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What they said… BC coach Al Skinner

03.19.09 at 10:29 pm ET
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After Tyrese Rice and Rakim Sanders had their moment on the dais, it was Al Skinner’s turn.
Q. Coach, talk about just the fact that, like you mentioned before, that you haven’t necessarily gone on a winning streak per se, but the tournament is going to require you do that. Where do you feel like the team is as far as putting those together?

COACH SKINNER: Can you repeat it?

Q. You talked about not necessarily going on a winning streak per se in the ACC, whatever, but being in a tournament kind of requires you do that, to kind of put wins together. Does the team need to have that experience beforehand or do you trust that they have that ability?

COACH SKINNER: They definitely have the ability, it’s just a matter of doing it. But as you’ve already indicated, you’re in a situation where it requires that. But then saying that is different. This is very different because it is one and done. It doesn’t afford you to look beyond the first game. I think that’s clearly a mistake for anyone to do that, regardless of who you may be. So that situation is very different.

I think the most you should do is look at it as a two game situation, because that’s all you have to do. And you have plenty of time the following week to prepare. But, you really do have to take it one game at a time, otherwise you are doing yourself and your team a disservice.

Q. Does it make it kind of dangerous when two teams seem to be playing some of their best basketball of the year around the same time? Like USC won five straight. You don’t have a winning streak but you are meshing and the chemistry is coming together. Does it make it kind of dangerous when two teams are playing their best basketball at the same time?

COACH SKINNER: What it does, hopefully it will create a great basketball game. And I think that’s what the tournament’s all about.

But you’re not going to be playing any bad teams this time of year.
It’s just not going to happen. So you’ve got to get yourself prepared for get yourself prepared for a great basketball game. And I think we’ve done that.

But again, there are just no bad teams. There are talented guys out there. Outstanding coaches. And so, you know, you have got to put your best foot forward, otherwise obviously you are going to be heading home.

Q. From your studying of USC over the last few days, film work and so forth, what are some of the things that jumped out at you?

COACH SKINNER: Well, again, the fact that they’ve been able to put together five games at this period of time, it is an indication that they’ve kind of they have got a much better feel for who they are and what it is they want to do. I think they have kind of recognized what their roles are to get a better feel for each other and kind of defined themselves.

And because of that, you know, their play has improved. They are not juggling their lineup as much as they were earlier in the season. And, again, I think guys just know their roles and most likely are playing much better together.

Q. Hi, Coach. You guys are the higher seed, yet not favored in a lot of national circles. It doesn’t mean a whole lot, but is that something that you will mention to your guys? Is that something that you’ll use?

COACH SKINNER: No, I really don’t I don’t really use those type of tactics, because I don’t want them to succumb to it where it is positive or negative. Sometimes there are negative things that can occur, and maybe this could be considered a negative. And sometimes there are positive things that can occur. I very rarely use outside tactics to motivate my team. I’d like to find something a little more internal within us that’s going to help elevate our game to match the competition.

Q. Just to follow up what he said, Tyrese actually said he kind of got used to not getting as much respect as what the team deserved. Is that kind of a trend, that I am not surprised at all?

COACH SKINNER: Again, it’s not something we focus in on. I mean, your guys have a job to do, people have jobs to do. And I’m not going to allow any of that to influence us. If we did, we would have ended up in 11th place in the ACC.

Q. Any similarities in not necessarily the style of basketball, I asked a couple players, just the fact they have like one veteran senior and a bunch of young guys that kind of are catching on, any similarity between you and those guys at USC?

COACH SKINNER: Not really. I am not sure if we really identify with them in that sense. You know, I don’t I didn’t necessarily break it down that way. I don’t look at it that way. I just look at their talent level and how well they play together.

Q. Kind of off the subject. Did you know about Jimmy Calhoun being in the hospital before the game? Any thoughts on that?

COACH SKINNER: I just heard about it as we were heading over to practice. And obviously the first thing you think about is has the cancer come back. And of course you hope that’s not the case. I just hope he has an upset stomach.

Q. USC had success in the Pac 10 tournament using Marcus Simmons and bigger guards against the other teams’ point guard. Is that a concern for you going into this game that they can use some 6 5, 6 6 guys against Tyrese Rice and how do you counteract that?

COACH SKINNER: Did you ask Tyrese that?

Q. I did. He said it wasn’t a big concern because he goes against Rakim Sanders in practice and faces big guards.

COACH SKINNER: He is the one who should answer the question. It is not a question for me; it is a question for my player. If that’s what he said, he’s okay with it. We’re going to do what we are going to do and they are going to do what they are going to do.

Q. Coach, what concerns you most about what Southern Cal does and what they have been doing lately?

COACH SKINNER: The thing that’s most important is that obviously I think they have developed a winning attitude. They have had some success. They seem to have balance, their game between the half court and some transition. I mean, they just have a great feel for each other now.

And because of that, again, they know what they want to do. They know how successful what they need to do in order to be successful. So that’s why they have been able to win the games that they did and win the Pac 10 tournament.

Q. Sort of an old topic. Speak to the idea you played college basketball in Massachusetts and you have been in B.C. a long time, that the area you represent is not as college basketball crazed as a lot of other areas that you go to regularly. Is that something that everybody is kind of resolved with? How do you deal with that?

COACH SKINNER: I mean, I think for us we just have to take a tremendous amount of satisfaction in what we accomplish and we have to set our own parameters. Again, it goes back to the question earlier about outside influences. I appreciate any recognition that anyone gives us, but that’s not what we’re seeking.

We’re seeking to go out and to compete and get respect among our peers. That’s the most important thing to me. Anything else above that is gravy or icing on the cake as people say.

Again, it is not what motivates us, it doesn’t motivate me. You know, again, I appreciate any acknowledgment that we receive and the way people feel about us, but I think our satisfaction has to go into the fact of being having some success and competing and getting recognition from your peers.

Q. And the follow being trying to get athletes to come to Boston to play basketball, has it been an issue? Or has it been something you need to sell kids?

COACH SKINNER: Well, the thing is, at least in Boston and the New England area, the fact of the matter is, they are in an environment that they would like to ascend to, meaning the professional athletes and the success they had serve as role models for them. To see the Red Sox, to see the Patriots, the Celtics all win a championship and the way those young men handled themselves and handle the success is a great role model for our guys.

And that’s again, at the end of the day, they would like to be able to aspire to that. But more important, you know, is they’re in that environment. They have an opportunity to rub elbows with those individuals and I think there’s some satisfaction there. They may not be getting the acknowledgment night in and night out for their individual accomplishments, but over the long haul I think it serves them better.

Q. If you can point to a strength that you guys have over USC, would it be the guards?

COACH SKINNER: Right now it is hard to say. Unfortunately, I can’t really assess as well as I’d like sometimes in film. I get a much better feel as the game goes along. And so I have a tendency to kind of coach from the seat of my pants. So that’s what we’re going to do in this situation.

I can’t really say what our strengths are. Hopefully we’ll find some as the game goes along.

Q. Did you expect at the start of the season it was about learning, about trying to figure things out. And you knew you had the potential.
But did you expect this?

COACH SKINNER: If you really well, I don’t really bring expectations that way as far as you know, everyone, I know they want to play in the NCAA tournament. I know they want to try to win the ACC. I know that.
So I don’t have to put that out there. I know they will want to try to go as far as they can in this tournament. But that’s a given in my opinion. So I don’t bring those type of expectations to my club.

What I try to do is help them get prepared and get them better every day. That’s really what my goal is. And if we’re doing that and guys are really trying to improve and they are improving, then we eventually will reach that, whether it is in a year’s time, two years’
time, and obviously my contract will affect that, but that really is what I am working towards.

So I don’t put limitations, but I don’t have expectations either other than what we are doing in practice. Are we working well enough?
How are we performing in the games? Does it translate from practice to the games? That’s really what I do. And, you know, try to put together a game plan that gives them a chance to be successful.

Q. I think Barack Obama or at least his staff picked I want to say they picked you guys. Yeah. Did you vote for Barack Obama? Is there something you are not

COACH SKINNER: (Laughter) no, like I don’t pay much attention to his prediction, but I don’t pay much attention to anyone else’s either. I appreciate that, but the fact of the matter is we have to play the game.

Q. Al, just as a follow up to that, USA Today had you as an underdog. Two of the talking heads at ESPN, Doug Gottlieb and Joe Lunardi, say you are going to get beat. Nobody is really talking about this matchup at all. I have a sense to what your reaction is, but does that frustrate you a little bit that everybody basically in the national media has you guys losing the game, and nobody is talking about what I think is a fascinating first round game?

COACH SKINNER: No. Like I said, no. Like you said, you already knew the answer to the question. No, it doesn’t frustrate me at all and no, it doesn’t impact me at all.

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