March 29, 2011 - 8:17pm
BY GJON JUNCAJ
Michigan men's basketball coach John Beilein addressed the media this afternoon to talk some more about Tuesday night's last-second loss to arch-rival Michigan State and Saturday's contest against Iowa (2-6 Big Ten, 8-13). The Wolverines (3-5 Big Ten, 10-10 overall) just wrapped up a brutal four-game stretch that resulted in a 1-3 mark, the lone win coming over then-No. 15 Connecticut. But three consecutive losses, exacerbated by junior guard Manny Harris being suspended for the Purdue game last weekend, have killed whatever momentum Michigan gained by taking four of five games earlier this month.
With Tuesday's loss, Michigan is very likely out of the NCAA Tournament field. Given the dim outlook, Beilein discussed his role in managing his players' personalities and keeping their spirits up and focus sharp. Beilein also addressed matters regarding former Wolverine point guard Kelvin Grady's return to the team, as well as the upcoming return of assistant coach Jerry Dunn, who has been on an indefinitely leave of absence for personal reasons.
The highlights of today's press conference are below. Michigan takes on Iowa tomorrow afternoon at 4:36 PM at Crisler Arena. The Michigan Daily will be bring you live coverage throughout the contest.
Opening press conference statement
“We’ve had one day of rest. We just had a great, “old-school” practice yesterday, getting back to our basic stuff. Now, we’re getting ready to play an improving Iowa team that has been a tough game for just about everybody, and they’ve gone through a lot of adversity. We had a good day of practice today, have another good one, and then we’ve got to play (Saturday), but we’ve got to play well.
“If you look at the scores right now, everybody in the Big Ten can beat anybody, on any night, anywhere. Hopefully we will not carry in any extra luggage from the Michigan State game. We’ve done everything we can to keep that from happening, and yesterday’s practice is an indication the luggage is off our backs as far as that goes.”
On what he means by an ‘old school’ practice
“We haven’t had time to do just fundamental drills – passing, defense, whatever it is. That five game run was impossible to go back to fundamentals, because you were always concerned with (a game). (Yesterday) we certainly did Iowa concepts and Iowa tendencies, but it was more about Michigan.”
On where he sees Iowa getting better over these past few games
“I think right now, because of their adversity – they’ve lost (sophomore guard Anthony) Tucker (due to suspension). Any time that you miss a guy for – all of the sudden he’s out of the lineup – it takes a while for people to settle. (Iowa coach Todd Lickliter) looks like he’s really settled in his rotation. (Sophomore forward) Aaron Fuller (who has scored in double figures in four of his past five games) has really improved. (Freshman forward Brennan) Cougill (48 percent shooting this season) has the ability to shoot. They’re comfortable now with people’s roles on the team, and that’s really important. When we got to that last year, where we started playing well, we figured out what’s the best way to win. It was these seven to eight guys in this amount of minutes. I think (Iowa) sort of has that right now.”
On whether he’s considered not giving green lights to struggling shooters
“For example, Anthony Wright’s (three-point percentage) was the lowest on the team for a while. All of the sudden now, in the last five games, he’s got the best on the team. So you can’t (tell them not to shoot). To score points, we don’t have a lot of other options right now. We’re not the biggest team. We’re not the quickest team. We don’t have a lot of other options. I think we’ve been a bit more selective (from three). Although the Michigan State game, we got a little bit too amped up a few times. But it was really only four or five shots that we’d like to take back from that game. But in a game that ended like that, those four or five shots are pretty important.”
On his own handling of roster minutes
“Until the Connecticut game, Anthony had not played well. So we say, ‘He’s a (redshirt junior). How long do you stick with him?’ And he came right out of that. It can happen at any time. (Zach) Gibson didn’t get very many minutes the other say because through a lot of hard work and dedication, DeShawn Sims has become one of the premier players in the country. So where’s Zach going to play then and get major minutes? I don’t expect that to continue, him only having one minute, two minutes or whatever he played. But you’d like to give DeShawn a rest. But in that game, DeShawn wanted no rest. I know that.”
On whether the failed recruitment of Robin Benzing and Ben Cronin’s likely career-ending hip surgery, and how big of setbacks they have been to the team’s frontcourt
(Laughs) “It’s huge. Hopefully those were going to be two very good players for us at this time, with their size. We’re probably one SAT question away and an injury away from having that type of presence.”
On how the lack of size affects his current recruiting now
“It hasn’t changed. We’ve always been looking for that (big man). But we had an injury (with Cronin). You go back to Robin’s case, I’ve never taken a kid that didn’t already have the score. That was that one chance I took, and he didn’t come through.”
On sophomore guard Stu Douglass and his decision-making at the end of the Michigan State game
“His biggest challenge right now is the role of a point guard, having never played it before. Having to play that has been tough for him at times. He continues to make steps forward. Are they giant steps? No, but they are steps. They’re steps in the right direction.
“Like many players, they will get a little paralyzed by it, and he’s tired. He can probably run a mile great, but I don’t know how he can run three miles great. He doesn’t have that type of endurance, and I have to have a better eye on that.”
On how he keeps the players’ heads up given the disappointing record
“You have to have a good balance of keeping them positive, but giving them realities as well. This is either, ‘Welcome to college basketball,’ or ‘Listen, you’re going in the right path. You’ve just got to hang in there.’ It’s a combination of patting them on the back and ‘We told you so.’ ”
“You’ve got to continue to balance that. Everything is a positive note, but … I was reading (Hall of Fame and former Detroit Pistons coach) Chuck Daly’s book, ‘Daly Wisdom.’ He says, ‘Some days, you’ve just got to land the plane.’ And there’s some days right now where I just need to land the plane and start over the next day. … We can’t solve all these issues today. Just land the plane on the ground and start over the next day.”
On former Michigan basketball and current Wolverine football player Kelvin Grady’s developing role on the scout team
“We’re still working that out because of the hours (limited on a weekly basis by NCAA regulations). He just texted us to see if he could watch film today with us, because he’s on a different week (with his football schedule). It’s more complicated than people would think.”
On whether Grady sitting on the bench during games counts as three NCAA-countable hours
“Yes, yes, three hours. If we ever told him, ‘You have to go to the game and watch it,’ it’s three hours. So it’s completely voluntary if he wants to go to the game. We can leave him a ticket. There’s a lot of stuff (that goes into it).”
On how odd it has been to try to work Kelvin Grady back on the basketball team, even if it is just a scout-team player for now
“He’s on football scholarship, so we certainly don’t want to get in the way of that career. We do things the right way. But I think we’re getting closer to how we can work it. He’s changed a couple of classes … it’s the same class, it’s the same teacher, just a different time.”
On assistant coach Jerry Dunn’s status, who has since been on indefinite leave for personal reasons
“We expect him to be back Monday, as early as Sunday.”