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