Is it safe to say you're a basketball junkie? The reason I ask is, what do you do when you don't have a game on the weekend in the middle of the Big Ten season?
"I've been called a lot worse. I can tell you that … I went to a high school game, looked at some video on our next opponent, looked at some video on us. (Spent some time) troubleshooting in some areas. There's always something to do. Watch games on TV. I don't yell at anybody at home to make up for the time that I'm not working the officials or anything. I don't do that … I got a couple good workouts in, I beat the treadmill Saturday and Sunday - I won. We had a WBCA (Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association) meeting yesterday, discussed a lot of things. As the college rep on the executive board I get a chance to be involved with a lot issues in the state with the game of basketball. I enjoyed the news about being able to play Division III schools. They couldn't believe how easily that went through, because what it does, it allows Division III schools (a choice)....If you don't want to play, you don't play. If you do want to play, you can. It's great legislation when you're leaving it up to the individual institutions to make the decision … Sounds like a lot of stuff in a weekend."
The NCAA has decided to push back the idea of extending the three-point line. What are your thoughts?
"Finally, as I said before when they put back the trapezoid lane … they let the coaches become involved and it wasn't just a committee that decided something. It was input from the coaches and are we making a rule change just to make a rule change for something that people can talk about? I've thought so many times over the years that the reason people make rules changes is that it was all done for announcers or the media, they could always second guess, talk about … 'well, last year that wouldn't have been a three, this team probably would have lost by five points, but not this year with that line being back.' I always thought that stuff was done for other people, not for the people playing the game or the people coaching the game. I might be in the minority there. But I don't think the line has to be nine inches this way or that way or anything else, but if it was, you know, everybody adjusts, everybody does their thing. But it always means, it's always something for other people to talk about. And that stuff wears me out."
How do you think your approach helps when you have to plug in other people due to injuries
"Every coach has a system and from your drills and from your video work and everything else, people are learning the system so that when things like that do happen … Look at the job Zach's (Morley) done and he's never been in the system until this year. Ray (Nixon), having been around the system last year, he learned things so that when he gets his opportunities, he's trying to take as big an advantage as he can to help the team. Clayton Hanson, anybody else that's off the bench, Dave's (Mader) staying sharp. There are certain teams, certain individuals that Dave matches up well with and he's ready to jump in and contribute all the time. I think it's good to have players who understand that you never know when your number is going to be called. For anybody who watched the football games over the weekend and you talk about guys who weren't drafted, guys who were picked up late and you look at them and people say ‘boy, where did they come from and where would this team be without this individual, this guy got hurt, that guy got hurt, now this guy's playing, where did he come from?' Well anybody that's on a college roster is a guy that's played. But it's a matter of how quickly they can adapt when they get their minutes with players that maybe they're not getting reps with during the week because they might be on the scout team rather than the top eight, nine guys. I think it's all part of the system. Stop the other team and see if you can score on your end. That's not going to change."
You're having success again this year at home. Is there anything your players are doing different at home, confidence-wise maybe, as opposed to when they're on the road?
"No, I don't see a change. Experience really helps when you're on the road. These aren't excuses, these are just things that you bring up when you take a (Alando) Tucker, with his experience that he gained last year … you'd certainly like to get on the road with somebody that knows what it's like to play in these other places. So all the minutes of experience you can take to another facility, you'd like to have. That's something that you always want. But no, we don't prepare differently, we didn't do anything different last year when we won four conference games on the road as opposed to the four that we lost on the road. We didn't do anything different."
What's your take on the conference at this point? The teams that are down one night can beat a top team the next night.
"It's typical league play. They had the men's standings in the paper today, conference standings. And you take a look at those and the dog fight is on and it'll be that way, I think, for the rest of the year in the league. There are things that are going to happen to all teams. They'll get guys back, where some teams are going to lose players. It seems there is more and more of that nowadays than I can remember in the past."
On his team's low turnover margin:
"I don't need to talk about it in practice. People say, 'historically, at Platteville and Milwaukee and Madison, your teams don't turn the ball over, why is that, what do you do, what do you do differently?' I get asked that more than any other question. I don't see myself doing anything different other than we do a lot of passing drills, a lot of pass and catch drills, and put guys into positions in the post. It comes down to - I emphasize the receiver maybe more than some coaches, from what I understand. It's not just the passer, it's the catcher. But do we not attack the basket because we don't want to turn it over or anything like that? No. When Boo (Wade) sailed that first pass into the 15th row early in the game (at Purdue), a minute into the game, I didn't go crazy. It's just early in the game, juices are flowing. The pass was made correctly. He didn't make a one-hand push pass. One hand push-passes tend to sail. (Philadelphia Eagles quarterback) Donovan (McNabb) made a couple of those yesterday … off the run and you float the ball out there. Those are bad passes. (Boo) fired a two-hand overhead pass; he just had the wrong target. He must have known somebody in that 15th row. He was fine after that."
Looking at Michigan for this week, what are your impressions of what kind of team coach Tommy Amaker will bring to the Kohl Center?
"I think what's important for Tommy, as a coach when he's talking to his players and getting them ready, is the carrot is out there now. They can go to postseason play. You can be an Indiana and have a rough game here and go to Michigan and win. You can be Michigan and lose at home to Indiana and go other places and get it done. That's just the nature of the league and league play. They're talented, they're long, they're quick. (Daniel) Horton is still one of the best point guards around. Sometimes your shooting goes up, your percentages will go up and down, but Michigan presents, with a freshman in (Dion) Harris … boy can he shoot it. When you look at film and you take out enough clips, a team can look unbeatable; when you take out the things we take out and then show it to the players. We don't show our players, when we're doing a scouting report, guys throwing the ball into the 15th row or missing layups and things like that. Believe me, every time we play somebody our players think this is the greatest team that has ever played, based on what we show them, because we show them their strengths."