound better.

DS: One thing you have been able to do this year is bring in more size. That should help you in those two areas.
MP: I think so. I think part of solving that is personnel, we are bigger with Corrine, Keila is healthy and Melissa is bigger. We are a bigger team but part of that is mindset also we have got to do a better job of defining ourselves, besides offense, as a basketball team and that is the mindset.

DS: You are probably in the toughest conference in the country in the ACC. How do you see the league shaking out?
MP: Well I don't think there is any question that it is the toughest league in the country. Of the 12 teams in our league, 8 of them went to the NCAA Tournament and we went to the NIT. Most of those teams won at least 1 game in the postseason. So it is a monster league. I think Duke and North Carolina are a notch above everybody else but then there is a group right behind them of BC, Maryland, NC State are kind of right behind them so that is five. The beauty of this league, is that probably 7-8 teams will go to the NCAA Tournament and there is a bunch of teams right after them. All have the opportunity to dig out an upper division finish and dig out a spot in the tournament and we are certainly one of those teams. Having said that, our goal is to win the ACC championship at this point. Duke is probably ahead of us they are ranked number 1 so I would take that to mean they are ahead of us but our goal is not going to change and that is to try to find a way to win this league. I think the top of this league has separated itself a little bit, what makes this league so special, is it is so deep. Every team in our league is very good.

DS: At the beginning of the year do you set tangible goals as in number of wins are more is it just keep improving bit by bit?
MP: We have a goal setting meeting in the Fall and our players set goals in four areas: academic goals; competitive goals; which is what you were talking about, character goals; how we want to act and how we conduct ourselves, attitude goals; which is where we want our attitude to be about competing about basketball. The players set those goals and all I do is kind of facilitate the meeting a little bit. They have to come up with 4 goals in each area and then we try to hold ourselves accountable to those goals. Again it would be hard for me to imagine a team of mine that did not have as a goal to win their conference. Now we have other goals and one of them is to have a winning season, go to the NCAA Tournament, win all of OOC games etc… and the players set those goals. I think those goals are a lot more meaningful when the players set them. I could set their goals but they need to come from the players so that they are their goals.

DS: You have coached at different levels and different genders. What is the biggest difference between coach a men's vs. women's team?
MP: The similarities are greater than the differences for the most part. The biggest difference is just how the players react with one another and where the team issues come from on each team. The biggest difference really is, most of the issues you are dealing with when you coach men's basketball, at least the ones I have dealt with, have been ego driven whereas most of the issues with women's teams that I have coached have been emotion driven. That is not to say it is a 100% rule but that is the biggest difference but other than that, college athletes are college athletes. They are really competitive, they want to be coached, want to win, and want to compete. Some of the toughest, hardest working athletes I have ever coached have been some of the females I have coached. It is more of how the players deal with one another, how they deal with the coaching staff, just seem to be the biggest differences.

DS: You obviously like to play up-tempo basketball so will you press more this year, play a lot of man and try to force the tempo?
MP: We are going to press some but the biggest difference from last year is we are very focused on having a better interior offensive presence. Last year we were so addicted to the perimeter shooting and we have to get off that a little bit and put a little more pressure on having them defend the post. Defensively, we are going to play some zone, press a little after free throws probably and play some man and trap some. We are still not deep enough yet to go out and say, okay we are going to press you for forty minutes we are just not at that point yet. We are deeper than we have been so we will probably extend the floor a little more.

Stay tuned for Part II with Coach Petersen!

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