Tom Crean met with the media on Thursday evening to discuss Friday night’s meeting with Samford at Assembly Hall.
Watch the complete press conference in the media player below:
A full transcript is available after the jump.
FastScript Transcript by ASAP Sports
COACH CREAN: What we’ll do is we’ll talk about the game and the team first, and then we’ll talk about the recruiting, and then we’ll do Q&A twice, keep it all specific to the game or the team and then we’ll keep it all specific to recruiting.
First things first, when it comes to the game, it’s not just another game. They never are. But when we’re dealing with somebody like Bennie Seltzer who has had such a hand in the development and the reestablishing of this program over the past few years, Bennie was here through every tough period, through every tough moment, through all those tough years, and was just an absolute study in perseverance in the sense of how he continued to have incredible energy every day, how he continued to make the players better, his recruiting was phenomenal. He was the point person on some?? just some of the key people over a period of time that helped this program come back to where it is in the sense of Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo and Maurice Creek and just did so many different things to help us get this program where it needed to be.
And I had no doubt he’d be a successful head coach, and he obviously is being that. He had the best record they’ve had in some time last year inside of the conference. They’re recruiting well. They’re playing well. They do a lot of the same things we did here and they do them very well. In fact, watching some of the plays, I think we need to get some of those back in. They made me realize just how far away we are from having enough stuff in right now and where our program is at in the sense of trying to get things developed.
Bennie is going to do a great job. Rarely have I ever been in a situation or played many guys?? I played against many guys that we worked with, and I get it. I get why we don’t. Because it’s not?? it’s a preparation, and it just feels different because you don’t?? you want somebody that you’re with like that to be extremely successful, you just don’t want them to be successful tomorrow night.
You go through your periods where you’ve been through so many things together, the highs and lows, and you’re so excited to see them get their opportunity and you don’t want to do anything to get in the way of it. But for a couple hours tomorrow night, that’s what it is, and I’m sure that Bennie and his group will feel the same way.
They come in, Tim Williams can play in the sense that he’s averaging 14 and 14. He’s a hard guy to deal with of the angles that he creates inside, because of the strength that he plays with. Raijon Kelly is an excellent guard. They’re getting deeper. They shoot the ball well. They’ve got numerous guys that can make threes, and they’ve already been on the road, so it’s not like we’re going to be their first road test.
We know it’s going to be a very, very competitive game. They want to get up and down the court. They’re not coming in to try to play slow. We’re going to have to play much better defensively than what we did the other night. We haven’t spent a ton of time on the court in preparation for this, but we’ve spent enough time to make sure that we’ve got our points down of how we’ve got to guard the ball, what we’ve got to do in the sense of our help defense, what we’ve got to do in transition defense, and what we’ve got to continue to do to understand how important spacing is involved when we get the ball in the lane is.
We’re excited to play. Go ahead.
Q. Is it tougher to some extent for the coaches than the players?
COACH CREAN: I think it always is, yeah. When players are going against other players that they know well, it brings a different level of juice sometimes. I don’t think there’s any question about that. But I mean, but we’ve been down the line. Steve has been with Bennie. Tim and myself were with Bennie for just countless days, and Kenny and Bennie have a?? say that five times fast. They have a great relationship. They’ve known each other for so long because before Kenny was in college coaching he was in high school coaching, in AAU coaching, and we were getting to know him through that process with Maurice and Victor. Everybody is a attached that way, Jay and Tim Garl, some of the players that aren’t here, but he was a part of the groundwork of the Yogi class and certainly was here for Will and Austin and he was a part of it.
It’s just another challenge, but it’s part of it, and you figure if you coach long enough you’re going to go against some guys that you’re like brothers with.
Q. He has six new faces on the team; do you talk to him a lot about what he’s going through with all the new players?
COACH CREAN: No, I think you always want to be supportive if you can, but you never want to get in the way, and I saw him a couple weeks ago at Victor’s first game. He came up for that. I thought that was pretty strong on his behalf. We brought him back last year for the Ohio State game because we fully anticipated winning that game that night, and we wanted him to be here for it, and unfortunately as you know we didn’t win the game, but he was here, spoke to the team before the game.
So you really don’t want to get in his way on things, but I mean, when I watch them on film, I see a very quick, athletic team that is executing at a good rate. They’re learning, they got pressed a lot the other night by Texas A&M. They dealt with that.
I think there’s no question he could come in here and change defenses, play his own, do different things. I mean, if anybody learned anything on our staff in the first three years, it’s there was nothing that we wouldn’t try to win a game when it came to a scheme, when it came to an X and O, when it came to a play, when it came to a defense. I hope he never has to go through trying to have walk?on tryouts all the way through February like we did. Hopefully he won’t have to do that, but I think he’s doing an excellent job.
Q. How often do you talk to him about being a first?time head coach?
COACH CREAN: No, I think he’s done a great job with that. I think, again, he worked for Kelvin, too, and he had an unbelievable role for Kelvin Sampson when he was at Oklahoma, and he was as close to an associate head coach as you could possibly be in that environment. So he’s been well?versed. We’re talking about a guy that went to Washington State from Alabama and went out there and made an impact. He’s very, very good. He’s got a great head on his shoulders, got an excellent mind, quick mind, innovative mind, and I think you just always want to be there in a sense if they need anything.
But it’s not like I call and say, hey, you need to do this, you need to do that. I would if I saw something like that, but I think he’s doing an outstanding job.
Q. You talked about the similarities in the way they play, but what are some of the differences?
COACH CREAN: It’s a good question. I think they run a lot of the same offenses. There’s no question about that. He’s added his own tweaks. I think he’s got a team that he can play pressure defense with. I think he’s got a lot of things in his playbook that he hasn’t brought out yet. I’ve got a feeling we’re going to see some of those tomorrow night. I don’t know if I have a great answer to that because they’ve only played a couple of games. But I think what he’s coaching with is a tremendous spirit, and he took that team into some tough environments last year, and they did some really good things.
And they had their best?ever conference record in that league. He got them to .500 in his first year. That’s pretty strong. When you’re trying to rebuild something and you get to a point like that you know it’s just going to keep getting better and better, so I don’t know if I have a great answer on what would be different.
Q. You mentioned our defense. What are some other keys to tomorrow night’s game?
COACH CREAN: Well, we need to understand much quicker what the game is giving us, and we could have made on the bench a few more adjustments, especially defensively in that game, but it was more important that we get out and learn how to play right now. It’s more important that Noah Vonleh knows how to guard a guard. If we’re going to be a team that can do multiple things, switch, we’ve got to learn how to do that, and I don’t think we could get a better I’ve got to learn at this point in the season than we did with Brickman the other night and the way that he played.
We’ve got to stay true to the whatever coverage we’re in. I think we broke coverages a lot the other night defensively because we weren’t as comfortable with them, and I get that. I know we’re not as comfortable because it’s more about the principles and fundamentals of defense. So when we had our coverage of we’re going to jam, get under, try to take away the outlet passes and make it hard, we didn’t trust that yet because we haven’t done it. We haven’t had any success with it yet. I think we’ve got to do a better job of what we’re in we’re in and continue to communicate better. I think our transition defense has got to be way better. We did things in that game, transition defense?wise that we’re not coached to do that we don’t do in practice, didn’t look good on film, and I think what happened the other night is defensively we tried to take some shortcuts. We tried to take some path?of?least?resistance moments, and we can’t do that. You can’t do that against anybody, but you can’t do it at Indiana. We’re not going to do it at Indiana, and I think our guys will be much better there.
Offensively they really learned a great lesson. We learned a lesson, too. We probably in a two?hour?and?10?minute practice on Sunday spent at least an hour to an hour and 10 minutes in just offensive spacing alone with some sets, some actions, but just very importantly spacing.
But got out there on Tuesday night and it looked like it was our first night together. I think we learned a lot as a staff about we really are young, and so you know what, we’ve got to stay with it. We’ve got to do it again.
We’re behind in certain areas, and I get that, and it’ll get better. But we’ve got to keep imploring guys to understand this is what the game is giving you and it starts with reversals, it starts with getting the ball inside out, it starts with penetrations in the lane, it starts with making the next pass, and then everything plays off of that, everything. We’re trying to get players comfortable?? right now the more you can attack the basket in transition, the better you’re going to be, because it’s an offensive game right now in the sense?? and we had it cost us the other night.
I mean, it’s very, very hard to play one?on?one defense right now, and the more that you can create that in transition the better that you’re going to be.
So we’re going to look at certain times maybe like we’re not as under control or?? I’m okay with that. We’ll get that figured out. We’ve got a lot of guys doing things in college basketball that they’ve never done before, so we’ve got to grow into that. It’s a long season. But at the same time we’ve got to make simple plays. We’ve got to hit the open man, make the simple play, get it inside. A guy like Noah has got to be far more demanding with his presence and a little bit more with his voice but far more with his presence. Hanner has got to be more demanding. We’ve got to play through fatigue a little better.
I’m really anxious to see how we play, and I’m glad we’ve got another game Sunday and two games against next week because we need to get this experience under our belts so to speak quickly.
Q. You talked about how important that game was for a player. How important was it as coaches to get a game under your belt?
COACH CREAN: I think it’s very important, but you don’t accept it. I don’t think you go into the film room the next day or to practice and say, it’s okay. We’ll be okay. No, no, you’ve got to get it corrected. And what we learned is that we have to stay true to the teaching, to the fundamentals, to the day after day repetitions that might seem tedious, that might get boring, but we have to do it because it’s not just engrained. It’s just not engrained yet. It’s not like they don’t want to, it’s just not engrained yet.
The other night, I mean, we got a dose of?? and we said this the other night, the defense packed it in. They respected the driving, they respected the post game and we allowed them to gain confidence?? we allowed them from the very beginning to think they could win the game, and that just snowballed for them. They just kept getting more confidence.
Well, fortunately for us we didn’t play like a young team when it came to winning the game. We didn’t have any bad body language. We didn’t have any pouting. We didn’t have any woe?is?me. We didn’t have any victim basketball. We had all, we’re going to get through it, and I don’t think we win the game?? because that’s an NCAA Tournament team in my mind. It’s a great test for us. But we don’t win the game if any of that happens. We just kept going and we started to figure out what the game was giving us, and by far it was not anything close to what I would call a good game, but it was a great game for learning how to compete, stay with it and figure it out. So that was invaluable.
Q. Talk about Kelly, their guard.
COACH CREAN: Well, I think they can do multiple things. I think they can?? they’re doing a really good job with their spacing, and next pass is way ahead of where we are right now, and I get that. It’s going to take us a bit to get to that point. So they know how to move the ball. They get to the rim. They can attack in transition. They get the ball reversed. They have a point guard that really tries to move the ball. And at the same time they’ve got a good threat inside with Williams.
I don’t think it’s a game where you can look at it and say they’ve got one or two guys and we’re just going to pinpoint those guys because then all of a sudden they’re going to knock down threes. I think what they have to do is just no matter what defense we’re in we’ve got to stay true to the coverage, be athletic and active and try to limit them to one shot.