Rick Pitino Talks Lack of Bench Scoring, Deflections, and Chinanu Onuaku on ACC Teleconference

Photo: Tim Haag/CardinalSportsZone.com
Photo: Tim Haag/CardinalSportsZone.com

ACC Basketball Coaches Teleconference

Coach Pitino comes on around 1:40:30 of the teleconference.

Opening Statement

Well it’s (the snow) pretty bad for Louisville, KY. The only way we get rid of snow here is the sun coming out so we don’t handle it as well as Syracuse, where we’re heading. We know Syracuse has always been a tough place to play for anybody. They’re playing extremely competitively right now. Three of their players are averaging 38 or 39 minutes right now. So their best players are on the court, and we have to be ready for a very active 2-3 zone.

On the lack of scoring from the bench

Well we don’t get scoring from our bench because we really don’t play our bench that much. We really have like a 7 man rotation, sometime we’ll go to 8. But even then, we rely on our starters. It’s the first year since I’ve been at Louisville that we’ve done this. Our starters are so much more experienced than the rest of our team, because we have 6 freshmen, that we go with it that way.

On not creating as many turnovers as past teams

I think this team is very inactive with their hands. The five areas of deflections are the blocked shot, the 50/50 loose ball recovery on the ground, the back-tip from the press, there’s the deflection from just putting your hands up and getting a piece of the ball and altering its path and letting someone else make a steal, and obviously the steal in itself. Those are the five areas that add up your deflection chart, and like I said the other day, we’ve been averaging over 35 the last two years and this year we are averaging 27.

Our 1s and 2s (guards) are averaging five per game, where our 1s and 2s in the past average anywhere from 8 to 11. So we’re very inactive with our hands. We’re not as good a pressing team as we have been in the past because Chris Jones is really the only one that dogs the ball. We used to get a lot of five second counts; we have gotten very few this year. So it’s not the best pressing team I’ve had, and that’s one of the reasons why we haven’t created many turnovers.

Syracuse writer asks about Pitino recruiting Louis Orr many years ago

Jim (Boeheim) got a call from an agent named Ron Greinker. Ron said “Look we’ve got a skinny kid from Withrow High School in Cincinnati that you really should take a look at.” I got the chance to meet Ron. I remember he was playing ball at a Jewish Community Center and we watched him play and I called Jim back and said “I think this kid has a lot of potential but he’s thin now, it’s gonna take a while.” So that was the start of it all. It was really a phone call that was in our favor because he turned out to be a terrific basketball player.

On Syracuse retiring Orr’s jersey

No, I didn’t know that. I think that’s awesome. Two, not only great guys, but quality people (Orr and Roosevelt Bouie). Roosevelt was an outstanding young man and Louis is as good as it gets and that’s really terrific. I love hearing that.

How would Roosevelt Bouie fare in today’s game at Center?

He would do well. I think that’s still the athletic era. All those guys could play today because they were all very athletic in their own right. So Roosevelt and Louis would do very well.

On Chinanu Onuaku

He’s a lot like his brother was at Syracuse. He struggles at the foul line. He is someone who is a physical presence. He’s getting better and better as he learns to catch the ball better. Most freshmen try to make the move before they look the ball into their hands. So he’s developing nicely.

We think he has a great career ahead of him and he reminds me a lot of his brother in many ways, except his brother was an extremely hard worker, and Chinanu has to learn how to work hard. But there is a big age difference between the two.

On Chinanu Onuaku’s shot blocking

He’s not as good as Montrezl or some of the other guys on the team, but he’s going to develop into a very good shot blocker.

On he and Jim Boeheim getting Orr and Roosevelt to play at Syracuse

Roosevelt was a bigger name than Louis was. Louis was a sleeper and Roosevelt was a much bigger name. Jim had to get Rosie, and certainly the two of them together. The great thing about those guys was they worked hard and they were humble. No matter how much the fans gave them credit, they always stayed humble. They were throwback guys to the point where it was all about team, it wasn’t about them. And they were just great guys to be around. You never had to raise you voice to either guy because they always did things right on and off the court. They were gentlemen, hard-workers, and they understood what team was all about.

On the environment of the Carrier Dome

The best place I’ve seen that I hadn’t been to is Virginia this year. That was a spectacular arena, a great college campus arena. The fans did something I haven’t seen since the Clyde Frazier days with the New York Knicks; with 12 seconds or so to go in the game, they all stood up and started chanting “defense” and cheering on the defense. So that, to me, was amazing.

Syracuse is great, but the crowd noise sort of echoes in the place after you score. But there’s a lot of great places in college basketball with the crowds and I’m very impressed with Syracuse and obviously very impressed with Virginia as well.

On Rakeem Christmas

It’s a great tribute to Jim, to the coaching staff, and to Rakeem. When he came out of high school, he was very similar to Montrezl Harrell. He was a dunker, a shot blocker, and a runner. He did not have an offensive move, and now he’s one of the best low post scorers in the country. He has a very good face up shot. The Syracuse coaching staff as well as Rakeem working on it have done a fabulous job of improving his skills. He is one of the premier forwards in the nation and it’s really exciting to see somebody get that much better.

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