Tubby Smith Media Day Press Conference Transcript
First, I would like to welcome you to our first media day. Obviously, I will be seeing a lot of you as we go along. We are excited to be here at the U and be a part of the Gopher Athletic Program. It has been a whirlwind to say the least.
When making a move, there is a transitional period that you have to deal with and you try to get to know as many things and people as you can. It has been a smooth transition so far, other than trying to get situated in the house. But I have been gone; my wife has been most distracted. I been on the road recruiting quite a bit and doing other chores that my job requires me to do.
Today is just a day to talk about and give you information and updates on how things are going with our team. We have put together a very good staff and I am very pleased with the things that they have been able to do and accomplish. Ron Jirsa, the assistant head coach; Vince Taylor; Saul Smith; Joe Esposito have been excellent. Joel Vincent came up from Kentucky is an all-purpose guy. He is handling video coordination and everything else. It is an adjustment for everybody to come to a new city and get relocated. Our players have been great. Administration, Joel Maturi and Robert Brunicks have all been very supportive of the things that we need to get the job done.
From a basketball standpoint, we are trying to instill our philosophy. For most of the players they have gone through two or three coaches in the last year with Dan Monson, Jim Molinari and myself. For those that were freshmen, they had a different coach the year before. It is always interesting to see how long it takes for the players to adapt and adjust to a system.
I have been very impressed with our guys’ effort, energy and enthusiasm. We are getting quality leadership from our seniors with Spencer Tollackson, Dan Coleman and Lawrence McKenzie. I have been impressed with their ability to lead. They are going to be the three leading scorers and our top players and are expected to lead in the right way and they have stepped up.
We have been busy trying to get in shape, which started back in September. Unlike some schools, because you can start workouts and conditioning once classes start and our classes didn’t start until the day after Labor Day. So we probably missed about a week of training there. Implementing things into practice has taken time. We are not really behind but we are not ahead either. We are somewhere in between, when you take on a new team it is hard to measure and figure out who fits in where, who is going to be able to do certain things. It is hard to figure to put together a team that is going to be competitive in the tough Big Ten. That is a real challenge. The recruiting is going along well so far. We are pleased with where we are at in that department. At this junction I would like to open it to any questions.”
On taking on the Gophers
“I do not think the record that they had was indicative of their competitiveness. They are better than their record indicates as far as their talent level. We obviously need to improve our talent level, but we also know that whenever there is change. Especially the way the change was last year, it can be a tough transition from the interim coaching. By adding two more Big Ten games it is going to be even tougher. Taking over Georgia, Tulsa and Kentucky, it was the same thing, come in with energy and enthusiasm and it is contagious. Hopefully the players have sensed that from the staff and myself. We are excited to be here. This is who we have, we can’t trade anyone, so we are busy trying to help them improve fundamentally through individual workouts and practices. I have seen a big improvement in a lot of areas in our players. I go over the same philosophy. We are going to work everyday, take it one day at a time and improve with every practice. We have had some interesting practices, but the last few have been good practices.”
On morning practice
“If they like it, it’s good. It is a tough thing to adjust to. We have always done morning practices. We went at 6am in Kentucky, Tulsa and Georgia and then we would come back in the afternoon. Here because of class schedules and use of facilities, we really do not have access, like we should, like we would, or like we would like to. The morning (practices) is something that gets them going and thinking basketball, then they have the rest of the day to get tutoring or if they have to work on papers and other things they have to do. It helps us, because now I can get out and go see a player practice or play and still get back for the morning practice the next day. It will be tough once we start the season, because we might have a late game in Michigan and then fly back. We will probably take that day off after the game. Once you structure that as your time slot it is hard to make adjustments, in such things as the use of the facilities.”
On Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber
“ I have been very impressed with Blake and Al. Blake has been out these last few days with a high ankle sprain which is really tough. We was playing extremely well, shooting the ball well and very pleased with his development and attitude, as well as with Al. We knew we needed to improve our ball handling, I think with those two men we have improved our team overall in ball handling and our defense as well. They have been well schooled, coached and taught. Their transition is easier versus the returning players, who have to learn a new system. It is like going into a class, this teacher is teaching it one way and another teacher this way. With Al and Blake have been pleasantly surprised, there is a real bright spot with those two guys. I will not red-shirt them. We need them. We have eleven guys now with Ryan Saunders having a bad shoulder and not sure if he is going to be able to play. We may have a walk-on tryout as well. If we get down to ten or nine guys it is tough to have a competitive practice.”
On the players fitting into his systems
“This group is shooting the ball about as well as any team I have been around at this juncture. I think all the guys are well suited to play the motion-style of offense we want to play. In Dan Coleman, we have a guy who has the ability to create shots, as well as Lawrence McKenzie. I think both those guys are not going to only create shots for themselves but create shots for other people. We want to extend our defense and put some more pressure, those are the areas we are working on and it is going to take time. The difference is learning a new system and philosophy. That is probably the biggest adjustment they have at this point in time. In the past, I think they played pack defense. We want them to come out and pressure the ball and attack more defensively and on offense.”
On the depth at center
“That is a good question. When we lost a guy, like (Bryce) Webster, who we thought was going to be a big part our front line, is now down to Jon Williams and Spencer Tollackson as the only two. There may be times that Tollackson and Williams will be in at the same time, but not many. We are going to have to keep those guys fresh. In our four guys, we have guys like Damian Johnson and Brandon Smith, who are not that tall, but are very athletic and very mobile that can create problems for the (opposing) post. Dan (Coleman) is versatile enough to play multiple positions, whether it is three, four or five. Our four and five men, when talking about size are very interchangeable. We are going to have to compensate by implementing a different defensive as much as possible to keep opponents off balance. That is how we will be able to make the adjustment for the lack of size.”
On the point guard position
“We battle opponents, we do not battle each other. It is competitive in practice, but in the end we will make the decisions who will get the most minutes. It is a game-to-game type thing. At this juncture, Al Nolen is doing a really great job of taking care of the basketball. It depends on the combination that we have out there at the time. It might be Kevin Payton, who is a guy who has played the point as well. There may be a time where there is Kevin, Al, and Lawrence (McKenzie) out there at the same time, three guys that play the point. (Blake) Hoffarber can play the point as well. I will be the one that makes the decision. So I would not call it a battle. It will not be based on a battle, it will be based on who will give us the best opportunity to win at that time. Each individual player does something different for the team at a particular time. Lawrence McKenzie is a scoring point guard. He is looking to score and looking to shoot. Al is a freshman and still learning, but he is excellent defensively. Kevin Payton gets you a lot of shot attempts at the point. I have learned over the years that they come in all shapes and sizes at the point. We had a young man last year starting for us, who was 6’6.” I have guys at the point that have been 5’10,” 5’7,” and 5’8.” It is whoever is doing the best job at that time. To answer your question, they all have an opportunity to compete with the team at some time.”
On the strides the team will make
“We take it day by day. I cannot predict what we are going to do. I think we will be a very tough team. We will be very tough minded. I think we can be a good rebounding team, although we do not have a lot of bulk once you get past Spencer and Jon. What we lack in size and bulk, we will have to make up in athleticism and quickness. There are a lot of question marks of what we are capable of doing. I expect us to be very competitive in every game we play. If we can just not beat ourselves with turnovers. I looked last year and that was one of the problems we had statistically. We got to take care of the ball and look at the opponents’ opportunities. When we can do that we can give ourselves a chance to win.”
On taking on a new team
“There are question marks on every team that you have. If a coach comes and says we have the perfect team, they would be a fool. We got things that need to happen and my expectations are the same here. I really don’t care about your expectations, I worry about the team’s expectations and my expectations for them. They have a pretty good idea of what we are doing and where we are and how we need to get to where we need to be. As long as we can see that improvement everyday, those expectations are pretty high for us to get better everyday. If we do that, then we are going to show up on the court and in the win column. That does not necessarily mean it is a win on the board, but a win in our mind that we have been able to improve. “
On working on fundamentals
“I have seen improvements somedays more than others. We had a couple of practices that I was wondering about that, but over the last couple of days it has been good. Practices are like that. You want to have a good practice everyday. I tell the players, there is no reason they shouldn’t. But you are right all our players need to improve their ball handling. I have seen it, because everyday we try to do something to try to improve their ball handling from the dribble standpoint and passing. I am very concerned with passing, because we are going to be doing a lot of passing. That is a skill that basketball today has kind of lost, so we really need to concentrate on that.”
On point guard role
“I expect him to take the shot when he is open and advance the ball until they stop him. I never tell the guys not to shoot. In our offense, it is his job to run the team, so he has a lot more things to do than shoot the basketball. Some of the best point guards I had, have not worried about scoring, but worried about everyone else being in position to execute the offense properly. I do not care if he never scores or when.”
On being compared to his past teams
“One of the things that those teams had is they came off a winning season. So their confidence was not a problem. That is the biggest thing we try to let them know that we believe in them and they are as good as any player that I have had at other schools. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be more competitive. But also I tell them, this is what you have to do to, where you are now and let me help you to where we need to be. They have been great about listening. I have not had one problem with the guys. There are guys wondering where they are on the team. I tell them, just be grateful and happy you are on the team and part of Gopher program. That is all you need to be concerned with, because there is a lot of people that want to be in that position and would love to be here. If they don’t think so, just see how quickly someone will decide or show up and take your sport. It is that time of the year that people want to know, though. We meet with people on a one-on-one basis to explain what my expectations are and this is who you can help the team. The staff has done a good job with encouragement and supporting them. I just want them to understand that this is a privilege to be a part of this program.”