October 26, 2016
TONY BENNETT: Whatever questions you have, go ahead.
Q. Coach, to take a look at this year's team, obviously some of the leadership is gone, some of the veterans are gone, but there are veterans that are left. Just what you can say about passing the torch and how there's not an expectation to have much drop-off because of what you've created in Virginia so far?
TONY BENNETT: I think what I'd say to that is it's their time. I think there's an eagerness or an excitement for the opportunity for guys like Devon Hall, Darius Thompson, Marial. You know, London has been a key figure to this. Isaiah has played a lot, but these other guys who have been more in a supplemental role, I think they're really excited for the opportunity to have it be their team and have a bigger role than they were on in teams past.
The rest of the guys, quite honestly, are all newcomers. Jack Salt and Jarred Reuter played just a little bit, but the rest are newcomers, six newcomers, four freshmen -- well, five freshman, and Mamadi was a redshirt.
So I think those guys who have some experience are excited for their time. And it is, it's their time. That's what I told them. And just want them to be as good as they obviously can. Because of the last few years of success, I think they've seen what can be attained by playing together but also realize how special that group was before, and we're going to do everything we can, of course, to carry it on.
Q. You mentioned all of the turnover; how important will London's continued progression offensively be? You obviously are a defensive coach and pride yourself on the defense, but how important is he going to be offensively for success this season?
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, I kind of like offense a little bit. We're pretty efficient, so I don't know if we're -- I think London, you couldn't have a better -- if you're going to have one guy who is experienced when you have a lot of newcomers, you'd better have a point guard and a player like London. London's greatest strength, he had it when he came in from day one, is his feel. His mind for the game is exceptional. I've made a mistake a couple times with London saying you've got to be aggressive, we need you to shoot this many shots. It's taken out of greatest strength, his feel for the game. I always encourage him to improve, to be a little more assertive. And every year he has gotten more aggressive. He's taken a few more shots, and he understands the situation, but if I try to make him someone he's not, I take him out of his game and his strengths. He's smart enough to figure out where he has to look and be assertive, but he's also smart enough to say what does the team need, who needs to touch the ball, what do we need defensively. And I think if I try to make him a clone of what Malcolm Brogdon was last year, you've got to be this way, I think it's a mistake. And I think his greatest attribute is his understanding of what needs to be done. And of course a little encouragement, maybe a swift kick every now and then. But his feel is at the highest level. One of the best I've coached. And I respect that, and I'll respect that. If there is an issue, we'll talk, okay, what can we do. But a couple times, if I've taken him outside of his comfort zone, that's not good for anybody.
Q. From one of your veterans to one of your freshmen, Coach, I think at Media Day in Charlottesville you talked about your freshman class but you didn't talk specifically about Kyle Guy, your first McDonald's All-American. What do you like about him and how much of an impact can he make as a freshman?
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, time will tell. All of our freshmen, and I'll get to Kyle, have shown great promise. Kyle has shown flashes of being really good. There's a physicality and a maturity, mentally and physically, that has to come to, I think, have consistent success. All of our freshmen, Kyle, they're slight, very skilled, good mind for the game, can play, but there's a physicality to the college game that's an adjustment for anybody. And to be fair to Kyle, to be fair to all those freshmen, there will be an adjustment. But we're excited about him because he's a wonderful young man. He brings a flair to the game. He can fly off screens, hit shots. He's got a real good -- just a pep to his step, I guess you'd say. And we're hopeful that in the right opportunities, he's going to thrive. And I know it's not a matter of if, I believe it's when, and it's just when they're ready.
It's a lot. I don't ever expect a whole lot. I hope I'm pleasantly surprised by freshmen, but you don't know what you're going to get. When you have returners, you should know, but freshmen, we're going to need a few of them, two or three, to probably contribute, but I don't want to put expectations and say, we've got to have 10 points in this amount of minutes and this many shots. It's not like that.
We'll see how it goes. We've got a couple quality scrimmages, that will tell, good non-conference schedule. I think it'll just evolve as the season progresses.
Q. Last year in the tournament kind of a tale of two halves against SU.
TONY BENNETT: Yeah.
Q. What makes playing their style so difficult when you're playing them not only in the tournament but in ACC play?
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, in that game we shot it real well in the first half, or London did, and then we got cold. If you get cold against them, it's trouble, and then they pressed us, and we didn't finish at the end.
I marvel at Coach Boeheim. I'm a big believer in Vince Lombardi's theory, simplicity with execution. And they have mastered that 2-3 zone. It evolves, they make adjustments. They know what they're going to try to do. We try to be that way with our defense and our offense. And you just have to be better at your zone offense than they are at their zone defense. And it's just a battle of wills. They have the personnel, they recruit to it. The guys believe in it, and certainly it's difficult because you're going to have to make some shots, but you'd better have some skilled people in the high post. If you don't have guys that can do that, there's a lot of things that go on, and like I said, it's an intelligent zone that sort of adapts to you as the game goes on.
Q. I want to take you back to your first year because you're kind of in a similar situation you were that Josh Pastner is at Tech, having to rebuild. What kind of helped you get through the first couple years where you're taking a lot of lumps?
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, my faith in the Lord and a loving wife. Those were the things.
No, I think I was fortunate that I worked under -- I played for my father and worked for him, and I was part of, as a player, a rebuilding process. As a coach when I was with him, we went to Washington State. I was with him this one year when he went to the Final Four at Wisconsin. But when you experience rebuilding, you understand the patience that's required. You understand how you'd better have a clear vision. There's going to be a lot of detractors of what you're trying to do, but you have to be able to make subtle adjustments, but this is what we're doing, I see the end result, and you've got to put on the blinders and go and stay true to what matters to you. You have to know what matters to you. You have to be clear and have an identity. And having that model from my father as a player and then working with him, invaluable.
I think sometimes when you get in a spot where -- I don't know the exact situation at Georgia Tech, but a new coach in a league like this, every year is a battle. You just got to be as good as you can at what you do and just make progress, celebrate the little successes and keep going, keep going. And then you'll get a little momentum. But this is a tough league to do it. It's going to be a tough league for every team this year. But I'm thankful for those experiences, because patience is a hard thing in today's college sports society.
Q. You have Pitt twice this year; what do you know about Kevin Stallings and the offense he wants to run with the Panthers, and how does that change your preparation as compared to a Jamie Dixon team?
TONY BENNETT: Yeah, Coach Stallings is one of the best offensive minds -- Coach Dixon was a great coach, too. I'm a coach's son. I respect all coaches. I learned that a long time ago, and they're good. Regarding Coach Stallings, one of the better offensive minds in the game. We played them when I was at Washington State in a double-overtime loss in the second round of the NCAA Tournament when he was at Vanderbilt. We scrimmaged him two or three times when I was -- he was at Vanderbilt, I was at Virginia. I like to scrimmage them because I knew how hard they were to guard. You'd better be sharp in your execution offensively. And great mind. Just a heck of a coach, and you're going to have to be prepared.
I think they have some quality players that certainly were left, and he'll certainly add his, but quality coach, quality team, and another -- that's why this league is -- there's just such good depth in it. But hard to guard, quick ball screen action, middle -- he can do a lot of things with his offensive pieces.
Q. You talk about the depth of this league; is this the most depth you've seen in your years at Virginia?
TONY BENNETT: Can I tell you that at the end of the year? I mean, how do I really know? We sit here and we get up in front and we talk about it. On paper, yeah, it appears that way. It'll all be played out, so we'll find out. But you look on paper, the quality coaches, the maturity in the league and what you have, and, yeah, it seems that way. But we say that every year, don't we?
But I think it'll be determined. It looks good. That's all I can say.
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