A slightly dated Q&A with Tom Crean

I conducted an interview with Tom Crean the first week of September for use for the preview for Blue Ribbon magazine. I chose not to publish it until now because I was concerned that it would appear that I was misrepresenting the reason for the interview. But now that Blue Ribbon is out, I figure it’s fair game to use it as a Q&A.

Obviously, this is more than a month old, so some things may have changed behind the scenes, but I think his insights from then are still interesting in terms of what he hopes to see from each of his players and his team as a whole.

Some editorial notes. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that Crean’s answers are quoted exactly, though my questions are paraphrased to take out some of my yammering and make this more readable. I’ll concede that I wasn’t nearly as succinct as this makes it appear. Also, keep in mind that this was conducted for the purpose of a standardized preview.

Also, I deleted questions and answers about Maurice Creek, which were rendered moot with his Achilles tendon injury.

The interview took 40 minutes, so, you know, block out some time. It follows.

Q: Where do you feel like the program has progressed since last season ended?
A: I think having a great spring appears to have led right to a great summer. The way their bodies look , their attitudes. Just looking at the skill level inside of the first week of workouts. Hopefully that summer is going to lead to a great fall. I think it’s all process oriented. When you’ve got a program and you’re really trying to build the proper culture and the proper attitude. It’s always done on a daily basis. You can’t take too many steps back. I think that’s what we’ve had this offseason. I think there’s been a real consistency of development, a real consistency of improvement. I think we’ve had a phenomenal offseason in the weight room and conditioning wise. Again, you think that’s happening when the summer’s going on, but you don’t really get a chance to know until you get out on the court with them., and you’re seeing that. So I’m very optimistic about the fact that we’ve had a very, very consistent offseason.

Q: How much can the gains that you’ve made in strength in conditioning change this team?

A: I think it will change a lot. Again, you look back at it, last season we had a combustible offseason. Because we had some injuries but more importantly we had a change in the most crucial area of your offseason program which is your strength and conditioning program. So we lost Jeff (Watkinson)and then we had a big gap there in the middle before JeNey (Jackson) got here. I think when you’ve got that consistency, it shows and I think the players build confidence with that. I don’t think there’s any doubt that versatility  and being multi-positional and things like that are really important. But that doesn’t come just on skill or talent alone. You’ve gotta have the strength. You’ve gotta have the endurance, the stamina to do those things. I hope these guys are understanding that because we’ve gotta be way better at finishing games. We gotta be way better not only in the last two or three minutes but in the last six, seven, eight minutes. And again, that’s not a conditioning physically as much sometimes as its mental toughness, and mental toughness comes from so many different areas, but building consistent work habits through your body developing and your game developing that brings that mental toughness that you need and I think you just need to build on that.

Q: Translating all of that on to the court, what do you think are the areas where this will make the most improvement?

A: It’s gotta make the most difference defensively. There’s no doubt about it. It’s gotta start with our transition defense which was good not great. In this league and against really good teams, you’re gonna have some jailbreak type run-outs at certain points. When I use the term jailbreak, guys are sprinting up the court for their life with that ball. You’re only gonna have one, maybe two guys back. For us, that was Jordan (Hulls) and Verdell (Jones) a lot and they were not very good at getting that ball stopped at all and people were able to take them on. At the same time, you lose games if you’re constantly at a disadvantage numbers wise on the break and we had too much of that. Our big men have to do a much better job of sprinting back. Our wings have gotta get back and help inside out. That’s the first area. And I think the other area is we’ve gotta guard multiple actions better, which means more athleticism, more strength allow you control the ball a little bit better. It allows you to play in a short space a little bit better, and then the big thing is where the physical strength and the awareness come in is the weakside defense, especially the weakside rebounding. We were not a good weakside rebounding team last year because we were not physical enough. Weakside rebounding comes down to who hits first. Holding your position, and you’re gonna have a lot of mismatches, because in rotation defense you’re constantly gonna be in a situation where people are gonna be matched up against people who are not at their position. Our guards have gotta be much better at being able to block out bigger people.

Q: Do you think you’ve reached the point that your players are not at a physical disadvantage anymore?

A: I don’t think it’s that. There were times last year where Jeremiah Rivers and Victor Oladipo were our best post defenders. That’s on will — I don’t mean Will Sheehey, I mean pure will — getting down and having position. There’s a lot of fights involved in a game that don’t involve punches being thrown. You’ve gotta be able to win those. Inside of a game, you’ve gotta do whatever it takes to put yourself in position to win that game. And our post defense last year was too rigid, it was too inconsistent, we fouled too much and we weren’t aggressive enough at the same time. We’ve gotta really master being aggressive without fouling. Again, it’s that short space movement. Especially defensively, your team is defined by how good your four and five defend. How well they give help. How well they do multiple things. How well they can help and recover. How well they can play pick and roll and get back into the lane. How well they communicate. We weren’t as good there. We weren’t as good there, and that stuff caught us. So you play people, you’ve gotta have people playing those positions even if it’s not there position. Right now with this team, we can’t end up being one big guy short if foul trouble comes and things of that nature. That means a lot of other people have gotta be able to step in and do those same things, so I don’t look at it as much as the positions I look at it as the toughness level, the quickness level, the awareness level. The willing to hold your ground mentality.

Q: Starting in the post, what are your thoughts on your three scholarship post players?

A: When you look at positioning, when you look at size alone, three makes sense, but when you look at the way we want to play it’s gotta be more.  So if we just looked at the season and say, we’ve gotta play three guys in two positions, that’d be a nightmare, and that’s not how we look at it. You’ve gotta have again, the way we’re trying to build the program is have those multi-positional, versatile players that can play both ways, that are giving you everything they can give you defensively as well as offensively. I think for us, there’s no question we’ve gotta be more inside oriented. I think the addition of Cody makes that without a doubt. The other thing is that you’ve gotta have people that can step out away from the basket. We have different guys that are going to be able to score in the lane, whether it’s in the drive or in the post-up, which means your big people have gotta be able to step back from the rim as well. They’ve gotta be able to drive it. They’ve gotta be able to shoot it. They’ve gotta be able to create plays for others. Feed the post, cut, screen for other people to get open. If you looked at one thing outside of the injuries at key times to us the last two years, especially with Maurice, but even more so last year with the way we lost Maurice, Verdell and Christian right on down the line is we had too many guys on the court you didn’t have to guard. There were too many times that help defense — it’s one thing to be a good help defensive team, it’s another thing to not have to come out on the perimeter and guard certain people. That’s what happened here. Really, there wasn’t very much we could do about that except to try to scheme against that and disguise things and run different actions and things like that. At the end of the day we can’t control how the defense guards us. They control it. The more people you can put on the floor that you absolutely have to guard and you have to guard them out on the perimeter to the 3-point line, that creates so much movement for your team. To me, you look at even the really good basketball teams here had high scorers, had guys that were averaging a lot of points, but at the same time, you had to guard the inside guys when they stepped out or they stepped off a back screen to take a shot. Calbert and I talked about that, which opened up the lane for him to get back cuts. Which opened up driving lanes. When you can sit and you can load the lane up, that’s a hard deal, and we’ve had too much of that. That’s, in answer to your questions about the big guy situation. That has to happen. A healthy Derek,  which we never really had outside of a couple of weeks last year. An improved Derek. A Tom Pritchard that will do all of the things he needs to do at a very high rate and do them all the time. And be what we think he can be, which is absolutely one of the best defensive big men in this league and play that way.  And then have a multi-scoring threat, not only on what he can do offensively, but what he can do passing the ball offensively in Cody.

Q: What are you seeing from Tom Pritchard at this point?

A: That’s early. What we need to see is more of a better way to look at it. He’s gotta be willing to go to the basket. We can’t have any flip shots. We can’t have any fadeaways. We can’t have any, ‘I don’t want to go strong because I don’t want to go to the foul line’ mentality. He won’t be able to be on the court if that’s it. He’s also gotta be per minutes played one of the best rebounders in this league. On both ends. Offensively and defensively. His rebound numbers have got to go up for him to be on the court for us. He’s gotta be able to guard really any situation. Whether it be his man. Whether it be a switch. Whether it be in zone. Ball screen. Shot clock situations. All of those different things, which I think he’s capable of and it’s a matter of really staying down and staying in his position to do that. That’s what I think more than anything from him, and then he’s gotta go to the foul line with confidence. He improved his foul shooting tremendously. But we can’t play Tom through frustration, and that’s what happens. Young kids get frustrated. We can’t have college kids getting frustrated. You gotta keep playing and he’s gotta show a senior mindset to that. That’s what we’re looking for from him more than anything else.

Q: What can Derek Elston be for this team?

A: We saw flashes at the end of his freshman year. He can be a very good shooter. He can be a spacing guy on the perimeter. He can be a pick and pop guy. He can be a post-up guy that can get somebody up in the lane. He’s gotta become a more aggressive offensive rebounder. What I hope added strength does, but the mentality for him is, he’s gotta be a 50-50 ball guy. He has not been a guy that gets those 50-50 rebounds, those 50-50 loose balls, where it’s him and somebody else, who’s gonna get it quick? Some of that I think was the knees, some of that I think was the stomach where he just was never down last year and the knees were never bent at a high rate last year. That’s the game, I mean, that’s any game, but that’s the game of basketball.  Getting that flexibility that balance, and his strength is so much better and he’s so much healthier, so he’s gotta apply that. He can’t be a straight up and down player. He’s gotta be an athlete that we recruited. We saw more athleticism in his freshman year to sophomore year. I think based on everything that he’s gone through and based on recovering from the injuries, I think we’ll see more of that.  That’s when he’ll be at his best.

Q: There’s always been an issue of defensive awareness with him, have you seen that improve?

A: No question. We’ll it’s too early. We should probably be doing this in about a month, but there’s no question. He’s a poster child right now for someone who’s gotta be a better weakside player. When you look at our team, offensive and defensive awareness, he’s gotta be more locked in. A meeting I had with him right after the season ended was that he’s gotta be a more mature basketball player. He’s a great kid, or a great young man I should say, but he’s gotta be a more mature basketball player. He’s gotta study the game more. He’s gotta lock in to it more. He’s gotta once and for all accept the learning style to accept what the game is about and apply it.  He’s gotta be very serious minded about it. Because I said, ‘Once you start your workouts, now it’s on a downhill slope. You’re not on the uphill slope anymore. You’re a junior. It moves fast. It’s a downhill run. It moves fast and you’ve gotta be in control of that run.

Q: How good can Cody Zeller be as a freshman?

A: I don’t think there’s any limitations you can put on him because he’s a quick learner. He wants to be really good. He’s going to have to develop a consistent outside shot because he’s going to get double-teamed at times. He’s gonna have to be able to get away from the rim and be able to make those shots and be able to make those drives. One of the biggest things for him right now is getting more comfortable as a perimeter defender, as a perimeter player, and at the same time finding so many different ways to get him loose inside. He’s got excellent skills. He’s got great body control for a guy who’s putting on weight. He’s got very good balance, flexibility and coordination, all of those things that you’d want in an athlete. He’s extremely smart. We want to him to be a rim-run guy all the time, end to end, and get out and get easy baskets, but at the same time, once he’s run to the rim get him out away from the post where he can utilize his shot because he has a very soft touch and get him to the point where he can drive it and really help him develop those four man skills that he’s gonna have to have. The biggest area of difference for him is gonna be speed of the game and defensive — defensive awareness he’ll get, but defensive responsibility in the sense of guarding quick, stronger, athletic, athletic guys, not only at the post but away from the rim is gonna be the biggest adjustment for him. It’s gonna be crucial not only that we help him, but that he continue to learn it as much as he can, because we’re gonna want him on the court and it’s going to be important that he can play a lot of quality minutes.

Q: You mentioned him putting on weight, I think he’s up to 225 …

A: He’s bigger than that.

Q: He’s bigger than that? How important is that in his game and how pleased are you that he’s put on so much already?

A: He’s got a body, and it runs in the family, I think his brother put on 35 pounds the summer before his junior year, by the time that he’d gone to North Carolina. He’s got it in him, but he’s got a toughness about him. There’s certainly a mental toughness but there’s also a physical toughness. I think the added weight will help him in the battles, because he needs to be an excellent rebounder. He is. He’s the best defensive rebounder I’ve ever personally recruited. We’ve gotta be able to transfer that mentality to the offensive end. He’s the epitome of being able to do more in a short space and being able to more with multiple actions. Those things are crucial.

Q: How big do you want him? Do you put a weight target on him?

A: We haven’t done that. We haven’t talked a lot about that. There won’t be a ‘Hey, you have to reach this by October. There’s goals that JeNey works on him with. But it’s a matter of him just being comfortable with his body and building his athleticism.

Q: Looking at the guards, we’ve heard so much about the strides Jordan Hulls has made has a leader. What did you want to see from him in terms of leadership and how do you think he’s done?

A: I want to see him be consistent with it. I want to see him be a leader when the bullets are flying so to speak. When the chaos is there and we’re on the road and we’ve gotta make a come from behind win and those players, because they’ve been through so many things with him, they look to him and they’re totally calm. We’ve walked out of a huddle or we don’t have timeouts, and they look at him and they totally feel confident. The best way or that to happen is for more and more guys to feel like he feels. So this is not a case where it can be just one guy or two guys that run the mantle of leadership. It’s gotta be a group of guys, but with that being said, the toughest test for any player in any leadership role in any sport is to be critical and hold people accountable when it’s not popular. That’s what he’s gotta be able to do. Critical doesn’t mean negative. Critical means, ‘What do we need to do now to be successful?’ I like what I’m hearing from him. I love his mindset. I’m anxious to see him to that successfully.

Q: What do you want to see from him development wise on the court?

A: I think what we saw is this is why it’s so important to have numerous players and have a lot of different guys that can play. When those guys started to get hurt, you can go back and look at the math on this, but it’s somewhere in the 46, 47 percent range he was shooting in January from 3. When a lot of those injuries started to come in the month of February and the defense was turned up on him because they could put their best defender on him, he shot like 29. To me, he was the most affected by not having other scorers out there with him. You can’t take one of your main scorers, one of your two or three main scorers off the court when you’ve got a couple of people on the court that can’t score. If you’ve got a couple of other guys who are capable of putting double digits up, and I don’t mean 10, I mean 15 plus, on any given night, then you don’t miss somebody as much. But when the defense knows they can load up on a man-and-a-half, two man on somebody, put the defense around somebody’s individual aspect of the game, which is what happened to Jordan a lot, OK, then it’s a problem. He’s gotta be able to create his own shot more. He’s gotta have multiple moves, in the sense of multiple dribble moves. He’s really, really gone back to something that his dad taught him a long time ago in the step-back move. We want to see him continue to refine that, trust that in a big way. Decision making. Anyone who’s playing the point for us should be heading toward a 3 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. He’s gotta be able to get in the lane and hit his pull-up.  He’s gotta be a better layup maker, look for more layups. The two biggest things, he’s gotta guard the ball better, and he’s gotta get fouled. You can’t have a kid who doesn’t miss a free throw not qualify for the free throw championship. You can’t have that. He’s got to be able to get fouled more. Again, with more inside presence, with knock on wood a healthier team. With more guys that can score points that the defense really has to guard hopefully the better that will be for him.

Q: Do you expect him to play the point?

A: I don’t really look at it that way. I look at our team, I would hope we’re out in transition a lot and I would hope that a good percentage of that is because we got it off a turnover or defensive rebound and somebody took it. The starting point guard will be the guy who throws the ball ahead the best, who makes the best decisions, who understands how to make his teammates better on the court and who can really really guard especially in transition. It won’t be the guy who wants to be called  point guard , it won’t be the guy who thinks he’s a point guard, it won’t be the guy who’s family thinks he’s a point guard, it will the guy who actually is the point guard. With that being said, it’s really important that you have numerous guys that can do that, because decision making is not a one man job. Decision making is a full-team job. It’s a full-team job. When you’ve got numerous guys that can make those decisions, that’s why having Cody’s exciting, because he can pass the ball, he’s not a turnover guy. One of the things that hurt us, some of our fouling last year, well that was like turning it over on offense. When we started fouling and a team was in the bonus and you put 70 and above percent free throw shooters at the line, you’re just handing somebody two points. That’s like going down to the other end and just giving them the basketball and letting them get a layup. Turnovers are not just on the offensive end in my mind.  See that’s decision making. That’s decision making. The point guard though, to me the point guard is the one, because we may very well have somebody that’s handling the ball on the wing at the shot clock, we may have somebody handling the ball at the top at the shot clock. The thing to me, the point guard is the guy who does those things, but that’s the guy you’re gonna throw it to on a made basket, and he’s gonna make the right decisisons. Whether it’s his shot — because we want our point guards to score. We always have. You can’t play a point guard that can’t score and shoot the ball, for us. We’re not a team that’s gonna just let that guy set it up and take him out of the offense, never have, never will, but what’s the right play, every time.  That’s where good decisions come in and that’s where good assist-turnover ratio comes in.

Q: Do you think you have three guys that can do that in Jordan Hulls, Verdell Jones and Remy Abell?

A: Too early to tell. I would say to that, Will, Victor, Christian, Mo, those guys have gotta be way better decision makers. Way better. We were much better with taking care of the ball last year. But it’s not, we weren’t getting enough bang for our buck so to speak. Those are the things that have got to pick up.

Q: Victor Oladipo seems to have developed a lot of parts of his game. His pull-up looks better, his handle looks better, his 3-point shot looks better. If he can be a really good offensive player, how much can that help?

A: No question. A ton. And he’s gotta be a better finisher. It can’t be an all or nothing. It can’t be an ESPN highlight dunk all the time. He’s gotta finish. He missed a lot of layups. He’s gotta finish. He missed a lot of layups. He’s gotta finish. The strength gain for him, and if Verdell can continue to utilize the strength that we’ve seen him develop, those may be the guys most affected by the added strength and weight. So much of Victor’s stuff was getting knocked off balance. Not driving in a straight line. Settling, finessing at the rim rather than finishing strong. That’s our goal for Victor right now, and really become a key guy. We weren’t real good last year, but Jeremiah Rivers was a fantastic defender, and you’ve gotta have somebody day in and day out, you know you can put on a guy at the end of a game in a close game, and if we’re not switching and we’re not in zone, that guy can get it done. Victor’s gotta become that guy for us.

Q: How much can the strength and weight change Verdell Jones’ game?

A: Mentality, all mentality. No question about it. … The added strength for him is huge. He’s gotta find a way to climb into that 3 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. He’s gotta find a way to make better decisions with the ball. We want him to score. There’s no question. He’s tremendous in the mid range. He’s getting better and better all the time in the pick and roll. His greatest improvement has gotta come in the defensive end. He’s been picked on too much defensively. That’s gotta change. He’s gotta have a better defensive intent. He’s gotta be more aware on the weakside. He’s gotta be more aware in help. He’s gotta be more aware in help. He’s gotta be more aware in rebounding situations. He’s gotta find a way to average five rebounds a game, and on certain nights get eight and something great happen after every one of those because of his size. He missed all spring because of his injury, but there’s no question that you can see a different mindset in him because of the body strength alone. There’s no question. I’ve heard about it and now you see it. And so that’s big. Getting him into the post Getting him fouled more. When you’re a multiple offensive team, there’s a lot of offense where the point guard is overrated. There’s no offense where decision is overrated. It’s underrated. Having those guys that can come off ball screens and make a shot, guys that can come off ball screens and make the right play, make the next pass. That’s crucial. Verdell needs to take the next step in that area for us.

Q: Where do you see Christian Watford’s game going?

A: I think he’s the epitome of our offseason. I think he made a determined effort to change in the spring and become a much more serious-minded, intense, consistent worker. Developed his game. I still say of all the guys of coached, when he locks in the most, he improves as fast as anyone I’ve ever coached when he’s locked into it. I think he’s been that way since the spring, and I don’t think there’s any doubt that he’s gonna continue to be a guy that can score a lot of different ways. He’s gotta become more of a creator for his teammates. Big big area for him goal wise is to get up now in that eight-plus rebound a game, eight-nine. That will get the next level’s attention, but that will help us win games. At his size and athletic ability, that’s something that’s crucial. He’s also the epitome of what has to happen in a short space. He’s gotta be a better perimeter defender, a better interior defender and really gotta be able to guard multiple actions and efforts a little better. When he gets that, he’ll see his defensive game take off. But he’s a much improved shooter. We want him to make threes for us. We want to have the ball in his hands a lot more. We want to continue to build off how we played him on the elbow, how we played him on the wing, and still not get away from the fact that he’s a very versatile post guy and get him to be one of the league leading guys in free throw attempts throughout the entire season.

Q: Is he a guy that has to be a small forward and a power forward?

A: Absolutely. He’s just gotta be a player. Your position really gets defined based on who you can guard. It’s not on the offensive end. Defensively is what determines what kind of position you are. He’s gotta be better at guarding all positions. There were certain times last year that the opposing team had made a decision they were gonna attack him and he’s gotta be able to take that personally and do things about it along with us helping him.

Q: Do you think he’s become a better defender?

A: As far as understanding that he needs to, no question.

Q: What are your hopes for Will Sheehey?

A: I think people have seen the biggest transformation in his mindset on the court where he sees himself as much more of a scorer. He’s gaining confidence. I think his leadership and his real personality are starting to come out. He’s real comfortable here, but he’s hungry. I think that’s a good combination when somebody’s happy in the environment, but they’re hungry to get better. Some guys get happy in the environment and they get a little lazy. He’s not like that at all. We need him to be a guy that becomes a very good 3-point shooter for us percentage wise. I don’t know what the attempts are gonna be, but they’ve gotta be high percentage. His strengths are offensive rebounding in the mid-range game. He will play a lot of minutes based on his ability to make others better in his decision making as well. None of us are surprised by his improvement, because we saw some of that in a short period of time in recruiting him. But it’s going to be crucial that he keep bringing that. Again, Victor, if you want to put the “Consistency” poster up with a question mark next to it, you could then put Will and Victor’s picture inside of there. There can’t be a question mark about their consistency. Last year they were freshman that played a lot of quality minutes. This year, they’re sophomores that have to be a big part of the team.

Q: Do you want to see a defined role for him?

A: No, I want him to play with that comfort level. He’s the epitome of a versatile, multi-positional guy for us. Can guard different people. Wants to win. Can really run. I think he can be a big part of our improved running game in the sense of our regular fast break and in the sense of scoring off turnovers. He doesn’t have a great wingspan, so he has to make up for it with intelligence and quickness and be able to create more deflections. He wasn’t as high in deflections as we would’ve liked him to be. So, no, I think that’s the most important thing.

Q: As for the other two freshmen, Remy Abell and Austin Etherington, what are you expecting from them?

A: Austin’s got a lot of size. Even when we recruited him, he showed a toughness. I think he’s got a toughness that’s gonna really help him here. He can make shots, now he’s gonna have to make them in an under pressure situation with the speed of the game being better. I think he can rebound. I think he’s a smart player and he loves to work. I think he’s come in and been like the freshmen we had last year. He’s come in and he’s been in the gym. That’s a very important attribute to have, you get into this and you start thinking you’re tired and you start thinking you’re working really hard, well everybody is too. You’ve gotta keep doing more. I think he’s figuring that out.

Remy has got explosiveness, he’s got a natural scoring ability. I think he’s a great teammate. We don’t want him to be a gambler on defense. We want him to be a gambler on defense. We want him to be an aggressive ball hawk who puts a lot of pressure on the ball without taking a lot of chances. He’s been well coached as all three of them have been. We need him to learn that college consistency you have to have. Any time you’re dealing with freshmen, that’s the thing you have to work through the most. How do you help them be at their consistent best? That’s what we’re looking for with him.

Q: I heard you say in June that he’s the best guy on the team getting to the rim…

A: Sure. I think he’s gonna be able to create for his teammates and at the same time have the strength and toughness to finish at the rim. That was a big, big part of why we weren’t as good  shooting the ball last year is we didn’t have enough respected penetrators. It’s one thing for one guy to respect him. You’ve gotta create help situations by getting other people to come into the lane. We didn’t put enough pressure on the rim last year with the post-up or with the drive. We can do a better job in those two areas and put even more pressure on the rim with offensive rebounding. When you put pressure on the rim, that sucks everybody in to the basket, which allows a lot more open shots, which is what this team should be pretty good at making.

Q: How many guys do you think, looking at the way these guys have improved, are going to be respected penetrators? It seems like that number goes up a lot.

A: It goes back to decision making. It’s one thing to get in the lane, but you can’t drive in to a crowd of people and think you’re going to make a play. That’s what we want. We don’t want to drive into a congested area. We want to get as many help-and-recover situations as we can with our penetration. I think that number should go way up, because I think you’ve gotta have three things on the drive. You’ve gotta have a guy who can finish at the rim, a guy who can make the pull-up, or a guy who can make the pass, and be willing to do any of those three that are there at any point in time. Not make his decision in his head before the decision presents itself on the court.

Q: But you think you have guys that have that capability?

A: Absolutely. Including some of our big guys. We see Cody moving in that direction. Cody’s athleticism is severely underrated. We knew that. He gets a lot of attention and credit for things that he’s done and rightfully so, but he’s got some aspects of his game that are just going to blow up. Athleticism coming forth on the college game is going to be one of them. There’s no doubt. He’s a versatile young man and he wants it in that sense. He’s not just going to post or just on the perimeter. He’s a very versatile guy.

Q: What do you expect from Matt Roth?

A: I think the big thing with Matt is we’re past just being a specialist. If you’re gonna be a specialist, you better be doing it, especially from three, you better be doing it at about 50-60 percent. He’s a threat. He’s gotta be more of a threat. He’s gotta be more of a threat to get in the lane and create for somebody else. He’s gotta make more open shots. He’s gotta get people off of him with more of a shot fake, and he’s gotta hold his own defensively. And those are big, big things. But there’s no question we’re a better team when he’s making shots, and so hopefully the benefits of having more penetration on this team will get him more open looks, but you gotta make ‘em.

Q: Last year, did you feel like your best offensive players and your best defensive players were different people?

A: There’s no question they were and the opponents knew that. There’s no question, and the closer that you get to that being balanced, two-way players. That’s what you’re team is looking for. The best teams in this league, their best player may not be a two-way player, but their best players are. That’s what we’ve gotta have. This is not about best player. This is about a team of really good players that play both ends on a high level. The more guys you have that can get you 15 on any given night. And this is just my opinion, but the more guys you have that can get you 15 on any given night, the better your team is. We’ve had too many guys that could get you 5-8 at their best on a given night, and that’s not how you win. You’ve gotta keep that moving up. Some of it’s through recruiting. Some of it’s through development, but some of it’s through having a team of guys on the court that really work well on the court that the defense has to honor on every trip. That’s what we have not had. When you look at the x’s and o’s of this, it all goes into it, but at the top of the umbrella is that we have not had enough guys that the defense had to respect on both ends of the court, where they could attack them defensively or they didn’t have to guard them on the offensive end in our situation. That’s what it is. We can look at it any way we want to, but that’s the reason. There’s a lot of good coaches in this league with a lot of good players and a lot of good schemes and plans. This league above maybe all others that I’ve seen, is full of teams that have five players you’ve gotta respect on both ends most of the time. And we haven’t had that. That’s one reason we haven’t won as much. As we get that, then things start to look a lot better. Then there’s not questions on offense and there’s not question on foul trouble and fouling situations. You’ve got more people that can do those things and we’re gradually getting to that.




  1. CTC “gotta” be a better game coach,game preparer, and game adjuster. He needs to read his own analysis.

  2. Any reason this entire thing had to be in italics? For such a long interview that is quite an inappropriate format. Can barely read this as I type. Hopefully I didn’t commit any typos. Headed to eye doctor now.

  3. I foolhardily believed this was the work of “I Like Soup” putting all of Tsao’s posts into one condensed can of delicious rich tomato.

  4. 1) Thank you for not italcizing it.
    2) Having seen Cody Zeller walking around at IU games, he really looks big (in addition to tall)

  5. The key to getting higher point production out of each player will be determined by how well CTC can convince VJII and Christian to play team ball.

  6. People like “Get Real” love to post about CTC’s deficiencies when it comes to coaching. However, not one of them can identify what the actual deficiencies are. They throw out lame, general words like “in-game adjustments” and “game preparation”, without actually explaining what they mean, most likely because they don’t have a clue about “in-game adjustments” and “game preparation”.

  7. Dustin,

    Just curious, is this the longest duration of time you’ve had 1 on 1 in one setting with Coach Crean? Damned informative read. Thanks.

  8. DD, Now that I have the 2nd Q set up I’ll ask it. After removing your professional hat off and from a personal perspective how was the atmosphere in the room and did it transition multiple times during the 40 minutes, in your view? Did the Coach’s body language indicate he tried to stay in control of the interview or was there softening or changes? I am asking because I believe you have gained a big step at being the only journalist to successfully build a relationship(even if superficial)since he has come to Bloomington. IIRC he had a preferred sports writer in the Milwaukee market(I do not recall his name). Do you think he could ever become comfortable enough with you to allow you to travel with the team on one of the away game trips? If so kudos are in order.

    As a side note, I consider the ordeal you have in trying to interpret accurately the responses of both our head coaches(Wilson and Crean)an extra challenging task as both speak fast, drop words, skip some info and details in communicating replies and thoughts to your Q’s and views. Much obliged.

  9. HC,
    Eh, there’s been some ups and downs with this. Let’s just say I don’t know if we’re quite there yet. And traveling with the team on road trips is not something I want to do anyway for a few reasons, not the least of which being that it’s just bad for deadline logistics for a morning paper.
    But anyway, thanks again for the kind words. Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

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