May 8, 2002
The workouts have been going about as well as expected. Primarily, we've been doing a lot of full court work to get ourselves back into game condition. What we're going to do on the trip, because the games are all 48 minutes, is go in six-minute segments. With 10 guys on the trip, we'll have five guys play the first six minutes and five guys play the last six minutes (of each quarter). We'll balance the teams as much as we can. The only change might be in the final six minutes where we might put the guys who have played the best together if it means winning or losing the game. But there will be a set substitution pattern.
I think the value of this will really come with the freshmen and the reserves gaining additional experience. Guys will know that they are going to be playing. They have the six minute time period and they are in there for that time. Based on past experience, the guys that gain the most from the foreign trips are the reserves. They get a lot more confidence and I'm sure that will be true with our freshmen as well.
We've seen a huge improvement in the freshmen, even now, over what we saw at the end of the year. They are playing with a lot more confidence because they know what to expect now. Everything has been going along really well.
How is this different from the 1997 Australia trip?
In 1997, the guys were not real excited about going. It had been a really long season and they felt that they could go without that. They were a more experienced team. This year, I think the guys are really excited about going, excited about having the opportunity to get additional games, and we'll try to make it an educational experience as well. It's not just the basketball, but a great cultural experience as well.
On the free days we're scheduling various things (for them). The first one in Adelaide (May 17) we're going to a zoo, where everyone is anxious to see the koala bears and kangaroos, and animals that they haven't seen before. We'll be doing the Sydney Harbor cruise when we are there and take them to a couple of places that we feel will be of interest to them like the Opera House, and finish with the Great Barrier Reef cruise. This group is very excited about it and they know that they will get some good, valuable experience from this.
What is more valuable: the basketball or the guys spending some time together?
I think it's a combination. You go through a long season and then you try to get caught up academically, and then it's finals (exams). When we get on the plane on Saturday, I think all of us are going to be relieved to get out and away as a group. It's been a hectic spring for us. I am ready for Saturday and I'm sure the rest of the staff feels the same way as well.
Do you have any memories of the players and the new cultural experiences?
Khalid's (Reeves in 1993) situation overpowers any memory that I have. He didn't like being in the water and couldn't swim. I remember Reggie (Geary) and Corey Williams trying to teach him to dog paddle in the swimming pool before we went out on the (Great Barrier) Reef and we got every possible life preserver we could get on him to make sure that he felt comfortable. We got him on the side of the boat, putting his head in the water, like you do with a little kid in the bathtub. We got him out there and the first thing he does is pull his head out of the water, and says, "There are fish down there!!" (laughter)
It's a great time because you have just your group and you are together for that length of time. It's a great bonding opportunity. This team is very close anyway, but I think it will be even more so when we get back.
What kinds of crowds or venues will you be playing in?
This time around it's going to be different because the previous time we played NBL teams throughout. I believe we played five of the six top NBL teams and it was during their season. Now it's not during their season, so I'm sure it's going to be very different for us. We played in all of the pro locations. The crowds were great. We really had great crowds.
Who is going to benefit most from this trip?
I think you could look at the guys that didn't get a lot of (playing) time consistently. Dennis Latimore will benefit greatly from it, Andrew Zahn, Will (Bymun), as well. He'll be running the point opposite of Jason (Gardner). And Isaiah (Fox) will benefit from it. The style of play over there, of course, is a lot more physical, and I think that will be good for our guys, too.
Will the five-man teams switch from game to game?
That's something we'll take a look at from game to game. A lot of the stuff we've done in practice is to keep the five freshmen together, and there have been other times where we've mixed them up. We'll just have to see as we get through it. Everyone will get the same amount of minutes through three quarters until we decide what to do in the fourth.
Do you go into these games as a coach or just an observer?
In the past, what we've done with our two assistants is to have each of them coach a game, and then I'd coach a game. This time we'll take a look at that. They may be in charge the whole time. I don't know yet. I think it's great experience for them (the assistants) to be in a position where they have to make the decision.
I remember when we took our first team over to Europe and we had Scott Thompson, Ricky Byrdsong and Ken Burmeister. Ricky had them against the Dutch National Team on a night where they could not miss a shot. We were down double figures and Ricky comes to me and asks "What should we do?" and I say, "I don't know, I'm just observing the game." (laughter). So he comes up to me at halftime and we're down 20-something and asks what we should do, and I say,"Well, if I were you, I'd take pizza orders." (more laughter). There certainly some interesting moments with the assistants.
Is there a direct correlation between these foreign trips and your success immediately following them?
I think it's been very helpful to us. When I look back, I think back to the trip (in 1993) to Australia when we had Kevin Flanagan and Dylan Rigdon. I thought they gained the most from that because they came back with renewed confidence. Both were very vital to us in that next year. It's going to help us a lot. When you look at freshmen, the more games and practices you can get them in the better you will be.