Gaudio: The Show Must Go On....

As he replaces his longtime friend and mentor Skip Prosser, head coach Dino Gaudio, with a heavy heart, shares his vision for Wake Forest basketball with DeaconSports.

DeaconSports: Well coach you have had several weeks to absorb the impact of your friends death and started to function as the new head coach, so how has the process gone for you so far?
Coach Gaudio: I am very pleased with the way things have gone so far, most importantly with our players, and the people I can't mention, our recruits. Everything has been very, very positive and I think we are moving forward at a good pace. It is September 4th and our kids have had a week of classes and tomorrow we begin the period of individual instruction and weightlifting began Labor Day. We are really getting back into a groove and doing what we are supposed to be doing.

DeaconSports: This is uncomfortable for all of us to discuss after the death of Coach Prosser, but what do you see yourself doing differently with the team than what Coach Prosser did?
Coach Gaudio: I think we all knew and recognized, including Coach Prosser, that we had to get better defensively. We talked about it all spring, at the beginning of the summer and we knew that that was what we had to emphasize more. The way that is accomplished it that there have to be more consequences for defensive breakdowns and I believe that the added depth we have this year maybe that will be easier to enforce.

DeaconSports: What do you like most about this team?
Coach Gaudio: I think these kids are Basketball guys and what I mean by that is that they love to play, love to compete. That is first and foremost the most impressive thing about these kids and the second thing is that they are very talented. Obviously we will still be very young this year with 1 senior, 1 junior, [5] sophomores, and 3 freshmen. However, I would rather have a young and very talented team like we have than one that is experienced but not as talented as this group. We also have some good leaders in this group.

DeaconSports: As the point guard, Ish Smith showed some brilliant flashes as a freshman last year and an added year of experience should help minimize his turnovers.
Coach Gaudio: No question, I think that Ish really emerged this off season as a leader by directing guys where to play, when to play, and organizing the games. I think that Jeff Teague will really help Ish this year by pushing him in practice and allowing him longer rest periods in games. Jeff has an amazing natural PG mentality and it will help make Ish a better player and you might even see them play at the same time some. We did this some when we had Justin, Chris and Taron and I would feel totally confident in having Jeff run this team.

DeaconSports: Two other areas that were below par last year were free throw shooting and three point shooting. How do you go about improving those areas?
Coach Gaudio: I think confidence, which is very important in free throw shooting, comes from repetition and we will start early in emphasizing that. Even in our individual skill sessions, before practice actually starts, we will hone in on their free throws. I will make sure that these kids will get their share of free throw practice. I think that our three point shooting will improve because LD...will have more experience and James Johnson and Gary Clark are good shooters. I find that your three point shooting improves when you have better shooters and I think we will have that.

DeaconSports: From what I have seen of James Johnson, the word that comes to my mind is versatile. He does many things on a basketball court and does them very well.
Coach Gaudio: Yes, he was one of the guys I was alluding to when I spoke of some very talented kids. He can shoot the three, put it on the floor, create some space for himself and is a terrific passer as many have seen this summer. He makes other people better and is a multi-dimensional player who can play any position from the 2 to the 4.

DeaconSports: One area that will need immediate attention is the inside game with Kyle graduating. Points will be hard to come by there with your youth and lack of depth there.
Coach Gaudio: I think that there are many ways to score inside. You can score with a back to the basket guy or you can spread the floor and score off penetration. Scoring doesn't have to come just from the post. I think that through the years we have managed to "find" a new inside scorer whether it was after Darius left and Eric took over or when Eric left and Kyle took over. I really believe the same question was asked after those two guys left and I am not that concerned about some scoring because I think somebody will emerge.

DeaconSports: Since you were responsible under Skip for developing the big men, there is some hope someone will develop.
Coach Gaudio: We have been fortunate through the years in developing big men and it was not just due to me. 99% of the credit should go to those kids who worked very hard to make themselves better. I think we will continue to do that with the guys we have now.

DeaconSports: Your coaching staff has remained intact and the only change was moving Mike Muse up to the assistant coach position. That has got to be something that has made this transition easier for you.
Coach Gaudio: I have a great coaching staff and it has really helped having their support through this period.

DeaconSports: Will you continue to work on individual areas like big men or will you just oversee the entire process?
Coach Gaudio: I will not micro manage it but I am a hands on guy so that will not change the way I do things. Having said that, I have complete confidence in these guys in all areas. Jeff Battle is like a head coach and he has had many opportunities to go be a head coach. He has 23 years of coaching experience. Pat Kelsey is a rising superstar in this business. He has done a terrific job in recruiting as well as on the floor. Mike Muse brings 20 years of coaching experience to us. The gentleman I am hiring for the Director of Basketball Operations, Walt Corbean, worked with me when I was at Army and won 30 games 3 years ago, 26 games 2 years ago and 22 last year. All of the guys on this staff are coaches, while some schools may have guys who are recruiters or just x and o guys. All our guys are excellent coaches and recruiters.

DeaconSports: You must feel good about the support given you by the Wake administration.
Coach Gaudio: Absolutely, they have been nothing less than terrific.

DeaconSports: I assume that there will be a special tribute to Skip for the first game?
Coach Gaudio: Yes, that is all in the works. Mike, you know how I felt about Skip, he was like a brother to me and any and everything we can do to honor him will be done throughout the year we want to go 110% on. We just have not decided what forms it will take yet.

DeaconSports: Your family has been used to you being in coaching so the adjustment for them has not been that great.
Coach Gaudio: That is very true, They are older now and I don't know if my kids want to be with me right now, not because I am now the head coach at Wake Forest but because they have other "interests" now. My wife has always been a terrific supporter for me.

DeaconSports: Everybody at Wake, from the administration on down, seems like a big family and must give you a special feeling.
Coach Gaudio: I said at the press conference, and I really believe it, that this is a special place because of the people at Wake Forest make it special. You go through the facilities with the players we recruit and they see what a beautiful campus we have and I tell them that you don't go through 4 very important years only with the campus or the great facilities but you go through them most of all with people. It is most important that the people you go through it with are outstanding people and we have that at Wake. From the community, to the administration, the faculty, to the kids on this team, they are what make Wake Forest a special place.

DeaconSports: How has the reception of recruits and opposing coaches been to you?
Coach Gaudio: It has been outstanding. They have been incredibly supportive and understanding.

DeaconSports: This is a very competitive business but I get the feeling that the coaches have gotten a little closer as a fraternity after Skip's tragic passing.
Coach Gaudio: Absolutely. I think it has caused some to reassess their priorities. Skip was so close with so many people that his sudden passing was a jolt to the entire industry. I had people coming up saying that we needed to reevaluate our industry and the amount of hours put in and so forth.

DeaconSports: This interview is mainly an overview of the program status and we will get more specific once real practice starts. We have all gone through an intense period of grieving and are now emerging into the "get back to work" process. How do you cope with the intense feelings that this process must bring to you?
Coach Gaudio: Like I told some player's parents, I understand the magnitude of my position with their kids and I am not even talking about the coaching part. The coaching part is the easy part, I am talking about how the player's parents and recruit's parents have entrusted me with their most valuable possessions, and that is their kids. That is an awesome responsibility and making sure that they are doing what they need to do academically, making sure that they are taught values that will last them a lifetime is my primary job. This coaching staff will have the biggest impact over 4 years for these guys in our charge than anyone else other than their families and that is an awesome responsibility. I understand and accept that and I said if they do what they are told, in four years they will leave here as a man with values that will last them a lifetime and leave here with a degree and that is very, very important to me. The basketball part of it is that we will be incredibly driven, intolerant of what we will accept from these guys, and will continue to get better and better and better. We will push these kids as hard as they can be pushed because they are very talented and we really feel great things are on the horizon. Skip laid a great foundation and we are going to move forward with his vision and ours.

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