Oct. 4, 2011
– With the official start of basketball practice just 10 days away, head coach Brian Gregory met with the Atlanta media Tuesday for a 25-minute session to talk about the team’s progress.
Opening Statement: It’s been a great six months. It’s still kind of a whirlwind in terms of just trying to get everything in and get ready for next Friday. We are excited about the start of practice even though with some of the rules now, we have been able to have five team workouts already. I’ve been impressed with our guys’ commitment to learning a new system and buying into some of the stuff we are not only trying to put in but also emphasize as a program. It’s a day-by-day process, obviously. We tell our guys every day, every workout, every study hall session, every team meeting is an opportunity to build our program, and our guys have done a good job of that. It’s a process. We understand that. But it’s something that myself and our staff and our players are excited about every single day. I like where we are right now, but that won’t be good enough tomorrow, so we have got to get better today.
On the point guard situation:
Well if you look at the roster, to start it off, you have two players who have played that position primarily their whole life in Mfon (Udofia) and Pierre (Jordan), so it starts there. In the workouts that we have had, I think they understand some of the things that I demand from a point guard. I think it’s kind of a clean slate for both of those guys. It has been good in terms of their confidence and their leadership skills and so forth. It’s going to be a process as well. In our system, both defensively and offensively, a lot is asked of the point guard. I’ve been blessed to coach some pretty good ones and, at the same time, understand that there is a learning curve. Both of those guys are highly intelligent players with a good understanding, and it’s just going to be something we have to continue to build on. The most important thing is they set the tone and tempo for the energy level that needs to be brought everyday.
On the three new players (Julian Royal, Pierre Jordan, Brandon Reed)
Every is a new face to me. If you go down the list, obviously with Julian as a freshman, there is a big transition from high school basketball to the level that we want to compete at. I think he has done a very good job starting in the summer with a commitment to getting into the best shape of his life, and I think he has done a good job of that. That transition is never-ending. He has to continue to do that. But I have been impressed with his work ethic. I have been impressed with his ability to understand some of his shortcomings at this time. I like his skill package as I said before, and now being able to work with him, he definitely has a very high skill level. When that meets with the work ethic, and with getting in ACC-caliber shape and understanding the physicality you have to play with at this level, I think he has a chance to really be a good player here.
Pierre is unique situation for us, something that I have never been through before. But he has definitely helped us already. He brings a maturity to the court. He is a tremendous worker. As I mentioned before, a clean slate of his understanding, knowing that he will be counted on a daily basis has been good for him. Like I said, he brings a lot of positives to us on a daily basis just in terms of work ethic and understanding. He has played in a very successful program over the last three years.
Brandon is a new face, but was around last year. He’s a guy who does have a great passion for the game and is a tremendous worker. One thing he needs to understand, as well as the other guys who had to redshirt, is that he can’t make up for all of last year in the first practice or in the first five minutes of the first game. He’s jumping levels, which is a challenge. At the same time I think he’s proven himself on a daily basis that he’s an ACC-caliber player. But again, he needs to do what we need him to do, not try to go out and prove that he can play in the ACC.
On limitations for team workouts:
The only limitation is the amount of hours per week. Up until September 15 you have two hours per week with our guys to do whatever we want to do basketball-wise. We have an additional six hours for lifting and conditioning. Up until September 15 you cannot have more than four players on the court at one time, so we do all individual skill development at that time. Once September 15 hits, you can have an unlimited amount of players on the court, but there is still a two-hour time slot that you can have instruction. We start doing more team stuff during those two hours. We’ll do that in three 40-minute segments or if we’ve been on the road recruiting then we’ll go with two hour-long segments during the week. It’s a lot of defensive stuff right now, but there’s some offensive stuff as well. What that does is kind of mark what one of those segments in our practices will be like. Like we’ll have a defensive segment, they’ll do defensive core work, you do break downs and so on. So they get a feel for what practices are going to be like so that everything isn’t new to them. And the one thing is, there’s no question about what I’ve found in those first five workouts is that this team can pick up stuff fairly quickly, which is always a benefit. Being able to fulfill their demands within those particular things is another question, but they understand it which is a good start.
On the players’ perspectives of how the new coaching is different:
To be honest with you, I’m not worried about what happened here in the past. I’m not asking them to compare it or contrast it. We have enough work to do without worrying about that. We know how we want to play and we know that has to have the flexibility to match our strengths and hide our weaknesses. We’re focused on today and moving forward, not really worrying about what’s been taught or how it’s been taught. For us it’s a waste of time. For the players, it’s not fair to them. We just need to move on.
On how he shows the team the types of play he expects:
Well, we tell our guys every day that they are in control. They’re responsible for their attitude, energy level, and effort level. Those are the three things that they can control. No outside force should have any control on that. I think our guys are starting to grasp that. How do you drive that home? The way you structure your practice, what you emphasize in practice, different things. If a guy doesn’t rotate over to where he’s supposed to be and pick up a charge, there are some things that he’s going to have to do if he doesn’t do that. You show them film and different clips. Again, that’s a process of the things that we will go through. Effort plays, hustle plays, never giving up on a play. We want our team to be characterized as a team that never gives up on a play. Those are things that you have to emphasize during practice. You have to catch guys doing it right during practice, stop the practice and make sure that everybody knows that that is exactly what we’re talking about. And at the same time when guys don’t do it, you have to do the same thing with the understanding that you can’t demand it every day unless it’s emphasized and the guys know what you’re talking about. You have to show them good and bad, and that’s what some of these early workouts will be like. We have six more left and then hopefully our guys will understand that. The guys kind of know what playing hard is all about. And sometimes they make a conscious decision not to get back or not to get on the floor for a loose ball. We need to create an environment where that is just who we are and what we do every day.
On the starting lineup:
That’s a ways off right now in terms of trying to figure that out. That will be determined based on daily performance in practice. One of the things we really stress is that you can’t get it done 30 nights a year if you don’t create the habits on a daily basis. It’s not just about what occurs on the court. Being dependable, being accountable, being responsible. That encompasses everything that you do. On the biggest things is that we play defense where five guys cover the ball in a total team defense. That dependability knowing that you have four guys ready to help you is showing in everything that the guys do. Every day we make evaluations on that, not just on the basketball court.
On the toughest thing to teach incoming freshmen:
One of the key challenges in that transition is that you need that intensity in everything that you do on a daily basis when you go to college and when you play at this level. Again, I don’t necessarily isolate the basketball side of things. That’s in everything. They have to study more, pay closer attention in class. When we have a team meeting they have to be ready and focused for whatever is being taught in that. They have to transfer stuff from film onto the court. And obviously the intensity that you have to practice with, the intensity when you go through your shooting drills before practice. All of those things are a challenge that young people have to meet in order for them to be successful. With that comes the speed and the physicality. If you’re sore and tired from the previous practice in high school you’d be able to slide through that practice. At the college level, if you do that, then you’re not living up to your obligations as a team member. That’s something that the guys are going to have to learn. It helps when the overall environment has created that “everybody is counting on you” mentality. We’re in the process of trying to build that right now.
On the transition for the coaching staff:
I stated once I was able to complete our staff that I was really happy with it. Obviously I think that in the time since then I’ve only become more pleased. A big part of that was in the recruiting aspect of things. I think we have guys that are very passionate about Georgia Tech and what we’re going to build here. That shows through in the recruiting side of things. I like guys who work their craft. Becoming a better coach is important to them so that they aren’t just one-dimensional guys. In this day and age’ it’s tough to pigeon-hole guys into certain spots. Our guys take this profession very seriously. I think they’ve done a good job of forging relationships with our player which will only be strengthened as we move forward. They’ve done a good job of connecting us in the recruiting network. And then obviously they know their X’s and O’s as well. We’ve been able to bring them together.
Every staff has strengths and weaknesses. As we continue to work together, the key to having a great staff is to make sure that those guys in their particular strengths are given those responsibilities. As a head coach, it’s also my responsibility to help those guys grow as coaches and recruiters. I want guys on my staff who want to be head coaches and want to run their own programs. They need to think like that as well, and I think we’ve got guys who do that on a daily basis.
On the health of Kammeon Holsey:
We’ve had no problems at all with Kam’s health. My hope is that you see a different Kam this year than you have in the past. In watching film you could see that he was slowed down with the soreness in the knee. He’s gotten stronger. I think the knee has gotten stronger. I think he has more confidence in it. You hope that that continues to progress and move forward. Obviously, whenever you deal with someone who’s had an injury in the past, you are always working on that. He’s always doing extra stretching, rehab, icing, and all that stuff. I think he’s made a commitment to taking care of his body so his recovery time and ability on the court is better. Another injury update: Jason Morris, who had his surgery this summer, his toe is doing much better. He’s at full go in practice and workouts. He did miss some extended time this summer with that and with some family situations and so forth. He’s a guy that’s in the process of getting back to where we need him.
On the unique home schedule this season:
I’ve not had a lot of feedback from the players. We’re concentrating on the next workout. It’s going to be a challenge with the games up in Gwinnett and down in Philips Arena and not having a true home court. But the staffs at both places have been incredible to us in terms of trying to create some availability for us to get in there to use those venues before we start. I think that there’s some excitement in the Gwinnett area about us playing our games up there. We had an autograph session before the football game against Kansas and there were a lot of fans from Gwinnett there that day. I felt like that was a really positive experience, not only for our players but for the fans. But it’s going to put us in a challenging situation. At the same time I do think that there’s an opportunity to grow from it and to get better. Once the ACC starts and our games are in Philips Arena, I think we’ll be able to get on a bit more of a routine. I think the big challenge for us in the early part of the season is the travel time for us. That’s something that we’re trying to work on to make it as easy for our players as possible.
On ACC expansion:
I was really excited about that when I heard it. To bring Syracuse and Pittsburgh in – I was like “Welcome to the ACC!” It’s great for our league. I think it strengthens our league in so many ways. Personally, on the basketball side of things, I don’t think that there’s any question that the ACC is night in and night out the best conference in the country, and this just catapulted us way beyond anybody else when it comes to toughness, tradition, and quality of play that you’re going to see in the future. You brought in a Hall of Fame coach in Jim Boeheim, who, over the last 20 something years, has run one of the best programs in the country, not only in terms of success on the court but in terms of national spotlight. It’s amazing when you look what Pitt has done in the last six or seven years in that league and on the national level. Coach Jamie Dixon has done just an unbelievable job. That has become a national program now as well. They’ve been ranked in the top 10 in each of the last five years. So for us as a league, I think you have to give our leadership credit because they were aggressive and did a great job of solidifying with those two teams as members, not just in basketball, but every aspect of the ACC. When everybody else was talking about other things, our leadership was getting the job done. Whenever they join, it will be a great day for the ACC.
On Glen Rice, Jr., fitting into the offense
I like Glen’s versatility. I think his athletic ability is going to be able to be highlighted a little bit in the open court. I do think he has a knack to be able to score baskets, which you can’t necessarily teach. His challenge as a junior now is to do that on a consistent basis. That’s one thing that we’ve really stressed with him and that again goes back to what I said earlier – that has to occur on a day in and day out [basis]. There are habits he has on a daily basis that will show in games, and he’ll be more consistent in games the more consistent he becomes daily. His versatility gives us the option to use him to score with the ball and score without the ball. To put a smaller guy on him, he’s shown the ability to score around the basket in the post as well. As we get into practice and start formulating our system and style we have a good feel for, but then that has to be implemented with our personnel to highlight what they do well and what’s the best chance to be successful. The versatility is always something that you’re looking for and Glen has that.
On evaluations that can be made right now
I do think that we have some players that are not pleased where they’re at right now as players. That’s always a good point to start from, because that means you’re driven to improve and get better. And maybe not satisfied with some of the results they’ve had personally, individually and collectively. So that’s something that you need to continue to build on and challenge with and I think you can go down the list and that’s been one common thread among all the players. When you say O.K. this is what you want to get done, these are things you need to do and you lay it out for them, they’re smart enough to figure that out, and I think they’ve done a pretty good job of that. The follow through and continuing to do that on a continual basis is always going to be a challenge. Our guys may say they want to do stuff or accomplish these things or whatever it might be, but more times than not it’s a payment issue and guys willing to actually pay the cost of what needs to be cashed in in order to accomplish the things they want to.
On players making strides from spring
I would say to a man that I’ve been at least pleased with everybody’s progress, again not only just in terms of their work capacity which is important. The summer months are important. We can’t work with them, and I was fortunate enough to be able to bring in Mike Bewley, the strength and conditioning coach I had at Dayton, and he becomes the voice for those guys in the summer. I think our guys really bought into the fact that one of the things we can control is becoming stronger, becoming even better conditioned, and becoming more explosive and more athletic, and guys did a very good job of that. I would say everybody when you see them, you’ll notice a change in their bodies, you’ll notice a change in their conditioning and so forth. We are not the deepest team, so conditioning is going to be very important. And being able to fight through fatigue is going to be important. So I think in those areas all our guys improved in terms of the skill things they do, the tangible things, the shooting, the ball handling. We put a big emphasis on handling the ball. It’s hard to win games if you turn the ball over. It’s hard to win games if you shoot a poor percentage and let the other team shoot a high percentage. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to figure that one out. I think in terms of getting a ton of shots up this summer and working ball skills and obviously reevaluating where the guys were in the spring. I think our guys made significant improvements.
On technology in training
We started out a few years ago and we’re still in the process of implementing all the stuff here. First off, it evaluates and measure the workload that each player is doing. So there are a couple benefits for it. Number one, instantly during any workout that we have, I can check to see where guys’ work level is. So if they tell me they’re working hard, I can get an actual measurement of that workload they’re performing at and measure it to the other guys on the court as well, so that’s always a nice measurement to be able to have. At the same time, there’s a lot of guys who may think they’re working hard, and when you show them where they are compared to the other guys, they understand they’re not quite where they need to be.
The other thing that for me as a coach is invaluable is something that we’ve used and has helped us is the evaluations post-workouts, and Mike is the expert on that stuff so he meets with me to tell me this is where we’re at today. Tomorrow we need to be at this particular point, or tomorrow we need to go shorter or not quite as intense for an extended amount of time or a lot of different things. As a coach you want to keep driving, driving, driving, driving, driving and you think you have a good pulse on things but in all actuality with my personality I probably don’t have a pulse on that. I think what it does do is it puts you in a position where you’re not wearing the guys down on a continual basis. Having that empirical information definitely helps us.
It takes some time but our guys start buying into it as well, and they start understanding that also, and they start to see if they eat enough during they day and they haven’t got enough rest or they ate four burgers and three orders of fries, they understand they get tired faster or whatever the case might be because of that. To play at this level and be successful there has to be a large commitment and this helps us establish that.
On the parallels between Tech and Dayton when you started
I was fortunate when I took over at Dayton to have an excellent team coming back. We had lost some players but the nucleus of the team had three seniors who were four-year starters more or less. But at the same time, it was kind of a different style of play and so forth. Those guys bought in extremely well, and we had an extremely successful season that first year. At the same time we knew that after that year we were going to have to build it back up. There are some similarities, but the most important thing is every coach has a different culture that they want to create, and everyday we have to work on building that culture.
This is Georgia Tech we’re going to get high quality players here. Our job is to bring in those type of players that are high character kids that understand what Georgia Tech is all about. If you do that and you create the culture where there’s a great work ethic, there’s a great energy level, there’s unselfishness, what’s best for the team is always going to be asked. Those two combined is that the wins and the success will kind of take care of themselves. We believe in the process and so forth. That’s what we’re trying to create. I felt that over the last four years at Dayton when we had all of the guys that we had recruited, I thought that we had that on a daily basis where we just had to worry about getting guys better and playing together as a team because all that other stuff was kind of taken care of.