Indiana coach Tom Crean took the podium today at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, Ill., at the Big Ten’s 2013 media day. A full transcript of his comments is available below:
THE MODERATOR: Next joining us is Tom Crean.
COACH CREAN: We’re excited for the season. I think the early start of practice has been phenomenal. I would think for everybody, but especially for a team that’s as new as we are, because all of a sudden, after losing four guys that scored over 1100 points, along with Illinois, we’re one of the two youngest teams in this league, experience-wise.
So we’ve had a lot to learn. We have a lot to learn. I think the biggest thing we’re trying to get accomplished right now is to get our team to understand – this team to understand what it takes to practice at a championship level and showing the standards of last year, not necessarily who it was, but how it was done, I think is the most important thing.
For us right now we’re trying to get to a point where we have a consistent level of leadership and guys understand that leadership is nurturing but it’s also demanding, and to understand what that takes, and then just getting a young team to really absorb how important it is to be as fundamentally sound as they can be, to be as technique-driven and detail-oriented as they can be, and the more you can get them to understand what caused you to lose and more games are lost than won in so many different ways, to get them to understand that, even with out game experience, to try to put them in as much situations as we can in practice to have referees probably anywhere 75, 80percent of the time, more so than we ever have to help them learn but also to get ready for the new rules, but it’s been a great group to coach, because they have a humbleness.
There’s a real total want to and it’s just going to take a while to get to the whole how to, and that’s what we’re going to be in the midst of trying to get accomplished, but love coaching our team. I love what Will Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell are trying to provide for us on the sense of on the floor and in the sense of the way they’re trying to help make it even more competitive, the way they’re trying to lead. I love the addition of Evan Gordon and the knowledge that he has of the game. And it’s a thrill to try to stretch his game to get him to go above and beyond where he thinks he can, and then all the guys that are freshmen and sophomores that are going to play considerable roles for us.
So we are proud of what we’ve done. We’ve got the culture moving in the right direction, when it comes to work ethic, and when it comes to character, and now we’ve just got to understand how hard and tough and competitive you have to be on a daily basis.
Q. I guess, can you measure yet how much more you’ve gained because you’ve had the longer preseason with this young team than maybe you would have a year ago, two years ago?
COACH CREAN: No, I don’t think there’s any way to gauge it because it’s so different. I think because the timing of it is so different. But, again, yesterday’s a great example. I mean, we’re doing situation work, what we do with a couple of seconds on the clock side out. Couple seconds, full court, couple seconds underneath. And just completely speaking a foreign language. I mean, completely. And that was something last year, we won the championship because we understood how to play situation basketball. We were down at Michigan State four with a minute and a half to go and down five with 55some seconds to go at Michigan, we won both those games because our guys understood situation basketball so well.
So the answer is no time is enough. I mean, it’s great to have this kind of time with them, we’re going to need every bit of it. And at the same time you have to balance when they need to freshen up, when they need to get a little time off, when they need to be pushed a little harder, and how you balance it throughout a long season.
Q. Can you just talk a little bit about how special Noah Vonleh could become if he develops as positively expected throughout the year?
COACH CREAN: He’s got a special work ethic and he’s got a special humility. And sometimes the word “sponge” can be used and it’s really just a lot of hyperbole, when it comes to somebody that really wants to learn the game and get better.
Not with him. He’s high level in wanting to get better. For somebody with that kind of talent and ability, it’s fun to watch. He understands there’s things that he doesn’t know but he wants to get them. And he wants to get them that day. And the work ethic for an 18-year-old, just two months into his 18-year-old birthday is amazing. So if he continues to get comfortable with the ball, away from the basket and at the basket, when double teams start to come, when he understands all the different awarenesses that come defensively whether you’re on the ball, off the ball, he already knows how to rebound at a high level, the biggest thing he’s gotta get is, he’s gotta get more demanding of the ball. He and Cody have a similarity. Neither one of them would just step out and really demand it with their body at times and with their voice at other times.
And that’s something that Noah’s gotta develop, he really does. It’s not just the skill set of scoring. It’s the skill set of being able to drive. It’s the skill set of being able to pass. It’s the skill set of being able to facilitate for others. And I think when you can do that, you can take the game to another height. When he gets that, you’ll start to see him really start to take off.
Q. I know it’s very early, but thoughts on how you see the Big Ten shaping up.
COACH CREAN: I haven’t given it a lot of thought other than I’m sure the predictions seem right. I haven’t really looked at any of the teams that much. I follow a little bit of the box scores. So I really don’t have a great thought on that.
Q. What sort of progress have you seen from Yogi Ferrell this summer and the first couple of weeks of practice?
COACH CREAN: I don’t think there’s any question that the way the season ended at Syracuse and the way that they played, especially off ball screens and the zone, has helped propel him to making points, in the sense of he’s going to become a better shooter off the dribble, going to become a better shooter off the catch and become even better off the ball screen.
His shooting has improved tremendously. There’s been nobody that has come in that gets paid to evaluate that hasn’t made a comment about his improvement, especially on the offensive side. He’s got to understand that his greatness is going to come this year from what kind of leadership he provides on a consistent basis, when it’s not comfortable or convenient; can he get to the basket at a high level, especially with the way these rules are.
And that’s something that he’s really started to do a better job of in the last week in practice but it’s got to carry over into the games. I think the other night shooting two free throws and two defensive rebounds, those would be very abnormal for where he’s going to be during the season. Making six 3s, I’m not sure if that’s – he’s shooting the ball at a high level. He’s our most consistent and highest percentage 3-point shooter in practice.
But the leadership part of it, the demands of his teammates, the ability to be more communicative on the court, both ends of the court, and being able to get to the foul line and being able to get defensive boards, when our break starts with him, where he’s actually the one with the ball rather than getting it in an outlet, the numbers are staggering from a year ago. And I think it’s got to be the same type of thing. But there’s not one aspect of his game that I wouldn’t say has not improved.
Q. How did Stan’s knee react to playing in the scrimmage last week, how has he come along since then, and what did you like from what you saw from him?
COACH CREAN: I think he learned a little bit about the difference between being hurt and injured. When you’re injured, that’s a whole other situation.
When you’re hurt, sometimes you just gotta be able to deal with it a little bit and play through it. I think he’s learned a little bit about that. He’s come back and had a couple of solid practices, where the one the time that he’s missed being on the court has affected him some in his wind and conditioning, but not in his game. And right away he’s back to being a guy that can get to the foul line, can get to the basket.
And still too quiet, still too much locked into his man rather than being locked into the help defense, still doesn’t know all the offensive things that we’re doing yet. But he’s been a pretty quick learner.
But I think the thing he’s come back in there, has just played like he’s not favoring anything at all, really trying to play with a really strong, reckless abandon, which is important.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
Filed to: Tom Crean