Roy Williams Explains Transition Struggles, Previews Ohio State and Timeouts

Brant Wilkerson-New

North Carolina coach Roy Williams met with the media on Tuesday afternoon to discuss his team's progress in the Battle 4 Atlantis and preview Ohio State.

Here's what he had to say:

On what he took away from the Bahamas trip

I think we were really in — all-in — in the Oregon for the first time this year of being excited, being together and trying to take care of everybody, taking care of your teammate, playing harder during that point, so I liked that, there’s no question. I liked that we got competition three straight days against good teams; some teams really good. I think that will help us down the road.

We were able to piecemeal some things together with the number of injuries we had and we still survived. I would have, no question, liked to have won all three games — that’s always our goal.

Still haven’t shot the ball well. That’s getting to be a concern and the fact that we’re still not playing at the pace I want to play at, we’ve got to work on that because our offense is not very good.

Very, very high-class tournament, high-class competition. Three straight days does tell you more about your team. Now, I can’t imagine anybody is going to go through a stretch like those three games then have Ohio State and at Virginia. That five-game stretch has got to be as tough as anybody has had in the preseason, for sure. We’ll find out even more after the next two.

What’s the issue with pushing tempo?

I think the defensive field goal percentage for the first time in three years, we’ve been able to defend around the rim. People don’t get easy baskets against us all the time, knock on wood. That part of it takes care of itself; that helps your defensive field goal percentage.

We haven’t created as many turnovers. Of course you’re going to play at a faster pace, score easier, shoot at a higher percentage if you turn turnovers into baskets because some of those are going to be out on the court and there’s no defense getting back for them.

We’re just not making the transition. We’re not running effectively enough by getting the initial threat against the other team by a strong low-post presence. We’ve got to have …I mean, Tyler Hansbrough, front of the rim and just try to kill people. That sucked everybody back in and good shooters made a bunch of shots. So, our big guys have to do a better job of running the floor, giving us that initial presence and the other thing, once we get down there, we’re not doing a great job of the transition between, ‘OK, we didn’t get anything in primary, we didn’t get anything in secondary’ …. there’s a 10- or 12-second stretch there that we’ve always gone in, flowed straight into what we’re doing and we’re not doing that.

We’re standing around and then waiting to make a call to run a last-second shot so that’s the most irritating thing of any team I’ve ever coached, because we’ve always been able to keep you on your heels by, ‘You’ve got to defend primary, you’ve got to defend secondary, now you’ve got to defend without saying, whew, where’s my man.’ We haven’t done a very good job. No, we’ve done a pee-poor job of that.

How are Cole and Leaky injury-wise?

We’ll have both of them practice today some, but limited basis.

Is Garrison OK with the eye?


Any updates on Anthony Harris or Jeremiah Francis?

They’re still basically doing half-court stuff and trying to get them into more of the half-court stuff. They’re doing full-court dummy, five-on-zero, but not anything full-court live.

On Brandon Robinson’s development

He’s gotten better in every phase of the game. Hopefully it will continue to improve because last year his field goal percentage — particularly from the 3-point line —we’re not shooting it very well. I think he made three in one game, two in one game … we haven’t had anybody do that, so I think that’s helping us because Andrew and Christian have been struggling, Justin has been struggling so much putting the ball in the hole from the perimeter.

He upgrades you there, he’s better defensively, he’s a better leader. I think he’s matured a great deal over the four years. Body hasn’t changed that much, to say the least, but everything else has improved.

What’s his patience to wait his turn say about him?

He was not a McDonald’s All-American, so some people, you have realistic dreams and some people don’t have them. He was a very good prospect, I think, or we wouldn’t have recruited him.

I also think some kids have an over-evaluation of their own abilities and those guys usually leave too early, you have some guys who have a very good evaluation of their own abilities and leave at the proper time and you have some guys who have a very good evaluation of their own abilities and stay around until it gets to be them on the primetime stage.

On attempting to get Robinson to gain weight…

Only every day for four years. Don’t all of your guys wish you had that problem?

Isn’t that kind of crazy not to put on weight in four years?

It is, because God Almighty, we eat more food, you have more calories. I mean, it’s mind-boggling. Whatever his recipe is, he could make a damn fortune on it by selling it around the country.

What do you need to get more production out of Platek, Keeling, is it just making shots?

It’s an easy deal: ball’s got to go in. You can get mad at them, you can tell them they’re OK; bottom line is ball’s got to go in.

What do you expect from Ohio State? They’ve been pretty dominant, and dominated a good Villanova team.

Well, Villanova hit us in the mouth in our scrimmage here early. I mean, they dominated us for the first 20 minutes, so we know what they’re capable of doing. I think 25, or whatever it was a the end of the game, might have been even more than that earlier in the game. So, it scares you a little bit. Their win against a good Cincinnati team is something you see.

They shoot the ball better…their regular field-goal percentage, 3-point line, free-throw line, their defense in each one of those categories is probably better as well. They’re a very well-rounded team. They have a positive rebound margin, maybe not quite as much as ours, but that shows they have size and box out.

They’re playing at the same pace we are when you look at the numbers, scoring 70-whatever it is a game, and yet, we’re trying really, really hard to play at a lot faster pace, so they’re being more successful playing at their pace than we are trying to play at ours. 7-0, top 10 in the country and we knew it was going to be a tough challenge when we first got the schedule and saw the matchups, but I think they’ve proven themselves with what they’ve accomplished. Chris just does a really, really nice job; always has.

What are your thoughts on the ACC-Big Ten Challenge after 20 years?

Don’t have any. We play it, I’m interested in how we do, but that’s it. I can assure you I don’t lay awake at night thinking about that. While we’re in the ballgame let’s try to win the sucker and those kinds of things.

Is this the 20 year? 21?

Maybe we should all think about trying something else. We’ve got 21 conference games, come on. 20 conference games and the ACC-Big Ten, but it evidently provides great ratings and dollars. They don’t listen to basketball coaches anyway; they’re sure as heck not going to listen to my suggestion.

What’s your relationship with Chris Holtmann?

I don’t know Chris that well, but what I do know, I really like. He hired Michael Lee, one of former players, to work for him when he was at Gardner-Webb. I had ties to Gardner-Webb when I was a high school coach. Then, coaching at Butler and then leaving from Butler to go to Ohio state, I followed him closely. Really think he’s really a big-time coach.

Tried to get him to join us, I guess it didn’t work out. We could have had a three-team thing of enjoying the craps table, because I invited him and he couldn’t go. I forget where we were; maybe some recruiting event or something. I really like him; I think he’s done a great job.

Do you have to do anything different for a 9:30 tip?

I’m just trying to figure out where the hell intelligence plays into it. I guess that’s the biggest thing, trying to figure out why somebody think that’s a good thing to do for any college athletic event.

It just show again, and there’s nothing wrong, it’s reality: TV dominates everything. In case you can’t figure out, I frickin’ hate it. It’s ridiculous … nobody can tell me this is an intelligent thing to do. Remember the mushroom story?

On the relationship between Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot

Well, I think they do have a good relationship. Garrison’s really trying to help Armando a great deal every day, every play, every second, every thing that goes on in practice, talking to him all the time, trying to lead by example. They’re working together well. They talk well. I think it’s something that been really, really good. And you admire Garrison for being willing to do that, too.

On teaching young point guards

Well, to understand how you can’t have any lapses mentally as a point guard. You have to be on top of your game mentally at every second, because you’re involved in calling the defense. You’re involved in calling the offense. You’ve got to know where everybody’s supposed to be, get them in the right spot. Try to understand who’s in foul trouble on the other team. So the enormity of how difficult a task it is for a guy coming in is the most overwhelming thing in the world. So hopefully they get a little bit of it, a little bit of it, a little bit of it. And their physical ability, physical talent, is the easy part.

Hopefully they have to be pretty good or we wouldn’t have recruited him in the first place. It is something that I think Cole’s really doing a nice job of. But Coby one time said, ‘Coach I just feel like I’m braindead.’ But he still did all right, because you go back to your instincts and those kind of things. But I think it is the enormity of it and everything that you’ve got to be aware of, so the mental side of it is way, way, way more difficult than just the physical of what you’re doing.

Is it tougher for Cole because he has less experience around him?

Yeah, because last year, we had Luke, Kenny and Cam. Luke was a great leader and very vocal. Kenny was really vocal. Cam was not nearly as much as those guys, but still they were an insurance, a security blanket for Coby. Right now, Garrison, who’s not as much of an extrovert as those guys were, he doesn’t talk as much, Garrison and B-Rob – and B-Rob to a much lesser extent. I mean, those three guys had been successful for a long time. So it was easy for Coby to just look at them and shake his head, ‘Yes’ and trust what they said immediately. We don’t have anything like that on this team.

Does the Oregon all-in performance point to them taking a major step?

No, I think it speaks to the fact that you got your tail beat the day before. So automatically you’re going to concentrate more the next day. Now hopefully the good thing is they’ll see the benefits of that and try to continue acting that way the whole time. But I think it was directly related to getting their tails beat the day before.

Did Oregon's performance vs. Gonzaga make you feel any better?

I didn’t have to know that by that game. I got to see it up close and personal, that kind of thing. No, they were really good. They can score at every position, they score inside and outside. They’re very much a veteran team. The guys that are young don’t play young. They’ve got a veteran point guard that probes and probes and probes and makes good decisions. His assist-to-error ratio, even after the end of that tournament, has got to be off the charts. I think that right there is a huge thing to have on your side in college basketball. I didn’t watch one play of the Michigan-Gonzaga game. We were busy trying to evaluate how we had played and those kind of things. I didn’t need that.

His philosophy on November basketball, calling timeouts and playing reserves

I told them it ticked me off.

You guys and the public and everything make a lot of big deal of that crap. We’ve done OK not calling any of those timeouts and we’re going to stick with it. That time it got to be ridiculous. Guys, I can’t say a lot if you’re 1-for-15. Shoot the ball in, do you thinkmy guys want to miss? It was frustrating because I thought about calling a timeout and said, ‘This is not the way I want to teach.’ And I didn’t do it, and they scored again, we missed again, and they scored again, we missed again. Finally I just got tired of watching the clock because it was 12:29 the first time I looked up, and I said, ‘We’ll get a free one right here.’

I always think regardless of what the score is we’re going to have a close game at the end. Always. I don’t care how many down we are. I think we’re going to come back. Even at that point, in the huddle after I called the timeout, I still told them there is so much time left, we can win the game. So I don’t like them to rely on that. I think it’s fool’s gold. I mean, it’s easy to change the score – I could play better. Play better on the defensive end and play better on the offensive end. So they don’t need me to get over there and tell them that. And some coaches do, and that’s OK. But that’s not me, it’s not who I am. It’s never going to change, because again, why would I change something – if you guys can convince me that I’m a sorry-ass coach and should do it differently, then I’m still not going to believe you. So you can’t convince me. I guess you could say that, you’re still not going to convince me. I’m going to do what I’m comfortable with. But I do think that putting in different guys, you can talk to every one of my assistant coaches, they thought I was going to get five different guys and take those five out, put five more in. But we didn’t have five over there that I felt comfortable with to take those five guys out. We played Duke here one time a long, long time ago, and I took five guys out and put in five substitutes. My high school coach said, ‘There’s no way in the world I could do that.’ And I happen to have a great deal of respect for him, he said he couldn’t do that. Well, I can do that. But I looked around the bench and I didn’t want to see five that I wanted in the game at that time.

Do your players have a different reaction when you call timeouts?

That’s one of the reasons I don’t do it, because I’m not going to panic. I’m not going to panic. I don’t give a blankety-blank what the game is. I’m not going to panic. I think if I call timeout, they think, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s happening?’ I just told them I was tired of standing there watching them score and us not. I called a timeout in the national championship game against Illinois in 2005, I said, ‘I don’t have anything to say. I just thought I’d tell you guys how much fun it’s going to be, if we play our butts off these last four minutes, we’re going to be national champions.’ My son could’ve done that, and he hasn’t coached at this level. He’s coaching now with young kids and he’s having the time of his life. But if he were to come in and said he wanted to change professions, my wife would shoot my butt first and then him. But yeah, I think, my guys, I’m not going to panic. I don’t care what the score is, I think we can always come back.

On concerns after Michigan loss last season vs. this season

It was completely different because last year was a very veteran team. There’s no way a good veteran team should’ve played like that, period. I don’t care what you are, where you are, who you play and where you play. That was a sorry excuse for a game. This year it was completely different, with a very new team, never been in those scenarios, so I look at those two are completely different. Somebody said, ‘Well that was so much better than last year because you came back.’ I said: Jesus Christ, both of them were still losses, both of them were still butt-kicks. So for me, completely different. I looked at last year’s personnel, last year’s team and what it was going to face down the rest of the season and knew that we had to do a lot of things differently. This year, completely new team so many new guys, we’ve got guys going in and out of the game that haven’t been in that situation before. I like the fact we did come back, but I expected us to. I really do. I don’t care, there’s one game we played, was it North Carolina State here where we were down 10-to-nothing in our own building. Guys, it could’ve gotten to 100 and I never would’ve called timeout. It worked out all right. I’d have probably left before 100, though.

On playing KJ Smith

Well it was out of necessity. We didn’t have Leaky because he had only played early in the game. He made one really good simple play that was really good for us, the little bounce pass for a layup. I’ve given him a few moments at times with the White team during practice. He’s been through our stuff in practice much moreso than Leaky or Cole, either one. So it was something that I felt like we should do at that moment and I think he did some good things for us. He’ll get some more opportunities in practice every day to make us feel even more comfortable for him.