Video: Tom Crean Presser – Georgia vs. South Carolina – February 01, 2019

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Video: Tom Crean Presser – Georgia vs. South Carolina – February 01, 2019

On South Carolina… 

“For South Carolina, they get a lot of attention for how they play and how they defend, and rightfully so, but they are really fast on offense. They really get up and down the court. Certainly, when you got two forwards like they have with [Maik] Kotsar and [Chris] Silva, and the way that they have played throughout their career, and certainly came on the national scene when they went to the Final Four, and they’ve done nothing but get better. Their guard play, [Hassani] Gravett, [Tre] Campbell the freshmen…the young players that they have, they are playing at a high level, and it’s not an accident that they’re having the success that they are having in the league. When you’ve got that kind of fearlessness, on defense, and when you have that kind of toughness level, and they do break that speed offensively. It makes them incredible dangerous. So, we know we’ve got another really, really hard battle coming in front of us. The guys were great yesterday. We were off Wednesday. Everybody has been excited. We will practice today and we’ll look forward to the game, and I think we’ll have another great crowd. We are getting an indoctrination as a staff every day in this league. What you think you knew from before, right? I’ve coach against Frank [Martin] when he was at Kansas State and I was at Marquette. We scrimmaged each other one year, but I never coached against him at South Carolina, since that scrimmage, but you think you know a team and you watch them and then all of a sudden you dive in and study them, and you just realize how good of a coach he is, how good of a staff he has. He has a former guy on his staff that’s one of my best friends. Chuck Martin was on our staff at Indiana. Not only a great coaching friend, but a great friend, family friend. His wife, my wife, best of friends, and so that adds to it. But, the more you dive in and watch it you really, really see how strong of a program they have and you get even more appreciation for it. That is how I feel and we are going to have to play extremely well to compete in this game.” 

On if there is any frustration in the “rebuilding” year… 

“Sure, but I think the reality is that, that is up to you and how you approach it every day, and my energy is high on that. I am surrounded by other people that share in that energy. You can’t take over a program, or you can sustain a program without having a high level of energy that are the same page, and that page is the commitment to improving your team, and that means individually we spend a lot of time on, and that means as a team. I think when you are driven by that and can’t help but get better, and I know it’s not reflecting all the time on our record right now, but I do see us getting better, and there is no question about it. I hope other people do too, but frustration, like I tell, I tell the players this, I’ve used this line for a long time, I don’t remember where I heard it, but once you hit the fifth grade you can’t get frustrated anymore, Right? Now you are moving on into different things, like, we don’t, I don’t ever try to coach like that, now demanding and getting angry about that? Yeah! It’s a driven business. It’s competitive and you want to help people be better, and it’s a truth zone. You go into the film room and go into the practice court, it is about telling the truth, but it’s also about… There’s, here’s how we get better. It’s not about what we’re not doing or what we can’t do, it’s about what we have to be able to do and what we’re going to be able to do, and that is how I am going to try to coach every day. I watch the film. That is how I game plan. That is how I try to recruit, that’s how we try to operate it and I think if you do it any other way all you’re doing is bringing other people down, starting with yourself, and I have no interest in that.” 

On playing for the “long-game” and improvement… 

“Oh it’s a good mix. Yeah, I’m a mix. You have to have your own mix to this. I think the improvement is the cornerstone of the program, it’s got to be because we can talk as coaches until we are blue in the face about you know, getting ready for this game or that game and game-planning and all those type things. If you team, if your individual players don’t feel like they’re getting better or if there is a process to get them better, they are going to lose energy. The already toughest thing in any game is communication is hard, playing through fatigue is hard, there’s a lot of things that are hard. The number one, by far in my opinion, thing that is hard for people in a game is when they have disappointment, when they have failure in a game. How do they respond to that? How do they come back? You have to have a way to come back from that. You have to have, you have to focus on their skills. There’s got to be a belief that they are going to make the next shot, a belief that they’re going to get open again, and so, I think with that outweighs any thing that you do to schematically prepare for the game even though you have to do a lot with that. You have to get their minds right that they can overcome things, and that’s the mix. Here is an example, yesterday was a little longer than it would be this time of year because we were almost can hour, truly just on individual, well some on team skills, but shooting, driving, cutting, getting through contact, defensive footwork, not just team shell-drill or team scrimmaging that came out after, but just continuing to build their skills. In turn, it’s to help us now, but at the end of the day it is to continue to make the program better all across the board because we are not going to get where we want to get if our footwork doesn’t get better. We’re not going to get where we want to go if our shooting and mechanics of the shooting and the moving without the ball don’t get better. We’re not going to get better if we don’t guard the dribble better. We’re not going to get better with those things, and then you go in and you compete and try to bring something out of it and get ready to do it again the next day. So, I think it’s always a mix, and I learned that such a long time ago working for the coaches I worked for. Ralph Willard, when I was at Western Kentucky, Tom Izzo, certainly at Michigan State, had that same philosophy, going all the way back to when I was in college and Alma College at Mount Pleasant High School. I was very, very fortunate to be around people who were very, very good game coaches, very much centered on getting ready for the game but never got away from how important it was that the individual player improve throughout the season.”

On what he’s looking from his players (like Claxton and Ogbeide) coming back after Arkansas…

“Continuing to move without the ball. They’re getting better. They really are. But just continuing to move without the ball, playing without fouling. This is going to be a very physical game, in a sense, that if you’re not ready for physical contact in this game, you’re going to end up getting caught second. I don’t mean that in a bad way- catching second with the referees- but you’ve got to be low. Low man wins, right? Because you’re going to get hit, and it’s like we said the other night with the Arkansas game – every rebound is like a loose ball. You’re either going to get hit or you’re going to be hit, and that’s the way the game is. So, the guys being alert and being conscientious and, like I said, moving without the ball, being ready to score, and then showing leadership.”

On whether he sees his players bring the right amount of energy to practice…

“Oh, yeah, or the most part, but I’m always looking for more, and that’s part of taking the next step as a program. That goes along the lines of what Seth [Emerson] asked. I don’t like to use the term ‘culture’ much, but I’ll use it in this case, because it’s always up for grabs. You’re always building onto something or you’re building away. It’s like the old adage, ‘You’re either getting better, or you’re getting worse.’ I don’t know who said it or who coined it, but they were right, right? So, you’ve got to keep raising their level. So, yo’ve always got to keep raising their level, or what you think their level is, and hopefully overcome it, because the games are extremely hard. But doing it with confidence, doing it with energy – those things are extremely important, too. So, yeah, it’s a family, and anytime you’ve got a family you’re going to have some disappointment, and you’re going to have some distractions, you’re going to have some diversions, but you’ve got to attack that head on and keep moving right on forward and help get them on the same page every day. Our team is no different than any other team and that you have to be conscious of while you’re doing it, because ultimately, it is their first year. There’s no way around it, so every day is the first day – this is the first February 1 together – and so when you go through that, you’re going through the season, they’ve got to keep learning what you know, and you’ve got to keep learning what they’re about and trying to get to the same page as much as you can even when it’s hard, and that to me is the thrill of coaching. I’m getting everyone on the same page and getting them to really believe in themselves.”

On how Claxton shows his leadership on and off the court…

“He plays hard, he plays really hard. He’s playing harder and longer, and I think that’s a great key for a leader. I think it’s not about the experience, because he’s still very young. It’s about understanding the game even better and about understanding that the better he plays, the other plays feel better with that, too, right? Because he can do a lot of things, and he’s learning to do a lot of things, right? He’s as much in the learning process as anyone else on the team because he’s learning more and more each day about what all he’s capable of and being pushed to a high level. They’re all being pushed to a high level, but he’s being pushed to a high level, too, because there is so much talent inside. And I think not getting frustrated with that, being able to work through he fatigue of that, being able to work through the disappointment of that, being able to overcome bad stretches – you know, don’t let bad moments turn into bad days – I think that’s the big thing for a team when you’re trying to build a good team, is knowing there are going to be bad moments, but you can’t let them override your thought process and how you keep improving during the day, and I think he’s mentally getting tougher all the time with that, and that’s key.”

On how Ogbeide’s leadership is developing…

“I think it’s got to continue to be ongoing, even when it’s not going his way for him. That’s the whole sign of any leader. You can throw any name that you just asked me in that “How are you playing? How do your teammates see you when it’s not going well for you? What do you do to impact the game when a couple of things aren’t going well, or the main things you wanted you to get done wasn’t going well.” That’s leadership, right? It’s not necessarily who goes to meet the referees at the beginning of the game and shakes hands; it’s not about that, right? That’s just a byproduct of what the true leaders are. And, again, it’s not about assigning captains. You can assign captains all you want, and they may not even be remotely close to the types of leaders you want for your team. Leaders emerge throughout the season. They build, and they’ve got to go through tough times, and they’ve got to go through them together and the players have to see how they respond when they go through that, and that’s what we’re working on now.”

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Greg is closing in on 11 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.