Monday press conference: Bo Ryan

Men's basketball coach discussed the development of Kammron Taylor and Northwestern's offense

Bo, is a strength of the swing offense that even if you have different personnel from year to year that you're able to make reads to kind of be flexible against any defense you play?

"Well, you know, a lot's been said and a lot's been analyzed and picked at. It's real simple. In any kind of offensive scheme, there's reads, but there's basic basketball. You screen. You slip if somebody overplays a screen. You cut off the screen. You have your angles. You have to be able to pass to a person coming off of a screen. There isn't anything different about the swing offense that isn't in every other offensive scheme. It's still about the decisions the players make, their reads, their cuts, being unselfish is a big factor. And chemistry, guys playing together for a while obviously helps, as in anything that any offense where there's multiple players.

"You know, a batter getting up to the plate really doesn't have somebody to play off of. You need to advance runners in baseball. But that player either makes contact with the ball or doesn't or knows the strike zone and gets on base. And in basketball it's how the five guys play off of one another at any given moment, and the swing allows for people to be in inside positions, outside positions, everybody's got to develop over the years, your passing skills, screening skills, post-up skills. So you're looking at developing the whole player a little bit more."

Coach, coming off that same vein of thinking, is it something inherently difficult guarding Northwestern's Princeton offense?

"They pass, they cut, they screen. (Pete) Carrill was at Reading High School. Reading High School played my high school back when he was a high school coach, and people in Chester are familiar with Reading. He goes to Princeton, does the same things that he was doing at Reading High School, pass, cut, read, if you're overplayed counter. It's a lot of the same stuff. And they interchange part. And if they have a big that can shoot from the perimeter, it helps them too. Obviously helps us."

Bo, your ball movement was so good the other night. Was that maybe partly due to the way Penn State was playing defense, or are your guys starting to really get it and get into a flow here on offense?

"Well, I thought, you know, Brian (Butch) being healthy, Brian has good passing skills for a big in our offense. And the other, Kam (Taylor) slowed down a little bit after the first five to eight minutes of the game against Illinois, where, boy, if there was a way you could measure an internal motor running, I couldn't imagine how fast his was running. And then when he calmed down he had no turnovers in the second half against Illinois, and then picked up at Penn State with that same decision-making ability. So, and that helped.

"Sharif (Chambliss) was very focused. Some guys go into places where they played before and want to take about 30 shots. Not a class act like Sharif. He just went in there and played his game. So I thought there was a lot of reasons why we moved the ball better against Penn State. And I would daresay that Illinois is a better team than Penn State defensively, so that had something to do with it too.

"But I liked the way our guys moved it. I heard a lot of comments about our ball movement from some different areas, coaches, coaches that have coached against us or whatever, and that, it's nice to know that people are paying attention. But it felt good to get into somebody else's arena and move the ball the way we did. At Purdue we did a lot of good things moving the ball because they gave a lot of help and left Zach (Morley) open quite a few times. Since that game, Zach hasn't been left open. But so then we have to find it from somewhere else."

Sort of along those lines, at this point in the season you've got seven Big Ten games under your belt. Is this still a work in progress, so to speak, or are you seeing things kind of really solidify in various spots for this team, or are you still kind of waiting for this or that to kind of happen to get this team as strong as you would like?

"Well, I mean, that question wasn't asked after Michigan State, after Illinois, after Michigan. So you're asking it now, seven games. We're in the same position now as coaches and teachers that we were two months ago, how can we get better. So when you say solidify, it depends on the moment. As soon as you would say yes then you never know. As soon as you say no, we're not doing this, we're not, then the next game we might do it.

"But what we do in practice is when we're doing our possessions and we're doing our drills we're constantly working on, you know, if we are doing something well continue that, reinforce it with video work that we do. If we're making some mistakes or areas of concern, we show them that also. But we're always trying to improve. There's a lot of basketball to be played."

As far as (Greg) Stiemsma goes, he missed those six weeks early in the season. Is he still playing catch-up at all do you think in terms of he's kind of caught up and he's just kind of work his way into the rotation?

"Well, the only thing we want guys like that thinking about is how can I get better here every day. When he's simulating some of the stuff the scout team does, sometimes he gets to shoot a little bit more, sometimes he's more just in the post. More defensively, sometimes we tell him just go block every shot you can block because that's what the guy on the other team's going to do. The guy on the other team on film is showing that he plays behind in the post, you play behind in the post. So he's doing a lot of that, but also when we do our shooting drills and our passing drills and the other drills that we're into during the season, you just concentrate on getting better and not worry about where you aren't. Just worry about the moment of preparation."

And one other thing real quick just along those lines. When a guy is playing on the scout team as much as Greg does right now...does it make it tougher to gauge where he's at? I mean, you test him on some things as far as what maybe you're looking for from guys in that situation. But when a guy's on the scout team, I guess how difficult is it to kind of really gauge what, how he would fit into--

"Life's tough when it comes to getting minutes and everything else. You've got to earn them. And when I say tough, there's no handouts. And all of us as competitors figured out a way to get in the mix. It's life. So, we don't throw pity parties for guys that aren't on the floor. We tell them, hey, here's the things you need to work on, and plus, when they're not getting it done in practice or they're a little behind because of experience or whatever else, the good ones, they figure out how to do it. That's never going to change in life. Same thing people want a job. You hire 100 new trainees, how many of them are going to make it? You know, you're always looking for the ones that are going to make it. So that's where he is along with some other guys. Get better. Keep working at it."

I'm sure you've had players before that have started out their careers playing better on the road than at home. But what Kam's doing, his numbers on the road versus home are pretty remarkable. Is there something about his makeup that allows him to do that, or is it just a matter of the excitement of home maybe isn't there on the road so he slows down a little bit?

"No. I'm not reading anything into it so far because it's early and you look at the places that we've gone and played. Maybe those teams aren't the same as the teams that we've played at home, and maybe they play a little differently. Maybe they use different defenses. Maybe they pose different problems or not quite the same problems at guard. So I'm not going to read too much into that, because the more that hangs out there, the more an 18-, 19-year-old starts believing it himself.

"So I want him believing what I'm telling him: play well every day in practice, home, away, when you go back home over the holidays and they practice with their high schools, play well there. I don't want guys to start thinking about, oh, well, I play better here or I play better there. I never get into that with players. Never talk about it. Never say, 'Why don't you do this here when you don't do it there.' I don't put it that way. Just do this every day. Just do it the right way every day at practice and the games will take care of themselves, no matter where the games are played."

Illinois and Michigan State's obviously and important game in the race. You've played both those teams. How do you size up that match-up?

"I don't know. You know, CBS and ESPN has asked me to do some commentary when other teams are playing and I've always said no. I'm not looking for any face time to talk about other teams. So, I mean, it'll be a good game. I'm not picking a winner. I'm going to enjoy the game, a good college basketball game, and learn from it because we've got to play both those teams again on the road. And so I don't know. It'll be a good game. Let's enjoy it."

Speaking of ESPN, Doug Gottlieb said last week up on the radio here that he would talk to you, that he would call you and explain himself and maybe get that whole situation from a week ago worked out. Has that happened?

"What situation?"

The situation that prompted you to write a press release defending one of your players.

"No. Now prompted me, what I did was instead of getting into nine million questions, just make the statement and move on. So we've moved on. So I made the statement, stuck to it, and that's pretty much it."

Rather than get nine millions questions about this, did you and he talk?

"Not that I know of. And if he did call, I never got a number. All's I know is a couple college roommates, teammates and fellow students from Wilkes came to the Penn State game because it's pretty much the closest game they can get to. And one of the guys, an all-conference football lineman, was telling me, he said, 'boy, there's some guy on the radio that really thinks you can coach.' I said, 'well, let's see, my uncle hasn't been on the radio lately so I don't know if it's him, but do you remember his name?' He said, yeah, it's like that ESPN radio thing, GameDay thing or whatever they do, Gottlieb, Goddard. I said, 'oh, Gottlieb. I said, well, it's funny you mention that.' So we kind of went into the story. He didn't know anything about the other, so we had a few laughs.

"And all's I know is he said a lot of good things since then, and I don't know why he would do that. But Brian Butch is a young man who is a player and working hard as a college student, and he's doing a pretty good job of that. And that's pretty much all it's about. The only thing that people on the outside, the messages that were sent was you've never seen that about an individual. Show me where an individual was taken to task like that, so you know there must be something good happening here to get that kind of attention about a Brian Butch.

"So that's, because they don't take individuals. Teams they're always talking about. This team didn't do this, this team didn't, that's okay. But nobody really cares about that. But when you talk about individuals in college, you know, a student athlete here, their scholarship's worth the same as the guys at Duquesne. You know, some guy here didn't get $8 million a year compared to another guy, meaning the pros. In the pros they talk about somebody, whether or not they're getting their money's worth, the team that paid for them. In college athletics it's everybody gets, the scholarship's worth the same, so you don't see that done."

How much stronger is (Vedran) Vukusic this year?

"Pretty good. Stronger. You know, he's good with the ball. He can shoot the three. He's actually attacking the rim pretty well. And defensively he's pretty good. He's better. I mean, he's a good all-around player. Heady. I'm impressed with him on film."

Coach, who do you like in the Super Bowl?

"Super Bowl. Is that this weekend? All's I know is that Penn State, the only thing after they called us names and said whatever else the students usually say, there were a few of them who kind of did the go-Eagles thing as I was coming in because they found out that I must have been an Eagles fan. And at State College, they're more, that area is a little Pittsburgh-ish. I think most of those people were kind of hoping that the Steelers got in, Barry's (Alvarez) part of the state.

"But the eastern part, must have been some eastern Penn State students from the other side of the state, because there were a lot of Eagles fans there. 'Coach, go Eagles', like they were going to get better seats from me or something. I knew who they were rooting for. They were rooting for Penn State. Well, I've got to root for the Eagles. Represent the NFL, which the Packers are in, remember, so it's kind of whoever, I've always rooted for the team that won the NFL. I mean, the, you know, our side of the, not the other side, not Pittsburgh and New England and the AFC. The NFC."

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