October 24, 2018
Q. Now that you have so many big men and so many guards --
COACH TONY BENNETT: Yeah, I want to let Jack bring it up and we're going to propose a 15-second shot clock. I think that should be the next rule change. I mentioned that at the round table. Absolutely.
No, I think every year, you just try to find ways that are unique to your team that give you a chance to be successful, and we do have some big guys in all seriousness.
Jack runs the floor very hard, and some guys that can run the floor -- so probably more opportunistic. If I sit here in front of you and say, hey, we're going to try to run on every make and be like a Carolina and be like some of the teams in our league that, wouldn't be accurate. But always opportunistic.
It's always about decision-making. Good shot selection and decision-making. If you push and there's something good that's there, so be it, but if not, it's a feel. Sometimes you need to work the ball and do it. But those baskets, if you can get some off of turnovers or big guys running, are important.
It's hard to believe it's ten years, but you have asked that question every year, so thanks for asking it again. Good job, Frank.
Q. Coach, and Jack, your opinion, as well. You look at some of the new players coming in, specifically Braxton, now that he has eligibility, Jay Huff and Kihei Clark, how have they progressed defensively from where you like to have people when they see more playing time on the court, and Jack, how have you been able to help some of the big men develop defensively now that Isaiah is gone and you have to pick up more of the slack?
JACK SALT: Isaiah was a guy I looked up to and tried to learn as much as I could.
So over the time I was with him, was trying to learn and watch film with him and I'm just trying to pass that knowledge on to the younger guys. Braxton coming in here, his first year here, it's tough to get acclimated straightaway and he's been trying really hard. Jay, I've been trying to give him advice as much as possible. So those are two guys in my position that I try to help out as much as I can.
COACH TONY BENNETT: I think Jack -- Isaiah from the front court players, and overall, was really a vocal leader defensively and held the guys accountable. I think that's going to be a great opportunity and challenge for Jack to not let that slide.
We still have work as a whole group defensively to keep working and improving, and that's just a process. That's not easy. But I think Jack's voice and his heart and mind for it will be a real important piece for our defense.
Those other guys that you mentioned, the newer guys or younger guys, it's a process. We kind of do -- the younger players, we've had our older players, we have a little exercise we do. But they always say: I can remember when I first got here, and feeling a little overwhelmed at times. You know, the challenges of being either a first-year in our program or new, and everybody kind of has it and how challenging that is.
So the ability to just encourage them, but make it hard for them and challenge them, and not -- not give any wiggle room, but not destroy them in terms of what you're trying to get defensively because that has been a very important aspect for us.
Q. Kyle, presumably it's the first time you've walked into this building since March. How much do you keep with you what happened in last season, and how much do you try to pack it away?
KYLE GUY: Yeah, I think for me, it's never forgetting it, but definitely trying to move past it to where I'm not hanging my head on it. I think it's taken me a little bit longer than some of the other guys, but that's just because I'm an emotional kid and I'm real passionate about things. That cut me real deep.
But Coach said something last night when we were meeting with him and Jack, and he said that, you know, courage is not the absence of fear; it's moving forward in the face of fear, and I think that's something that I'm going to hold onto for the rest of my life. I think one of the greatest things and I didn't wanted to be here so bad was because it was in the same arena. I think this is the best way for me to face my demons.
Q. For Kyle, seems to me that last year against VCU, you demonstrated a sequence of moves, and it's almost like somebody opening a new Swiss Army knife. All of a sudden it was the dribble-hesitation jumpshot, the dribble penetration pass, the dribble-spin-around, almost falling out-of-bounds, wave to the fans, sell popcorn, make a three. What have you worked on between that time to make your game even better this year?
KYLE GUY: Yeah, I'm a big proponent on expanding my game in all areas. I'm known for my, you know, jumpshot, and I still try to make that as consistent as possible and Coach stays on me about that.
Just trying to stay aggressive and make sure that I'm working on all areas, whether it's creating off the dribble for somebody else or for myself, defensively, anything. Just always trying to hold myself accountable and get a little bit better each day.
Q. When you look at your teammate in Kyle, he doubled his point production from his freshman year to a sophomore year, and not thinking that he's going to double it this year to 28 points. There is an elevation in his game. What do you see as the experience, the elder statesmen of this group, what do you see about Kyle's game that you like?
JACK SALT: Like you said he's all been a good shooter but he's worked on that and worked on taking it to the basket strong. He's good at finding people. He's just a great teammate to play with and just the ability for him to be able to knock down the outside shot, and now he's added to be able to take it strong into the lane, and whether it's a float, dish or a strong take to the rim, he's really worked on that.
Q. Your defense has been very constant through the years. Last year was one of your best offensive seasons. How much more difficult is it to defeat the style that Virginia plays, when the ball is going in?
COACH TONY BENNETT: Yeah, I think that's the case with anybody. But if we can always be solid and start with the defensive end of the floor and make people earn to score against us, and then, you know, you accompany that with good offense and versatile offense, that's when we are at our best and we've had our best games, best years.
But there are always times where our offense can come and go, and it's: Can your defense be constant. That can sometimes keep you in games and win you games when your offense doesn't show up.
Neither of them are easy to perfect. But I like the versatility of this year's team offensively, and I think there's some good things there that hopefully will show this year and that will show the diversity of the team and just different looks.
Q. I have two questions if that's okay. First for Jack. Talking about some of your fellow post players, how would you compare and contrast your game with their games?
JACK SALT: Jay and Mamadi are both good shooters. They shoot from the outside. I prefer playing on the inside, but they can both also play on the inside. I think Mamadi is really athletic. When he's making strong moves he's really hard to guard on the post, and Jay can stretch the four out as a 5-man, which has been tough to guard in practice. But I think we all work pretty hard. Still a lot of room to grow on the defensive end, but I think it's a good group of guys.
Q. We heard Coach talk about Braxton's experience and how he'll affect this offense. We saw in the scrimmage he was really fluid and looked like a good distributor. How do you think his presence will affect the offense this season?
KYLE GUY: Yeah, I think he has a really good feel for the game. I played with him and against him in AAU and on the circuit and at camp, so I saw this firsthand. I think he's a very good passer, actually. Sometimes he predetermines things before he does them, but he's really active on the rebounds, and offensive rebounds, also. He's a strong kid. He's actually pretty athletic. I think once he completely buys into it defensively, he can be a nightmare.
Q. With Devin graduated, Ty is going to pick up a lot more of the main point guard role. What do you like about his game and how he's developed and do you think he'll end up passing you the ball more now?
KYLE GUY: Yeah, sorry. Caught me off guard. He's probably the best leader that I've -- one of the best leaders in terms of vocalizing and communication. Sometimes he likes to talk a lot and doesn't really say much, but he's, you know, tremendous to be in the backcourt with. You know, we can finish each other's sentences when we're on the court together and I think that's big that we have that chemistry.
You know, he's probably one of the best point guards in the country.
Q. How does the defense use the skills of Jack and Diakite, and conversely, how does it help the overall effectiveness of the defense to have players with their defensive skills?
COACH TONY BENNETT: Yeah, I think size. You know, Jack is so willing to come across and help and he's so physical. Physicality is important defensively, especially same with Mamadi. Whether it's blocking a shot or whether there's a breakdown on the perimeter, they can clean up a lot of stuff, but just their willingness, their willingness to stay down, to work, to understand how valuable that is for us; that they learn from guys like Isaiah that Isaiah learned from Akil and so forth. I think those guys are pretty clear in the value of it and how important it is and how continuous they have to be.
So when you have size and length -- and I know the game a lot of times is four guards now or four out, but Mamadi has that mobility. It's important but Jack's physicality, offensively and defensively, is a significant factor in our effectiveness on D.
Q. Charlotte has a bit of another meeting in that you lost Ron Sanchez to lead the department or lead the program for them what's it going to being like to look down the bench and not see his face there?
COACH TONY BENNETT: Yeah, Ron is a dear friend. Couldn't be happier for him to have this position at UNC Charlotte. But we have a great staff and there's all been continuity in our staff and we've added. I moved Orlando Vandross and added Kyle Getter. So our staff is very strong.
But Ron, to me, was a great coach. He actually was at Indiana when my sister was the head women's coach and he was with me all those years at Washington State for the last 15 years or whatever it's been.
So you're losing a friend, someone that understands things. So that's the part I'll miss the most but it was time for him, and he had turned down some other jobs, but I couldn't be happier for him. I think he's going to do some good things. It will take him time, but he's a special one for sure, and will be missed.
Q. I remember distinctly during your first season at Virginia, you kept your smile on your face. You kept speaking positively. And now you've come with the program so far. You look at the number of wins, it's astronomical -- I can't even read; the font's too small. But averaging basically 30 wins over the last five years. How do you keep the program steady now and moving forward and how do you reset expectations every year and how do you keep your staff together, almost intact from the beginning?
COACH TONY BENNETT: I just think I've been fortunate to recruit players that are -- I don't know if sneaky good is the right word, but they are better than people realize. They are really good players and they develop and they work and they love the game and they love to play together, and they embrace the fact that, you know, we're Virginia and we're still trying to knock on that door and do something as special as we can.
I don't think we assume anything, I don't. I read a letter that actually was sent to Bobby Knight way back after he had a tough loss in the tournament they had an undefeated year. Claire B. wrote him a letter. Someone sent it to me. And it was the idea of being strengthened by the very blow that cut you down, but the premise of it was: We're going to run to the starting line.
This is a new team this year. This is a different team. So many people want to say, well, okay, you've got to get back, you've got to vindicate yourself or validate that, you know, what happened -- no. This is about us running to the starting line of the season and taking it absolutely as far as we can possibly go, and it's about growing from last year's unbelievable success and growing from last year's very humbling loss, and using it to help us respond and be better.
That's the reality of why this team -- great coaches. Great assistant coaches. Probably an okay head coach. But your staff makes you look really good, I'll be honest. Players that are very good. They are so much better than people give them credit for, and they develop. And then a willingness to know, you've got to go get it. It's we don't think we are better than we are. We don't think we're worse than we are. We just show up and try to be as good as we can and use the experiences that have happened.
It was such a unique year last year, and we've talked about that and we know that's going to be in our face how that ended. But it was historic in terms of the success that was taken from it.
So taking that, but realizing, these guys, we're united in what we're pursuing. That's one of our things we're talking about, being united in our pursuit and going after it. Whether we get it or not, that remains to be seen, but we'll go after it with everything we have, not assuming anything.
I think that's been one of the keys to why this program has gone that far, and I'm no dummy. I know it's also very good fortune and a blessing. It's a good gift that's come my way in success and in failure, but it's not from my own doing. I understand that. It's been a gift, and that's how I choose to look at it.
Q. When you do come back to this building in March, what team will you be bringing back with you after four and a half months of play?
KYLE GUY: I think we're going to be a very tenacious group this year, and I think that the open dialogue that we've had as a team and coaching staff, that Coach Bennett has not made us do but allowed us to do, has made us a closer group and just better overall because we know we can trust each other.
We know we've been vulnerable and now we can really move past and get to March again which is the ultimate goal and just play our best and leave everything on the floor. I think that's all we can do.
Q. Virginia, more than any other school, has had the upper hand in the last five years in the ACC, certainly having a dominant season last year but you've not translated the same success in the ACC to the n AAA. Curious your thoughts as to why that is?
COACH TONY BENNETT: Yeah, we've been to an Elite 8, a Sweet 16. We usually advance past the first round the years we've been in it and obviously we had the loss.
There's been some success, and I'm not trying to say -- I would never take that away from what these guys have done, but the excitement, the beauty of the NCAA Tournament is the one-and-done setting and so much is about how you're playing. Of course match-ups help and all those things come into play.
That's the goal to, have a great regular season and be fortunate enough to qualify for the NCAA Tournament and then take it as far as you can. I think it's number of factors and we've had chances.
Again, here we sit, so we get another opportunity to start this year to run to this starting line, not the finish line. But some really good teams we've played and again, the beauty of the tournament.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports