You can see video of today’s press conference here
Head Coach Chris Mack
(On the team’s attitude following the Wisconsin game, and what Pitt will be like with transfer Nike Sibande becoming eligible)
I think when you when you lose the way that we did, in the manner that we did on Saturday, it really doesn’t matter too much to you, as a coach, who your next opponent is. It’s more who your team is. I do think that we were all humbled on Saturday, against a really good Wisconsin team. We have to get better in a lot of different areas. I think Pitt’s gonna challenge us and a few of the areas that we weren’t very good at on Saturday. They are a very, very tough group. I think that’s been the stamp that Coach Capel’s put on Pittsburgh since he’s arrived, and so we know we’re gonna be challenged at a high level in our first conference game. We’ve got a lot to learn and get better at, and I thought we took a step forward yesterday in our practice. We’re going to have to continue to take steps forward.
(On Pitt’s rebounding prowess, and how that will play out for Louisville)
Well, I see how I’d like it to play out. How that does play out, will be a big part of whether we’re successful or not. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a guy have back-to-back 20 point/20 rebound performances like (Justin) Champagnie has. They’ve got a lot of guys that are very versatile, that are 6-foot-7, that are athletic, that have a warrior’s mentality on the glass. I think if you’re a team that beats Pittsburgh, it’s because you limit second chance points. But they’re going to be aggressive, whether that’s attacking you off the bounce, posting you up or rebounding the ball. That’s sort of the the identity that Coach Capel teams have carved out in his three years with the program.
(On if coaches around are apprehensive about playing games due to COVID-19)
Well, in fairness, I haven’t been on any of those (ACC Coaches) Calls, probably in two months since the season started. We had a lot of those calls over the offseason, and as you can imagine, opinions range from like, ‘hey we have to figure out a way to to get the season in’, all the way to ‘we should be cancelling the season’. I don’t think anything’s happened over the last two months that have changed the variety of comments and opinions that you get in terms of playing games - is it the right thing to do? I said at the time and I’ll say it again: when we play, no one has the virus. That’s why you see teams pausing and games being canceled. We’re trying to do what we can, as best we can, to let the kids enjoy what they do, and it’s play basketball. It’s what they’ve worked for their entire prep school career and college career, they want to play the games. But we’re trying to do in the safest manner possible possible.
(On if he’s had contact with Jeff Capel since he tested positive for COVID-19)
You know, I haven’t. I was going to reach out to him today when I jumped on the plane through text. Iit’s been a quick turnaround, we’ve had a lot of a lot of things that we have to figure out here at Louisville after the game on Saturday. But Jeff’s been really good to me. I probably should have done that by now to be quite honest, but I have not.
(On how to improve communication with such a young team)
Well, we teach them that every day when we’re in practice. That’s an expectation. But, when games come around, the nature is to do what you’re used to, and do what you have have ingrained as a habit, really your whole life. Very, very few high school basketball players say a word, other than to talk a little smack if they hit a shot. But they don’t have any meaningful communication, for the most part, when they play games. How to switch, how to switch back, who to pick up and transition, what’s coming, watch this screen, watch this back screen. It’s just foreign to them. Again, with a young team, and it probably gets really highlighted when you’re in an empty arena, how vocal one team is, or certain player is, and maybe how quiet others are. We learned a lot about ourselves on Saturday. Really the first two out of three three point shots that were made, were simply because we didn’t execute a switch on a ball screen. I really feel like that came down to a lack of communication.
(On if Carlik Jones will be available, and if he helps with team communication)
Carlik will be available, and yes he helps in a lot of ways. I think somebody had mentioned, that he’s not going to make up whatever deficit that was. 30 something points, 37 points, and he doesn’t. But it slides David (Johnson) over a little bit. It generates easier shots for everybody. It allows to have more experience on the floor with that voice. Certainly he’s not the cure-all, out other guys have to be able to hold their own in certain areas. Hopefully what happened on Saturday, will be something that really helps our team in the long run, as tough as it felt on Saturday.
(On what he likes out of Gabe Wiznitzer’s performance vs. Wisconsin)
First, I’d say that Gabe was the same exact player on the game floor as he was on the practice floor. Which sounds not very enlightening, sounds like that should just be common, but you’d be surprised when when the lights come on, and it’s truly a game, some of the errant shots that you wouldn’t take in practice, that you take in the game. Your voice in practice becomes muted in the game. You don’t call out the back screen like you do in practice when the four coaches are sitting there on the floor right next to you like you’re in Little League. It was really refreshing. I shouldn’t say surprising, but refreshing to see Gabe have, really the loudest voice on the floor when he was in. I thought he was directing, I thought he was alerting his teammates to things that were happening, and not only was he doing that, he was right. He was correct in the things that he was assessing and communicating on the floor. To do that as a freshman was awfully impressive. Gabe does not lack for an IQ. We’re just gonna continue to get him more and more mobile, more and more athletic, and used to playing against more athletic players than he is. He’s gonna get there, and I thought Saturday was really encouraging,
(On if he thinks this year’s Kentucky game will have less buzz than normal)
Fortunately I don’t have to worry about deadlines. Those are yours, not mine. I’m going to worry about Pittsburgh tomorrow, and then I’ll worry about Kentucky after that. But, I think a lot of times, that notion that ‘the game won’t mean as much’, people like to say that three or four days out. When that time comes, I’ll be more than happy to talk about Kentucky.
(On what practice has been like since the Wisconsin game)
It was a little bit of a lesson learned from the last game. When you play for Louisville and you’re in the ACC, you got quick turnarounds. We leave for Pitt today. We learned yesterday, it was a lot of ‘What could we have done better against Wisconsin?’, but it was a quick turnaround to ‘How can we go and succeed at Pitt?’
(On what specific things they want to improve on for Pitt based on the Wisconsin game)
I think a lot of us are really understanding how hard we have to play, just really every play. We’re playing like a really a seven-eight man rotation, a lot of people are playing a little more minutes than we and the coaches really expected just with this crazy year. We got to be the tougher team. Pitt is a really tough, gritty team. They got a lot of guards that can go, and forwards that get a lot of offensive rebounds. I think Wisconsin, if you look at an optimistic way, we got beat up, and it’s time to look at that and see how we can do that to other teams. It was a good blueprint to see how hard teams can play.
(On how helpful it was to get minutes last year, anf how his game has progressed)
Last year was a good year. I had all the Jordan Nwora’s and the Dwayne Sutton’s and all that good stuff, and we had a really successful team. The playing time, essentially just wasn’t there. But looking back on last year, it was just an unbelievable year for me. Guys like Dwayne and Jordan, they showed me how to be a successful team. Coming into this year, I was really looking at Dwayne Sutton last year. Just how hard he played. He was kind of the backbone of our team. Without him, God knows what our record would be. I was just trying to take bits and pieces from Dwayne Sutton, just because how looked at him, how Coach Mack looked at him, and trusted him and trusted his ability. I was definitely trying to take little things from Dwayne Sutton’s toolbox, whether it’s offensive rebounding. Right now, it’s definitely not Dwayne Sutton’s level, but I’m definitely working to get there. I do believe I’ll get there.
(On if the game vs. Wisconsin was simply a day where nothing could go right)
Without saying too many excuses, Wisconsin is really good too. A Big Ten champions, and they return every single player. I think I saw something where their average starting five was about 23 years old, and we’re starting a few freshmen. No excuses, you know, it’s basketball. It’s time to play. But it was just, an optimistic way, a good to get beat up. Just take bits and pieces. They beat us up, and it’s time to learn from it. I think they shot around 67% from three, I think it was 16 threes. If we would have done a little bit better offensively, it was still hard to beat 16 threes. I think (assistant coach) Dino Gaudio prepared us really well for the game, it was just one of those days, I guess.
(On if the long layoff impacted them)
Yeah. Again, it’s such a crazy year. I mean, we’re all experiencing this for the first time. Especially when we have a bunch of new players on our team. It wasn’t easy, I’ll say that. The readjustment, I think we were off for 10-plus days, and then to have a couple starters out even after the injuries that have hurt us. It’s tough. I think we have a couple of players back, and it’s time to move forward. Again, just fight through the crazy year. It’s a lot of stuff that we just really can’t control
(On his thoughts regarding the ACC as a whole and what he expects)
We got high hopes for our team. Everyone’s saying that we graduated this, who graduated last year. We’re all basketball players. Coaches demanded almost perfection out of us, so going into ACC, it’s a tough schedule. It’s a lot of underrated teams. You got teams like Pitt and Miami, that’s really good players. Again, we’re playing about every three days, so it’s really time to lock in for the long run. The ACC is a really packed conference this year, but I think it will do pretty well on it.
(On if any teams stand out in the ACC)
I wouldn’t say stands out, I think right now we’re just taking it a game at a time. Tomorrow, we have Pitt, and I think that’s our main focus right now. They got good guards, I think this (Miami of Ohio transfer Nike) Sibande kid, with the NCAA allowing players to transfer to play, I know he’s gonna try to make some noise. We played him last year for Miami of Ohio, and he did pretty well against us last year. Just containing a lot of their guards, and I think that’s just the main focus for Pitt.
(On how to improve communication on the team)
I think the voice, directly compares to the maturity level. One thing that we took away from Wisconsin, is they had a couple of players on our team that just did not stop talking. Just for the whole 40 minutes of the game. It’s just little stuff like that, especially when you have a young team. The communication just gives people confidence, it gets people to work harder and it gets people in the right places. Communication, I think needs to be one of the top keys on our team if we want to be successful.
(On if he has second thoughts about playing because of COVID-19)
A lot of people have a lot of different opinions on that, and there’s no right or wrong. I think if you’d ask the players for each of the teams, personally, and I know in the locker room, we want to play. But we understand that, like again, this is the first time we’ve ever experienced something like this. The main thing is people’s safety. It’s stuff like that, and life is just bigger than basketball, bigger than this and that. I feel like the NCAA, and especially the ACC, has just done an unbelievable job in making sure players feel safe and people feel safe. This year is so different from last year, just how we travel, and how we prepare for games. Personally, if you ask me, I’d love to play, but I also don’t bat down other people that have a different opinion on it. Because in reality, it is people’s health and safety. But at the end of the day, last year not getting a lot of opportunity out there playing, I’m like a kid in a candy store right now. I’m loving it.