You mentioned a variety of areas on Monday night that the team needed to improve in. Is there one specific area that you’ve emphasized the most?
“You know, it’s strange, because I wish there were. I got the staff in and asked every one of them, ‘What do you think our main problem is?’ And they didn’t give me just one thing. And I even asked the team. I went around to everybody on the team. Now, there was some duplication. So that’s good news and bad news. It’d be bad news if it was just one thing because it would be so glaring that it might be, ‘Is it possible to fix it?’ But it would also be good news because you could say if we can fix that, we’re clean sailing.
“I didn’t really expect there to be one thing because I don’t think there’s one thing. I’d like to have more inside scoring. I’d like to get to the free throw line more. I’d like our big guys to turn it over less. I’d like us to be more consistent shooting the ball from the outside. I’d like us to handle the dribble penetration better. And I really believe probably last year with 10 games left in the conference, I probably would have been saying the same thing, too.
“This is not an excuse, but it is an excuse – with a young team, you don’t know what you’re going to get from one day to the next. I think our team was just as surprised as I was that we didn’t play well Sunday. I thought we would because we’d had some really good practices, but with a young team, it’s harder to take it from the practice court to game night. Yet, every time I say something like that, I violate one of my principles because it’s not just about us. Virginia had something to do with it. And I think around here, we talk so much about us that we don’t give the other team credit.”
You’ve said it’s not a time to panic, but how much of a sense of urgency do you have?
“I don’t. One of the greatest things that’s happened to me in coaching, and it will be stupid to all of you, but was Deon Thompson at the banquet. We had had a sorry year and he said the greatest thing about Coach Williams was that every day he came to practice and tried to make us feel like we could get this thing turned around. I’m going to do that. I guaran-dadgum-tee you if I play 17 holes and I am 900 over par, I’m going to try to birdie the last sucker. So it’s not panic time for me. That’s the way I coach… So I’m not going to panic. I’ve lost eight in a row before, so I am not going to panic.”
Do you have to handle adversity a little different with this group because it might be a little more fragile?
“Uh huh, I think so. I was very discouraged after Virginia, but you can put any description you want on there after we came back from Florida State last year. And that was a much different practice than what my practice was yesterday because there was no sense in that one. And give Florida State some credit – they’re the ones that beat us by 800. But we were a pretty doggone good team at that time and we were really good after that, too.”
Did you like Reggie Bullock calling the team meeting earlier this week?
“Well, I don’t know if Reggie called it. I heard that three guys said, ‘Hey, everybody stay around.’ And I don’t know. I’ve never asked players what goes on in players’ meetings. I don’t expect them to ask me what goes on in coaches’ meetings. Yesterday’s thought for the day was something along the lines of great intentions are okay, but you need to act. That’s what you’ve got to do, to put up or shut up.”
What are your thoughts about Miami?
“They’ve missed Reggie [Johnson] for four or five games, so they’re settled in a little bit more now. Defensively – and maybe our whole league is because every time I start talking about somebody in our league, they’re holding their opponents to a really low percentage – but teams are shooting 37 percent against them. [Opponents] are shooting 30.8 percent from the 3-point line. Their free throw defense is even really good because teams are only shooting 66 percent against them at the free throw line. I don’t know how they handle that, but I’d like to find out. So they guard you.
“They’re guard influenced, but they’re not just completely guard dominated. They’re a difficult team to guard because Durand [Scott] can take the ball to the basket so well and get fouled, get to the rim and he can make some threes, too. We tried to go under the screen down there a couple of years ago and he makes three threes in the first eight minutes. [Shane] Larkin is really, really playing well. He’s really aggressive and he’s doing a good job. That gives them two point guards that have good assist-error ratios. Kadje is a difficult matchup because he’s a 6-11, 240-pound guy who can score from 25 feet and he can dunk it over people inside as well. And then to have a guy like Rian Brown who can come off the bench in the last game and score 22 on the road.
“So they can score, they can defend. I think they’ve got poise. They’re 4-1 on the road… So I think it is a complete team that guards you but also can score, too.”