Video: Tom Crean Explains His Apology

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Video: Tom Crean Explains His Apology

On Saturday’s comments…

“Let me start, this has been heavy on my mind since Saturday night, and I bet you can probably imagine. I wanted to wait until we got in front off you guys. I definitely thought about putting out a statement, but I thought it would be better to do it this way knowing we had Monday coming up with this. When I saw my comments, I just always try to get our players to understand you can’t let frustration set in. I always preach that and I try to be very cognizant of that and I think I did, I think I let the losing of that game, I think I let the fact that we had those lettermen then, but our fans in general. I don’t think we played with the spirit and the passion that we need to, and I look back at those comments when I saw them and it was like I was blaming the players and that was never my intent. It was never my intent to do that. My intent, I started out, with harbor I said it and if I started out with saying I tell them all the time that I believe in them. If I didn’t believe in them they would be here, and I do. And, I didn’t say that and that was a mistake, but I am definitely sorry to them, which I have apologized to them and we have talked through a lot of things, but I definitely apologized to them for that. Anybody else I offended that was never the intent, and with that being said, the intent we have to play with a level of spirit and passion and toughness, that’s a high demand every day. When it didn’t happen the way I would have liked to see it happen I think I let it get to me a little bit that day and I can’t do that because it is not accurate and that is not a reflection of how I feel about them. It’s not a reflection of how I feel about us. It’s really not about blame. I should have even let that enter my mind. It’s about what are we going to do to get better and what can we do to improve, and like I’ve said if I had started out like I tell them all the time of how much I believe in them. That does not mean I am not going to coach them hard and demanding and expect more out of them and expect that spirit. But, I believe in these guys and I think that anybody that is around me on a consistent basis, and I hope it would start with them they know that I love these guys. You grow into that. You don’t love someone when you first meet them necessarily. Alright. You don’t have that right away, but you grow into that and I think that is what’s happened, and I feel very confident with that, and I needed to reiterate that and most importantly yesterday. At the same time, start to talk about what are we going to do to get better and get our roles better. What can we do to help each others roles be better? So, that is where that is at. I wanted to say that first. It’s a big deal to me. I definitely thought about, okay do I want to do something right away. No, just wait until everybody is together on Monday. So, with that, as far as getting ready to go play this game, it is a short turnaround, but our guys, I think, are definitely excited to play. We know they are coming off a big win the other day. They are a talented team. They’ve got explosiveness in the back-court. They can score upfront. They mix their defenses. They’re at home, and we have got to go find a way. I think everybody is excited to do that and we are ready to go. Hopefully, after a couple of hours we will be ready to go.” 

On how the players responded to the team meeting and in practice… 

“You know what? I told them and reminded again, it’s not the first time I’ve said that. When you, one thing we have to build is confidence. Right? We do not have a lot of real confidence right now. Sometime you have to remind people that you believe in them when they don’t necessarily see it themselves. I didn’t do a very good job of that the other day, obviously. Then in other times with them, you know, you see something. It goes back to the spring studying every guy on this team, going through the spring with them. You grow a belief. Greg McGarity gives you, he gives every head coach, me and the 14/15 other ones every opportunity to build our roster. He makes it very clear. You play who you want to play. You build the roster the way you want to play it, and when you walk into a program there’s a way you can not, players can go on, you can’t take their scholarship. They can stay on an academic scholarship, but they don’t have to be on the team. I got into this and never even considered that, right? So, as a first-year head coach with that rule being in place I never even considered that. It’s not about taking somebody’s scholarship. You don’t have the right to do that, but it’s like believing in guys. Right I want them to believe in themselves and I think its just another chance to reiterate that. With that comes with a standard you have to work towards, play to everyday, and that’s a demanding thing. You know? Whether you are in a first-year job or been somewhere ten years. You have to demand that out of guys, and that was just to remind them of that. They know we can be better, but we are in it together. Right? I mean, I’ve told, we want to fight with each other. That’s what you’re trying to build and it takes time to build that and that was definitely, definitely my mistake and I didn’t realize it at the time or I would have corrected it. I didn’t realize it until I read my words and that’s not what I meant. It certainly wasn’t my intent, but I said it and that’s why I’m apologizing now.” 

On his optimism of the team back last spring…

“I still am. I think that’s where belief comes in Seth [Emerson], but that doesn’t mean its going to be good everyday because it’s not. I mean you’ve got to work with it, but I am honored and humbled to be this coach and when you are that way, at Georgia, alright? I am honored to coach those guys. That doesn’t mean that I am going to like it everyday. That doesn’t mean they are going to like me everyday. That’s part of building a team, building a family, you go through it and you make mistakes and this isn’t the first time I’ve walked into them and said, ‘Hey I’ve made a mistake.’ Right? That is part of life too because if I am going to try to teach them the life lessons of good you have to teach them when it’s not so good and you have to reiterate that too. It’s what their families expect. It’s just a matter of working to get better on a daily basis. I mean it is what it is and we just want to continue to improve every way we possible can and that is what we have been trying to do.” 

On SEC play so far and looking ahead… 

“Well, you just want to get in on a one game winning streak every day, and I know that sounds corny but it’s really the truth. I mean it’s what you want. You can be winning ten games in a row and you want to be on a one game winning streak. You can’t, you have to learn from the past and you can’t get too far ahead into the future so you can’t really start looking ahead and in any league, but especially in a league like this you better be absolutely locked into what you are doing on a daily basis with your team to get ready for the next game. So, that’s what it is. But, here’s another thing, you know what, we—I’ve got to make sure that when you start to lose confidence sometimes, alright? Because it’s not like they aren’t working hard and it’s not like we aren’t playing hard. There is a spirit and a passion that goes with that. You don’t want guys trying too hard, and we have to have, because our practices have been tremendous. They have been tremendous. I mean, if you saw them, I’m not trying coach-speaking. It’s the truth. You know, and think what happens sometimes, and I let this get me the other day a little bit and I can’t do that. Is, is you get in there and you want that practice level to be there throughout the game level and you know, you get punches in the mouth in a game every once in a while. I mean, figuratively. You’ve got to be able to come back from that. We haven’t done a great job of that all the time, but in practice you try to get to that point, you know where you learn how to do that and have that confidence and we just have to continue to build on that. Well, the last thing I want to do is add too much pressure. That’s why I come in here and talk so much about improvement because that’s the truth. It’s not coach-speak, it’s the truth. We just don’t have the record right not to back that up. But, they are getting better and I have no doubt about that, and I judge that based on some of the people that I think really are looking at our team close maybe from the outside that I trust in what they see in evaluation and then it helps me a little bit. Not only what I’m seeing and what our staff is seeing.” 

On all that Georgia has to offer for recruits and the appraisal of Georgia… 

“Absolutely. I will just say in generally speaking. It’s the same thing. There is no reason if you are in the state of Georgia that you need to go anywhere else. Everything is here. It starts not only with the beauty of this campus, but the unreal quality of education here, and it is. It’s—I don’t have the degree from here but you get around enough people that do and you work with the people that have been here for a while and you see how the students feel about this place and you know that spirit and energy is here and it translates and transfers right over into the athletics side and I think we are seeing it on the basketball side, and when it comes to what is here and what we’ve done in the past with where kids want to go and where people want to go with their careers and their futures. We’ve got that too. Georgia’s got a tradition of that, but so do we. Alright? Bringing that in and meshing that with Georgia because that is a huge part of this. I keep—everyday there really is no reason if you want the best of both worlds in this, in this game and educationally, whether it is living in the state of Georgia or outside the state of Georgia, it’s right here. We’ve got to continue to build it and have people continue to see that. There’s no doubt about it. You’ve got to see the same vision for themselves you see for them, and feel the same feeling you feel and that’s what we want to continue to build in recruiting.” 

On if there is a problem of trying too hard right now and finding balance with that… 

“Well its especially when you haven’t had guys that have had to do it over an extended period of time in their career at the collegiate level, and that’s where you really have to trust the offense. You’ve got to trust the system and you’ve got to trust the system and trust the movement. We’ve got to become more connected in those ways. There were defensive possessions the other day that were really, really good. One mistake happens and the margin for error for us is not good and the other teams are good enough to exploit it. There’s going to be a point in time—we’ve done that to a couple of teams. We’ve done that at times in games. When you’re playing in a league like this, you can’t have a that one mistake. That’s where that connectivity comes in on both offense and defense. The simpler you can make it the better and that’s what we’ve got to try. But we’ve got guys who are trying to make things happen for their teammates. We’re a true work in progress in a lot of ways, in a lot of ways. We’ve just got to continue to build on that every possible way that we can.”

On if he spoke with Hugh Durham and other visiting letterman at the game…

“I sure did. I got to see a lot of the letterman. I was honored to get a chance to speak to them. John Bateman had set that up for me to be able to do that and that was fantastic. I did get to sit with Coach Durham actually twice and we got to talk basketball a little bit. That was a thrill. We didn’t get a long time because we had recruits here and things of that nature and he had family and other people too but we got enough time to speak that I walked away with good feelings.”

On if part of his frustration was derived from a poor performance on Letterman’s Day…

“That’s no excuse, that’s no excuse. I said it there. I didn’t like, that’s always hard. I’ll coach however long I coach, however long I’ve always coached, there’s an added dose of pressure for a coach. Anybody that says differently isn’t really locked into what they’re doing at the place they’re doing it at. I know I haven’t been here long, but I feel that. But, I mean yeah, what’s done is done and that’s why I apologized for it because it was not my intention. It really wasn’t, it was not my intention.”

On the throwback uniforms for Letterman’s Day…

“I’m going to be honest with you, I saw the pictures of those but I didn’t see them live until I saw them on the players. They were cool, they were really nice. That’s something that I thought because there’s a very traditional look that that brings. Obviously from some of the things I’ve heard from people, I haven’t seen that many people the last couple days, but I know people liked them. I’m not sure when we’ll bring them out, I’ve got to check on the rules on that with what we did with Nike to get those and we’ll find out. But yeah, they’re cool.”

On meeting with the team after the game…

“Oh I didn’t meet with them after the game, you can’t meet with the team after the game. Yesterday, before practice, it was a normal day. We had a good long meeting but it wasn’t, you know, it started out with me but then it started with what do we have to do better. That’s when it becomes a really good sequence and we left it and we practiced it.”

On boosting mental toughness throughout the rest of the season…

“I think that’s the million-and-a-half-dollar question that you’ve got to try to answer the best you can. The biggest thing is what you talk about right now and the biggest thing is you don’t dwell too much on what’s not happening, you focus a lot on what is, where you’ve got to get better with that, and get guys. You know I told them a word I said, ‘go look it up: synergy.’ The more synergy you get, you know whether it’s two people, three people, four people, whatever it is, the easier you make the game for everybody else. I think that’s what it is. I think what we’ve got to continue to do here is just take a breath every day and focus on where we’re getting better, focus on what we can clean up and fix, and try to find ways to hide or disguise what we’re not doing on the court, but at the same time never ever get away from what the improvement level’s got to be like.”

On the two prospects signed during the early signing period…

“Well, Toumani [Camara] brings a guy that’s been in the states for three years that’s got tremendous upside. He’s had a fantastic year, he plays tonight. He was bigger when he was here the other day than when we signed him. Tremendous attitude, very, very skilled player, continues to be efficient on both ends of the court, wanted to be at Georgia, as did Jaykwon [Walton], which is a huge thing because it’s one thing to recruit, it’s another thing that once people start to see the vision you have for them. I think Toumani saw that as well as Jaykwon. But, Toumani really truly is just scratching the surface because of his size and the amount of versatility that he has in his game. He’s just a wonderful person, young adult that keeps in touch with you. As much as we keep in touch with them, he keeps in touch with us which is great. Jaykwon [Walton] was our first this year being an in-state guy, obviously he’s in Montgomery, Alabama, but being from Columbus [Georgia]. He can shoot the ball. I was a huge fan when I started to watch film. Found out he had the Georgia connections, because when I first got here I didn’t know anything about him and just didn’t know much, but I learned about him and then we dove in. After the first time seeing him play and watching him on film, [I gave] a scholarship offer. Love his mom. I haven’t met Toumani [Camara]’s mom yet because she’s in Belgium, but have met Jaykwon’s. Jaykwon’s got a high level of offensive ability. He’s smart, instinctive, can score and can get around the rim. He’s got some burst. He’s like Toumani. They’re going to have to get stronger. They’re playing the college game. It goes much faster and you’ve got to have much more physicality. When we look at the way we wanted to  recruit those guys we did very, very well because they’ve have offensive skill, they have upside athletically, they have good bodies and length. I think with where we want to go, building a team that can switch a lot like we’re trying to do now and be very switchable, multi-dimensional defensive team, I think those guys fit that eventually. But they’re going to have to have great springs and summers to get ready to come in here and help us add to it when that time comes.” 

On the players he is still trying to recruit… 

I think you just keep recruiting. Every recruiting season is a case study unto itself. Certainly, you got get positional. We’re actively recruiting. There’s no question about that. We have scholarships. We’re active. I think you always have to be prepared no matter what your scholarship situation is. Recruiting is a 365-day deal, and if it’s not, you’re going to be behind somebody that understands it. You really don’t want to lose that, so you always want to be prepared for scenarios. You have to be prepared 365 days a year for those decisions. Not only for recruiting, but with the calendar is and the way things are going this day and age, that’s part of doing good business these days. 

On the recruiting presence in Atlanta…

No question, [it’s huge]. In a world-class city like that? It’s absolutely paramount that our presence is there. And all we’ve got to do is follow the leader across the street with Kirby and what he’s doing in the city of Atlanta and others. That was one of the most attractive parts about being able to have a chance and be the head coach at the University of Georgia: the state of Georgia and Atlanta. Obviously, they’re both together, but there’s talent and potential and those things all throughout the state. But to have a presence in there with how big that city is, is monumental and we want to continue to do that.

On senior guard Christian Harrison… 

I think it’s a sign of the program. I think it’s a couple things, to be honest with you. I think it can be a strength, but it can be a weakness. As a coach, you coach everybody. It doesn’t matter if they’re a senior or a freshman; your leading scorer or a walk-on: you get coached. That means that there’s positives and there’s tough days with that, but you coach them and you coach them like they belong. If there’s going to be somebody on your team, they have to be good enough to impact you winning. He’s had moments where he has. We look at him as a member of the Georgia basketball team. He wasn’t with us this summer as much…well, no, he was with us some, he wasn’t with us the whole summer. Connor [O’Neill] wasn’t with us the whole summer. Christian was with us some other parts of that. He just continues to improve. He works every day. He’s one of our tougher players. He’s certainly one of our more athletic players. He’s got a grit to him. There’s a physicality to him. For some of the things he doesn’t do, he makes up for with those things. It’s very important to our team. He adds an impact to our team. He gets worked with every day just like Nic Claxton does and Rayshaun Hammonds does. There’s no difference. People have different roles. That’s one of the things that we’ve got to continue. I know that’s one of the things we talked about yesterday: how do we continue to understand how to make the game easier for each other with roles, playing into roles and how we enhance each others’. But he certainly understands his. I didn’t like that pass he made on the pick and roll the other day that wasn’t open, but other than that he does some good things.



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Greg is closing in on 10 years writing about and photographing UGA sports. While often wrong and/or out of focus, it has been a long, strange trip full of fun and new friends.