" Since I didn't hear it, I won't even respond to it, so I, it means nothing. Doesn't change anything that we're doing. No response really."
Coach, I know you never get into the hype of a game, but how do you insulate your guys from not getting caught up in the hype? Do you have to talk to them?
"Never had to in the past. You know, there's hype for this game? No, it's just, we had a good practice yesterday. Hopefully we'll get another one in today, and just prepare like we usually do."
Bo, you and Bruce have ties to the league for a long time. I guess in that vein I'm wondering are there similarities that you, you know, when you look at his team and your team on tape, are there similarities, do you see similarities in perhaps the coaching styles, you know, that you and he take?
"Well, I mean, hopefully we both like to be successful or we wouldn't be in this. We both feel that we can teach young men not just the game of basketball but teach them a lot of other things. He was an assistant. He paid his dues, worked his way through the ranks too. And when you ask are there any similarities, we both have the opportunity to coach programs in a great league and to coach a great game and try to do it the right way each and every day and in each and every game. So to say that we have similarities, I consider that a compliment."
And then also, I assume obviously since you guys coach in the same league, you know him a little bit. I guess I'm just wondering over the years was he a guy, when you were here as an assistant, that you kind of, you know, you'd maybe bump into him on the recruiting trail every now and then? Have you at all gotten to know him, you know, off the, you know, away from basketball and such?
"You know, I know him like a lot of other coaches as we know each other. It isn't, you know, when you're recruiting, when you're going, you don't really get to spend a lot of time, you know, if you ever get a chance to golf 18 holes with a coach, you can learn a heck of a lot in those four, five hours, but I've never had a chance to do that with Bruce. As a matter of fact, I haven't had a chance to do that with a lot of coaches.
"But I think a lot doesn't have to be said in our profession. It's just a feeling that you get. And, you know, whenever I see Bruce it's always been a good feeling. I mean, I know what he's trying to do, I know what he represents and how he feels is, you know, his, what you get from him, but he's a respected coach, doing a great job. And, you know, we always wish each other luck I'm sure in every other game but when we match up. And you still wish them good luck. It's just I think we both root for our own teams when we play one another."
Bo, Illinois's been good for a long time. What has Bruce got that they're doing things this year that they really haven't done in the past in terms of winning streaks and number-one rankings? What has Bruce brought to the program? Every coach brings something to a program. What do you think Bruce has brought?
"Well, he knew the Big Ten. He had been around the league. He's been around the facilities. He's been around the state of Illinois. A lot of those players knew of him and knew of his teams, so that, I'm sure, helped. And he just has a sense of purpose of what, you know, he doesn't try to get players to do things that they can't do. He gives them opportunities to learn and get better. And that's exactly what they've done with his offense and with what he wants defensively."
Bo, you had a remarkable home-court record at Platteville just like you do here. And it has to be more than coincidence, system, etc. What are the critical touch points?
"Well, you'll find this hard to believe, the guys that are around me a lot know, we had a dinner when I left Platteville that they threw for me, and I think they paid people to come. And it was a nice affair. And then they started talking about our record, and I was, I looked at my wife and my kids and I went, what, we did what? You know, I did not know that we had only lost one non-conference game during the regular season, and that was to a scholarship program, UW-Parkside.
"While I was coaching, it didn't matter. And I can honestly say that. I mean, it did matter. Yeah, I mean, you want to be successful. You want to coach a team that's playing hard and playing well. And then I think for like seven years in a row we never lost a home game. And I was like, really? And coaches are always what are you going to do next here, how do we get ready for Illinois after we beat Michigan, and after Michigan State it was what do we do to get Michigan. And I get the weirdest looks from people saying, ‘oh, come on,' you just, I don't know.
"It was the way I was brought up. You know, there are days on the playground you win like 10, 12 games in a row and you're running it, and you're thinking, you go home and, but, you know, hey, tomorrow when we get there, might be a different group of guys that you get picked up by or you choose them, and you might lose a few in a row, and, ‘oh, man, got to get ready for the next one.' And I just, I've never talked about streaks, got into that kind of stuff, because it's, I guess it's for other people to talk about. And it's fun, I guess, for people, because they certainly seen excited."
I'm talking specifically about the streak. Are there things you're more comfortable within your system that you feel will be in place at home that might have a tendency to go a little more askew on the road?
"No, I tell you what, we've won games on the road. Our record on the road isn't all that bad if you take, Brian's got all the statistics. In our first three years here who won more Big Ten games than us on the road? By one? Two. Okay. So it's not like we can't play away from home. It's harder to get it done away from home for every team. So, you know, you maybe need to ask other people what makes it that way because I don't, we're always preparing to be consistent no matter where we play. And if that doesn't happen then find out why and then get better the next time.
"So I don't sense anything different when we're warming up for an away game as opposed to a home game. I don't in my mind expect us to play any differently, any less intense, any more intense one way or the other. I'm always trying to get the guys to understand that consistency is a great quality to have in your life, not just in basketball."
With the offensive balance that Illinois has, just how important is it to stick to your defensive rules, principles that you have, or do you need to put in, you know, extra wrinkles for this sort of a game?
"No, because it's pretty much the same Illinois team that we faced, only a year older, a year wiser. We're not a program that changes a lot of things in midstream. So it's, we have certain rules. We have certain keys that we do. And we're going to continue to do those things. We just try to do them better than the other teams can execute on their end."
Do you ever stress just kind of the general defend-the-home-court to the guys, or at this point is that kind of inherent given how well you guys have played here?
"Sure as I'm sitting here with a red jacket on, I have never once said anything in the locker room, outside the locker room or anything to our guys about a streak that you just mentioned. Never comes up in a conversation."
Coach, do you think we'll ever see in Division I men's basketball a team go the whole season without losing a game?
"Winning or losing, or did you just correct the losing with winning? I'm not sure. I think it's very, I thought it was difficult then. We were fortunate enough to be, to do it twice, and I don't care what level it is, whether it's high school, Division III, Division I, it doesn't matter. It's a great feeling when it happens. I know what Bruce is going through and his team. It's not easy. Will they be able to do it? You know, only time gives that answer. But I think it is difficult. You had some teams last year going through it, St. Joe's, Stanford. Stanford pulled out a couple games from nowhere. St. Joe's did the same thing. And then eventually, when the smoke cleared, there wasn't a team that was undefeated."
Coach, some of your players said yesterday while taking that who's-next approach they do notice a little more activity around a game like this with their phone ringing, people looking for tickets, requests like that. Do you notice at least a little bit that there's a little more activity around your house, more calls, people on the street saying things to you leading up to a game like this?
"I just have some great hiding places, where I can look at film and just concentrate on the important things, not whether or not I could sell a couple tickets for a couple grand apiece to somebody or anything like that, all that other stuff that's going on about tickets and everything else. That's, those are things outside of my realm of any concentration on my part, paying attention to that.
"There's just things you have to do. There's the breakdown of the Michigan game we had to do yesterday, as we do every game, and then to get ready for Illinois with the scouting report, and then looking at tendencies from all the different tapes. So it is the next game, and we're preparing just like we have for the others."