Oct. 27, 2011
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THE MODERATOR: Coach, opening statement.
COACH McCAFFERY: I feel really good about our team right now. As we came into this season, you know, I think the most important thing was to look back to the previous few months since our season ended. We had some highlights, we had some lowlights last year, but what we did was improve. And I think I’ve been around long enough to know that you have to watch and see how our players respond to how the season ended and what they do in the spring, what they do in the summer, what they do in the fall. And what I’ve seen is a tremendous commitment individually to improving physically, which I think is important, especially for our big guys, when you look at (Melsahn) Basabe and Zach McCabe and Andrew Brommer, Devon Archie. Body fat down. Weight up. Much better shape to play the kind of style we want to play. Now they understand what we’re doing, and I think when you look at the fact that we have so much experience back and an excellent recruiting class, I feel very strongly that we’re going to be much improved.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Fran, could you give us an update on a couple of your injured guys, specifically (Aaron) White and Brommer?
COACH McCAFFERY: White’s fine. The two guys that concern me right now are obviously Andrew Brommer. He hurt his knee on the first day of practice. It could have been worse, but it wasn’t a good one. So he’s probably going to be out overall about a month. He’s progressing well. He’s been doing some pool workouts. And he had worked so hard to get in great shape. He was down four percent body fat and he was up eight pounds, up over 250. And we need that kind of bulk in this league. So he was playing great. But unfortunately got hurt. So he’ll stay on top of it. But he’s probably a good three weeks out before he can play. Hopefully it will be sooner. Devyn Marble is a bigger concern. He suffered a concussion about the third or fourth day of practice, and he has been out since then. As you know, that’s something that is much more scrutinized than it ever was before. He looks fine, he says he feels fine, but there’s a variety of tests he has to pass that aren’t going as well. So we’re not going to risk that.
Q. You talked on Media Day about the challenge of implementing your system in the Big Ten against a predominant style. (Nebraska head coach) Doc talked about that there’s some Doc Sadler that there’s different styles in the Big Ten you have to adjust to. Can you talk about, first of all, implementing your up tempo style in this league and running into different preparations across the spectrum?
COACH McCAFFERY: Obviously in this league there are a tremendous group of coaches that prepare extremely well. It is primarily a half court league. We prefer to go a little bit quicker than that. It’s not that teams don’t run. Some of them are opportunistic running teams. Some will run based on who their point guard is and some are more set play oriented teams. I’ve always been a quick up, attack the rim and press more. We didn’t press nearly as much last year as I wanted to. For two reasons: number one, we weren’t deep enough, and, number two, the talent of the perimeter players in this league and the ball handling ability of the front court guys is so good that you better be pressing correctly your slides and your angles and things of that nature better be on target or else you could press and get ripped to shreds. So it’s great to say those kinds of things, but what you have to do is be able to back it up with quality play. We did it at times, and other times we would back it off because it wasn’t working as well. Now we’re in year two. We have more time to spend working on that and to get our guys organized. Now we’re teaching it to three players and not the entire team. And it’s always better. Whatever presses you run are always better in years two, three, and four. So I think: Can you play faster? Absolutely. This is not a walk it up league like I think a lot of people think it is, but it is a league where there’s going to be a lot of strategy and there’s going to be different approaches. And I think that’s part of what makes it so much fun for us as coaches and I think for the fans as well.
Q. How much is Melsahn Basabe been playing in practice?
COACH McCAFFERY: He’s playing the 4. That would be my desire. Archie has been playing the 5. He’s doing extremely well. Actually our leading rebounder from the first day of practice has been Gabe Olaseni, our 6-10 freshman. He’s been phenomenally consistent. Aaron White and Zach McCabe are playing extremely well. I don’t know right now who I would start in another position. You might be right. It might be White or McCabe, but it very well could be Archie or Olaseni. So I would prefer to leave Melsahn at the 4. Leave him there. I think that will help him stay out of foul trouble. But he’s getting reps at both starts and can play both. He’s up to 234. So he could play a little bit more there. I should say he would be a little more effective there maybe than he would have been last year. So we’ll just have to wait and see.
Q. Something else Doc talked about coming into the league is the attendance in the Big Ten and the crowds, and you’ve talked about going on the road in the Big Ten and how difficult it is. How do the crowds play into that? And how different is it from your experience elsewhere?
COACH McCAFFERY: Well, it’s phenomenally different from my experiences elsewhere. We didn’t play in front of crowds anywhere near what we see on a nightly basis. I think that’s what makes it so exciting. I think when you factor in everything that goes into playing on the road, obviously there’s the fatigue part of the travel. We try to eliminate that by chartering as much as we charter as much as possible. So it’s not like the old days where you were stuck in airports all the time. So that helps. But you still have to travel. You still have to play on their floor and staying in a hotel and you’re dealing with the opponents’ fans which are going to be on you. And the crowds, they impact the game in a positive way for the home team. There’s a reason why 75 percent of the time the home team wins. And it’s all of those factors together that play into it. There’s no question that we’re going to shoot the ball better at home. And that’s just a fact. It’s not that you couldn’t go on the road and have a great shooting night. But on a percentage basis you’re going to shoot the ball better at home. Turn the ball over less at home. And the game is influenced greatly by the intensity level of the crowd. And there’s not one crowd in this league that is not great. So I think all of us would say to a man, you want to protect your home floor and then have enough toughness and have enough quality guard play to win some of those close games on the road. And that’s typically the teams that end up in the top half of the league and end up in the NCAA tournament.
Q. You’re an Eastern guy in a Midwestern locale that typically has had a little bit of a problem finding a certain foothold in recruits anyway. After a full year of recruiting, have you developed any philosophy along those lines, or do you just get players wherever you can get them?
COACH McCAFFERY: Obviously we’ve tried to lock in to the best players of our state. I think everyone in this league does that. But after that, then you’re going to go to the Midwest. When you grow up in the Midwest, you grow up with a Big Ten influence. I think most young players they watch the Big Ten games and they’ve grown up following their parents and their coaches. They grew up following the Big Ten. So we’re going to go there. And then we’re going to take advantage of the contacts that I have back East and my staff and so forth. But when it’s all said and done, I think what the Big Ten Network has done has enabled us to pretty much go anywhere. When you think about our three best players, one’s from New York, one’s from LA, and one is from Iowa City. So that pretty much covers the whole country. And that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go anywhere we have to go to find players. And when they think of the Big Ten, it’s not something that I have to sell. I mean, everybody knows the Big Ten. They know who is in our league, they want to play on that television network and play in front of those kinds of crowds. So then they come and take a look, and they see that Iowa City is a great city and we have phenomenal facilities. Our new facility has been very helpful there, our new practice facility, weight room, all of those things together, and they see a level of commitment. So it’s a step by step process, but it’s not as difficult to sell as you might think.