Q. Greg, it's my understanding you added an assistant coach last night. Talk about Zach Bohannon's initiative in that area and what that might bring.
Greg Gard: Yeah, we just asked, after we found out, we haven't even left the selection show and asked if he could get the scout team together and review some things. And I said, sure, go ahead.
I saw some of your pictures people were putting out there that apparently saw him out there. He's sharp. His basketball IQ is extremely high, regardless if he played that system or not. In our preparation for Northwestern in the past, he's been an asset there. He understands the game. He communicates well.
We were just in the video room now, and he's teaching me things that, after 12 years of working against it -- there's different parts of it. Not every coach that has come off that tree has kept it exactly the same. Obviously, terminology.
I've kind of developed my own terminology over the years to help the scout team relate to what the actions are. But, obviously, he understands it extremely well and the reading. That's the big thing. They read and initial the call, primary sets out of it, and then read and react accordingly with it. Obviously, Zach's always been a huge help with this. Not just with the Princeton offense, but like I said, his basketball IQ and his studious portion of the game is pretty good in terms of how he understands things and what he sees.
Q. Greg, you touched on this a little bit, but how similar is this to a Northwestern style Princeton offense? Or even in N.C. State back in '05 when you played them with the Princeton type offenses?
Gard: Yeah, we've seen it from a variety of teams. Stanford ran it a couple of years ago. We saw them. We've seen bits and pieces of it, and we've even used a little bit here and there, just some actions within it. I think the one thing is you have to have unselfish players, and they obviously are. They have to buy in, which they obviously have because Mike's only been there a year.
To make that type of transition and to be able to make the run -- you know, they finished second in the league, getting the second seed in that league, and obviously upset -- I don't know if I would call it an upset. They had beaten Boston by 30 during the year and then split when they came back the second time.
They're very unselfish. They bought in. I think the key to success with this type of offense is you have to have a very good cerebral, well passing five man. Tony Wroblicky kid, he's very good. Left-handed, sees the floor. He's very good in his own right in terms of ability to generate offense for himself, but his ability to play within the middle of that and pass and find people. And they play well off of him.
That's always a key. If you have a good passing big man, and we've had our share of them over the years. That puts a lot more pressure on the defense.
Q. Greg, getting back to Zach, how rare is it that a player contributes that much from a coaching standpoint?
Gard: Well, we haven't had a lot of transfers over the years, and I think any time you have somebody coming from that type of a unique system that's lived in that for a couple of years and understands the teachings and the climate of it, it's pretty rare, I think.
I've never gone to him and say, well, what would they do here? What would they do there? And pulled information from him. He's always come to me and said, hey, this is what we used to do, or this is what they're looking at. This is what I'm seeing.
Even the year that he sat out that he redshirted after he transferred, I remember him at the bench with a note pad, and he ran every single possession that Northwestern ran and knew exactly because sometimes coaches within systems -- and with any system, not just the Princeton offense -- can get like NFL coaches or college football coaches or they script plays in succession, especially at the start of the game, and determine what they're going to run later based on the success of their script.
So he had it scripted, exactly what was going on, and kind of looked what the tendencies, he thought they would look at. So like I said, if he doesn't become president, I think he'll be a pretty good coach if he decides to do that and give up his life as a politician.
Q. How soon after the selection show were you able to get tape on American? Are there any similarities in terms of valuing possessions and working the clock and playing good defense? I don't think they gave up more than 50 points in any of their Patriot league games?
Gard: No, they are. They're very good defensively, and it's not because they run the Princeton offense. It's because they are, other than Gardner, have a lot of length. Obviously, Wroblicky at 6'10". Everybody else from 5'6" to 6'8". They cover gaps pretty well. They affect shots with their length.
We were watching within an hour after basically, try to learn names and tendencies and then built from there as we went into last night and then this morning. So we'll continue tonight after practice, but I think we've got a pretty good feel.
But still we have our way -- our plan of how we'll try to defend it, and it will still be about what we do and how we are, both ends of the court. They will mix in some zone as well. So they won't play all man. They'll play a little bit of zone.
Like I said, you try to figure out tendencies of players or what -- you look and say, okay, Tony Wroblicky, what does he do? What is he like? Obviously, you can read things and look at stats, but then you have to figure out how he plays. And the people around him, they mesh well together. Like I said, Mike's done a very good job in probably a difficult situation when there's a coaching change.
I think Jeff went to Old Dominion that was there before, Jeff Jones. So you have that type of transition, and you've got to get everybody to buy in, and to buy in and play this system well, he's done a terrific job because this system is not easy to teach and not easy to pick up in that sort a time. And they've done a good job of it.
Q. Greg, what's allowed Nigel Hayes to handle playing on the big stage as a freshman? What do you hope to see him improve on? Or what's the biggest thing he needs to work on?
GARD: Well, I think the one thing, obviously, that jumped out from day one is physically he was ready. He was ahead of the curve of your average freshman from that standpoint. And I think he's been very cerebral. He listened when Coach was talking to frank about something or Sam (Dekker) about something or Duje (Dukan)or anyone that had been in that front line position, and he soaked those things in.
Then he took his experience of what he was able to gather during the year, especially early, and build upon that. As the year went on, obviously, he got more experience, had some success with it, and just tried to keep getting better and better.
I think the biggest thing is he's just -- he's always all ears. He's very -- I keep using the word studious like I did with Z-Bo, but he understands the game. He's very smart. He's very sharp. He asks very good questions, and he just keeps working. He doesn't have a whole lot to say. Just when you point out something to him, he's like, okay, I understand it.
It's not that he always maybe does it right every single time, but he has a very good concept of how we want to play and what his strengths are. And I think for the most part he's tried to minimize weaknesses and accentuate his strengths. His strengths will become broader as he goes through his career. I think he'll expand his perimeter game a little bit.
He'll get better at the free-throw line. But in terms of what he's brought to us from a physical standpoint and from ability to put pressure on the rim as a post player -- we're not 26-7 without Nigel Hayes, I know that. He's been a huge boost for us.
Q. I know it's important to be disciplined on defense no matter what type of offense you're going against. Is it more so against a Princeton style offense where there's -- they're always looking for that back door cut and they're constantly in motion. Just curious if that makes it any more important?
GARD: Yeah, because they can put you -- it's not always the same person going back door. It's not always the same angle going back door. They can do it from the lane lines out of the top.
The big, like I mentioned, Wroblicky, passed extremely well. He's left-handed. So it puts a little different twist on how you're used to playing against post players. He sees the floor and finds people.
Teams that have tried to double him, he's picked them apart. They can surround him with enough shooters. And guys that, like I mentioned before, have filled a role and have bought in. Even the kid that plays at the four, Kyle Kager, understands his role. He reads defenses extremely well. When he back cuts, when he doesn't, when they spread the floor.
So the discipline part is a huge part of it, and they can move you around. They can invert and bring the forwards up to the top and put the guards on the wings and do different things from there.
So you'll have to be tuned in. You'll have to be focused. You can't take possessions off. You can't get caught too much ball watching because that's when they back cut you and put you in precarious situations where you can get yourself in trouble. So attention to detail and focus every possession will be huge.
Q. Greg, you mentioned their length on defense, but I'm just curious about how much pressure they apply. For example, Michigan State really likes to get into people, which they did the other day. Is that with American, or is it more containing?
GARD: I would say it's more containing. Darius Gardner will pressure a little bit. He's pretty good on the ball and pretty quick. But the rest of the guys, from what I've seen so far, do a pretty good job of disrupting with their length. They can play and be disruptive.
The Jones kid -- I'm not sure if he's Jeff Jones' kid or not. He's a freshman, number 20, does an excellent job of reading passing lanes and very perceptive. In terms of deflections, reading defenses, those types of things. He's got several steals based on angles and offenses not doing a good job of taking care of the ball and throwing passes there that he could get to.
So they'll do some different things like that. Zone, we'll do a little different things with that. But primarily a half-court defensive team that's going to play the percentages and try to keep you in front of them.
Like I said, with the length across from the two on through the five, there aren't any guys that really play that are shorter than 6'5". And they do a good job of playing in gaps and using that length.
Q. Not to say that it would be easy to score against them because their numbers suggest it won't, but when your guys weren't as aggressive against Michigan State -- I think it was because of the way they attacked you. Do you think it will be easier for guys to at least be assertive against a team that's just a containing defense even though they have that length?
GARD: Well, I think we need to -- it's important for us to understand we need to be assertive against any type of team, whether they attack us or pack it in on us or however they play it. We need to come with an aggressive mindset of attacking under control.
I thought in the second half we did a better job of that. We did a very good job of it, for the most part, against Minnesota on Friday night. But I think it's more on our mindset versus what a team is doing to us, and how do you -- if a team does attack us or put pressure on us, we have to respond to that. It took us too long to respond to that on Saturday. Again, it's going back to the question Jesse had.
It's going to be more about what we do and how we respond because you're not going to reinvent the game here in two days. They're not going to on their end, and we're not going to on our end.
You take your body of work and play to your strengths. Obviously, you've got to play well this time of year. You can't have a half a game.