Bill Hass on the ACC: Lessons From the Olympics and Other Words of Wisdom
Oct. 27, 2008
By Bill Hass
ATLANTA – Fresh from coaching Team USA to the gold medal in the Beijing Olympics, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is anxious for the college season to get going.
And, no, he doesn’t look at his players and expect them to perform like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, even though his players might aspire to.
“A couple of times in preseason workouts I’ve reminded my players that I think they were putting a lot of pressure on themselves,” Krzyzewski said at Sunday’s ACC Operation Basketball. “I said, ‘this is where I want to be, and I’m not judging you by Kobe Bryant or LeBron or whatever. (The Olympics) was really great then; I love where I am now. I expect you to make mistakes.’ They want to be all those things but if they were those things they wouldn’t be playing for me at Duke.”
Krzyzewski said he thinks he’s a better teacher now because he learned much from his coaching staff, from the NBA players and from watching coaches from other countries.
“One of the great things about our game is there are so many ways of playing it. I got to see at a real high level with these guys. It has also made me more excited to teach, and sometimes it confirms something old that you’ve done because (other countries) did it, too.”
36-3 hardly a failure
North Carolina was the unanimous pick to finish first in the regular season, the second straight year for that distinction. And that’s exactly what the Tar Heels did last season. Coach Roy Williams dismissed the notion that the 2007-08 season should be considered a “failure” because his team didn’t bring home the national title.
“Thirty-six wins, three losses, winning the regular season championship, winning the (tournament) championship, making the Final Four,” Williams, said. “Ask any coach in this room if they would take that right now hands down, including me. I’d take it.
“It doesn’t have to be about the last team standing. Our kids understand that. That doesn’t mean they don’t have the goal, have the dream (of a national championship). I have the goal and the dream.”
Williams said no one has to worry about him if his team doesn’t bring home the big trophy.
“If I’m laying on the concrete between the Smith Center and the swimming pool,” he said, “please have it investigated because I did not jump. Somebody pushed me or I slipped off the logo.”
Playing with an edge
In Frank Haith’s previous four seasons at Miami, the Hurricanes were picked by the ACC media to finish sixth, seventh, 11th and 12th. Last year, of course, they finished fifth and made the NCAA Tournament.
This year, even though Miami was picked fourth, Haith still wants his team to think of itself as an underdog.
“We’re not concerned with what people think of our team, we only worry about things we can control, and that’s how we play, how we grow and how we develop,” Haith said. “We’re a team that played with an edge, with a chip (on our shoulder), and it’s not because we were picked last, last year. I think it’s because that’s who we’ve got to be as a program.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who weren’t that highly recruited, so we play with that certain amount of underdog role. I think our guys are driven by that and we have to keep that in our program. That has to be who we are, playing with that toughness, that competitive spirit night in and night out to win any game. That’s got to be our staple.”
Looking for a surprise?
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton noted that the ACC always has two or three surprise teams each season. And he believes his club, picked to finish 10th, can be one this year.
“On paper we’re supposed to be young and inexperienced,” he said. “We lost three seniors who played prominent roles. But I’ve got five freshmen, a junior college player and a red-shirt freshman. So we’re supposed to be adjusting and regrouping.
“I like this team. I think we’ll be a lot more competitive than people think. The (incoming players) all have a level of maturity that’s different from the average kid coming in. I love their work ethic, their attitude. They have a competitive spirit and an unselfish spirit. You can coach this team without worrying about egos.”
Hamilton mentioned Miami being picked for 12th last year, but making the NCAA Tournament and winning a game. The year before, Virginia was picked eighth and tied for first place.
“That lets you know that whoever is making those predictions, you don’t need to take them to Las Vegas with you,” he said with a laugh. “One thing is for sure, however the league is predicted, it’s not going to finish that way.”
The 3-point line
The distance for 3-pointers has been moved from 19 feet, 9 inches to 20 feet, 9 inches. The theory is that it will help spacing and open up the inside game. Some reactions:
Clemson’s Oliver Purnell: “I think it will help us because we have four or five guys who can step out there and knock that shot down. It will open up the floor with good spacing, which we like anyway. It will help Demontez Stitt, our slashing point guard, get into the lane, and it will allow us to be able to get the ball to (post player) Trevor Booker inside with some room to work. Anytime you put four shooters on the floor around a low-post threat, you’ve got a huge advantage. I think you’re going to see more four-perimeter players in the lineup.”
NC State’s Sidney Lowe: “It doesn’t seem like a lot, but moving it back one foot could make a big difference. Some of the guys were shooting a decent percentage where it was and moving it back will make it a little tougher. I think if you’re fortunate enough to have some guys who can sit out there and make that shot, absolutely (it will open up the inside). If you don’t have those guys, people are going to pack it in on you. I think for certain teams it will be an advantage.”
Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt: “It can (open up the inside) but it can also cause more zone and force people to force those deep twos, those 19-9 twos. Those 19-9 twos are tough. If you look that those numbers, that’s about a 38 percent shot. You don’t mind 38 percent from three, but you’ve definitely got a problem with 38 percent from two.”
Coach Dave Leitao’s Cavaliers were picked to finish 12th, but he had a steady stream of reporters around his table. One asked if it was because Sean Singletary, now in the NBA, was coming back. Leitao’s reply: “He’s returning his money and his guaranteed contract and he’s coming back, as most guys do when they get in the world and they learn what it’s about.”
Wake Forest has three freshman big men in Al-Farouq Aminu, Tony Woods and Ty Walker. Coach Dino Gaudio expects to find minutes for all. “I told those kids from day one, ‘we’ve got five starters back from last year. If you want to supplant them, if you want to take their place, you’ve got to do it on the practice floor.’ At this point, on Oct. 26, I have not put our guys on the floor and said ‘these are the five right now, you have gold shirts, and (five backups) have black shirts.’ The freshmen have done a great job and are going to make significant contributions.’”
Virginia Tech’s Seth Greenberg said there’s no such thing as an ACC team “sneaking up” on another. “It’s a league game, the ball goes up in the air and you’re trying to improve you team, you need that win. In terms of sneaking up, I think there’s tremendous parity. If you make the NCAA Tournament, which is very hard to do, you have a chance to win a bunch of games. Sneaking up, not sneaking up, what other people think – if we worried about that, two of the last four years we would have come in last.”
Boston College coach Al Skinner on how All-ACC guard Tyrese Rice can even better as a senior: “He’s very capable of doing whatever it is the team needs in order for us to be successful, whether it’s scoring less, getting more assists, shooting a higher percentage. That’s what makes him a great player. It’s nice to know you have a player capable of going out and dominating a game, particularly on the offensive end.”
Maryland coach Gary Williams expects junior point guard Greivis Vasquez to cut down his turnovers by making the easy pass instead of the difficult pass, and to keep his emotions in check on court. Williams, full of fire and passion on the sideline, said he doesn’t clash with Vasquez, full of fire and passion on the court. “We get along really well, we’ve never had any problems. I like a player like that because you do have players who don’t have that same intensity level, so you hope some of that rubs off on them.”
NC State’s Sidney Lowe, on whether, after injuries decimated his team at point guard last season, he considered dusting off his 1983 uniform when he was the point guard on the Wolfpack’s national championship team: “I don’t think I could fit. I might be able to wear it as a Halloween costume.”
Bill Hass is a long-time observer of ACC sports. His career at the Greensboro News & Record spanned 36 years, from 1969 until his retirement in March, 2006. He is now writing "Bill Hass on the ACC" for theACC.com. His weekly columns will keep fans plugged in to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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