Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino
Media Day Transcript
"We got a lot accomplished this summer, which was great, really with our schedule, it's what we needed to do. We did less individual work and we asked our players to do it on their own so we could try to work as a team on a loose style of play for us. It is going to take a little bit of time to get used to. But the guys have done a fantastic job. I have had absolutely zero complaints. I've said this many times, but last year's team reminded me of my 87' providence team in terms of attitude, and this year is even better. I don't think I have had as much fun coaching any period of my life than these last two years, mainly because of the attitudes of the young men we are coaching. We are really pumped up and we are excited to see what tomorrow will bring and we are going to try to balance the teams so that they are fairly equal. Mangok has not practiced, but he is working out and doing agility. We are moving very slow with him to make sure that he feels confidence and that he feels good about playing mentally, when you come off an injury like that. But sometime next week he will probably start participating and practice and it will probably take him two to three weeks to get back in the grove and then he'll be at full strength."
(On style of play) "It isn't a new style it is just that we've confused a lot of people with our defense and playing our matchup zone and we have probably scrapped that and we are playing 95 percent man-to-man. It is much more the pressure that we are putting on ourselves right now is much more up-tempo in terms of the defensive pressure. We feel we have a deep bench, good shot blocking, so we are utilizing that more and the tempo is much more up-tempo, and even though we have always been an up-tempo team."
(On Deng Adel) "He has to be one of the scorers on the team. We only have one person average nine points per game and we don't have any double figures returning, so he has to give us a lot of points, get us Damion Lees', along with VJ King, to make up for Damion Lees' points."
(On switching to man-to-man) "I just think we are inexperienced. There are a lot of strengths of this ball club, one of the weaknesses is their inexperienced in a lot of areas. You have many players that had a role to play last year trying to fit in as young players and now they have to be in the starring role. Tather than try to teach that, and hopefully be better by sometime around Christmas, we want to be ready. We did something last year that we have not done, we took all our non-conference opponents, and I'm not talking about Purdue or Kentucky or Indiana. I'm talking about William and Mary and Evansville and Long Beach State. They have three starters back, top 75-80 RPI, so we realize that we play Evansville, one that won 25 games last year and we have to be ready right away. So the less you have to teach about the defense, the better off we will be."
(On the big men) "Anas and Matz have been a toss-up. The only thing that concerns me is that our bench is that deep. One day, Matz looks better, one day Anas looks better, another day VJ looks better, another day Deng looks better. Ray and Jaylen. Jaylen looks better, one day then Ray looks better the next day. I'm hoping that that is just good depth, but nobody really stuck out except for Donovan Mitchell at his position and Quentin Snider at his position."
(On Donovan's weight loss) "Donovan took off and you won't recognize him. I realized it last year, I couldn't figure out why he was getting beat so much defensively, even though he is a low body fat guy. I just felt that 213 lbs for a 6'2" guard is way too heavy. And I didn't realize that he was 213 because he was low body fat but now he is at 195, and when you take off 18 lbs, that is going to make you much quicker and much more athletic and he looks terrific."
(On the height and length of this team) "Our man defense is a lot different. We have two man defenses that we are working on. I think what you will see tomorrow is a lot of turnovers, not because of poor offense but because we are really in the mode and everything we do is about steals. I think we will see a lot of steals but a lot of turnovers because it has been happening at practice from good defense."
(On VJ King) "He does like Deng. He puts it on the floor, he shoots it, scores, quick, jumps well, good athlete, 6'6, 6'7, him and Deng it is really close in practice. We toyed with playing VJ a little bit at the 2 and Deng a little bit at 2 and then letting them play together, we won't do that tomorrow but we have toyed with that as well."
(On how competitive practices are) "It is very competitive. When we make the teams even, tomorrow the red team would be, opposite Quentin, and I would be very surprised if the red team didn't beat the white team."
(On Quentin Snider) "Very steady, very crafty, shooting the ball much better, I think that is the one thing that sticks out is how much better we shoot the basketball, and Q is part of that equation. He shoots it much better than he did last year."
(If he thought Quentin Snider would be a shooter) "Like all the guys, Donovan, Deng, Q, they all came in with line-drive shots and then needed strength, repetition, repeating good shots with arc, and right now we are working on that with Tony Hicks. He is the only line drive shooter we have right now so we are working on getting his arc up as well, it just takes time."
(On Tony Hicks) "He is probably the first sub off the bench, but he is probably the most athletic guard that we have in terms of speed. He has Russ Smith type of speed."
(On the team leadership) "I think Quentin. I think he leads a different way, he's a quiet leader, but everybody has great confidence in him."
(On Ryan McMahon) "He's stronger, a good scorer, he shoots it real well, again David Levitch has been terrific. We need to play against someone other than ourselves to really judge but I think tomorrow, our competition will be very strong playing against each other. We are very deep."
(On Matz Stockman) "I haven't noticed a weight loss with him. I think there are two or three things that are concerning for me. One, where are our points going to come from. That doesn't bother me a whole lot but the schedule bothers me. The schedule is the toughest schedule that I have faced as a basketball coach since being in this business and not to make any excuses, but we thought Chinanu Onuaku was coming back, but that's not a big deal to us because we have three centers and potentially four, because Ray can definitely play there as well."
(On getting ready for the season) "It's just a matter of getting the guys to know it right away. We've never been a great team in November, and we can lose to any of those three or four first opponents if we're not really good in that point of time."
(On is the NCAA an issue) "It's not. We have put it behind us. I just said it's not an issue. Best way I can answer is it's not. We haven't talked about it with the team."
(On believing Onuaku might be coming back) "Well, I think he had a good year. He wasn't a guaranteed first round draft pick. So, that's pretty much why. But, we're very happy and excited for him. Like Montrezl, he signed a 3-year guaranteed contract and that's very exciting for a second round pick."
(On Ray Spalding) "Ray and Jaylen are both terrific and the thing that's exciting about both those guys is they're so different. Ray is his hands are defensive, wingspan, some of the things he does. He just amazes you sometimes. He's not real consistent at it. Jalen's a much better rebounder. Ray's a much better defensive player. So, they bring two different things to the table."
(On Mangok's return) "I'd be guessing. I'd really be guessing. He hasn't played basketball since last December. That being said we don't need Mangok right now. We're really deep up front. In the backcourt, we're not quite as deep but we're deep enough."
(On his leadership) "He is. He's an emotional leader. But he's going to be ready I think in two or three weeks playing again. He won't be 100 percent but by the time we got to Atlantis he will be."
(On team not being good in November) "It's just that some of the things we were teaching really takes a lot of time to teach, and it takes games to get it under their belt, especially with the matchup zone. It's very complicated, takes time, offensively it takes time as well to do some of the things we're doing. We're running a lot of different things offensively that you'll see tomorrow as well, and I haven't seen the offenses that we're running in a long time. So, it's almost like pure motion and very few teams run pure motion today. It will be fun to watch."
(On if he will implement matchup zone later in season) "We'll play some zone, but it won't be matchup zone. It will be more like what you see with Syracuse."
(On the leadership on this year's team) "Yeah, Mangok, Q, and Donovan are all terrific leaders. But with this team like I said, they're very unique. I think you guys covered them last year so you know how special they are as young men. This is not your norm. These guys are not the norm. When I travel around and look at the young culture today, it's not like these guys. I mean I hope going forward I get teams like this again but these guys are very, very unique. They're not your norm today. When you go out there and meet them, you'll understand exactly what I'm talking about."
(On where the scoring will come from) "Well, I have an idea where they're going to come from. You know like I said, Quentin's averaged nine points a game and Deng and all the rest of the guys. I think Deng is going to score a lot of points. I think Donovan is going to score points. I think Tony Hicks will get some points. I think Quentin Snider will get points. I think our frontcourt will score my committee. I think you'll see a lot of players step up and score points. I think they're very capable of doing that. But it's not proven yet, this is just an optimistic coach."
(On the offense) "I think it was my experience coaching Puerto Rico and coaching FIFA basketball. I really enjoyed that and liked what they did. It takes a little time too, Pat, because you want to see a lot of turnovers because our focus on steals is over the top. That being said you know sometimes when you have the ball in the hands of the point guard you don't turn it over as much. When you got the ball in the hands of your fours and fives just as much as your ones, twos, and threes it's dangerous. We've worked very hard on it. You'll see Ray and Jaylen be careless because the amount of pressure we put on them and Anas. Matz is the new Dirk Nowitzki so that won't happen. I'm kidding with that statement."
(Is there something you want to accomplish in these scrimmages) "The thing I'm most concerned about tomorrow is, there's no front court subs and it's very difficult getting through practice. Matz and Anas, Ray and Jaylen play almost the entire practice full bar for two hours and 20 minutes without a break and that's tough. So tomorrow they'll play a full game pretty much without a break. Now sometimes we use Dwayne Sutton at the four spot and he gives them a break a little bit so tomorrow we're going to play a full game. Pressing most of the game. Full-blown motion. Hubie Brown used to tell me when I first broke into the pro business with the Denver Nuggets who averaged almost 120 points a game he said, 'it's going to hurt you defensively because motion wears your team out offensively.' So we believe we'll be in great shape so it won't bother us. But tomorrow it will bother us because there will be no breaks for a few of the guys."
(On putting challenges in the non-conference schedule) "We didn't need to do it because we didn't expect the conference to give us this type of schedule. For some reason there's something very, very different between North Carolina, Louisville and say Notre Dame, Boston College. I didn't know the ACC was such a Catholic league that it can give special rights to the Catholics. But if you look at their schedule and look at North Carolina's or Louisville's or Duke it's a lot different. Obviously, the Catholics are closer to heaven than any of us. Seriously, when you play Virginia twice, they're a Top 20 team, Pittsburgh, I just bumped into their coach in the recruiting trails, he's real excited about his team with four starters back who are seniors. We have Syracuse, who Jim Boeheim said this is the best team he's had in five or six years, we play them twice. Notre Dame went all in, they're a Top 20 team as well. So it's different, unique. I think it's no mystery. We've been the number one TV market for the NBA Draft as well as college basketball going on now for about eight to ten years. So there's a reason our conference schedule is a lot tougher than other people's. It's the TV market. TV dictates about 60-70 percent of our schedule. They tell the conference what they want on TV and that's the toughest schedule you get. So it surprised me a little bit because generally, I was used to the Big East where you do have the double games you break it into thirds and play one team in the top third twice, the middle division twice, then the lower division, the ACC doesn't do it that way. So, we've got to be ready. It's a great schedule. It's great for the fans, great for the players, great for you all who cover it. It will be very exciting."
(On the comparison of the ACC to the best years of the Big East) "Well, a lot of people I've spoken to in your business, a lot of people I respect, think it's exactly like that. They think we are a 10 or 11 team bid league. It looks that way on paper as you've got six teams I think ranked in the top-25 and then you have a lot of teams with a lot of people back. It looks that way, but we still have to play the games to determine that."
(On his thoughts of David Levitch's career) "I've always been very, very lucky with walk-ons you know, from Kyle Kuric who originally came in here as a walk-on, to Tim Henderson, and going back to even at Kentucky with Anthony Epps. We've had guys that have determined whether we were going to go to a Final Four or not. They develop into scholarship players and Levitch is one of those types of basketball players."
(On the front court scoring by committee) "I just think they are all going to play equal minutes, so by playing equal minutes – they are all going to want to come out of the game at the pace we are going to be playing, they're going to be very excited to come out and get a break."
(On players making a statement on the court/during national anthem) "We've discussed it. There will be no statements being made."
(So you have had that discussion before?) "I told them that – if anything and I'm not just talking about the injustices of an innocent person being killed – I told them anything that is bothering them socially in life come up here just like I am right now and state your case. It's a free country. You just get up there and you just say your piece, it'll go national, and if there is something bothering you socially, go ahead and say it."
(On V.J. King being ready to contribute) "I think he's ready to compete. Playing against Deng Adel each day and you more than hold your own, and some days get the better of him, you're ready to play."
(On Deng Adel) "It's tough to tell because V.J. is pretty much on the same level. It's really tough to tell, but I love them both. They're both terrific."
(On the point guard spot being a possible problem) "Well, we can play Tony there, we can play Ryan there, we can play Donovan there, so not really."
(On just getting the season started and getting out of practice) "We haven't been practicing that long. We practiced double sessions last Monday and Tuesday then we practiced yesterday, so we haven't been going at it that long. You know, for me, personally, it's about as much fun as I've had in a long, long time the last two years. When you're coaching 40 some odd years and you just can't wait to get to work and it's only because of these guys. To call this job, work, would be an injustice and it's only because of the personality of these players. And you'll witness it. It's just an incredible thing I see everyday. It's fun, the laughter is there, the guys just want to get better and pay attention to every little thing that's being said, and it doesn't happen that way all the time. We are just very lucky here right now – and we've been on a great run. The last six years have been a great run and we don't want to take a step back. So we want to stay with the same six years, now last year we didn't compete in the tournament, but it was still a great season. I'm real appreciative to Damion and Trey and what they brought in one year. I think Tony Hicks is going to have a terrific season as well."
(On what he had to work on with Deng and Donovan) "The number one thing we worked on with Deng and Donovan was their ark. We call it Steph Curry ark. If we can get anything close to that, we are really excited. The only one that is close to that kind of ark is Ryan McMahon when shooting the ball. Their ark has improved so much. Their confidence has improved so much. They have shot the ball thousands and thousands of times working on this ark. They're very, very dedicated basketball players. They're gym rats – they love the game, they love the gym."
(On Deng coming back from his injury) "Well, the first few practices – it only took one day – the first few practices. We put the guys on – I don't care for yelling at them anymore – I just send them on the treadmill for a minute, which is better in their being than being yelled at. So I just said go and I sent Deng to the treadmill the first two practices about 12 times when he didn't take an open three and he ball faked and tried to get a two. And I said if you don't want to shoot it, go, just run and it only lasted one day, which is a good thing."
(On the disadvantages of the schedule) "You know, we're going to have some losses this year that could come and we won't panic with the losses. We're going to be on a heck of a journey, sometimes the journey starts with one game like in the end of November and then starts mid-December and then the journey really starts. It's going to start mid-November this time for good. There won't be an easy game for us. The fans may not understand how good William and Mary or Long Beach State or Evansville will be, but we understand and you do because you're going to know there's starters returning. Obviously you have the Battle for Atlantis. You have Purdue, who is ranked very high; Indiana is ranked very high; Kentucky is ranked very high. Then you're at Notre Dame, so it's going to be a great schedule and we just have to ready for it."
(On the team taking shape like he wants) "I want it to be right away. I want to see a heck of a Red/White Scrimmage tomorrow. Like I said, I think because of our defense the way we are playing we are going to have a lot of turnovers in the game, but it's by design to steal the basketball and create turnovers."
(V.J.'s biggest area of improvement) "Just getting used to the offense and defenses. He's a well-rounded basketball player. He does a lot of different things. I think if you ask the players how impressed they are with him being a freshman, you wouldn't think he was a freshman."
(On getting past the emotions of last year) "Like I said, if it wasn't for the players and the type of people there were last year as well as this year, for anybody as passionate as me with the game – it did bother me a lot last year a great deal with what went on. Where it went on even bothered me more, but I put it behind me and I'm moving forward."
(On when he was able to put last year behind him) "Once the season was over with last year."
(On if the team being close knit and having a good time helps prepare them for the season) "It can't hurt. You know, like I said I guess the players can answer that one better. They're a very close knit team. They do a lot of things together."
(On his confidence that nothing else is coming from the NCAA investigation) "You know, I think once the Notice of Allegations come out then the school will comment on that, but we haven't got to that point yet. Look, this is probably – I know you probably know better than me – that this is probably going to go til June or July before we resolve this and that's probably a lot quicker than North Carolina and Syracuse went through. So it's probably going to be June or July before we get any closure on this, but as far as our basketball team is concerned, we have full closure on this."