Tom Crean teleconference transcript: Emmitt Holt, Penn State, more

Tom Crean discussed a handful of topics on his weekly conference call with reporters. Also, scroll to the bottom of this post for Penn State coach Patrick Chambers’ thoughts on Crean, Indiana’s post play and last year’s win at Assembly Hall.

Here’s the transcript:

Opening comments:

We’ve got a quick turnaround, obviously. Were playing tomorrow night against Penn State, who’s had a chance to rest and I’m sure get ready for this game. Its always a battle with Penn State. It doesn’t matter what league you’re in, Pat (Chambers’) teams compete, play as hard, play as physical, really, as anybody. We learned that first hand in here last year. We won at Penn State and then we lost a game at home and we’ve got to make sure we understand that when you’re playing Penn State, you’re playing for 40 minutes, minimum. They account for every second of the game and that’s the only way you can really play. We have to have that kind of mentality. They can really score the ball and it’s more than just D.J. Newbill. Obviously, he’s dong a fantastic job at scoring and he’s one of the better scorers in the country, but it’s their physicality, their ability to shoot quick, their ability to space the floor and put numerous guys out on the floor who can make shots that make them so hard to play against and they do a great job of covering for each other defensively and that’s one of the things in this league. You have to be so strong and physical with your cuts and setups, be ready to shoot, be ready to attack because people are not going to make many mistakes in this league. That’s the same thing we dealt with this past Saturday with Ohio State. They’re going to take options away from you. You’ve got to be able to make plays, you’ve got to be able to make reads, you’ve got to be able to make cuts and, at the same time, when that shot goes up, you’ve got to make that offensive rebounding a big part of your offense. To us, that’s where we’ve got to continue to make strides. That, and on the defensive end with our transition and our ability to rebound the ball and our ability to get consistent with that. We’re excited to come off of a win after being away for almost three weeks from home, and turn right back around and play tomorrow night at home.

Do you think the last few minutes of games are going too long with all the replay reviews and timeouts?

I never look at it like that. I look at it – and I don’t know how the other coaches feel about it because I’ve never really discussed it with them – from my point of view, whatever it takes to win the game is the most important thing. Both teams are putting out a lot of energy, they’re putting out a lot of force, they’re putting out a lot of — fatigue level is going to raise, put it that way. So that extra rest, sometimes it can be a benefit, sometimes it can be a hindrance, but it is what it is. The games do come down to situations so much and that’s where your concentration level, no matter how long the game has been, no matter how long you’ve played in the game, no matter if the game has gone very well for you personally (or) as a team, or if it’s gone very poor for you personally or as a team. You have to be able to stay locked in and concentrate. In the NBA they say so much that the coaching and the games are defined in those last six minutes. It’s now quite that long in college, but the bottom line is that you have to have great, great mental toughness as well as the endurance to finish games. It really doesn’t matter how it comes about. You just have to stay in the moment and get it done to the best of your ability.

How do you evaluate Emmitt Holt as someone to be considered for a starting role?

I think so much is made of starting and it’s important, but it’s not at the top of the list of how you’re planning to prepare for a game. Matchups sometimes are, and that can play into the starting, and certainly you have to look at what’s best for your team at that given moment, but Emmitt has done a fantastic job of becoming a game player for us. He’s not just a rotational player, he’s not just a situational player, he’s not just a spot filler. He’s a player, and that’s what you want to be. That’s the key thing. For him, it’s bringing a lot of effort on the glass, he’s got very good short space quickness and movement and mobility, and now in his awareness, especially with what’s going on behind him. When he can talk it out a little bit better and he has a little bit more of a comfort level, that’s the learning curve right now. Most young guys, and Emmitt’s no different, they’re trying to protect themselves in the sense of they don’t want to get scored upon and they want to make sure they’re in the right place and they’re not exactly confident yet of how to help somebody else be in the right place. So that becomes a part of it, but he’s getting better with hat all the time. He’s got very good quick twitch, he gets to the glass quick, he’s in the right place at the right time because he’s moving. To me, he is a guy that’s a big part of our team and he’s capable of being consistent and he’s capable of doing more. The bottom line is if he stays with what he’s doing and continues to improve in practice, he’ll be that way.

With him and Collin Hartman, how much do you weigh not pulling them into the lineup and weakening the bench?

There’s a lot of factors that go into it, but I think the bottom line that you need to remember is that it’s a long game. It’s an extremely long game and it’s a long game for a reason because a lot of different things happen in it. You have to be able to get momentum a lot of different ways and it comes down to the consistency of players. Collin did an excellent job the other night and he really didn’t play very well against Michigan State. None of us played very well, but he didn’t play very well in that game either. He’s no different than anybody else. He needed to get back to exactly what he does and how it affects us. When he’s playing with that pure hustle and movement and leadership, then he’s a really good offensive player and he’s a really good defensive player. Some guys are better as starters, some guys are better as subs. I know that, but the bottom line is none of that matters when it’s time to win the game. There’s so many different instances inside of the game when momentum can be created or grabbed back, and the guys who do the best job of that are usually the ones who are going to help you finish the game the best way.

What did you do to slow down D’Angelo Russell on Saturday.

I don’t know if it’s that. He’s a great player, there’s no question about that. We followed him for a long time in high school and certainly knew what he was capable of. I think anybody that has followed D’Angelo is not surprised with how well he’s playing. He takes the game very, very serious and he’s got so many dimensions to his game. The bottom line is you can never lose him. I know it sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done because they are as good a screening team — Penn State’s an outstanding team that we’re going to see tomorrow night, but Ohio State takes a backseat to nobody on the way they screen and get people open. Not only do you have to be aware of him, but you have to navigate so many different things and you’ve got to be locked in to what you’re trying to do. At the same time, you’ve got guys like Marc Loving and Shannon Scott and Kam Williams and Sam Thompson and all those guys floating around and making plays on the perimeter and he’s very good at finding those guys. You can never lose him, you’ve got to make sure that you’re not giving him very much space and you’ve got to understand that he can hurt you from so many different places. The bottom line is it’s not only you being aware of him, it’s your teammates being aware of him and making everything as hard for him as you possibly can.

Penn State coach Patrick Chambers
How do you evaluate Indiana’s frontcourt play?

I love what Tom has done. I’ve coached as an assistant against Tom for a long time and now as a head coach in the Big Ten, I love what he’s done. He’s reinvented his team this year. I think Perea’s coming along, he’s only going to continue to get better. I love what they’ve done with Troy Williams. He looks like a really confident player and playing at a high level. As long as those two guys, when they get touches they convert, they’re doing some good things. But he’s playing kind of like he did at Marquette with Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, Wes Matthews, Lazar Hayward that year where they were a little bit perimeter-oriented, but they also put the ball into the post with Hayward every now and then, so it’s a fun team to watch. I wouldn’t get too nitpicky. As long as they’re winning basketball games, it doesn’t matter how they’re doing it as long as they’re being successful. I’ve seen coach Crean do this for a long time and what he’s done with this team and the way they’re competing and how they competed against Ohio State, I think it’s a credit to what he’s done this year.

Can you take anything from last year’s win at Assembly Hall, or is it a new year, new deal?

It’s a new deal. It’s a new year and we’re totally different, they’re totally different and honestly it was a little bit of luck. Things have to go your way when you’re down 11 with four minutes to go. Let’s just call it was it was. We made some plays that we didn’t make the entire game. I watched the game and we didn’t play well until the last five minutes. There’s really nothing to take from that game. Tim Frazier’s not on this team this year, we’re a totally different team. We have a good mixture of veterans and youth and I’m just looking to come out and compete for 40 minutes.

In what ways is D.J. Newbill an improved player or a different player for you this year?

He’s our do-it-all guy. He’s one of the best guards in the league — top five at least. He’s so consistent and he’s so efficient in every game that we’ve played so far. He’s had a couple difficult shooting nights, but still he’s defending, he’s rebounding, he’s leading, he’s doing all the little things that we’re asking him to do. What he needs is some help. We need to help him. We did that in the non-conference and that’s why we had success. We haven’t done it so far, or I should just say the last two games we haven’t done it. He hasn’t had any complementary players to help him out and carry the load. But his leadership has been outstanding, his approach to practice this week coming off two tough losses has been outstanding. As long as we keep that mentality, we’ll see the pendulum swing our way.