Reflections on ACC Media Day: Operation BasketballPosted by Christopher Kehoe on October 20th, 2013
The Atlantic Coast Conference hosted its annual media day for college basketball last Wednesday and each school brought along its head coach and two player representatives. The event was held in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the heart of ACC country, and had it’s own television special on ESPNU, the network’s specific college sports channel. While ESPN analysts like former Duke star Jay Williams took to the blacktop to showcase special moves from the player representatives, they also had group interviews indoors with the coaches and the players. Here is a team-by-team look at some of the highlights from ACC media day:
Note: All quotations and highlights were provided by full transcripts from ACC media day from the conference website.
North Carolina head coach Roy Williams: Williams is playing it safe with his young team by not presenting outrageous expectations and seems to be standing behind his star P.J. Hairston. Interestingly, he has problems with players on very different ends of the weight spectrum, while his deep but very young and inexperienced frontcourt will be intriguing as will the drama surrounding Hairston.
- On creating new rivalries: Syracuse and North Carolina will form a rivalry quickly, won’t ‘have to wait 10-15 years.’
- On P.J. Hairston: “He’s done enough to come back to practice” and has been sensational so far in practice and with conditioning.
- On replacing Reggie Bullock: Leslie McDonald must be a better defender and J.P. Tokoto must not turn the ball over as much.
- On ACC supremacy (a continuing theme throughout, you’ve been warned): “I think it will be the greatest basketball conference ever.” He goes on to mention depth of the league and Tobacco Road going beyond just Duke and Carolina.
- On rules about going pro: He would prefer a rule where players stay in school for at least two years, but acknowledges some players can go pro right away like Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant.
- On Marcus Paige: Can play him simultaneously with freshman Nate Britt, he is one of two leaders on the team along with James McAdoo. Has increased his weight from 154 to 170 now.
- On Kennedy Meeks: Needs to lose weight, has already dropped from 317 to 285 pounds. Brice Johnson on the other hand needs to gain weight. Williams compares Kennedy Meeks to former UNC great Sean May.
- On the ACC Tournament changing locations: Likes the idea of Madison Square Garden but cannot forget the North Carolina roots of the ACC, likes the idea of keeping the location moving around.
Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey: I found his comment on overcoaching very refreshing and unique from a coach, but then again Brey has a uncommon mix of talent and experience on hand with his backcourt of Eric Atkins, Demetrius Jackson and Jerian Grant. He will give the players free rein and a lot, if not all, of their season will depend on how these players handle that kind of responsibility and freedom. It will be a fun season for Notre Dame basketball fans; if nothing else they may get to see those horrifyingly bright adidas uniforms the recruits are so keen on.
- On joining the ACC: He is more comfortable (compared to Big Ten or Big 12) joining because of his ACC roots. Also doesn’t hurt having two assistants that played at Georgia Tech and Virginia.
- On what he will miss most about the Big East: Playing at Madison Square Garden.
- He doesn’t want to ‘overcoach’ his backcourt because of their high talent level (Atkins, Jackson, Grant)
- On his interior players: He expects big things from Garrick Sherman and Zach Auguste (recent broken hand injury) in their valiant attempt to replace glass-eater Jack Cooley.
- On their flashy adidas uniforms: They were a big hit with the players and even bigger hit with the recruits. He still to this day has alumni bringing them up.
- He is excited to reignite the historic Notre Dame-Boston College rivalry.
- On McDonald’s All-American freshman Demetrius Jackson: They haven’t had a kid from South Bend, Indiana (Notre Dame’s home) in 40 years.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski: Nice compliments to CJ Fair from Coach K. He also continues with the thought that Hood and Parker are the focal points of Duke this year, a theme he has been harping on for a few weeks now. He talks about watching Syracuse play when he has the chance since he and Boeheim are such good friends (through USA Basketball). He will need to look past that, and I’m sure he will, when he comes head-to-head with his protégé Mike Brey and his friend Boeheim this season.
- On his team’s focal points: Freshman forward Jabari Parker and redshirt sophomore Rodney Hood are the key figures for Duke. Need to find ways to complement them.
- On sophomore forward Amile Jefferson: He has adapted well starting alongside Parker and Hood. He will not get the ‘center label,’ he will just play alongside them.
- On new friends in the ACC: “I’d rather not play against Mike (Brey of Notre Dame), just like Jim Boeheim (of Syracuse).”
- On the idea of ‘instant rivalries: Games like Duke-Syracuse and Duke-Notre Dame will take on lives of their own almost instantly. Much like what Roy Williams said.
- On leaders: Senior Tyler Thornton is a leader. Rodney Hood has the potential to be a leader. He has never been placed in the position to be one but the guys really respect him.
- On playing Syracuse: “We know that every time we coach against each other right now it will be a historic event with the two winningest coaches going at it at the same time.”
- On Syracuse’s C.J. Fair: “He always comes up in big games. The tougher the situation, the better he is… He’s one of the better players in the United States.”
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim: You have to really appreciate the loyalty towards his players that Boeheim exemplifies. But then again, he’s not one of the winningest coaches in college basketball history for no reason. However, Boeheim better really hope that his words about Tyler Ennis ring true, because he is the only true point guard on the roster and a lot rides on his shoulders. As all could see last year with Kentucky’s disappointing season, a team without a point guard struggles to effectively establish and run its halfcourt offense and reach its potential. The frontcourt matchup versus UNC should be a great one, and Syracuse’s zone against Duke’s shooters and strong backcourt should prove great match-ups down the road.
- On joining the ACC: Syracuse is selling more tickets than we’ve sold in a long time. “This is, I believe, the best league.”
- Duke and UNC can replace historic rivalries Syracuse had formed with teams like Georgetown in the Big East.
- If you’re anywhere among the top 30 teams in the nation, you can get to the Final Four.
- This is the deepest, best front line he’s coached in a long time (watch out ACC!).
- On his backcourt: Very young and inexperienced but talented all the same.
- On freshman point guard Tyler Ennis: He has started four true freshman point guards in his time at Syracuse. He is as comfortable with Ennis as any of the point guards he has started.
Boston College head coach Steve Donahue: Donahue hit a home run on media day, first throwing Ryan Anderson a backhanded compliment and then insinuating that a legendary program like Syracuse isn’t quite up to the challenge that the ACC will bring. His claim about Boston College having the best non-conference schedule in the country is a bit of a stretch as well. The Eagles suit up against VCU, Harvard, UConn, Massachussetts, and Providence, but their schedule doesn’t quite compare to blue-blooded programs like Kansas, Georgetown, Michigan, Duke, Arizona and Kentucky, who will all likely play multiple top 10 teams in their non-conference scheduling.
- On ACC Rookie of the Year Olivier Hanlan: “as hard a worker I’ve ever coached.”
- On junior forward Ryan Anderson: He has outplayed younger and more athletic players because of his age, body, and strength. He has “overachieved dramatically because of his physical limitations.”
- On Syracuse: “I think they (Syracuse) are in for an eye-opening experience. The basketball is dramatically different (in the ACC).”
- On Boston College’s schedule: “We have arguably the best non-league schedule in the country”
- On the ACC as the best conference: “I think we can be the most dominant amateur athletic conference that’s ever been put together.”
Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon: Turgeon will have his hands full this year with the type of weaknesses that give coaches restless nights. His team will have versatility, athleticism and a lot of growing pains as they go through the season and the more perilous ACC for the last time. They have a good core in Dez Wells, Evan Smotrycz, Nick Faust, Seth Allen, Shaquille Cleare, and Roddy Peters. It should be a very interesting year for the Maryland Terrapins.
- On Maryland’s leaders: Dez Wells has been a vocal leader in practice, while Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz is another leader.
- On their last year in the ACC: “We have a responsibility in our last year to represent Maryland in the ACC.”
- He seemed to have some concern for filling up the seats during Maryland’s home games.
- On Maryland’s weaknesses: Turnovers, decision-making, and shot selection.
- On defense: They lost their two best defenders in Alex Len (NBA) and Pe’Shon Howard (USC transfer). Nick Faust will be their best perimeter defender this year, Turgeon surmises.
- On going pro: Echoes the theme of the day, players should stay for two to three years. You can choose to go pro from high school but if you choose college you need to stay a while.
Miami (FL) head coach Jim Larranaga: Gotta love Larranaga. Two thumbs up especially for his use of Ken Pomeroy’s advanced statisical metrics. He will have his hands full with a rebuilding project this year but he will have the Hurricanes back on track in no time, especially if last year’s overachieving squad is any indication of his skill set as Miami’s head coach.
- Larranaga is an adjunct professor and guest lecturer, teaching teamwork, leadership and life after college.
- On his key players: Believes Miami will rely on three players. Garrius Adams, a redshirt from last year, Rion Brown, a senior and the team’s leading returning scorer, and Tonye Jekiri, the team’s much improved starting center.
- On possible NCAA changes: He would like to reduce the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds. He also would like to make sure the block/charge rule is properly enforced.
- On advanced statistics: “KenPom stats help us to identify strengths and weaknesses in our program.” It helps to motivate players and give them a clear vision and idea of where they stand in relation to the rest of the country.
Virginia Tech head coach James Johnson: Not much to work with in the interview with the relatively young Johnson. Unfortunately he will have a similar problem with the Hokies’ roster this upcoming season. Replacing Erick Green may be a blessing in disguise seeing as a critique of Virginia Tech’s offense last year was there were too many people standing around watching Green create his own shot. Now is the time for other players to blossom and put Virginia Tech back on the map.
- On Erick Green, Virginia Tech’s star who graduated last year and led the nation in scoring: “I don’t know if anyone in this league will (lead the nation in scoring).”
- On Ben Emelogu: He is a natural leader and has earned respect from everyone all around since day one.
- The Hokies return seven of their nine leading scorers.
- On Jim Boeheim: “We brought in one of the best coaches in the history of college basketball into the league.”
Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton: It seems like Hamilton and the Seminoles had a productive overseas trip. Instead of lacing up against cupcake lower-tier professional teams, they played a national team that competes in the Olympics and in very competitive FIBA tournaments. It was a great experience for the young Florida State team and one they will hopefully carry regardless through this season and beyond, as they are likely destined for a lower-half conference finish.
- On areas for improvement this season: Need to mentally and emotionally mature as well as improve defensive fundamentals.
- On the new ACC: It is going to have a Final Four like atmosphere on a consistent basis because of all the rich program histories in the new ACC and the competitive level of play.
- On their overseas trip to Greece: Playing the Greece national Olympic team was an ‘eye-opener.’ The Greeks ‘put them in their place’ the second game and showed them a thing or two about European-style basketball. Hamilton thinks the Olympic pros didn’t want a college team to come in and ‘overshadow them.’
Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory: Gregory has done a solid recruiting job since he came on at Georgia Tech in 2011. He still faces an uphill battle in the rigorous ACC, where his team still finds itself near the cellar on a frequent basis. Comparing the Yellow Jackets to more superior teams like Maryland, Boston College, and the Virginia Cavaliers, however, may have been a bit too optimistic for Brian Gregory this season.
- On weaknesses from last year’s squad: Inconsistency was a big key. They also had a lot of inexperienced freshmen on the team.
- They are returning four starters, two of which were very effective freshmen (Carter Jr. and Georges-Hunt).
- Believes center Daniel Miller is an all-ACC Defensive performer
- On ACC supremacy: “This is the best basketball league in the country by far.”
- Wants to prioritize in-state recruiting of Georgia players.
North Carolina State head coach Mark Gottfried: Now while Gottfried probably won’t make any friends at the NCAA with his comments on amateurism and going pro, kudos for speaking his mind. His team was gutted by the NBA Draft and graduation and he will have to groom sophomore forward T.J. Warren, Anthony Barber, and sophomore point guard Tyler Lewis to lead this team to the promised land.
- Emphasizes turning a new page after losing the core that won 48 games over the past two years (C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell).
- On ACC dominance: “I think this league is becoming clearly the best basketball conference in the country.”
- On freshman guard Barber: He has the potential to be the best on-ball defender Gottfried has ever coached.
- Gottfried is very impressed by junior college player Desmond Lee.
- On the going pro rule: The one year rule in place is “the worst way we could do it.”
Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon: I am excited to see Dixon out to prove college basketball analysts wrong this year with a frenzied pace and eclectic offensive attack that will take the ACC by storm. Or we will just see more physical, grind-it-out basketball from the Panthers, which is okay too. After all, a huge selling point of this year’s ACC (and future ACC) is the multitude of styles of plays you will encounter during the conference schedule.
- On moving to the ACC: Pittsburgh has a lot of ties in ACC country, should be a smooth transition.
- On misconceptions about their offense: His teams are often labeled ‘physical defensive teams’ with no focus on their offensive production or potency, while statistics prove their offense is one of the best in the country.
- What statistics he likes: Points-per-possession stats.
- On going pro: He would like players to stay for two or three years but realizes the NBA doesn’t want that so they must make a compromise. “It is what it is.”
Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik: Bzdelik must be going through a tough time as Wake’s coach. His fan base has created websites and petitions for him to be fired, he’s lost his fair share of games (understatement!), and he is plagued by the inexperience of youth in recent years. Hopefully he remains optimistic and their reliance on Travis McKie will bear fruit, or Wake Forest will find itself staring into the eyes of a battle for a last place finish.
- Nearly 62% of his team’s total minutes last season were played by freshmen.
- He needed to ‘shell shock’ the freshmen last year as coach because they ‘had no idea what was in store for them.’
- On his team’s composition: They will go 10 deep, so depth is a major asset for the Demon Deacons.
- On being on the hot seat: “Nobody puts more pressure on me than myself”. He also states how they had great fan support (because fan support has a direct correlation to how well you are coaching, right?).
- He stresses the small margin of error in a season. Stresses toughness, effort, and defensive transition to win these close games.
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell: Brownell makes no secret of his K.J. McDaniels mancrush, and anyone who has watched the athletic forward can attest to his natural gifts. They had a ferocious defensive team last season and will miss the departure of Milton Jennings, even though he never lived up to his McDonald’s All-American pedigree. I hope Brownell will be happy with a less than satisfying team season and an all-ACC team spot for McDaniels, because that seems a likely outcome.
- On McDaniels: Leader of the team, along with Rod Hall. He is a highlight reel waiting to happen. He “can’t coach” what McDaniels brings to the table and “our fans are spoiled with that guy. He provides entertainment all night every night.”
- Believes they will be a better perimeter shooting team this year. Primarily due to Devin Coleman and Damarcus Harrison.
- On the ACC: They brought in great programs, not just good ones. The ACC affords teams the opportunity to beat Top 25 teams every week.
- Adding new teams helps recruiting, especially from an Indiana native’s perspective like Brownell (wants to recruit the Midwest more).
Virginia coach Tony Bennett: An interesting take from Bennett, who will coach one of the ACC’s most dangerous teams, led by seniors Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, as well as up-and-coming sophomores Justin Anderson and Mike Tobey. They will certainly have the depth and experience to challenge the upper-tier ACC teams and should prove a tough egg to crack especially at their home arena. Any time that college basketball fans get to watch Harris is a good one, as far as I’m concerned.
- Superior experience and upperclassmen should translate into success. There is no substitute for experience, especially going against teams chock full of McDonald’s All-Americans in the ACC.
- On the ACC: Believes they are the best basketball conference in the nation, but wants to prove it first.
- Approach to defense: A team-oriented approach to ‘outlast’ your opponent.’ It is a battle of wills first and foremost.