Today was the basketball coaches luncheon with the men's head coach Jeff Bzdelik and the women's head coach Mike Petersen. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the calm and optimistic demeanor that each coach dsiplayed during their speech, as well as answering questions from the audience. There was a very good crowd turnout, which also surprised me. The student turnout was comprised of myself and a friend, so there was certainly room for improvement there.
Click through the jump for a review of each coach
Coach Mike Petersen
- First of all, Mike Petersen is an absolute pleasure to listen to. He is very funny, and really tells it like it is. He also used multiple analogies to golf, which I can relate to on a personal level. After the first question, he spoke for around 5-7 minutes, and then said that he felt he had successfully filibustered and was ready to leave. He then of course took 3-4 more questions.
- It is obvious that Coach P really knows his stuff. The women sit at 10-11 right now, and the theme of the day was optimism (for both coaches really). He really harped on the fact that he was not frustrated with the record (then made a joke about how we were all thinking "well you should be dude").
- Laid out what the women did well: offensive rebounding, good team defense, really good in stretches. Talked about what they need to work on: focus and intensity throughout the whole game, make high percentage shots with more frequently. He used a couple of plays that they run that includes a screen down low (against zone defenses), and then a lob to a player who uses the screen. They usually get a wide open shot (he characterized it at an 80% success rate), yet in a recent game they ran it 6 times and got 0 points out of it. One was thrown out of bounds, and the other 5 were all caught, but missed.
- Spoke about percentages, and how we have been on the wrong end of one possession games. Coming into this year he is 15-10 (60%) in 25 games in one possession games. He defined one possession games as games that were one possession at any point under the 4 minute timeout. This year in 7 "one-possession" games, the Deacs are 1-6. He said this can easily be turned around, and they just have to learn how to keep their eyes focused on going ahead, "because you can't go forward when you are looking behind you".
- He followed up on this by talking about a "70 drill", that focuses on free throw shooting (a problem that he mentioned in close games this year. They set the scoreboard to 70-70 and everybody shoots 1-and-1 free throws. If you make both of them you get to 72-70. If you miss the front end then the other team gets two points. When a free throw is missed everybody runs a "down-and-back" before the next shooter. Pointed out that they had to run this 3 times yesterday before they got the winning score of 84 points.
- Talked about Camille Collier, who tore her ACL in practice before the year. Said she was one of the best leaders in his 31 years of coaching. She will be back next year as a 5th year senior in the masters program, and should start at the "off-guard" spot. Highlighted the leadership statement with an example of how she lit into the team in a game at N.C State earlier this year. Coach P was afraid that she might faint because "she didn't breathe the entire 60 seconds she was talking."
- Coach P was very enthusiastic and his funniest line was when he was talking about the "weirdness of the Georgia Tech game" (in which both teams had 2 runs a piece of over 10-15 points in a game with the final score of 54-46 Georgia Tech). Somebody said that he was a master of the timeouts, and Coach P grinned for 5 seconds before he said "I like to think of myself as the Johnny Carson of coaches, I can entertain them for at least 60 seconds, 5 times in a night".
- He thanked a lot of the fans, and said that he hoped to see a lot of us out there on Monday night against Boston College in a televised game.
- I will admit that he looked very timid before he got up there, and honestly, it probably wasn't the best idea for him to follow Coach Petersen because of the difference in personality styles.
- Coach opened up with a story in which I will try to paraphrase and do it justice: He was sitting at home last week watching a basketball game on television. The doorbell rings and it's the mailman dropping off some stuff that has to be signed for. Coach Bzdelik invited the mailman in and the mailman said: "Coach, you're watching the game I see." Coach responded: "Yeah, I like to do that when I'm relaxing." The mailman responded: "I hope you are getting some tips from watching it." Coach said he smiled and thought to himself if he should ask the mailman to wait outside.
- I appreciated that story because it was a side of Coach Bzdelik that I had not seen before. He seemed to think/know that the room was, or it might be against him. He seemed apologetic at times, and when he got done with his speech, he said "Questions.....?" in an extremely reluctant tone (jokingly of course). He then went on to say "I know y'all have got 'em, you've got me here and I want to answer them for you."
- The speech, as I said in the opening paragraph was not what I expected at all. Despite seeming reluctant at first, he was quite passionate about what he was talking about, and very confident as well.
- He really emphasized toughness and maturity. He "defined" them with examples and what he expected. For toughness he gave this stat: Wake Forest has taken 5 charges all year. That is an astonishing number, and Coach Bzdelik said that they work on taking charges, how to fall, and how to step in there for the team, every single day in practice. He also said toughness is never getting down, and continuing to give your all on every single play regardless of the circumstances at hand.
- For maturity, he gave the following stat: 8 of 10 players have never had a father figure in their life. He has said this before, but I'm not sure if it has been seen on BSD. This is also a shocking number, because as Coach Bzdelik found out through one of the players, "I have never been told no before". On an aside here, one of the questions was about JTT and his crazy shots/antics on the court. Coach Bzdelik responded quite humorously by saying: "I wish you could have been at practice yesterday, because I said "no" to JTT at least 7 times alone." He then relayed what his wife had told him afterwards, who had attended the practice. She drew the similarities to their own son when he was around 2 and how he had to be told "no" all the time.
- Coach Bzdelik really focused on the problem of missing layups. Through an eight game stretch (
not sure about the number of games), Wake Forest has made 65 layups, and missed 68 layups. Think about that for a minute: we have MISSED 3 more LAYUPS than we have MADE. To fix this, the assistant coaches (especially Rusty) are "hammering the players with pads, and I mean really swinging it back and forth at players when they shoot layups to get them in the right mentality of focusing on the rim." He specifically talked about Carson Desrosiers missing layups. Said that next year he will make those layups (which I strongly agree with). Also said that Carson has the potential to be very, very good for us.
- I felt that Coach Bzdelik had a great grasp on the concept of being a father figure to the guys. This is very important to me, and something that the guys on the team really need. In this same vain, he stressed how there was nobody on the team for the younger guys to look up to. He sees Tony Chennault and Travis McKie as "born-leaders, who are really going to step up." In the case of Chennault, Coach Bzdelik remarked that Chennault told him that he did not feel comfortable saying anything to the guys on the court (in terms of leadership), because "I haven't done anything yet on the court."
- Coach Bzdelik wants to get Chennault up to 20 mpg by the end of the year, and that will enable CJ to go back to his natural spot at the 2-guard. TC has only gone through 10 practices all year, and is woefully out of shape compared to everybody else. Doesn't want to risk an injury, and is extremely proud of the way that he has handled himself on the court in terms of putting himself out there and trying to do his best, despite not knowing the offense as well as everybody else.
- Commenting on the decision to bench Nikita Mescheriakov against Duke: "Melvin Tabb had 3 or 4 very good practices leading up to the Duke game, and there was nothing wrong at all with what Nikita was doing. I just felt that I had to give Melvin a chance to prove himself on the court. I think he did very well in his role, and we are excited about his future. Nikita always gives 110% effort, but is prone to turnovers and fouls. We just need his effort to roll over to the other players, and keep the fouls and turnovers to himself."
- The last question was (in summary) about how the players were dealing with the losses when they walk around campus with their peers. Coach Bzdelik was straight-forward and said something along the lines of: "Life happens men. It is how we respond to the times that we are down that show our character. Things do not always go your way. What happens when you are 40, married with 4 kids, and you get the pink slip? Do you put your head down and cry about it, or do you get up, brush yourself off and go get another job?"
- All-in-all, I thought that Coach Bzdelik did a great job of representing himself today. Did he say things that he has said before? Yes. Did he use some cliches to get his points across? Of course. However, he did a fantastic job of laying out stats to backup what he was saying. I feel like he got a good connection with the crowd, and while he did not "win them over" per se, I think that most people in the room left with a better feeling than they had going in. I know that I had a bit of a change in attitude.
- I also think that he was expecting tougher questions. Most of them were lobs to him that were important, but not anything that we had not heard before. There were the Chennault questions, the Tabb/Nikita question, the "character" question, and the "improvement" question. While none of them were groundbreaking, I thought that Coach Bzdelik handled them very well, and represented himself well. Also talked about recruiting, and how he has been hard at it. He can't name names, but said that he was still recruiting for next year, as well as beyond.
So if you are in the area, I highly encourage you to come out to the game on Saturday and cheer these guys on. They deserve the support, and I think we all may be surprised on Saturday with the result. Go Deacs!