Preseason Interview: Dino Gaudio

The WFU basketball program enters the 2nd year of the Dino Gaudio era with raised expectations but still a lot of questions for 2008-09. With candor and energy, Coach Gaudio answers some questions posed by our subscribers and gets the Deacon faithful ready for the "new and improved" Deacon basketball team.

You sense the feeling of optimism and also urgency in the answers Coach Gaudio provides in this far ranging interview. Sit back and enjoy his comments as we near the beginning of the season on November 6th.

Michael Jennings: Who is the best pure shooter on your team?
Dino Gaudio: Well, there is probably more than one, Gary Clark, Jeff Teague, and Harvey Hale. Gary Clark probably has the most potential there but Jeff shot 44% from three in ACC play and has really deep, deep, range.

MJ: The biggest weakness this team had last year was its three point shooting. Since you did not really sign anyone known for that, how are you going to improve there?
DG: We need to be an inside out team. I told our guys that we need to get it inside and start looking more for the mid-range game this year. In 1983, the line was 17'9" and it went up to 19'9" in 1987. This year it goes out to 20'9" and I think it will make a big difference. We need to get our guys to pump fake and move in for the mid range shot and that percentage will be higher. We took too many contested threes last year and even in the Black/Gold game this year. I have no problem shooting wide open threes if they are in rhythm and the flow but if you are contested, [we] need to fake and move inside for an easier, more high percentage shot. We will be more of an inside out team this year.

MJ: So your plan is to take threes when they are not so contested and try to work the ball inside first and foremost?
DG: No question, absolutely. Inside-out, inside-out.

MJ: Speaking of inside guys, you have some good depth there. James Johnson, Chas McFarland, David Weaver and the new guys now Al-Farouq, Tony [Woods] and Ty Walker. Do you foresee substituting more often inside this year?
DG: Yes, I think we can go two deep at every position when we get Ish back. I would like to say here [today] that we will play 10 guys but that remains to be seen. I do think we have 10 guys who can play significant minutes for us this year.

MJ: Are you far along enough yet to determine if anyone will red-shirt?
DG: No, we are not at that point yet.

MJ: Are you at the point where you could name a starting 5, assuming Ish can't play?
DG: Yes, if we had a game tonight, we would have Jeff at the one, LD at the 2, James and Farouq could flip at the 3 and 4, and Chas at the 5.

MJ: We have talked in the past and you have indicated you love having three point guards on the same team. You have two pretty good ones now in Ish and Jeff so who would be your third right now if you needed one?
DG: It would have to be Harvey Hale. Harvey has been playing back up point in practice all preseason.

MJ: I am assuming that means Gary Clark just does not have the skills suited for the PG?
DG: I don't think so, no.

MJ: You have two very talented guys who can play either the 3 or the 4 with Al-Farouq and James Johnson. Do you see them alternating at those positions then?
DG: Absolutely. They both have been learning both positions and playing them in practice. For instance, when we are playing against a team with a somewhat lumbering big guy who may have to guard James, we would put Farouq inside and make the guy chase James Johnson around the perimeter off of screens and create a match-up advantage for us. We could also do the reverse with Farouq having to be chased because James is inside.

MJ: David Weaver, do you see him as more of a 5 or a 4?
DG: He can play both for us. Dave is probably more of a back to the basket guy although he will quickly tell you he was three for three from three point range last year. He tells everybody he is our medium three point shooter. David has played some 4 for us because we are trying to keep it simple for the two new big guys so we are teaching them only the 5.

MJ: You have been very complimentary of Tony Woods and it seems he is making a lot of progress.
DG: Right.

MJ: He came in raw, and is still raw especially offensively, but seems to get it on rebounding and blocking shots.
DG: All of these young guys come in and think they have to make 17 foot jump shots. Tony knows where his bread is buttered and that he is a low post player who works hard to establish his position and score the ball from the block. He is a strong rebounder who knows who he is and has been a pleasant, pleasant surprise.

MJ: With kids going pro early, how tough has that made your recruiting job?
DG: It does make it harder but the good thing is that these guys have to trust us because there is no better source for our players on the NBA than myself. I have told them a 100 times that if they have any questions, I will bring them in the office and I will let them listen to what every NBA scout has said, and we have had around 20 or so come through our gym to watch, all of them to a man said they all need to come back. They say things like, this one needs to get stronger, this one needs to lose some weight to defend on the perimeter, this one needs to become more refined etc. If they listen to the right people, not someone on the street, or someone on the boards who think they have the answer, then the NBA will tell us when they can play there. They don't need or want a kid to come out who can't play there.

MJ: So, at this point in time, before the season starts, we don't have anyone who should turn pro?
DG: From the 20 NBA scouts who have come through here, to a man, they say you have a nice young team but if they are smart, none of them are ready for the league.

MJ: Some are picking your team for as high as third in the ACC this year. Does that intimidate or excite you?
DG: I am very much excited and I like that. That means they think a lot about our program. I have been on the other side where the expectation was incredibly low and that we just didn't have enough talent. I would much rather have the pressure of high expectations. In 2003 they picked us 7th in the ACC and we finished first by two games, they were wrong. In 2006 they picked us 3rd and we finished 12th, they were wrong. Last year they picked NC State 3rd and they finished 12th, they were wrong. I put those numbers on the board for our guys and I told them if they think we have "arrived", and they are not ready to work hard every day, then the same thing that happened to us in 2006 and last year to NC State can happen to us again.

MJ: What does Dino Gaudio like the least about the job of being the head coach?
DG: All the extras. I love the coaching part but the demands on your time from the media, speaking engagements and the like. I spoke at 32 engagements last year which I realize is part of the job but my least favorite part. Like I told the Screamin' Demons last Tuesday night, the Baltimore Sun said the toughest venue to play in the ACC, forget Duke, wasn't UNC either but was Wake Forest. I love the atmosphere of college basketball in the Joel when the students are in to it.

MJ: All the predictions are out there so now let's hear your thoughts on what you have to do to meet or exceed them?
DG: Number 1, we can't have any distractions. No academic distractions, any off the floor or in the community distractions. Second thing is leadership, you have to have good leadership and the third thing is we have young talented guys so chemistry is huge. We have to share the ball and play together.

MJ: Since you mentioned leadership, have you gotten it so far and from whom?
DG: Yes we have gotten good leadership from LD, Jeff Teague and James Johnson. Ish has been injured but will also help there and he should be able to start back on Monday [November 3rd] we hope. It is unlikely he will play any in the exhibition but should play some against NC Central.

MJ: What are your feelings on the out of conference schedule?
DG: It is very challenging but will help prepare us for the ACC season. Going to Anaheim where six of those teams will probably be in the NCAAs, going to Richmond which is tough for anyone, and playing Wright State who is always good and then throw in BYU [on the road], UNC-Wilmington, Bucknell, at East Carolina and Indiana in the Joel and that is a challenging schedule.

MJ: Who has improved the most among the returnees players in your opinion.
DG: Gary Clark.

MJ: Any last comments?
DG: Let's play basketball!


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