Video/Transcript: Tom Crean Presser – December 01, 2020

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Video/Transcript: Tom Crean Presser – December 01, 2020

Opening Statement…

“First and foremost, as far as us, I am really happy for Tye Fagan to be rewarded with an honor like that right out of the gate with the player of the week award from the SEC. He was so efficient in that game, which is what we preach all the time to every player on our team that efficiency matters. He was nine of 10 in game and I think the thing that made such a difference was not only the scoring but the rebounding. He has worked very, very hard and hopefully this is a spring board for him in his junior year. We had other guys that were right there that could have been in the mix for something like that. Obviously, we had only played one game but I am really, really happy for him, and we need his leadership. We need his stability, and we need his improvement. I think what he did with moving without the basketball the other day was a great example of the way we play and the way we have to play. It’s hard when new players come in. We’re going through this with the seniors. We’re going through this with the young players and everybody in between—to really learn how to play random basketball. Our cuts are not always out of a play. Our cuts are not always out of a read of the next option in a play. They are based on how you are being played so many times. How is the man playing you? You’re reading the ball, and you’re playing off your man. Tye has gotten so much better at that since he’s been here. He did a good job of that last year. He did an excellent job of it the other day.”

“On another note, a bigger note with Greg McGarity announcing that he is retiring. There is no doubt to me that that is—I don’t want to say that it is with mixed emotions because it’s emotional, but it’s bittersweet because I was thinking yesterday the time when Greg and President Morehead came to our house in Sarasota. The pictures are still in my phone, and it was an incredible couple of hours meeting. The two of them were huge, huge reasons why we chose to come to Georgia. I could tell with President Morehead and Greg McGarity, they were lockstep, lockstep. That was a big thing to us. Greg McGarity and President Morehead have been outstanding. But, in the case of Greg McGarity right now, he has been everything and more here for me and for us. Everything and more. When I tell him that he’s the best I’ve worked with, I don’t use it lightly. I have worked with some other really good ones, but you work with Greg McGarity. He helps lead the way. That has been just absolutely tremendous for me and for us and for my family. I am going to miss him when he leaves. I knew at some point it was inevitable, but I certainly wasn’t looking for it to be now. At the same time, it is what is most important to him. When you really care about somebody and you want somebody to be happy, you understand it. He did a fantastic job in the two plus years that I have been here. He has been a fantastic leader. He has been an ally. He’s been a voice of reason. He’s brought wisdom. He’s brought clarity. He’s brought confidence. I haven’t known him nearly as long as a lot of the coaches here have, but I know the impact he has had here on me, my family, and my program. It’s be immense.”

Tom Crean
Tom Crean

On getting this North Georgia game scheduled and if he had other opponents in mind…

“We have a list, but really it came down to a level of date more than anything else. We wanted to play Tuesday or Wednesday this week knowing we had a Friday game. Certainly, every day is a new day as everybody is realizing. It was not optimal to play three games in a week right off the bat, but at some point it’s going to come back to be valuable. So, when that happened and North Georgia was available, we certainly looked at a couple of different teams, but this is such a short notice thing and it gave us a replacement for the Columbus State game. They were able to jump in and were already in the process of testing because they have already played Mercer, which is a huge thing. It’s not about how much money do you need, how far away are you, it’s what’s your testing procedure and when did you test last. Really, that’s where we’re at in this day and age. The bottom line is we need to play. It doesn’t matter if it’s North Georgia or North Carolina. We have to come out tomorrow night with a tremendous mindset and attitude for playing against somebody else and build from Sunday’s game.”

On how important it is getting to the free throw line…

“Aggressive going to have to be a key word. We’re not real big. So, we have to get really good space. They [Florida A&M] did a really good job defensively against us. We did not cut nearly as well. I think what you saw in Andrew Garcia is player that he has been and he’s growing into being even more. He’s learning so much I think here on a daily basis. In games right now, you have to play to your strengths and Andrew really did that. Tye Fagan cut and moved without the basketball, and I think that was a huge part of it. Getting to the foul line, whether it’s on cuts, whether it’s on drives, whether that’s on offensive rebounds, whether that’s on getting behind the defense, whether that’s on post-ups. Whatever it is, it’s going to be imperative. We’re not necessarily a team that’s just going to come out, go three out, two in, four out, one in, throw it inside all the time. We’re not built that way right now. Now, we’re going to get getter at it, and we’ve got to be creative how we get the ball inside, but we have to have movement. This team has got to have movement as we learn to shoot the ball better. Everything is driven to improve but at the same time, you have to win the games and the free throw shooting is always going to be a big factor in that. So, how we try to orchestrate that, how guys get on the glass, play calls, getting out on the break, all those things are going to be huge components of it. We want to put pressure on the defense by putting pressure on the rim, on the break. Which means we’re attacking the basket. We settled for threes far too many times, too early, in the break on this past Sunday without the ball hitting the paint. That’s not how we’ve got to play. We’ve got to touch the paint, get the ball in the lane, get it kicked out and get it swung out. Those are good threes. We should have probably shot more free throws if we would have played a little bit smarter in that area of going through the paint and getting the ball reversed. The learning curve is going to be ongoing every day for everybody as you continue to learn how to play with each other, and obviously it was the first time playing somebody else. To get that, I think we had 26 free throws, so that was a plus. We’ve got to be able to build towards it.”

On his thoughts on the unknown of who will replace Greg McGarity…

“First and foremost, I was hired by President Morehead and Greg McGarity when they came to the house. So, to me, I’ve looked at it as a partnership and to have a president as active as he is in athletics and as caring about the entire operation as President Morehead is, is good. He’s well versed in so many things and obviously athletics is right there. Look at the respect he has across the SEC and across the country with the NCAA. I feel really confident about that, I really do. I have no fear in great decisions being made here in the future and seeing what the vision continues to be for Georgia athletics.”

On his interactions with Interim AD Josh Brooks…

“I like Josh Brooks, I met him right off the bat. I think one of the great things Greg [McGarity] has done and probably doesn’t get enough credit for—to me, he gets a ton of credit for putting together a tremendous staff around here. I mean a tremendous staff. I don’t want to leave names out, because that wouldn’t be right but his main group of people are high, high level. When you’re at Georgia right now, the most important thing we have, again, this is just a sign of Greg’s leadership, he gave people positions, he gave them opportunities, he taught them or reenforced what to do and he let them roll. Josh Brooks has the experience of being at Georgia, the experience of being somewhere else, but I think you have a team of people in there that I feel really confident with as we make this transition, and then I trust President Morehead.”

On the importance of having the support and confidence of J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity for him and the Georgia men’s basketball program…

“It’s been incredibly important, because my two previous jobs were big-time basketball tradition places— at Marquette and Indiana. They had their challenges, certainly, and they had a lot of things that had to be built upon or changed, or fixed, no question about it, but tradition wasn’t one of them. Here, you’re trying to build on to a tradition. You’re trying to get people excited about it the way they’re excited about other sports; and not just excited on given games or given periods of time. The whole goal for me, and I said this when I was hired, is we want to try and make this a 365 day a year program, and that’s what we work towards. That’s how we work, and that’s how we want to try and develop it. I think Greg McGarity has been fantastic with that. He really has. We’ve had 18 years of experience in knowing how to build a program at two other places, and even though it’s different, the mindset of how you build it, build excitement [and] energy behind it, get people ingrained it, have people feel a part of it— that’s all the same. And it takes time to recruit, and he’s really helped me with that. It’s a different part of the country for me on a consistent basis, with the recruiting and with dealing with all the different things that you do, so you have to get used to it, and he’s been really good with that. He’s been very, very good with preaching [the importance of] establishing culture, establishing the way you want to do things, knowing this was going to take time, that it’s a real process to build a foundation. Like you would expect or hope to expect, we want to accomplish great things yesterday. It’s not always like that, and I think he’s done a good job of trying to help me stay even-keeled at times, and I’ve learned from him. I’ve learned to see things through his perspective. It’s doesn’t mean I’m any less impatient, but I’ve learned to see things through his perspective. I think that’s been good for me, overall.”

On the way scheduling changes have impacted his players and the ways the team has coped with everything…

“I think last Wednesday certainly impacted them, but I just think they’re not going to tell any difference with how we prepare for North Georgia than they did from this past weekend with Florida A&M or how it will be next week or how it will be in two months. Obviously, you play different teams where they know the other guys a lot better, and they know the league a lot better, obviously, and things like that. But our whole basis is to get this down in preparation. If this was a regular season, we’d be in our exhibition or scrimmage mode right now. We’d have two things under our belt, but they’re not. They count, so we’ve got to come out and have the same process of teaching them what we’re trying to do, get them to understand that [North Georgia] runs tremendous ball-screen motion. They fly around in the ball-screen. They’re very active, They get up into you. They’re aggressive. They keep running their stuff, [and] they’re very effective with it. Against Mercer, they just missed open shots, and Mercer did a good job. Mercer has a good team, but [North Georgia] missed open shots, and our job is to show them, ‘Okay. These are what their strengths are, and this was what they’re really good at. This is what we’ve got to try and take away.’ At the same time, we’ve got  to be able to do this for ourselves. I don’t think it really changes, so I think the more you stay focused on building your team, day-to-day, through this process of scheduling and going through the games, and then getting ready for each individual game with those key components. I think that helps your team get some clarity moving forward, because it’s going to be a very influx situation all the time. The more we can stay locked into how we get better, how we prepare, what we can accomplish inside of that, each day, the better we’ll be.”

On how his team can break away when the opposing teams, like Florida A&M last Sunday, keep the score close…

“We’ve got to play. We’ve got to play the game. [Florida A&M] is a good team. They’ve got good players. They pack the lane. They’ve got confidence. We didn’t defend their shooting as well. We turned it over a little bit too much. We missed some shots. We shot too quick at times, even though we want to play fast. We still want to go through the paint [and] get the ball reversed. It’s just all part of the process right now, and I’m just not sure that you can look at scores right now as much as are you getting better from it, and is your team learning how to play? Because you can look at some scores right now. Teams are winning by 40, maybe 50 points. Then, all of a sudden, you turn back around, and those teams are in an overtime game or in a five-point game or things like that. These different games create a lot of different experiences for you that you hope turn into advantages down the road. As much as you don’t want t close game during the game, a close game for your experience is not a bad thing. I certainly don’t feel like that for two hours when the game is going on, trust me. But when you look back at it, that’s something that you do. Again, it’s going to be a shorter schedule. It could get much shorter depending on how it goes. We haven’t had the ramp up period of exhibitions to be able to gauge that, so you kind of learn as you go. You get your game situations in that way.” 

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