Florida State Football: Coach Willie Taggart’s Press Conference Transcript

HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Good morning. Training camp has been going really well for us. It’s been fun being around the guys. It’s been really exciting watching these guys get better each and every day, and we had a good two weeks of bonding with each other, players, coaches and players and improving from a football standpoint. Been really impressed with the way the guys have come to work every single day and didn’t have to motivate them to do anything. I told them from the beginning that they had to “embrace the suck” and I think they are embracing it.

Q. Can you expound on that last comment, “embracing the suck”?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Yeah, as you get into the dog days of camp, it sucks. You get up doing the same thing every day, trying to get better. Being through it, out in the hot sun, you’re like, golly, can we just play. But you’ve got to embrace it. That’s the time to get better, rather than looking at it as a negative, trying to make it a positive. Just embrace it, embrace being with your teammates, enjoying each other and enjoy competing.

Q. Wondering about the scrimmage yesterday, how that went and what you were trying to do there?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: We had a really good scrimmage yesterday. We had a situational scrimmage to where we put our guys in different situations and seeing how they operate in it. It’s a competitive situation, and where the offense or the defense win, and it was pretty good.

You know, we had one situation where we started from the 35-yard line and offense gets whatever it scores, and the defense get a three-and-out or stop them on down, they get so many points. Then we move the ball down to the plus-40 and we then move it to the red zone; the ten-yard line; the five-yard line; end of the game, 1:20, one timeout, offense down by five. Just different situations, and it went well. Well, it went probably better for the offense yesterday than it was for the defense, but that was a first throughout training camp.

It’s going to be really exciting to see our defense bounce back tomorrow at practice.

Q. Are you ready to name a quarterback starter, and if not, how close are you to doing that?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: No. I’m not. And how close? Closer than we were the first day we started training camp. So we’re getting there.

Again, had a good scrimmage yesterday. Some guys played better than others, but I thought they all did some good things. There was no turnovers, which is always great when you can take care of the football.

So guys are still working. Again, it’s a good situational scrimmage, and next week, we’ll have kind of like a full-game scrimmage, so that will be good, as well.

Q. Can you name the guy that maybe had a better scrimmage yesterday? I’m just wondering if you can just talk about the development of each quarterback that you’ve seen. That’s really my question, the development of each quarterback throughout this camp.
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Well, I think you can see where Bailey Hockman and James Blackman from a great understanding of what we’re doing, they are probably a little ahead of Francois from that standpoint. They are doing some things and getting better at what we did in the spring, and it’s been really good because it’s starting to click for those guys and making the plays.

Then just Deondre, it’s pretty cool to see him out there and him making the plays that he’s making. He just came back in training camp and will tell you he’s been putting in a lot of work, too, and that’s paying off for him, as well. They all are making plays, and I think more importantly, they have some receivers to help them make plays out there, too. Our young guys are make something good plays at the receiver position, which is always going to help a quarterback.

I hope that answers your question. I don’t know if I did or not, but they are all getting better.

Q. I feel like traditionally, most teams this early in the season, the defense is ahead of the offense. Did that catch you by surprise?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: I think we’re pretty much — it’s how it’s been. Like I say, that was a first to where offense really got on defense yesterday. That was a first throughout training camp. I think throughout the whole training camp, defense probably had an advantage.

But yesterday, the tables turned a little bit. But again, it was one of those, a good teaching moment for our defense. They got to come ready to play every week. Can’t take a day off.

Like I say, I’m excited to see how they bounce back in tomorrow’s practice. That’s going to be the key is how they bounce back after performing the way they did.

Q. Can you elaborate on the mantra on the front of the media guide, “Do Something.” What exactly does that mean?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: That means if you want something, you’ve got to do something in order to get it. We live in a do-something world. Everything you want, you’ve got to go out and make it happen.

So it always goes back to not making any excuses or not blaming anyone for you not having success or not getting the things that you want in life. You have to go out and do something. You have to work at it. You have to make it happen if you want it, or it’s not going to happen. I don’t care what it is: If it’s football or you want to be a starter; if it’s being a car dealership, I don’t care whatever profession you’re in. You’ve got to do something. That’s just the world we live in.

So that’s the motto. That’s always been my motto.

Q. In that vein, since Deondre got into the trouble, what has he done? What is he doing? What sort of something has he done to sort of get back in your good graces?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: I don’t think necessarily it’s in my good grace; it was in the football team’s good grace. It’s all of ours, not just mine.

And what he’s done so far, he’s volunteered to move back on campus and be around his teammates a lot more. That was something he wanted to do. He wanted to be around his teammates more, which I think he realized and the more he understand the more he’s around those guys, the better things will be for him.

A lot of it is just who you surround yourself with, and I think he understood that and he’s been around those guys. He’s been happy. They have been fun. It’s been fun to see how they have all been meshing together. He’s been doing well in the classroom, too.

Q. Did you suggest that?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: I just mentioned — he suggested that he move back on campus and be with his teammates.

Q. Have you started working at all on Virginia Tech stuff and what is your, does having a game like that, right at the beginning, give kids more to look forward to or do you get a little bit concerned about maybe having that tough a game right off the bat?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Well, we started on Virginia Tech back in the spring, you know, and we’ll start more tomorrow and every day leading up until we play them.

I think being the first game, again, you never know what to expect. What I’m trying to do with our football team is get us to where it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. I think it’s hard to win. I don’t care who you’re playing. It’s hard to win a football game. Want our guys to understand it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. It’s the way we play, and can we go out and perform and be at our best.

That’s what’s going to be the key for us, no matter who we’re playing, and understanding that you’ve got a quality opponent ahead of you, going to be well-coached. But we’ve got them at home. It’s big-time college football. You have to come ready to play every single week.

Q. We and the fans are going to parse every word you say about the quarterbacks.

Q. Can you speak more about Bailey and James and the lead they have mentally over Deondre and whether or not that’s a lead that he can or can’t overcome in camp?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: No, it’s just those guys have more reps than Deondre. So the more reps you get, the better you get at things.

Those guys probably have a better understanding of certain things because they have more reps doing it, you know, but like I said, it’s been really good to see Deondre — it’s not like he’s that far back.

I mean, he hasn’t had those reps and he’s still able to come out and execute our offense, which tells me he’s been working on some things, and again, I can remember in the spring when he wasn’t in there at quarterback, he was behind the quarterbacks going through all the operation of the quarterback, which I think is helping pay off for him and catching up from an understanding-of-what-we’re-doing standpoint.

I think they have an advantage because they have more reps and they are getting better because of those reps.

Q. You knew when you got here, or soon after, that you had a pretty good group of running backs. How special is that group?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: They are very special. Each and every last one of those guys, is cool, and you can put a guy in there, you don’t have to change up anything. You don’t have to deviate from what you’re doing offensively.

Any one of those guys can go in there and get the job done for us. It’s cool to see how close they are, you know, and those guys are trying to make it where it’s just a standard, a player running back here at Florida State University, their expectation is the same from those guys. That’s great to have. You can never have enough running backs, and we have some really good ones. We just got to find different ways to get them the ball.

Q. What do you know about Harlon Barnett and a Harlon Barnett-coached defense that you didn’t know eight months ago when you hired him?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Coach Barnett got a little something to him, you know. You guys seen him and talked to him and nicest guy in the world.

But it’s a different side of him, too, out on the football field, and I’ve been able to witness that out there in practice. I was able to witness it even more yesterday after practice, watching him discuss with our defense our disappointed he was in their performance. That was really nice to see.

Again, I think they will respond big-time, but Coach, he’s done a great job and I think I mentioned it before, been really impressed with just how he has the entire defensive staff and how close those guys are and how well they all work together. That’s been really impressive in this short amount of time.

But you can see it trickling down to our team, our defensive guys, as well, and seeing how they are starting to work well together.

Q. I was wondering if you can continue on the “embracing the suck” thing, and maybe that’s something that last year’s team didn’t really do so well at times. But do you feel your team doing that this year and what are you doing as head coach to help them do that?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: That’s pretty talented there, you asked a question and had your phone —

Q. It’s all in this, right here.
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Well, I think every moment is a teaching moment, you know, and again, playing and understanding training camp, we talk about it. Those days are going to come up. We talk about it every night before they go to bed what the next day is going to be like, but you’ve got to enjoy it, and we also talk about how many other people would love to be in their position, and for them to appreciate what they have and appreciate one another and appreciate coming together.

I think as we play this year, we talk about having a pack mentality and that’s when it comes: When there’s nothing else to do and you’re running a team every single day, and you have to be out in the hot sun and conditioning and there’s nothing else, meetings. That’s not always fun. It sucks. But you’ve got to embrace it and try to enjoy it.

But more importantly, you have to enjoy competing and getting better and I think that’s what’s helped us throughout this training camp is our guys enjoy competing whenever there’s a competition situation. Again, you don’t have to motivate them, and it’s been fun going to training camp where I don’t have to come out and get on our guys about practicing. They are coming out ready to practice every single day since we’ve been out here and that’s been really nice.

Q. Talk about when you were at South Florida and then coming up to Tallahassee, more looking at next year recruiting, are you going to get more into Georgia and Alabama? Is that one of your things coming in here?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: I think it’s smart to get in Georgia. I mean, we’re kind of in the south part of Georgia almost there. We’re, what, about 30 minutes away from Georgia on the Georgia State line. We’re going to recruit the best football player that fit what we’re trying to do, and we know there’s a lot of great players here in the State of Florida, but there are also great football players in Georgia and Alabama and Louisiana and Texas and California and Ohio, D.C.

There’s good, good football players all over the country, and we want to make sure we get the best; the best that can come here and fit what we’re trying to do and fit our culture and want to be a part of what we’re trying to build.

Q. At your introductory press conference, you dropped the term, lethal simplicity. As you continue to work with these guys, especially your parts on offense, how have they embraced those concepts and also executed them?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: A little struggle in the spring, obviously, because it was totally different from what they were doing before. What I’ve seen throughout training camp is our guys have worked really hard in the summertime to understand what we’re trying to get out of our offense and then just watching in training camp, just how much better our guys are today than they were when we first started. There’s a reason why defense had a bad practice, too: Because offense was getting better.

But I think guys understanding what we’re trying to do, not just learning their plays. They are understanding what we are trying to do when we call certain plays now, and that’s helping. I think simplifying things and not making it to where — it’s chemistry helps, too.

Now they can go play football, and starting to see it. I’m seeing some of the young guys are making plays for us, too, and I think because of, it’s been simple and allowing them to do the things that we recruited them to do.

Q. On that note, how did the younger players — I know you’ve been pleased with them so far in camp, but in a scrimmage situation, how did they handle all that?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Good. I know on the offensive side of the ball I was really, really impressed with Tre’Shaun Harrison and Keyshawn Helton. Both those guys were pretty fun to watch yesterday, running around and getting in there and having fun. Kids straight out of high school. No worries and just give them a football and let them go and they was making plays with every group that they were in. I mean, we put them in with the threes, the twos and the ones. They were making plays for us, so that was really nice to see.

Our running back, Grant, he’s very talented. I mean, we loaded him and that kid’s special, too. He was having a good practice. I thought our offensive line played really well and that was good to see. Good to see Art Williams doing some really good things on the offensive line for us, too.

Q. When you were at USF, you recruited DeCalon Brooks pretty hard. What do you remember about that process and what did you like about him or think he could project to?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Well, you know he had it in his blood lines, first and foremost, but when you watch him, he’s a tough, hard-nosed football player. He plays defense like he’s supposed to. He’s physical and smart. You knew he was going to be a great leader, as well.

But you’re talking about just a flat-out football player, you don’t get many that’s better than DeCalon. Again, his blood lines. I’m seeing the things in practice with him what we thought we would get at South Florida and he’s maturing. It’s been cool to see him come back from his injury and perform the way that he’s doing now. He’s a highly competitive kid, which we all expected him to be and being highly competitive and working really hard is going to pay off for him.

Q. What has stood out to you about Janarius Robinson so far?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: He loves to play the game. He loves his teammates. He’s, again, highly competitive, and I think he’s one of those guys, he hear everyone talks about Burns, and he wants to prove himself, too.

He’s a kid that loves being at Florida State and very talented and look forward to him helping our football team out tremendously. And I just found out he can play the piano, so pretty neat.

Q. How much has the foil in your opinion improved from the spring until now and what kind of job is Coach Frey been doing there and what’s it like to watch him coach up close?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: I think have improved tremendously from the spring. Part of that, we got some guys back healthy from the spring, too.

Watching a guy like Landon Dickerson, you know, coming here, I heard a lot about him and how special he can be. I think he’s having one heck of a training camp and starting to see what everybody else thought, as well, about the young man. But he’s having a really good training camp.

Derrick Kelly having a really good training camp. Granddaddy Eberle, he’s having a good training camp. It’s just fun because you see those guys like enjoy being with each other and taking pride in what they are doing.

Jauan Williams having a really good training camp for us. But you’re seeing consistent play out of those guys, and they are starting to get a little synergy playing together, and that’s something we need up front for us.

Q. Every time we ask you about wide receivers, we ask David Kelly, and Keyshawn Helton’s name comes up. He’s a guy that wasn’t highly-recruited by a lot of schools and you guys got him late. How did that recruitment go, and was part of that because of — from Derrick Brooks, that being his nephew, did that name pop to you guys from that or how did that all come about?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: No, I was actually out in Pensacola recruiting at another school, and the coach at that school was like, “Coach, I’m telling you, you need to go by and just see this kid. This kid, he’s one of the best receivers we’ve played against this year.” He just kept raving on the kid.

Before I left, he was like, “Coach, I probably just need to show you.” He pulled up the film and I watched the film and I said, you know what, I need to go by and see this young man. Sure enough, went by and met him and spent time with the principle and she raved about him, his character. He was awesome in the classroom and then I found out he was Derrick Brooks’ nephew and was like, okay. You kind of see it in the way he plays, too. Another kid that plays the game the way you’re supposed to play the game.

But he also had a little attitude about himself. He had something to prove, and I loved that about the young man. That hasn’t changed since he’s been here. He’s been on a mission since day one and he’s out to prove himself. He’s doing a darned good job of proving himself.

Q. Are you still surprised he was under the radar?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Never surprised about anything. Those things just happen. But that’s a big reason why you recruit, and you try not to leave any rock unturned. You’ve got to go — but then when you have good relationships with coaches that you trust, sometimes those things happen, too, where they will put you on someone that maybe been overlooked.

But Keyshawn fits what we’re doing, too, so that helps, as well.

Q. Obviously there’s a fine line between getting your guys in football shape and pushing them past the limit. How have you seen strength and conditioning change over the years? What’s your philosophy on strength and conditioning, and do you think the NCAA needs to have more oversight on how schools train their athletes?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: I think student welfare is first and foremost and that can never change. We’ve always got to do what’s right for our student athletes. I think there’s rules in place to make sure that those things are taken care of.

We just have to make sure we abide by the rules and make sure that — I know here, whatever our trainers tell us, that’s what we do. There’s no if, ands and buts about it. We are always going to do what’s right for our young men and all of our student athletes.

And I don’t know whether the NCAA should be in charge. I can’t tell you that. That’s not my expertise. But I do know, there’s trainers out there that do their jobs, and we’ve got to allow them to do their jobs and we do that here.

Hope that answers your question.

Q. Curious about Cole Minshew’s status? In Bradenton he was a little banged up.
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: Yeah, Cole had a little ankle injury. He’s rehabbing to get back. Hopefully get him back in week and get going. He got a couple days off. Hopefully he’ll be back this week.

Q. Moving Deonté Sheffield over to wide receiver, what are some of the challenges that come with that and how do you think he’s responded to that so far?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: I think part of it, just learning the run routes and catching the football. You know, that’s something you’ve got to be able to do. You know, you play running back, and good to be able to catch the football playing running back, but receivers, you’re going to be asked to do that all the time, and also, block, as well, out in space.

I think those are all challenges but usually when you’re a pretty good athlete, you can learn it. Especially if you’ve been taught well. He’s picked it up. He’s picked it up, and he’s competing with the other guys at that position.

Q. Has D.J. Matthews built on his spring, continued to progress and have you given up trying to put any more weight on him? I noticed the weight change; he’s gained one pound. Are you resigned to the fact that he’s going to be the littlest guy you’ve got?
HEAD COACH WILLIE TAGGART: D.J., actually, he hasn’t practiced training camp so far. He’s been doing some individual drills and things. He had a back injury. He’ll be back this week to practice more. Like I say, he’s done individual stuff.

From a weight-gaining standpoint, I think it is what it is. D.J. is going to be what D.J. is right now. He’s working; I will say this, he’s working to try. Probably need to eat a little more than what he’s eating, but he’s working. He’s working hard in the weight room. Some people, it just don’t work right for. I was one of those people that couldn’t gain any weight, either. So as long as he’s tough and he’s smart and don’t get tackled, he don’t have to worry about it. He’s pretty fast, too, so that helps.

Thank you all very much. Have a great rest of the day, if you want to.

On the Bubble: Louisville Coach David Padgett Thinks Cards Should be In Tournament

A win would have locked Louisville into the NCAA Tournament. The 75-58 loss on Thursday to top-seeded Virginia put that fantasy to bed. Louisville, 20-13 on the season, now must wait until Sunday to find out if the selection committee thinks they have done enough.

Louisville head coach David Padgett thinks they have.

“Unfortunately that’s not my decision,” said Padgett. “But if you look at our overall body of work, we haven’t done anything wrong. I think that’s getting lost a lot in the shuffle this year is people used to put a lot of emphasis and a lot of weight on these, quote-unquote, bad losses. Well, we don’t have any of those. We’ve played a top-20 schedule, we finished .500 in the toughest league in the country which, without a doubt, it’s the toughest league in the country, and we got 20 wins. We haven’t done anything wrong.

“And people will say, well, maybe you guys haven’t done as much right as other people and all that, but not having done something wrong is doing something right. We’ve played a very, very difficult schedule, under very difficult circumstances this year, and my guys have 120 percent earned an opportunity to have their name called on Sunday.

“Like I said, it’s not up to us, but they without a doubt earned it. And you can’t possibly sit here and tell me that we’re not one of the best 68 teams in the country. Anybody who’s seen us play, anybody who watched our game against the No. 1 team in the country a week ago today knows that we are one of the best 68 teams in the country.”

The Cardinals gave it a great shot on Thursday, rallying from a 17 point first half deficit to cut the Virginia lead down to four. Now they just need to hope other teams on the bubble fail to make an impact in their conference tournaments as well.

Kansas State Tops TCU in OT: Kansas On Deck

Kansas State, thought by some to be on the bubble for an entry to the NCAA tournament, pulled out a squeaker in the first game of the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday. After TCU tied it up at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, the Wildcats outlasted TCU and will face in-state rivals Kansas on Friday. Kansas is a five point favorite on the early offshore line.

“I’m really proud of our guys, happy for them”, said KSU head coach Bruce Weber. “From the beginning I told them before the game since practice when we got back and got going in the spring through the summer and through the fall, they worked their tails off. They’ve had great leadership, you know. They’ve done everything we’ve asked. They’re very, very coachable. Probably raised my voice, you know, other than yelling play hard and all that stuff, you know. But getting after ’em a couple times all year. They’re a great group. We got down 7. We didn’t have much emotion. Cartier made a couple of good plays for us, got energy going. Kam went in and made a play and Mak was very good, a lot of big plays.”

Weber talked about the final play in regulation where TCU hit a a game tying three point play. “Obviously we probably should have fouled on the three at the end. We had ’em in the — but it’s in that chaotic state where you’re running back, and, you know, they made a great play. You gotta give them credit, but we came back. Very rarely when teams make a big shot like that do you come back with the emotional and energy that we had in the overtime period that we found to win. Barry obviously made the big play at the end. We gave him the ball and he had a chance to make the play and he came up big for us and made the basket.”

TCU is expected to be selected to the Tournament on Sunday. Head Coach Jamie Dixon is hoping for nine of the 10 Big 12 teams to make the field.

“I never thought it would be possible to get nine teams in the NCAA tournament, but we’re giving it as good of a shot as you possibly can,” said Dixon. “So it will be a great boost for our conference to get eight, nine, whatever it may be in. It’s remarkable. What we did in nonconference was remarkable, and I’ve been in good conferences. But top to bottom this provides the greatest challenge. It’s a great conference, and I think people are recognizing it more and more.”

Monday CBB Report: Odds to Win NCAA Title

Bookmaker has released its odds on which team will win the National Title in college basketball this year. Virginia, Michigan State, Duke, Villinova, and Michigan are the front runners with less than one week to go before Selection Sunday.

Team, Odds
Alabama +38500
Arizona +1950
Arizona State +40000
Arkansas +30000
Auburn +4650
Baylor +32500
Boise State +200000
Butler +17500
Cincinnati +2350
Clemson +15500
Creighton +27000
Duke +610
Florida +5700
Florida State +15500
Gonzaga +2700
Houston +16000
Kansas +1850
Kansas State +50000
Kentucky +5000
Louisville +21500
Miami Florida +17000
Michigan +1550
Michigan State +585
Middle Tennessee +32500
Mississippi State +120000
Missouri +9000
NC State +18500
Nebraska +120000
Nevada +19000
New Mexico State +65000
North Carolina +1950
Notre Dame +20000
Ohio State +8500
Oklahoma +15500
Oregon +42500
Providence +120000
Purdue +1030
Rhode Island +9500
Saint Marys +15000
Seton Hall +15000
SMU +200000
Syracuse +42500
TCU +21500
Tennessee +5000
Texas +28500
Texas A&M +15000
Texas Tech +5000
UCLA +26500
UNLV +180000
USC +25500
Villanova +525
Virginia +525
Virginia Tech +28500
West Virginia +3300
Wichita State +2750
Xavier +1500

Kansas Basketball: Coach Bill Self Hopes Team Learned a Lesson

The Kansas Jayhawks got whipped up on Saturday by the Oklahoma State Cowboys, losing 82-64 in its last game of the regular season. Head coach Bill Self hopes his team has learned a lesson on handling pressure from athletic teams.

“They just dominated us physically,” Self said. “We watched the tape. We actually played better this game than we did the first time we played them, and they beat us 18. How are we going to handle pressure and how our guys are going to be able to get open one pass away, that seems like pretty elementary stuff. But it’s hard to simulate that in practice.

Self had been pleased with the Jayhawks intensity prior to the Saturday.

“I actually thought that we had a good mindset going to Stillwater based on our practices, and we go down there, and we got pumped because no matter how our mindset was, theirs was a lot better, and they played hungrier than we did,” he said.

He also says nine of the ten conference teams deserve a tournament bid. “In this tournament, nine teams deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament. You can say that. I don’t see how you could say Oklahoma State does not. I mean, they’ve got too many great wins. But you can positively say that.”

Self is always looking forward to playing the winner of the Oklahoma/Oklahoma State game in the Big 12 tournament.

“We’ve lost three of four against those two, and really Oklahoma State has handled us easily for the most part as Big 12 games go. They’ve controlled both of those games. We’ll prepare for both, but the biggest thing I think we need to prepare for is us. We’re not going to be able to practice specifically for knowing who’s going to win the game until we actually play the game. I mean, there’s our practice on Wednesday is before the game happens. We won’t practice on Thursday morning. We’ll try to get ready in theory and in principles on how we would guard and attack both teams, you know, on Monday and Tuesday.

But I think they’ll both be challenges. But I also think they’ll both be fun. No matter who we play, there should be an incentive for a lot of reasons. One, we lost in the first round last year; two, if you get a chance to play OU, you get a chance to go against the leading scorer, leading assist guy in the country in Trae. If you play Oklahoma State, you get a chance to play against somebody that’s obviously handled us twice. So hopefully there will be plenty of motivation on our end.”

Purdue Falls to Michigan: Matt Painter’s Post Game Press Conference

Purdue Head Coach Matt Painter spoke to the media after losing to the Michigan Wolverines 75-66 in the Big 10 tournament at Madison Square Garden.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, an opening statement.

COACH PAINTER: Congratulations obviously goes out to Michigan. I thought they played a very good game. A very tough matchup for anybody in the country, well-coached. Have really kind of scrapped their offense and just tried to spread people out and break people down within our league, especially us because of our size.

And I thought they did a really good job of moving the basketball, kind of finding the matchups they want, breaking us down off the dribble. We were fortunate I felt to be down five at half. They missed some open shots and I thought we could make a little run there.

In the beginning of the second half, we’d get two or three stops, about three stops in a row, but we couldn’t get an offensive rebound. Then when we would go to the matchup, to try to switch and then they had a size advantage down low on a couple of rebounds. We got a foul called against us we couldn’t get a couple of balls.

I thought that was a real important time in the game. They gained momentum will, never looked back. I thought the guys at the end we gave some energy and we played hard but that happens after you get down at that time. But hats off to Michigan for winning the Big Ten Tournament.

Q. Isaac, if you can assess just what you thought of your team’s effort in this game?
ISAAC HAAS: I thought that at the beginning that we didn’t give our best effort. And I think that showed. And then towards the end of the second half we showed pretty well, pretty good effort. But it was too late by that time.

Q. Isaac, with Jon Teske in the game instead of Wagner what are the differences between those two? And what were the challenges of Teske today?
ISAAC HAAS: I think he hit a few crucial shots for them. He played well. So you’ve got to give him credit. Wagner obviously is a guy, he can pick and pop and do a lot of things. So you’ve got to respect them on that. And he did his thing. And we just let Teske be a part of the game.

Q. Isaac, I know it’s obviously not the result you will vote for, but how much has Carsen grown in meaning to you guys in these last couple of months, in particular in a tournament setting? He had such a strong setting here.
ISAAC HAAS: I think he’s a great player. He does good things for us. He’s able to go get a bucket if we need one. He’s an elite scorer and people don’t respect him as such, I feel like sometimes. And I think he does a great job creating opportunities for others as well.

I think he’s done a really good job maturing this year and I think he’s a huge part of this team.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.

Q. Basically the same question. I know it’s not the game you wanted to have, but not just tonight but this weekend and just these last couple of months how much has Carsen grown in meaning to you guys?
COACH PAINTER: Well, Carsen is a very dynamic player. And he can really get on — he can get into runs where he scores the basketball.

Just kind of finding that rhythm in a game, like getting those rhythm, pull-up 3s and getting to the rim. Whenever he’s driving the basketball and getting his layups and getting to the free-throw line to go along with his 3s, that’s kind of the total package for him.

But he’s really grown here going from January to February you’ll watch tape even of some games earlier, like when we played Michigan, you can see how he’s grown and been able to take advantage of some opportunities. He’s hard to deal with once he gets an angle, then if you back up whatever he’s got such a quick trigger, he’s hard to guard.

Tonight he just really didn’t get in a rhythm. He had a couple of drives that didn’t go down for him, and he had a couple of 3s where he could never get back-to-back pullups or back-to-back pullup 3s to get into that rhythm. But he’s been fabulous for us.

Q. Seemed like they were having a lot of success screening especially in the first half. What was going on, was it lack of communication on defense from you guys?
COACH PAINTER: A little bit of both. We were guarding it different with Teske. But it was more penetration. Our weak side and our guys in ball-screen defense, sometimes when the ball got deep, had to stay home. And you gotta force them to throw the ball out and they didn’t do that.

Our guys sometimes will get really enamored sometimes with guys that can shoot the basketball, especially on the weak side. You’ve got to be able to come to it.

But I thought we struggled to contain the dribble more than anything and that opened some things up for Teske. Because when they drove then we had the help, then they made passes. A couple of them were off ball screens but a couple of them were simply off us not being able to contain the dribble.

Q. You guys are still probably going to be like a top 2, top 3 NCAA Tournament seed. When you sort of look at what you guys are going to be doing over the next week, is there one thing maybe you think you need to focus on, perhaps it’s a ball-screen defense, as you just mentioned, or something like that?
COACH PAINTER: They’re a unique team. Playing Michigan, John has a great system, even though they have gone away from their system a lot and just kind of spread things out.

But you’re going to play people that are going to run ball screen motion. 90 percent of the country runs ball screen motion.

So for us I think it’s more of a concentration thing than anything, not one actual aspect of the game. We have to do a better job of defending and concentrating. I thought we rebounded the ball better today. But we don’t force any turnovers in the first half. We just kind of showed we weren’t very active. But no, not one thing.

We’ve got to play together. We’ve got to be unselfish and move the basketball. And like we said earlier we’ve got to do a better job moving the ball.

Q. What makes John Beilein so successful in the coach in a tournament setting in your mind?
COACH PAINTER: I just think that a lot of what they run, I would guess that he would go back to running more of his stuff against unfamiliar people.

They run so many different things and have so many different calls within his system that it’s a tough prep, especially after they win the first game.

So when they get into that second game — you always learn something when you play him. I always say that about when Bill Carmody was at Northwestern, when Dana Altman at Creighton. Kind of those systems where they have a lot of quick hitters and a lot of different things you can go to. You always learn something when you play them, and you fix something. As a coach you think you’ve got them figured out, you don’t have them figured out.

He’s just very unique in that. You can’t allow them to do what they want to do. And if you do, now it’s just hitting or missing, especially when they put skill. His ideal thing is having a 5 that can shoot. That’s why Teske’s picking pops, him going into the short roll into elbow, Wagner being able to make the 3s and drive the ball. He makes them special.

Those guards are good but not everybody has a guy like Wagner that can stick 3s, drive the ball and play with passion.

Q. It’s a week away from Selection Sunday. How concerned are you that you can still (indiscernible) get, play hard and effort out of these guys?
COACH PAINTER: I don’t think it’s as much as playing hard. I thought we did a good job rebounding the ball. I thought it was more concentration. We have to do a better job on the basketball. We’ve got to do a better job in ball-screen defense.

But good teams will expose you. That’s what you’re going to face. You’ll face good teams but there’s only one team leaving this weekend as a winner. So you’ve got other teams, obviously some teams are finished. But there’s always opportunities to improve. There’s always a silver lining.

So hopefully this can help us concentrate better and play better on the defensive end and just play — we’ve done a good job of playing together as a group. But sometimes that, when you deal with a lot of people that are skilled, you deal with a lot of people that are confident, and sometimes they want it a little bit too much. And we just gotta probe the defense a little more and be a little more patient.

Q. What do you tell your guys to regroup, put this in the rearview mirror and really refocus on the next challenge ahead the NCAA Tournament coming up?
COACH PAINTER: I’m not a guy that throws the tape away. I’m a guy that when you have struggles, look in the mirror, face, take those struggles so they don’t happen again.

So we’ll talk about it. We’ll watch this tape. We’ll watch all three of them. And we’ll try to learn from some of our successes and learn from some of our failures and just kind of stick with it. You’ve got to know who you are. You’ve got to know who you are and you’ve just got to go back to the drawing board.

We have enough successes together to be able to reflect on those also. I think it’s kind of a two-way street sometimes when you lose.

Q. You had three or four games in 12-day stretches this year. Now you’re going to go 12 days without a game. What’s your plan for that 12 days?
COACH PAINTER: We’ll take a couple of days off. We’ll practice for a couple of days and take a day off. Practice for a couple of days, take a day off. It’s not something where we need to practice every single day but we don’t need to go four days off in a row. I think that’s obviously too much. But we’ll definitely take off Monday and Tuesday and get back after it on Wednesday.

But we’re also going to be smart. I think it’s more at this point in the year more mental training and guys gotta be able to understand and learn from some of those mistakes that we made today and be better because of it.

You go full bore and you get physical and you practice two hours a day while you’re done and one of your better players gets hurt. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

Q. Is this the best defensive team that Michigan has had since John Beilein got there? Having watched them on film and faced them today, what in your eyes has made them so successful on that end in this season?
COACH PAINTER: I just think it’s attention to detail. I think Matthews, Simpson, Abdur-Rahkman are all three good defensive players. Duncan Robinson has a lot of experience. Duncan Robinson was a poor defensive player when he got there, but he’s really, really worked hard and he’s a much better defender out there.

He used to be out there and be a liability but now he’s not. That’s being a well-rounded player, because he can shoot the basketball, he’s a good offensive player and now he’s a good defensive player. And you’ve got to give somebody like that credit to them.

So I think it’s their personnel. Jordan Poole gives them length and some athleticism when he comes in there. Livers, who got hurt tonight, has done a good job as a young guy guarding.

I think it’s personnel and attention to detail. Anytime you put talent on the court and you give it time and you work on something, whether it’s offense or defense, and those guys stick together, you’re going to make some improvements.

Q. Vince had an extended spell there on the bench toward the end. Did he tweak the injury or was it a matchup thing?
COACH PAINTER: No it wasn’t matchup. We wanted guys to go out there and have energy. I thought Nojel Eastern, I looked at how he played and I thought he brought us energy. And I thought Eifert could bring us some energy, and I had to keep enough scorers out there. I wanted Isaac on the court.

At that point in the game, when you get down like that you’re searching as a coach, you want guys to be able to bring energy, and I was just trying to get Nojel and Grady out there.