Friday, March 5, 2010

CAA Tournament Q&A: Tom Pecora

He'll be smiling Monday night, I am sure of it!

You are probably sick of reading my rambling words, so no intro here, just some good stuff from Tom Pecora during our pre-CAA Tournament chat Wednesday afternoon. Enjoy!

What is this week like, preparation-wise?

No different. We’ve prepared for all of our games the same way. The good thing is it’s the third time we’re playing most of the teams, second maybe for some down the road if that’s actually the case. It wouldn’t be that way until the finale, everyone we played we played twice. So you want to keep fresh legs. You keep in mind the fact that you’re going to have to play four games in four days, so I’m not beating them up. We’re going intense, but we’re going for about an hour 15 minutes a day. And you’re putting in things subtly that they’re going to have to face Friday, Saturday, Sunday throughout the tournament without them realizing it in the course of drills.

We don’t kill them in February, I’m pretty good at backing off them a little bit in February and letting them keep their legs but at the same time running enough to keep their wind up. I think that what you really need to happen is in one of those games, you need to be a game where you don’t have to play guys crazy, crazy minutes. Doesn’t have to be a blowout, but if it’s a game where you can get Charles 30 minutes. Because Monday, you’re going to play on adrenaline, but it’d be nice to not have to have Charles playing 35 minutes every game.

Georgia State has never been seeded higher than eighth, but the Panthers are 3-1 in Friday games and should have beaten William & Mary as the 12 seed two years ago, What makes them so tough?

I think they’re very talented. They always play and they come and play with house money. Rod Barnes, the guy was the national coach of the year. So he knows how to prepare a team. They’re a good basketball team and they’re very talented.

This is actually your third team to finish 9-1 in its last 10 games…

I didn’t know that. The thing is maybe because of what we came off prior to it, it made it that much special.

I know it’s different eras and different players, but are there any similarities between this team and the ones in 2005 and 2006 that went 9-1 down the stretch?

We were favored to win the league, I think, in ’06. We were much more experienced, we had three seniors and two juniors, I think, on those teams. So it was different in that sense. Here, the two freshmen are logging so many minutes.

When it comes to Chaz and Halil, do you think ignorance can be bliss, that they’re too young to know how tough it’s supposed to be to win in Richmond?

You hope so. But at the same time, you hope they don’t get in that venue and have trouble with the environment because of the intensity of it and the surroundings and all those type of things. But that’s one of the reasons why we recruit programs as much as players. They’re at big-time programs that have played in big venues in high school and have been exposed to this stuff.

Why does the Richmond Coliseum have a reputation as a tough place to shoot?

I don’t know if it’s the arena. I don’t buy into that stuff. I think that the intensity level is higher. It’s more physical, so in turn offense suffers a little bit.

What about this run you’re on makes it sustainable?

I think the way we’ve done it. There haven’t been a lot of fluke wins in there. We didn’t win games at the buzzer, we didn’t win a lot of games coming from behind, making crazy shots They’ve been pretty substantial wins—hard-fought wins. There’s been some close games, but we’ve been pretty solid over the last 10 games.

Are the lopsided wins a sign of maturity? In December and January, this team had a tough time extending leads.

You hope so. You hope that’s the case. And I think a lot has to do with Chaz. What I’ve talked to him about all year is no empty trips. And for a freshman point guard, it’s hard to grasp the concept. In high school, it seems like there’s an endless number of trips down the floor and that’s not the way [it is in college]. Every trip is so important. We’ve got to get something out of it and we’ve got to be productive every time we come down the floor.

You talked about the freshmen hitting “the wall” on Saturday. Do you think it’s accurate to say Halil has moved past it while Chaz is still struggling through it?

I think the numbers don’t lie, to a certain degree, with that. But I think Chaz, when he has a bad shooting day—we show him tape of every attempt—it’s generally driven by poor decisions on what a good shot is, shot selection. When he takes good shots, he makes them. He shot 50 percent from three in conference play. He’s got a better chance of making a three than he does making a layup, very often, in traffic. And that’s what he’s got to understand and be disciplined enough to do.

When you made the run to the title game in 2006, Carlos Rivera played 120 minutes of turnover-free ball. It’s impossible to expect that from Chaz, but how pivotal is it that he produces something close to that?

Well, he’s going to need to. He’s not going to be as good as Carlos, Carlos is the best we ever had when it came to that, he and Speedy. But that’s very, very important. From your mouth to God’s ears.

Do you think this team is better-positioned for a run than it was last year, even though you had a higher seed and a better record last year?

Who knows? Apples and oranges, I think. Last year, we were a mature group. This year, we’re still a young group in a lot of ways, But once again, were on this roll and it’ll be interesting to see. We’re going to play an experienced team on Friday night and if we play like an immature group they’ll beat us.

What is the key to the weekend?

Well, I think it’s always the same with us. It’s our ability to defend and rebound the ball. If we defend and rebound, we can get out and get some easy baskets. Half court scores are tough to come by this time of the year, so you really want to get out and get yourself opportunities to score on the break. And then half court—if half of your offensive possessions, you go to the foul line in half court, you’re doing a great job this time of year.

Lastly, even though you’re in one game at a time mode, do you ever let yourself think about what it’d be like to reach Monday night again and to be on the sidelines with the championship at stake?

I just worry about Friday night, man. I just think about Friday night. I’ve been doing it long enough not to worry about that stuff. You can’t get ahead of yourself. And that’s the message you’ve got to send to your kids, too.

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