Texas Tech: NCAA East Regional Press Conference

NCAA Men’s Regional Finals: Boston

Saturday, March 24 2018 | Boston, Massachusetts


Texas Tech Press Conference: Chris Beard, Keenan Evans, Zach Smith


THE MODERATOR: We welcome the Texas Tech Red Raiders from the Big 12 Conference with a record of 27-9. Joining us here is Head Coach Chris Beard, Keenan Evans, and Zach Smith. We’ll begin with an opening statement from Coach.

Coach, welcome back and your thoughts on the upcoming matchup with Villanova.

CHRIS BEARD: I told the guys, when you continue to advance in the Tournament, you’re just going to continue to play the best teams in the country, and that’s certainly our opinion of Villanova. Just being a basketball guy, they’re a team I’m familiar with because I try to watch them whenever they’re on TV at night. Just love the way they play. A lot of things we do defensively, we’ve taken from Villanova, in terms of switching and playing versatile players.

Then on offense, they just have one of the most explosive offenses in college basketball. The ability to get to 90 or 100 points on any given night, three-point shot, just very talented players.

We have nothing but respect for their program, their talent level, and their coach. In our eyes, we’re going to have to play our best 40 minutes of the season to advance, and that’s our objective.

Q. For both you guys: Honestly, you’ve said this before, you have one of the best benches in the country, if not the best. One, how do you cultivate that kind of depth from starters to the bench? And how valuable is it, when you know you’re going to check out of a game, that they’re going to protect the lead, if not build it?
KEENAN EVANS: It’s definitely big with our team just knowing that if we get off to a good start or a bad start, they’re going to come in, and the energy is just going to pick up. With us, everybody knows their role. There’s no confrontation with, “I want to start. I want to get more minutes.” Everybody’s happy. Just coming in, they’re ready to play once they get in.

ZACH SMITH: Yeah, the bench is extremely valuable just coming in and trying to play hard, play a role, of course, and do things to help the team.

Q. (No microphone).
KEENAN EVANS: Basically like starters versus starters. They’re coming at our heads. We’re coming at their heads. We just try to make each other better.

ZACH SMITH: Extremely competitive.

Q. For either of you guys: You know, you had a coaching change. How different is Coach Beard from Coach Smith? And why did it work so well? Because very often, it doesn’t work.
ZACH SMITH: I mean, it was very different than Coach Smith in a lot of different ways. Coach Beard brought in a completely different coaching, and it’s helped quite a bit.

Q. Can you expound on that, the differences in the culture? And what were your first impressions of Coach Beard when he arrived?
ZACH SMITH: My first impressions were how hard working he is, how often he stays at the gym late nights, just working on film, breaking down film, and his energy is also quite a bit higher, bringing in the music, the stuff like that.

Q. Either one of you guys: How much have you guys embraced defense in this tournament? You’ve haven’t had a team get over 70 points in this tournament for you guys, and it’s really been an emphasis since the Tournament kicked off for you.
KEENAN EVANS: We know defense wins championships, and that’s our identity. So we had to bring our identity to this tournament and get in the gym to work on a few more things to fix it up. We know that this game, we can’t get into a scoring match with Villanova. They’re such an offensively powerful team. We just have to defend them really well.

ZACH SMITH: Yeah, we understand defense travels. We can bring defense to every game, and our energy does a lot on the defensive end.

Q. Not to belabor the question about the coach, but Keenan, I wanted to get your thoughts on that. What was it, when you first met with Coach Beard that kind of won you over, that made you his guy?
KEENAN EVANS: Just as soon as the job opened up, he was basically there the next day. Came in, had a one-on-one conversation with everybody. What stood out to me is one of the first things he said is, “I want to win, and we’re going to win if you stay.” You get your core group of guys to stay, and, “I’m going to bring in help.” And he did that. He stayed, and he did basically what he said he was going to do. And that’s what stood out to me.

Q. Keenan, you’ve sort of earned this label as a closer, especially throughout the Tournament, but how have you embraced sort of making plays, even the small ones late in games that kind of helped swing it?
KEENAN EVANS: Just from the coaches and the teammates instilling their confidence and letting me know they want me to make those plays. Just them coming to me and telling me what they see on the court, whether it be at halftime or the second half, and telling me I need to be more aggressive or, “Look out for this.” Even if it isn’t scoring, Coach Beard always tells me, “Hey, this could be a 20-assist game, 10-assist game.” And just knowing it always doesn’t have to be from scoring; it could be defensive plays or dive-on-the-ball plays.

Q. Keenan, what is this about, obviously, the Elite Eight is a level that this program has never been to before. What is it about Coach Beard and this program that leads you to believe this is where the program can be in the future, too?
KEENAN EVANS: Just from second year here, and look where we are right now. Go from not making the Tournament at all to Elite Eight. So it just shows that this is only the beginning.

The young guys, they have no ceilings. I’m excited for them in the future, and I’m excited for Coach, especially what recruits he’ll bring in, and just knowing that this is basically setting a foundation, and this is only going to go up from here.

Q. Zach, just kind of talk a little bit about how you’re feeling now. I know you’ve had now a few games under your belt and just the progress that you’ve been able to make since coming back from your injury.
ZACH SMITH: I feel great about the progress I’ve been able to make. I feel unbelievable out there on the court, and it’s just great to be out there.

Q. Keenan, you guys talked about the music, and it seems like a silly thing, I think, to a lot of people, like what’s the big deal? But why does that matter? Why does that make such an impact on you guys?
KEENAN EVANS: Just our culture. It helps us get ready to play. It brings energy. It brings life. Even though we probably play a little too much country, it gets the coaches even in a great mood and gets them fired up. So just us having music in there brings a little personality and helps us have fun in practice.

Q. Do you have a favorite country song now?
KEENAN EVANS: Honestly, I don’t know any of the song names, but you’ll catch me singing along to some of them.

CHRIS BEARD: You like “Mama Tried”, Merle Haggard.

ZACH SMITH: Yeah, that one.

Q. I just wanted to hear your thoughts about how the Big 12 is doing and how playing in that conference like prepared you for these games. And when you watch the other teams in the Tournament, are you rooting for them now, or is there still a rivalry?
KEENAN EVANS: Definitely rooting for them, but if we have to run into them, of course, it will be a rivalry. It’s always good to see someone in your conference doing great, and it just pretty much shows how strong our conference is. It’s always great for people in the same conference to be moving down the same path.

Q. Do you think having to go through that during the season has kind of helped you get here?
KEENAN EVANS: Oh, definitely. Battled every night, come down to close games, just like tournaments are, and tournament teams every night in the Big 12. So it definitely prepared us for this.

Q. Just wondering if any of the players ever get control of the playlist. And if you did, what would you guys have on it?
ZACH SMITH: We don’t quite get control of the playlist. We do get upset with our guys sometimes for playing some of the country. Tell them to go ahead and skip that. But, yeah, the playlist is pretty good. I wouldn’t make too many changes of it other than maybe a little less country, like he said.

Q. Keenan, what’s the 300-shot club? And how has that helped shape or reshape your game?
KEENAN EVANS: It’s just something that we believe in. It helps us get in the gym, and we just want to get at least 300 makes of game shots in, whether it be pull-ups, free throws, little floaters, little post moves. It’s just basically what game shots you take, you go in there and work on it. So you just take it with confidence. And it helps the team have confidence in those shots knowing that you put in the work to do it.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, we’ll dismiss you to the locker room area. With that, we’ll take questions for Coach Beard.

Q. Chris, just kind of follow up on what the players said about the commitment to defense and especially the importance of that in this game.
CHRIS BEARD: We’re a defensive team. It’s our culture. First thing we do in recruiting is see if guys play defense or have the ability athletically to play at our level. We talk to recruits about, “You’re going to guard if you come here.” Every day in practice, we spend more time on defense than anything. A lot of our scoring in practice is defense. We’ll play pickup games in the summer, and the team that gets the stop gets the point, not the offense.

Then we have a great defensive staff. On our staff, Mark Adams, who’s not a national name, but those of us in college basketball that understand defense understand how good Mark Adams is. His teams have always played great defense, and he’s put a great input in our program, both at Little Rock, where we were one of the best defensive teams in college basketball, and now Texas Tech. That’s traveled.

And then our other coaches, whether they be Al or Oggie or these guys, they’re all kind of defensive people, which can lead to very ugly offense at times. But, yeah, we are a defensive culture.

Q. Chris, you talk about culture, which I know is a big word, but when you come into a place and you are new to guys, how do you, nitty gritty, build that and break it down with them when you really have no relationship with them?
CHRIS BEARD: Did you write the article on Coach Huggins a couple years ago and I called you, we talked?

Q. Yes.
CHRIS BEARD: Yes, awesome. He’s the best. Bob Huggins is great to coaches. He treats me the same way today that he treated me when I was a junior college coach. He’s what’s right about basketball. And I appreciated the article you wrote. I saved that. I have it in my office.

I’m sorry. My ADD’s kicking in. What was the question?

Q. When you get to a school and you don’t know kids or the culture. How do you nitty gritty break that down?
CHRIS BEARD: To me, I’m a relationship coach. You can just imagine kind of how I felt. You get the Texas Tech job, and it’s real exciting, and a couple hours later you lay down to get some sleep, and now you start thinking I’ve got to go against Coach Kruger and Coach Self and Coach Huggins and Coach Weber and I could keep going down the way, Coach Prohm, Chaka, Coach Drew. It’s almost impossible.

My plan has never been to outcoach anyone, but my plan has been to have great relationships with the players, and maybe our guys will do a little bit more, run through that wall a little bit harder because of the relationship we have with them.

I also think in recruiting, when a guy has to choose between going to Kansas or UCLA or Texas Tech, that’s a hard decision, but I want them to think in Texas Tech, I’m going to have a relationship with that head coach that I’m not going to have anywhere else. That’s just important. It’s the foundation of everything we do.

So when you get a job, what you’re doing is just fighting time because now we’re trying to beat Kansas, and Coach Self has been with Graham every day for four years, and I’ve only been with Keenan for 15 minutes. We try to get the relationship as quick as possible. That’s why we have a lot of things: Individual meetings, I meet with the guys all the time, small groups, team retreats, late nights at the gym, show up to the warmups, be a presence in the training room, be a presence at meals throughout the week. Certainly don’t want to get in where they roll their eyes every time they see me. There’s a fine line. Kind of like with my daughters. I think they like hanging out with me, but they don’t want to hang out with me all the time.

But the foundation of every relationship is trust. So when we get the job, we just tell guys what we’re going to do. We’re careful not to say something we can’t deliver on. First thing I did, first day when I was at Texas Tech right after the press conference, the guys were eating, and I wasn’t satisfied with the level of food these guys were eating. They weren’t eating like Big 12 players to me. So with Kirby Hocutt’s help and Chad Weiberg and now Tony Hernandez, they’ve supported the program at the highest level. There’s nothing that anyone else has that we don’t.

So I told Justin and Keenan and those guys, “We’re going to improve the nutrition overnight. The next meal you have will be much, much upgraded.” And I delivered.

Then we said, “We’re going to meet with your parents the next 24 hours in their living rooms,” and we delivered. So everything we told these guys, we delivered, and that’s where I think trust begins to happen.

Q. Chris, you’ve been able to do this at a pretty quick turnaround at two different places now. Do you put a timeline on it when you arrive somewhere? And also, did you know that the guys might not like as much of the country as you do?
CHRIS BEARD: Well, we’ve done it more than two places, and I want all my guys from Fort Scott and Seminole and Myrtle Beach and McMurray and Angelo State calling and saying, what’s up, Coach? You forgot about this. We’ve done this everywhere we’ve been. It’s not arrogance, but it’s confidence. We have a process we believe in.

My confidence comes from the people I work with, my coaching staff every day, the best of the best. We treat our players great. We get guys that fit our culture, and we coach them hard.

I’ve always been a guy that I really don’t have a two-year, three-year plan. ADs don’t like that, but competitors like Kirby, a former student-athlete, understands like we’re here to win today. We feel like, if we put a good day together — like tomorrow we have no chance if we don’t have a great day today. So we’ve got to try to win each day, and that’s our process.

I think too, with all the coaching changes, I respect the question, but the one group of guys that always gets left out in those is the seniors. You bust your ass for four years. Your senior year, a coaching change happens, and all of a sudden some new guy comes in, and he’s talking about building it. I mean, ain’t got time to build it. Keenan Evans didn’t have time for us to build it this year. He’s got one shot. That’s the way I’ve always felt, too. Guys like me get one shot, and that’s just the way we coach.

I grew up in Irving, Texas, we played at Complands Park outside and Northwest Rec inside, and guys would wait all day to play. You call “next game” and play to sevens, twos and threes. If you win, you stay on. If you lose, you go home. The only way you get back on the court if you lose is if somebody picks you up. I was never that player; I wasn’t that good enough. So I had one chance.

That’s the way I’ve always kind of viewed basketball. Ultimately, when you get to this tournament, everyone has one chance. So the quicker you get in the mindset as a recruiter, as a person, as a student, as a practice player, whatever, that’s the one-shot mentality is kind of where we’re at.

I promise you, we approached our first game of the year against South Alabama this year just like we’ll approach tomorrow – we’ve gotta win. It’s a must win. The same way we’ll approach tomorrow. It’s the same way I’ve always felt.

Q. This isn’t my real question, but I have to know this: Do you really play “Mama Tried” for these guys?
CHRIS BEARD: Yes. Diversity is the spice of life. Think about this, I’ve been a little bit in the world. I’ve coached the Swiss national team a couple summers ago as an assistant. That’s what makes our country great. Look at the room today, everybody’s different. Diversity is America. Diversity is the beauty in life. Like so I tell the guys, “Justin, what’s your favorite food?” “Man, I really like seafood.” “All right. Do you eat it every day?” “No, that’s crazy.” “Exactly. So why should you listen to hip hop every single day?” It’s diversity. This is where we’re going with this. So we believe in it.

These guys, I don’t know, Zach and Keenan, we have a deal where they get three songs and I get one. That’s the ratio. Unless we lose, and then I get three, and they get one. So win. It’s a winner’s world.

Q. I appreciate your courage in any case. Villanova presents a challenge for opponents.

Q. In that particular challenge defensively, in that they are able to stretch you so much with their perimeter game, and when you stretch, then they’re able to get in and get to the line or create other kind of damage. Do you have other teams that you can template your team against sort of what Villanova does? Or how do you approach those dual challenges?
CHRIS BEARD: First of all, with their program, I think like in my generation growing up, studying coaches, people think Bob Knight changed basketball. He did with motion offense. And Coach Sutton, who should be in the Hall of Fame, it’s an absolute no brainer, changed basketball with the defense, with missed drive and defense. I think, in my generation, Coach Jay Wright’s changed basketball. He’s the one that kind of invented small ball, where your four man can shoot threes. They always have four guys on the floor that shoot. I mean, this is the way that our teams try to play.

I can’t tell you how many players over the years I’ve made watch Villanova tape in my office, trying to kind of talk them out of playing the four when their AAU coach and their mom and their high school coach think they’re a two. Look, Villanova does it. So this guy, he’s transformed basketball. The way they play, and we’re all kind of doing the same thing.

In our league, Kansas plays similar offensively with the three-point shooting and the spacing. And they sort of — I think their defense is really good too. Villanova’s identity is their offense, but their defense is hard to score against. They switch. They’re multi-dimensional players. They’re really aggressive.

So we’ve got all sorts of worries in this game. We’re obviously going to have to figure out how to stop them or contain them, but we have to figure out how to score some baskets on the other end.

Q. Chris, you were talking about the turnaround, and to do it here, and this is a place that means a lot to you, how do you sustain it beyond just the two-year turnaround and everyone’s thrilled for this run right now?
CHRIS BEARD: It’s just back to our day-to-day process, just continuing to do things every single day, whether it’s nutrition, weight room, individual work, respecting the academic part of being a student-athlete, team practice, fueling the body, recovery, sleep, just do all the things. And as coaches continuing our process — recruiting every day, don’t let up, keep grinding, have that balance in your life.

So it’s kind of — that will be kind of the next challenge, can we maintain this? And I look forward to that challenge.

Q. Chris, to go back to what you were saying the other day about driving the van, when you were doing that, what kept you going? And where did you envision yourself someday when you were coaching those? And were there any kind of like — I’m sure you had some very quirky gyms that you played in. What were those experiences like?
CHRIS BEARD: Just the love of basketball is who I am in my core, and really everybody in our culture, in our program. Everybody loves basketball. And I know that most people think, what do you mean? Everybody’s loves it. No, no, they don’t. There’s a lot of coaches and players that play and coach this game for what the game gives you, and it gives you a lot. My daughters will have a life that I never had, and I had a life that my parents never had because of basketball in a lot of ways.

But a lot of guys don’t love the game. We do. Zach Smith and Keenan Evans, these guys, they love basketball. Like we’re going to try to find a gym later today where some guys could get some shots up. We just love it.

So to me, I have the same feelings now that I had at Fort Scott when we were trying to beat Coffeyville or at Angelo State when we were trying to beat Tarleton, it’s all the same to me; it’s all basketball at the core.

To me, at first, I shied away from that, but now I embrace it because I feel, if I’m representing other coaches and other levels of basketball and the success we’ve had, I’ll gladly carry that torch because some of the best coaches I’ve coached against are guys you all haven’t heard of. There’s great coaching and great playing at every level.

Q. Some of the little places that you played, some of the gyms that might have been a little quirky.
CHRIS BEARD: Fort Scott Community College, Arnold Arena, our home arena, was a rodeo barn. It was a metal building with a wall right down the middle and had one single door. Half of it was the rodeo arena, where we had a national championship rodeo team at Fort Scott in Kansas, and the other half was the basketball court. That’s certainly a pretty cool place.

In the ABA, in my professional days, we played at rec centers. We played all sorts of places. At the end of the day, I’m just a guy that loves basketball, and what’s been special about this team is these guys love basketball, too. We’re just a bunch of guys that love the gym, love to compete, and love to win.

Q. Same thing from earlier, but you guys obviously led the Big 12 in bench scoring, and it’s been important for you in the Tournament. How do you cultivate or develop that second unit and get them to trust — or let them know that you trust them? And then how does that work with the ones and twos, and how beneficial has that been over the course of this season?
CHRIS BEARD: It’s definitely part of our identity. I think our depth, the ability to play more people, the ability for our defense not to fatigue, the ability to have different offensive weapons and have different guys step up different nights, it’s a different way to play.

Our teams over the years have never had the leading scorer in a conference. It’s not the way we play. We just value balance. I think it’s the way you can win championships. I think you can make tournaments with the leading scorer, but if you look at this and study the game like I do and have, balanced teams are the ones. So whenever we can get four or five guys in double figures, we’re tough to beat. That was certainly the case last night.

The way we do it, we just put our roster together accordingly. We try to like tell the guys exactly what we expect, role definition from day one, expectations. Then also just kind of buying your time. Like we got some guys right now coming off that bench that are going to be special, special players in much bigger roles next year. So just the confidence that this is what the team needs you to do, but then also the confidence that one day your individual dreams can come true through playing team basketball.

Q. (No microphone).
CHRIS BEARD: Really takes everybody. Every guy on our team has made sacrifices. We don’t like entitlement in our program. We’re staying at these ridiculously nice hotels where people come around and take your plate from you. I don’t let that happen. Seriously, we make our guys get up and put their plate on the table, myself included.

The other day, one of our staff members, Max who is from France leaves his plate out, and he’s still catching grief on our staff about it.

So no entitlement culture, no selfishness. We just keep bringing it up where you either fit in or you don’t.

Another thing, great story right here, Justin Gray on our team, one of the best players I’ve ever coached, I’ve never met a guy embrace a different role. Justin’s role has changed every year he’s in college. This year when Zach went down, we knew Justin was going to have to play out of position, and we’ve asked Justin Gray to do things for this team, and he’s been nothing but great. He guards the other team’s best player. He takes mid-to-late jump shots. He’s our best screener. He doesn’t care about the stat sheet. Justin Gray is a winner.

Last night it was only fitting in last night’s game in the first half, when we were really struggling, who steps up and makes three or four individual plays on his talent? Justin Gray. So in it a lot of ways, Justin Gray is our unselfish culture.

Q. This may be a little out there, and it just occurred to me, because you mentioned, you made a comparison raising your daughters and coaching, and I’m just curious, is there a comparison there? And has raising — what ages are your girls? And has raising them affected or influenced the way that you coach the game?
CHRIS BEARD: Yes, I’m definitely a different coach today now that I’m a father than I was in the early days. I was a head coach at Fort Scott when Avery was born in Fort Scott. So it was early days. Girls have taught me patience and being a little bit more level-headed, appreciation for life. They’ve really kept me humble as well.

Margo, my youngest at 10, she really thought we came to Boston to go to the American Girl store. I don’t think she understands the basketball side of it, but she’s starting to.

I definitely think being a father gives me balance. One part in our process is balance. I tell guys in recruiting, I don’t want you come here and just waste out. Michael Jordan was a golfer. That’s his relief. It’s my understanding Kobe is a great father to his kids. We see Steph and how he raises his beautiful daughter. Balance is everything. I didn’t have that earlier in my career, and I think I’m a better coach today because of it. I encourage our players to have balance — whether it’s social media or their girlfriend or their faith or a great TV show. I think that’s what makes you great at something, if you have balance in other areas of your life. So that’s made me a better coach because I’m a father.

Q. How does the Big 12 and the fact that it’s such a strong conference year in and year out help you get a gauge of where your team is but also present you with the opportunities of making the Tournament, where even if you’re in the middle of the pack, you can get these opportunities to go on runs like this?
CHRIS BEARD: So the Big 12 is just a grind. It’s well documented. We play each other twice. Hall-of-Fame coaches. Every team has NBA players as prospects. Every team has a great home court, including us in Lubbock. Sold out our last five or six home games was special. College Gameday came. So the grind is just brutal when you’re in it, but I think it does pay dividends when you get out of the tunnel.

The challenge is trying to make sure that you survive the grind where you can get in the Tournament. But we spent a lot of time this year talking about our team about Oklahoma, when they had Buddy. I think they finished fourth in the league that year and played in the Final Four. Certainly, that’s kind of the journey is to stay the course.

I’m a guy, though, that will never complain because the Big 12 always gives you opportunities to win. You win two in a row, you’re the talk of college basketball. Every night is a chance to play against a ranked team almost. I’ve been on the other side of it at Little Rock, where you’re in a one-bid league, and that’s a totally different beast.

To me, the toughest thing in all of athletics — tougher than the Final Four, tougher than the Super Bowl or a World Series — to me is when you’re in a one-bid league, you’ve had a great season like we had, and you’ve got to win the championship game. It’s a different kind of pressure.

My good friend Bob Marlin had a special season this year at Louisiana-Lafayette, and they get beat in the conference tournament. That’s tough. That’s why I would be in favor of expanding the Tournament just a little bit. I’m not smart enough with the days and the weeks and all that and TV, but I do think that there’s enough quality basketball to give everybody one more game that I think would make the Tournament special. But that’s just my opinion.

Q. Chris, you mentioned Coach Knight. You knew him pretty darn well. So just wondering if you had a story or two that you could tell us from your time with him about just how that developed your philosophy of coaching a little bit or what you took from him or that sort of thing.
CHRIS BEARD: There’s so many things about Coach Knight, but on the basketball side, it’s just the idea of simplicity is how you get to this tournament. Look at Villanova’s team. I think they have like five plays, but they’re really, really good at those five plays. And on defense, they do a couple things, but they’re just really good at what they do.

And I think I see a lot of Coach Knight in the Villanova team. Coach is going to run motion offense and guard you man to man. That’s what he did. Three National Championships, Pan American, the Olympic gold medal. So I think the simplicity, and I think we try to do that.

We’re out there a little bit more. We’ll try some things. We’ll throw some punches. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to guard, and we’ve got to take good shots, and that’s who we are.

Also, just the commitment to study your team. Like I’ve been at the Tournament with Coach, not this game, but we went to the Sweet 16. I’ll never forget it. Like we’re playing Gonzaga after we beat UCLA, and back at the hotel, he’s watching film from practice back in Lubbock a couple days ago. And that’s just his commitment to film study and our team. Obviously, he was concerned with Gonzaga, but he was more concerned with our guys and playing our game. That’s one of many things I learned from Coach basketball-wise.

Personally, I just think he’s — I think it’s nice to see later on in life, I think these things are starting to come out, but this was a good human being. This was a guy that took care of his players, a guy that wanted his guys to graduate, and the guys did a lot of things behind the scenes that nobody wanted to know about. I was thinking in today’s world, you see somebody do something nice, and it’s almost like publicized. Not only did Coach Knight never want his benefactory work publicized, but he’d get damn near pissed off if you dared to talk about.

I know firsthand, I’m proud to talk about it. Coach can’t get mad at me now. I’m proud to say that I know he did a lot of tings for people financially, people that were in jams, people that had some adversity, Coach was always there to help people. That’s the side of Bob Knight that people don’t really know, he’s a really good person.

And Pat, simply stated, is probably the most unselfish, generous person I have ever been around. Pat would give you the coat off his back and still does today. A lot of things from the Knight family basketball-wise, but a lot of things from the Knight family person-wise.

Q. Apologize if you’ve already touched on this, came in late, but just the difference in defense this year for you guys, what changed from last year’s team and the importance of Coach Adams on the defensive side of the ball for you guys.
CHRIS BEARD: I think personnel-wise, we’re more athletic. You could do some things with Z and Culver and Brandone Francis and these guys. We’re, simply stated, more athletic.

I think we’re also a tougher team. When our season ended last year against Texas sooner than any of us would have wanted, the first thing I told the players is we’ve got to get better players next year and better coaches. They can be the same people, but we need a better version of you, Keenan, a better version of you, Niem, and we need a better version of me and a better version of the staff. I think we’re all better than last year. Certainly with our talent with athleticism, we’re able to do things defensively.

And I’ll give Coach Mark Adams a lot of credit. He’s a defensive genius. His teams have won wherever he’s been. Whether it be a National Junior College Championship at Howard with Jae Crowder, or West Texas A&M tournaments, our Little Rock team, he’s always been a great defensive mind.

And we did make systemic changes with our defense from year one to two. We try to keep the ball in the middle a little bit more. This year we changed up our post defense our ball screen defense.

I would give our whole staff a lot of credit, led by Coach Adams defensively. I’d give our staff credit for having some more athleticism on the roster this year. And above all, I would give our players credit. They embraced this. They understand, if we were going to do anything this year, we had to improve defensively and with rebounding, and we’ve done both.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #1 by #181 at 2018-03-24 19:38:00 GMT

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