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CAA Media Day: A Quarter (of an hour) With Matt Brady

October 18, 2011

In the next couple days Courtside will feature some lighthearted, fun stuff. But after spending a few hours transcribing the contents of my trusty Olympus recorder, here’s a quote-full post from my 15ish minutes today with James Madison coach Matt Brady.

There were plenty of questions asked and answered, so I’ve broken them up into general themes for your reading ease…

On JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne’s expectations of an NIT or NCAA tournament berth for this season to be considered a success:

“My hope is that everybody sees the fact that we’ve been competitive in every game that we’ve played in my time here and that we are going to continue to build the best program that we can, and we’re going to continue to do what we’re doing.”

“Are we a top 50 team in the country? I don’t know, but I will say that we are worlds closer to being a top 50 team in the country right now in college basketball than we were when I first got here.”

“We’ve won 21 games in two years that we haven’t been knocked out with the injuries. To win 21 games and have nine or 10 wins in this league, to me, is significant, especially when we’ve undergone so much attrition. I think we’re going to get better. And I think that we’re going to be, hopefully, as good as anybody in the league. It’s a significant undertaking because of the quality of the coaches and the quality of the play in this league is so good, and the best teams in the league just have a head start on it.”

On the team’s hopes of cracking the top four and contending for a league title:

“To me, becoming an elite team in this league is a process and you’ve got to go through growing pains, and we’ve done that. Last year we started with a 15-3 record but we lost eight games in the league – five of them to the best three RPI teams in our league [two to Old Dominion, two to George Mason and one to VCU]. Now we’ve gone through those wars, we hope to be able to reap the benefits of all our experiences of years past.”

“The goal is going to be the same. We are trying to become CAA champs. Whatever it’s going to take, we’re going to keep working until we achieve that goal. Are we good enough to do it this year? I don’t know. I still think we have some uncertainty, especially when you lose a player like Denzel Bowles. But we have two guys who can play center for us who are eager to do it – Trevon Flores and Gene Swindle, the transfer from Virginia Tech. So I know that we have guys who are eager to do whatever it takes to help the team be successful.”

On the team’s offensive makeup without star center Denzel Bowles:

“I don’t think we’ll be a team that throws the ball into the post like we did last year. That will be the biggest difference. This is a team this year that I’m more comfortable coaching because we’re going to let the players make some more plays. We’re not going to be inside oriented. We’re going to give our best offensive players, our wing players, some more latitude to make plays.”

“There’s a combination of things: screens and ball reversal and lifting the post players off the baseline to the high post. Those are the three things that we’d do.”

 

Where does the team look when it needs crunch-time baskets?

“To me that’s what’s going to be different about this year’s team and that’s what we have to answer. That’s the unknown question. The unknown question isn’t whether we’re going to be better defensively. We’re clearly going to be better defensively. The question about this year’s team is when we need a basket in a critical juncture, who gets the ball, where do you put that player, and what kind of action are you running for that player? For us last year it was clearly, ‘get Denzel the ball,’ and we had a number of ways of getting him the ball. This year we have to figure out quickly, who’s getting the ball in a critical juncture? Where are they getting it?”

 

On last year’s late-season struggles:

“We were 15-3 and we hit some rough waters and the young guys didn’t feel like it was their team, and our best player didn’t want the role [of a leader]. I think now there’s clearly a separation between our young guys and our older guys.”

“Your best player, best offensive player was your least interested and least motivated defensive player. I can point to teams at any level in any team sport, where your best player is not putting team first and you’re not going to achieve great success. We were a good team at 15-3 and when we got into conference play and hit rough waters, our best player wasn’t our strongest personality. That’s not necessarily a good thing for team spirit.”

 

On optimism for this season:

“We haven’t had a returning nucleus of players since I’ve been here. We haven’t had senior guards. Those two things go a huge, long way in college basketball. Exhibit A, B and C was Old Dominion, George Mason and VCU last year. Now I have those ingredients this year. Now I have to figure out who our best offensive player is.”

 

On academically ineligible point guard Devon Moore’s status:

“Nothing’s changed. We expect him to miss the first seven games.”

 How confident are you he’ll be able to play second semester?

“Like any student at James Madison, he’s got to do what he’s got to do in the classroom and he’s got to make progress. He’s capable of doing it and I think he will.”

 

On backup guard James Millen’s status (Millen is seeking a sixth year on his eligibility clock):

“I guess we’ll know in the next 12 days. I think they’re going to make a ruling in the next 12 days – that’s about the only thing I can guess. … They’re going to try to let us know, I hope for our first exhibition – we play next Wednesday – certainly by next Saturday they need to let us know so we can prepare our team.”

 

On senior Humpty Hitchens filling in at point guard:

“I think what happened is Humpty Hitchens has assumed that starting point guard position, and he’s done a really good job. The other thing that we’ve had to do is play Arman Marks, a freshman guard, at point guard. He’s, right now, our backup point guard, and it’s given him great experience. And they’ve both done really well. Better than I would have envisioned. So I think what we hope to happen, is when we get Devon back, we’ll be a better team because of the experience of those two guys at that position.”

“We don’t ask Humpty to make decisions that Devon would make. We ask Humpty to take care of the basketball, get us into our offense and just make the next pass. And we have enough scorers on the court that if we just get into offense and can move the basketball and screen for each other, than we’ll get good shots and we’ve got enough guys who can make shots.”

 

On the predicted order of finish in the CAA:

“That is pretty close to how I would have done it myself. I think it’s an accurate depiction of returning players, in my opinion.”

 

On the league’s boost in relevance:

“There’s not doubt that the CAA, people recognize the strength of our league. But I think what last season did was it stamped us as a legitimate, year in, year out annual league. That the George Mason Final Four can not be considered a fluke.”

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