Can you talk about the progress Ray (Nixon) is making and how close he is to doing something pretty special?
"Well every day he comes and gets involved. He works, doesn't think he's anything he isn't, and doesn't undersell himself. He's confident enough to know that if he keeps working and doing the right things that he can get to be on the floor more. But if he's not on the floor he doesn't sulk, and players shouldn't. There's a reason people get minutes and then when you get them, you produce. We all know what kind of a world it is. I didn't create it, but this is the world we play in, this is the world we work in, this is the world we live in and it's competitive and you earn what you get…and he's doing that right now."
I understand you don't provide scouting reports, but how is Indiana different with or without (George) Leach?
"We always prepare, again, for the name on the front (of the jersey) and their tendencies. If you prepare for one guy and he gets two fouls on him in the first two minutes, ok you've just built your team up for one guy or two guys or whatever it is you do in the scouting report. That's why we try to hit on all cylinders with the report. They try to do this, and this, and this. Because I've watched players who if a guy got in foul trouble and left, the other team will think, ‘oh, we've got them now,' or before a game they find out a guy isn't playing, ‘oh, we got them now,' and they let down, so to speak. All of a sudden that team goes out there and without their best player or one of their best players, they go out and do better as a team, that day. Maybe not the next two games and maybe one out of the three, so we prepare for everybody."
That said, and considering what you've gone through this year with Alando (Tucker) with kind of the up and down, do you like your teams maturity and how they've handled everything and how they've prepared and just getting ready and handling the mental phase.
"Yeah, if I wasn't pleased with it I would let them know. Players have played this game long enough in other areas, high school, AAU, whatever it is, and know that guys get hurt. So what you don't do as a player is you don't publicly do back-flips down University Avenue, ‘oh good, there's going to be 30-some minutes out there that's going to be available and I might be able to get some of them. Good a teammate got hurt.' Well of course not. But what happens is they, ‘hmmm, alright practice today. Who is coach going to have, who might get those?' You don't think for one second they don't go, ‘alright we have to pick up for those minutes, who's going to get them and let's work and trying to fill in?' They figure coaches know who's next by the way you sub, who is next. It isn't like you pull a mystery person out of the closet and go, ‘and here, introducing in the eighth game after this guy got hurt, Joe Matzuratz and he's going to get 30 minutes.' Players know, you can ask players during the year, who do you think the top ten are right now? Who do you think the top eight are right now? I've known some coaches that were foolish enough to let the players vote on it and do it, and play guys according to the players. See then you're asking for popularity contests, personality deals and coaches aren't going to do that."
How much freedom do your point guards, Devin Harris in particular, have during the games in terms of calling your sets or different plays and such?
"Well he has a lot of freedom. That's why he's in that position – because he can handle it. And you earn that. He knows what our bread and butter is. If we do a quick hitter or a set, if we are trying to exploit something that we've seen or maybe something that a team has shown that they don't handle very well. Still if that initial set doesn't get us a good look at the basket we still run the up-screens, back-screens and fade-screens. It is still all about making the right decisions with the ball no matter what you run and Devin makes good decisions with the ball."
Are there times during games when you are thinking of making a call and Devin goes ahead and makes the call you were thinking of? Does that happen often?
"I don't know if you are wondering if I have ever kept track and said ‘Okay, 48 percent of the time.' I haven't done that. But yeah, there are things that you know that he is seeing and with all the time outs, all the media timeouts, you get a chance to talk about those. The more you are around, the better of a feel you have. So hopefully that's going to help us come Big Ten time with what he has learned so far."
Did you go through the non-conference phase of the season averaging more than a point per possession, which is what you hoped to do? Did it fit what you hoped it would fit going into this phase?
"Yeah. Defensively, we allowed under one. That was okay. You know, people always say Ws and Ls are the most important, but one point per possession and above usually tells you that you are doing okay because you can do it in different ways. Some teams do it by hitting a lot of threes. Some teams do it by hitting a lot of free throws. Some teams do it by getting a lot of things off of their defense. Different strokes."
How satisfying is it that you've done it the way you've always done it even though you've battled through some injuries and other things that the team is still focused in on what it is supposed to do?
"Well we've stayed true to the game pretty much and if you get away from that, that's when you usually run into bumps. So that is never going to change. People can package it differently; put a different wrapper around anything. But on offense, if you get more shots and better shots as I said today in the other conference… We've been saying that… I've been giving that lecture at basketball camp since the early 70s when I was coaching in junior high school. Those are the two things on offense. So how do you get better shots? Well, lay-ups are higher percentage. If you are open, if you shoot shots on balance, if your mechanics are correct, if you are using score and time properly. Then how do you get more shots? Get on the offensive glass and don't turn the ball over and you will get more shots than your opponents."