On getting back on the court:
Yeah. I mean for me it's certainly took away my twitch that I was developing because Oct. 18th is just a little too long to get the whole group on the court. I'd like to have them more a little bit closer to the 15th. A couple of years we started before the 15th because of the way the dates fall but this was worth the wait I guess you could say because the guys were ready. They're anxious, their minds are open, their eyes and ears are open, they were ready to go through the drills. We need a lot of work but one of the guys thought that I kind of made a mistake on the practice schedule. I said, ‘yeah, you're right.' I didn't have one offensive drill during that two hour period. And you're right that's a good observation. And you know what there won't be an offensive drill this afternoon either because we got some things defensively that we have to work on. That's one of the reasons we did a lot of offensive work with the individual workouts and knowing that defensively there's some things we noticed from last year that we have to get better at. I think they got the message.
What can you tell us about what you want to do with your defense? Are you talking about making some changes?
Oh no. (Just) never getting away from the fundamentals. The whole idea is if we want to help and recover, if we can get there two-tenths-of-a-second sooner, does it eliminate dribble penetration? If we block out a little bit better defensively, do we not give up offensive rebounds? I mean just because you know what they weren't around campus for five months, six months, and I think some people said they were a good defensive team but sometimes you can get confused about what happened one year and what's moving to the next year. So just to make sure they didn't forget how you to get to be a decent defensive team, there's things that need to be worked on from film clips, that we had edited from last year and the year before.
Have you also been looking at the individual one-on-one and on-the-ball stuff too?
Everything. I mean when you talk about offense you don't just talk about one thing, when you talk about defense you don't talk about one thing. Better stances, a little wider stance at time, guys are getting too upright, same things that we cover when we run our basketball camps at summer. The fundamentals of defense: the stance, hand pressure, mirroring the ball, and again just moving our feet and anticipating. It's something where you can get better and just in case somebody was maybe confused and thought that they were pretty good we had to just let them know that we still have a lot of work to do.
When you get into these early practices, is it mostly individual work or did you put them into any team settings, you know, defensively where you had five guys working against five guys?
No, we didn't do anything five versus five here, not yet. There was a window washer up there that had like a notepad in his hand and I'm thinking, I've never seen a window washer up there in the Kohl Center, it wasn't one of you was it? No, it was mostly one-on-one, two-on-two; three-on-three was the max in the drills. We'll build it from there. Just a lot of footwork stuff today.
You mentioned the guys were anxious, how much of an emotional carryover from last year comes to this year or do you want it to be a new year, let's leave the past in the past and move forward from right here and now?
Well there's no question that as tradition grows you feel better about yourself but it also means that you tend to not give in as quickly if you feel like you're a part of something that's important. I think these guys feel that with every ticket being sold out, the way people feel about them, they don't want to let people down. They know what the experts are saying and all the prognosticators, you go through two years where nobody thinks you can do anything and now you've got people saying things, and I quickly let them know that all that doesn't matter. What's going to matter is what we're doing here in each drill. So they very quickly came into the gym this morning and said, ‘OK coach, what do you want us to do?' They jumped into every drill. The upperclassmen already clued the underclassmen in on a few things, so it was pretty seamless from one drill to the other, and that's a good sign. To answer your question, that's in the past what happened but also you take that and say O K now where can we go with it?
So what are your expectations for this group?
That at 3:30 they come back with the same attitude they had at eight this morning. Just day-to-day with me. It will be practice-to-practice, drill-to-drill. You know when I'm standing there and looking at these, I'll say, ‘OK, let's do this one, this is the one we're on, let's do this well.' My only expectations are that we work hard during that drill and the next one and so on. I don't take it any further than that.
How many of these two-a-day settings are you going to do, is this the only day you're going to do this?
Yeah, yeah pretty much to start it. You know we certainly got a lot more done from 8-10 this morning than we could have from 12-2 last night. Believe me. This is what I wanted. I'm thinking next year maybe coffee and donut madness at five in the morning. I'm thinking about one of those.
Has any of that group really jumped out from last spring?
Too early to tell on that yet. I like the attitudes, I like the approach. Of course if you don't go through what we've just been through in September and half of October, and ever think that it's going to change once they get here on the floor—you don't run those hills, weight lift at six in the morning, do the things that they've done and not come ready to get the basketballs out and get on the floor. They're as anxious as the staff. And that's a good sign.
Last year your team showed up in extremely good shape. How close is this team?
Well I think what you can say is that the first two years, if you look at the average age and then take the average age of this year's squad that went out there on the floor for the first practice, they should be a little stronger, stamina should be a little bit better because you know as freshman, there's a curve there that you have to go through. Not just learning, but also physical conditioning curve, a stamina curve, and as the new guys find out, it's a little bit different when you get into the drills. So what we have is we have some more upperclassmen. But there's one problem, I took one quick look through the roster during the summer of every other team. There's more experience back on each Big Ten team that we (have seen) since I've been here. It's not going to be as much of an edge that you would hope probably but we are older, but so are the other teams. But at least it didn't make for a deficit.
With the two-a-days today, will you practice tomorrow?
No, we'll get into the routine. We do not go on Sundays. It just happens to be the way it works. On a weekend before classes at the end of the weekend, Sunday's will be a day for them to regroup, to take care of some things family-wise, book-wise, and whatever way they celebrate their Sundays. However they do it.
Is this Christmas for you today? Did you have trouble sleeping last night?
Not at all. The only mistake I made was I had a big burrito. I did a speaking thing last night and then ate late and other than just a little heartburn, I slept like a baby. You know if you're the kind of coach that doesn't sleep before games, if you take yourself out of your routine, your players will notice that and that's not good for them.
How long does it take to sort out the units, the lineup and things? Is it through the preseason games or does it take that long since you have a couple spots?
Well you know maybe there are times for a coach picking the top seven or eight is a little bit easier. I've always wanted those teams that make it real difficult for a coach and their coaching staff to pick out the top eight, nine, ten. That would be good to have that and right now everything is just wide open. Devin's trying to get his spot back, Mike's trying to get his spot back and so on. I always referred to them as, to Devin, he's the starting guard from last year. But I don't think Devin has any other plans other then to just keep getting better. He set the record in the beep test on Thursday, he broke Kirk's record. He's got the school record now in the conditioning test, unbelievable, I was very impressed. And quite a few other guys, four or five other guys, set their personal best. And that doesn't count the freshman because obviously that would be their personal best, it's their first, I'm not referring to them. But guys did a really good job in the beep test yesterday. It's a conditioning test. It builds up, the pace picks up on each beep. There's a distance, you run the two lines, and on each beep you get to the other line. It start's out at a slow pace, practically a hard walk, to where you're flying. I mean where you really got to push it and Devin just kept going. He did well.
How have the two incoming freshman made an impact just with this first practice already?
They jumped into the drills, they're anxious and eager so that was a good sign. They didn't hesitate in the drills. You know sometimes when you start drills, some guys always want to get in at the end of the line and let the other guys do it first and they were ready. What I like was how anxious they were to jump in. And also Zack, who's (in) his first year. The three of them blended right in. You couldn't tell watching the practice who was a rookie and who wasn't.