30 Second Timeout

mike lonergan

Vin Parise’s 30-second timeout: Five questions with Mike Lonergan

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Vin Parise of College Basketball Talk caught up with George Washington head coach Mike Lonergan, whose Colonials host Fordham Saturday afternoon.

CBT: Let’s first start out with how this all happened.  Preseason you were picked 10th and today you’re projected as a postseason team.  What’s been the difference?

Lonergan: Maurice Creek hitting the court for us this year solved a lot of weaknesses.  We really needed a scoring wing and Maurice has been that, and more!  And our freshmen last year improved to be terrific sophomores this year. Kevin Larsen, Patricio Garino, Kethan Savage and Joe McDonald all improved their bodies and their games.
CBT: How has the injury to Kethan Savage affected your team?
Lonergan: It’s affected us for sure, especially with McDonald being banged up as well.  Savage has been great at getting to the rim and dribble penetrating out of our offense.  And most importantly, it gave us a 2nd ball handler vs pressure; so we’ll continue to adjust.
CBT: Did you honestly think the A-10 would be this strong as of February?
Lonergan: I honestly felt our league would be strong this season and we haven’t disappointed.  Now for us, I can’t honestly say I knew we’d be Top 4 in the standings – but I was confident we could finish a lot higher than 10th.  Our league has always flown under the radar at times.  I always think back to the fact that Butler finished 5th in our league last year.  But I think it obviously starts with how impressive UMass and St. Louis have been – and that’s before you even mention our preseason #1 VCU.  It’s a great league.
CBT: What your thoughts on the matchup Saturday with Fordham?
Lonergan: Their guards concern me because they shoot so many 3’s and because they’re good athletes as well.  We’re a big team and at times it’s difficult for us to chase smaller perimeter guys around.  But I think our size can be to our advantage down low so it should be an interesting matchup.  We’ve played well at home this year so we’re hoping that continues.
CBT: You’ve obviously payed your dues but you didn’t go the longtime assistant coach route – you’ve gone more the John Beilein route, and you’ve been a head coach every year since 1992 except for your one season under Gary Williams at Maryland. What did you learn from Williams?
Lonergan: Gary is the most competitive person I’ve ever seen.  He wanted to win so bad and hated to lose so much.  From a coaching perspective, I learned to never take any team lightly.  Gary was great at taking it one game at a time and being prepared for every opponent like they were Duke.  He rarely had bad losses at Maryland because he was so prepared and I’d like to think that has rubbed off on me as well.
Follow Vin on Twitter:  @VinParise

Vin Parise’s 30-second timeout: Five questions with Richard Pitino

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Vin Parise of College Basketball Talk caught up with Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino, whose Golden Gophers visit No. 14 Iowa Sunday afternoon.

CBT: You guys were picked to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten.  Are you surprised your team is 14-4 and just beat No. 11 Ohio State?

Pitino: Honestly, I really thought we were close to getting a signature win – we took Michigan State to overtime on the road and our three losses were against great competition.  For us to break through vs Ohio State in front of that electric crowd was tremendous for our guys.
CBT: At what point this season did you think the team may exceed expectations?
Pitino: Early in the year, the Syracuse game in Maui showed our staff a lot.  We showed a lot of heart and a ton of potential chemistry moving forward.  But the Florida State win at home was our first breakthrough win.  They’re a good team that has size at every position and we played great – that’s when I though we had a chance.
CBT: We’ve heard a lot about “The Barn” recently.  What is like to coach and play in front of your home crowd?
Pitino: To me it’s like playing your games at Wrigley Field.  There is so much tradition that is associated with the building.  So many people kept telling me that I hadn’t seen the “real” Barn yet – and they were right. Our Ohio State game the other night showed what I had hoped for. This is one of the best home court atmospheres in the nation.
CBT: Describe the relationship between you and your father during the season?
Pitino: We talk all the time.  He watches us play as much as he can.  He even made it out here for the South Dakota State game which was great.  I’m always picking his brain and asking for honest critiques of our team and that will never change.
CBT: Lastly, your thoughts on Sunday’s matchup with Iowa.
Pitino: They are easily one of the best offensive teams in the country. They have size and strength at every position and cause matchup problems for everyone they face.  They’re as good as any team in our league and we’ll have to play a great game Sunday afternoon.
Follow Vin on Twitter:  @VinParise

Vin Parise’s 30-second timeout: Five questions with Kevin Willard

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Vin Parise of College Basketball Talk caught up with Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard, who is 1-0 in league after the start of Big East play:

CBT: Let’s start off first with your 81-80 double OT win at Providence on New Year’s Eve.

Willard: Going in I was hoping we could try and steal one if everyone picked up the slack with Eugene Teague being out for us.  I was worried about rebounding and how we were going to match up; but we made the right plays down the stretch.  I’m really proud of how our guys fought up there on the road.

CBT: 2013 as a whole was filled with several injuries for your program. How challenging has it been to deal with that aspect?

Willard: Last year I could have handled it much better.  It was very frustrating times and I let myself get too frustrated.  This year I feel I’ve done a better job handling it personally, and so have the players.  The games we’ve lost we’ve had multiple guys out – but we’re still a deeper team than we were last season.  But you can’t spend time focusing on the things you can’t control.  We have to keep the mindset we had up at Providence the other day.

CBT: Before we move past the injuries topic, what is the latest update on Eugene Teague?

Willard: We honestly don’t have a timeline right now for Eugene.  We’re following the orders of the doctors and going through the proper concussion protocol.  He has been feeling okay and is questionable for our next Big East game.

CBT: Speaking of the Big East, what are your thoughts on this conference as we now know it?

Willard: I think from top to bottom our league is going to be brutal to go through during conference play.  I feel Villanova is a step above the pack right now, but even they needed OT to win at Butler who was picked 10th.  Road wins are going to be a premium this season for sure. And the new teams that were added are going to be very tough road trips because of their home court atmosphere.

CBT: How about your matchup tomorrow at home vs Creighton?

Willard:  Creighton is a very misleading team right now because everyone talks about their offense – and don’t get me wrong, they’re terrific offensively; but not enough people talk about their defense.  For a team that puts up the numbers they do, their team defense is really impressive.  And the other day was no different when they held Marquette to 49 points.  I’m as concerned about us scoring against them, as I am about us defending them.  It should be a great game.

Follow Vin on Twitter:  @VinParise

30-second timeout with Vin Parise: Five questions with Chris Mack

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Vin Parise of College Basketball Talk caught up with Xavier head coach Chris Mack as the Musketeers get ready for the start of Big East play:

CBT: You guys have won 5 in a row, including the Cincinnati win, at Alabama and Wake Forest. What is going right with Xavier basketball right now?

Mack: To be honest, I was concerned about our confidence after we got back from the Bahamas earlier in the season. We could have won the Iowa game, but we were not a confident group after that trip because of our close losses. We then regrouped and won some games; but the Cincinnati win is what really changed things. Since then, our guys have felt like they can beat anyone, and it’s carried over.

CBT: You’ve just completed the 4th year of the 10 year contract between Wake Forest and Xavier. How has it been to play every season and to honor the life of Skip Prosser?

Mack: It’s been really special. Coach Prosser has had the biggest influence on my life both in basketball and my personal life. He was a great coach but also taught you how to be a great husband and father as well. He’s the most genuine person I’ve ever known. He’s touched a lot of hearts.

CBT: What is like to coach Semaj Christon every day?

Mack: I know it sounds like a cliché, but he is as coachable as he is a great player. As talented as he is, his desire to improve daily is unbelievable. And his immense desire to improve defensively has been one of the biggest keys to our season so far. He truly plays both ends of the floor.

CBT: Let’s talk about the first year of this new Big East that you and St. John’s are kicking off on New Year’s Eve.

Mack: This league is much better than people are talking about right now. Several signature wins as a group may not have been there the first two months, but there are great coaches in the league and the talent is strong. By the time March rolls around, I think people will see that from the Big East. But at the end of the day, I’m worried about us. We remember that we were picked 7th and we won’t forget it.

CBT: What are your thoughts about the matchup with Steve Lavin’s team?

Mack: We have our hands full with St. John’s. They’re probably the most talented team in the league. What concerns me is that all of their rebounders have the ability to then handle it and push the ball in transition. And they are terrific offensive rebounders if you do not box out. If our defensive transition is strong and we limit their offensive rebounding, I think we’ll have a shot on Tuesday. It should be a lot of fun.

Follow Vin on Twitter: @VinParise

Vin Parise’s 30-second timeout: Five questions with Steve Masiello

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Vin Parise from CBT caught up with Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello.  The Jaspers are 8-2 and one of the hottest mid-majors in the country right now.

CBT: Steve, let’s start out with the most recent win in your 5 game winning streak – your road victory at South Carolina.

Masiello: It was proud night for our program as a whole; players, coaches, fans, alumni – everybody.  That is what Manhattan was known for in the 90’s under Steve Lappas, Fran Fraschilla and Bobby Gonzalez – winning games against BCS level schools.  For our team to win on the road in the SEC was a great night for the MAAC.

CBT: As of the interview today, your team has more road wins than anyone in the country.  How have you been able to win these games, while still continuing to play nearly 10 guys every night?

Masiello: To be honest, it’s all about the kids buying in.  Our roles are completely defined and the kids are on board with it.  Our 8th, 9th and 10th guys don’t try to be our 2nd, 3rd and 4th guys – and we’re taking pride in that.  Our 9th guy wants to be the best 9th guy in the country.

CBT: Can you explain your ball club to the college hoops junkie who hasn’t seen Manhattan play yet this season?

Masiello: Obviously those that have seen us play know we like to attack both ends of the court and press; but we’ve really simplified our philosophy over the course of this winning streak.  As a coaching staff we literally emphasize two things right now.  Our goal is to play harder than the opponent – not just play hard, play harder.  And the other emphasis to to talk more than the other team every possession.  So many things have fallen into place from us concentrating on those two things.

CBT: George Beamon is your senior leader after a season ending injury last year.  How do you feel about how he’s bounced back?

Masiello: First off, he’s a joy to coach.  And he’s all about the win.  Not the stats – just the win.  When your leading scorer preaches that everyday, it’s a lot easier as a coach.  And it’s more than just scoring when it comes to George.  He’s one of the best rebounders for his position in the nation and he still had a double-double in a poor performance at Marist.  A big reason we took the Bahamas trip in the summer was to get the rust off of his game from sitting out so long – but I couldn’t be happier with his start right now.

CBT: What are your thoughts on the MAAC this year?

Masiello:  Our league always represents well in non-conference early and this year has been no different.  No matter where our league is ranked year in and year out; we always have 4-5 teams that can win the conference tournament – I truly believe that.  I was an assistant here in 2004 and we needed double OT to beat Niagara in the MAAC tourney. We then went on to beat Florida in the 1st round of the Dance.  In a one bid league, it’s sometimes harder to get out of your own conference tournament than it is to play great in the NCAA’s.

*Vin Parise is the College Basketball Insider for NBC Sports Network and SportsNet NY.  He is also a contributor & analyst for ESPN3, MSG Network, Cox Sports-New England, Fox Sports 1, The Providence Coaches Show, St. John’s Radio & Iona College Radio.  He coached 8 seasons at FDU, Rutgers & Iona.  

Follow Vin on Twitter:  @VinParise

Vin Parise’s 30-second timeout: Q-and-A with Ed Cooley and Dan Hurley

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Vin Parise from CollegeBasketballTalk caught up with Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley and Providence head coach Ed Cooley. The Friars and Rams square off tonight in the Battle of the Ocean State.

*Ed Cooley – Providence

CBT: Let’s first talk about your Sunday night loss to Kentucky.

Cooley: I though we played well in stretches and really competed but Kentucky played very, very good. They were strong on the inside and shot it great from 3 point land as well – coming into the game they were below 30% from deep. Their size and length really bothered us though. They’re young, but they’re a very strong team.

CBT: What about your team right now?

Cooley: Our rotation is a little shorter with Kris Dunn and the freshmen out of course; but I really like how hard our guys are playing. And I like the fact that we’ve played in some close games and away from our home court so far. That will help us not only for Thursday night but moving forward as well.

CBT: What are your thoughts on your 2nd trip as head coach down to the Ryan Center at URI for this year’s in-state battle?

Cooley: I’m excited…really excited. Rhode Island has some really good pieces to their team this year and I’m sure it’s going to be a great atmosphere down there. Our guys are excited but it will definitely be a be tough road game for us.

*Dan Hurley – Rhode Island

CBT: Catch us up on how your Rams are doing right now?

Hurley: I like our guys’ attitudes right now. Xavier Munford and Gilvydas Biruta have played through some nagging injuries without publicizing it since the start of the year and have stayed positive and battled. And I really love the way Biggie Minnus handled coming off the bench with his attitude for the first 8 games of the year. (Minnus started their last game vs George Mason) We just need to keep improving and get some more production moving forward.

CBT: What about the last time out – your loss at George Mason?

Hurley: I wish we shot the ball better and didn’t turn it over as much, but I like the way we competed on the road for the first time this year facing a tough Atlantic 10 level opponent. For the first time out in league; I liked our grittiness.

CBT: You’re in year 2 of your rebuilding job and you’ve done a lot in 20 months on the job. How do you feel your timeline in Kingston has gone?

Hurley: We had to lay a foundation and build a roster from scratch so I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished recruiting wise. And now I feel we’ve done a good job reaching that next step which is winning the games you’re supposed to win. We now we have to take that next step and get a little more consistent on both ends of the court.

CBT: Let’s talk about the matchup with Providence Thursday night.

Hurley: It’s my first time experiencing this game at home so I’m looking forward to the crowd and the whole scene for our kids. I want our guys to revel in it. I want them to feed off the energy and not be intimidated by it. I feel our guys are ready to come out and play hard defensively – I just want us to get off to a good start on the offensive end.

Vin Parise is the College Basketball Insider for NBC Sports Network and SportsNet New York. He is also a contributor & analyst for ESPN3, MSG Network, Cox Sports New England, Fox Sports 1, The Providence Coaches Show, St. John’s Radio & Iona College Radio. He coached 8 seasons at FDU, Rutgers & Iona. Follow Vin on Twitter: @VinParise