"Well, he stayed on task. He stuck with our rules most, 90 percent of the time, about what we were trying to do on both ends of the floor. And just brought some energy. Transported the ball, pushed it. Especially when you're playing from behind, you need energy. You need people off the bench to get in there and make some things happen, and he did that."
He's played better on the road. He's played better, I think, since Sharif (Chambliss) has been in the starting lineup. Has it been important to kind of relieve some of the pressure on him, do you think, or what leads to why he's been playing better on the road?
"Well, I don't know. Maybe sometimes when you're behind, that sense of urgency, then you just go to certain instincts that you have. We knew that he didn't bring a whole lot of experience in as a sophomore, so he's gaining experience. It's too early to read too much into it, so I don't want to just fill in spaces. He's learning."
I was thinking probably when you first recruited Ray Nixon you were at UWM at that point. What do you recall liking about his game when he was in high school?
"We had seen him play, but we'd see a lot of guys play in the Milwaukee area when we were at UWM. But it was actually here at camp, and, you know, he's got pretty good feet, he's active. And we never looked at him as a power-type player. We looked at him as a wing. And he's done some good things, and hopefully he's got a lot more good things that he's ready to do. But we liked his feet. He got hurt at our camp and then did not play that summer. But when he was here, he did some really good things in the drills and the stations that we had. And it's just a matter now, he just, as we've always said with him, it's just a matter of getting the mind and body working together and slowing down a little bit. The summer before he was a senior."
Bo, a second ago you talked about, you mention's Kam's energy and facing UWM. With the style of ball they play, is this one of those games where you're especially going to need a lot of guys who are going to be able to bring that energy throughout the game?
"Well, yeah. We've played teams like this where that's absolutely necessary, yeah. I mean, it's, I don't think with this team there's ever been a question that it's got to be done by eight, nine, ten players. I haven't looked at it any differently than that. And that's the way it's been. So Kam is a part of that."
Bo, what was the best part about your brief stint in the Horizon League, maybe the toughest part about that conference for you as a coach?
"Well, again, the toughest part was starting with new players and not having a dollar in any booster club or any fund or any, it was just pretty much, from that standpoint going in we were just starting from scratch. Then we picked up several guaranteed games, Cincinnati, some friends said, ‘okay, sure, we'll play.' Lon Kruger, (Steve) Alford, Huggie (Bob Huggins), as I mentioned, with Cincinnati, (Rick) Majerus and his staff, we got to play them. So we had to just pretty much get some things going, just get, you know, people coming to the games, get people, you know, and that was for us.
"And then you're in a league with Butler, who's beaten Wisconsin and Indiana and several other teams, and Detroit, who's going to the NCAA tournament back in the late ‘90s, Green Bay before that, UIC going to the NCAA tournament. You had teams from that league that were NCAA tournament teams. They got three in one year. That's not bad from any league. The ACC got three once, and the Big Ten's had three once, or at least in recent memory. But it's in the Midwest. They've got some good markets where their teams are. They play basketball. They're, I mean, there's such a fine line.
"I mean, it's like in the Milwaukee area, the Madison area, and you look at these divisions, Division II, Division I in boy's basketball and you say, oh, could a Division II team beat a Division I team, like a mid-major beating, well, of course they can. You know, the better teams are going to compete at a high level no matter what division it is. So that's what, I mean, the Horizon League was a great league, coaching against some really good programs, some established programs, established coaches. Same thing at Platteville. I've been pretty lucky. WSUC, Horizon, and now the Big Ten, I've been pretty fortunate."
On the Big Ten call this morning, Bruce Weber was asked about some of the other teams in the conference, if he'd seen them play. And he said that he thought your team was very good, but he knows you're worried about your point guard. Are you worried?
"Well, he probably knows we're concerned because he probably goes on the Internet and gets some of your articles or something. I don't know. I never, I don't coach other teams or I don't say those kinds of things necessarily about other teams. But he, I mean, I know him. He knows me. You know, if you're looking at our team, to be honest with you, there are coaches out there scratching their head, how the heck did they get Maryland and get Rutgers and do, I mean, there are coaches that have told me, without identifying themselves, you guys are off to a heck of a start with that kind of a schedule, and I go, yeah, you know, we'd like to be better. So I don't, I worry about other things too. But for somebody to say that, you said he said we're a good team but, right? So, okay, so he's complimenting, okay, good. Good team, but."
On that thread, what has this point-guard situation presented you that maybe has been unique in your coaching career in terms of establishing the point-guard situation?
"I don't know if it's unique. We've been through this so many times, I just hate to bore people out there with the same answers. But, I mean, we've had guys who weren't true point guards have to end up playing, when I say true meaning that's where all their experience was. At other places where I've coached, I've had to take guys and make, help them become point guards, when they haven't been necessarily point guards. So it's not unique. This isn't any different. Not too many of them were coming off total ACL eight months earlier, or seven, or whatever it was. Maybe that's unique . . . I'm trying to figure out something here to give you that you can, that you'll be satisfied with. I haven't had one coming off an ACL. How about that?"
How close is what UWM doing to, how close is that to Dr. Tom Davis's philosophies? And do you see maybe more of that in UWM than you have in most teams from disciples of Dr. Tom's teams?
"Yeah. There's teams that have played like that all the time. I mean, Bruce (Pearl)'s teams have done that and they do it well. That's the challenge. But then again, people wouldn't be talking about basketball in Wisconsin if all four programs hadn't been getting something done here. And that's, like I said, that's the challenge.
"Well, different time, different era, different teams they were going against when he was at, when Iowa had that going. So to compare, he'd probably tell you better how he feels about that group and some teams that, I mean, when you have Chris Street or Acie Earl or B.J. Armstrong or this person, you go right through all the players, (Ryan) Bowen, McCauslin, do they have, I don't know. It's always different. Each team's different. Each team has their own personality. And the one thing you don't want to do as a player is sit there and listen about other guys, now this is how this guy used to do it and this is what you, I don't do that to players. I wouldn't want anybody to do it to me.
"This is our time, this is our space, and this is us getting things done and let's go get it done. And I'm sure Bruce (Pearl) only cares about that too. I mean, I don't think he spends a lot of time going, now, Roy Marble did this, and (Ed) McCants or somebody looks at him and goes ‘who's Roy Marble?' Nobody cares anymore from that, when I say anymore, there's a certain time. Now for somebody last year then maybe you can say, well, now remember how we did this, but to go back to another generation and say, so I don't know how they would compare."
Since you have the one game in, I don't know, a 10-day span, say, how beneficial could that be for Mike Wilkinson just maybe for rest, recuperating from what's ailing him?
"I don't know, because I don't know how he is today. I've been so busy today with these calls and the Overtime luncheon and film on UWM, I haven't even read any of the e-mail. Of course, most of my e-mail gets blocked. If you're ever talking to anybody, I get these e-mails and there's never anything on them. They must, and I'm sure they all say you're doing a hell of a job, Coach, keep up the good work. But I never see them. I've got the best virus scanners, I guess, or whatever they have. Is Tam still here? Is Tam the one responsible for getting all that set up? Tam, is that the, it's pretty good, works pretty well. Okay. You notice how she got that in there. I said I wasn't getting very much. I'm a little slow."
Since we're having so much fun talking about the point guards, Sharif was asked the other night in Milwaukee about Boo. Do you foresee Boo returning after the final exam schedule or
"Boo Davis is a guard for UWM."
"Oh, okay. Again, there really isn't anything to add."
You started out early, the first couple games you were using the press a lot, and we haven't seen that in the last few games. Have you kind of decided to settle back into just playing half-court, or what's kind of the status of
"Pretty much what you see. As I said, certain teams, certain times, and having guys that can practice with every day. That probably doesn't help it very much. But you say it that way, and I don't want it interpreted any other way. It's not an excuse. It's just we're going to do the best we can with what we have. We're surviving."
Changing gears here, I'm not asking for a scouting report on James Wright, but he's the guy that you, I mean, obviously I think you recruited him before you left. Can you talk, he's a guy who, he's kind of come back from some injuries and such. Just can you just talk about him, from what you remember
"Happy for him. Just James is, he's a delight. He's had some things come up that he had to work through, and he's worked through them, and he's going to get his degree. There's nothing like it, nothing like it when you see that. And you have to do this, you have to be in this profession maybe to appreciate it, because there's some that you know they're going to make it. But there are some where you give them a chance and you, you know, they convince you, they have you believing that they can get this thing done and they want it and they, then along the way sometimes some things don't work out the way they'd like them to. And then you just got to work that much harder, and that's what he's done."
Is he one of those guys in the latter half that really had to convince you that he could make it?
"We had to convince him that he really wanted to be there because he signed with Oklahoma. And then he wanted to be closer to home because of some things that were happening in the family. And then he had to write a letter to the NCAA to get out of the letter of intent and come to UWM, and they did. You were there for all that, so you know that's how that went down. So, yeah, and that's how he ended up at UWM. He was in his hometown. It's great. And he took advantage of that opportunity. That's how. That's why I'm proud of him."
Coach, you mentioned that each team has a different personality through the years and that's why you don't like comparing guys and teams. How has this team come into development so far this season in understanding its own personality, what guys' roles are, for the players and the coaching staff? How would you assess the development of that, of understanding their own personality . . .
"Well, we're getting close. We're getting close. We've found some things on the road, on both coasts. We found some things Saturday. We found some things against Maryland, against Green Bay. Pretty much in every game we learn something. And we still have, what, four more non-conference games here in December. So hopefully by that time, going into the Big Ten, you've got some, at least you know what you have. I mean, there are some weaknesses that every team in the Big Ten has. Well, most teams. A couple of them, we're searching. But it's, it is what it is, and what you do have has to improve. And every coach knows that, that during the course of the year you've got to have some things fall into place and smooth out rough edges."