Friday, December 16, 2016

Video/Transcript: UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell Pre-Radford Press Conference Interview


Video courtesy of kywildcatstv

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement…
“Well, we have a very difficult game coming up against Radford. They are on a real tear right now and have won seven in a row and are a very good team. We have struggled guarding people and Radford can really give us a lot of trouble. They have great post play and are really big and powerful. So we have tried to work hard in practice this week and we will continue to do that over the next couple of days and try to get ready for a team that is playing really well right now. It will be a difficult game on Sunday.” 

On what the team needs to improve on …
“I just don’t think that we are really playing with a mental sharpness that we are going to have to have. They are capable, but the last two Sundays, losing by a bucket in overtime, we are just not playing with good enough mental focus. So that is a good thing for the team, but you know, if we can just play a little bit sharper we will be in good shape. The kids want to win and they try really hard, but we have not put it together defensively yet. So we just have to pay attention to the details and understand that we are going to be in close games and we are not going to blow people out, possessions are important and you cannot check out mentally. We just had a really good practice in our last practice and just trying to emphasize the details that are necessary to play good basketball.” 

On if the team’s problems surprise him so far …
“Listen, they have won some really big games that have us in a really good position. We have played one of the strongest schedules in the country and have a top five or six strength of schedule in the country. So the team has had a real difficult road up to this point and it will continue to be that way. So they have done enough good things to have us in position, we just need to sharpen up a little bit and we can win enough games to be there at the end. That is the great thing about basketball, if you can do enough good things you have some time to continue to improve. I think we are in good position we just have to sharpen up the details. I am really proud of how the team has performed and all the sacrifices that they have made for each other. When I say that we are not playing well together, there is a difference in having a bunch of selfish people that are out for themselves and just want to get personal accolades or gain. That is not our problem. Our problem is that we have a bunch of high achievers that work really hard that are trying to do their job so hard they don’t understand sometimes how they are affecting the team. It is not a selfishness problem, its more about getting more connected and they have the character that they will do it. I have said this many times, we have to do a great coaching job this year, we have to be sharp and efficient with our time and very clear and direct with the team and they will give us what we are asking for. I am excited to see how much progress we can make today and tomorrow and beat a really good Radford team.” 

On Radford defensively ...
“Well, they are well coached. They are really impressive to watch and are really well coached. They have what I would have to believe, and I haven’t seen everyone in their league, but I have to believe they have one of the more talented teams in their league. They are really talented. They have some size and some athleticism and some ability to disrupt you that is impressive. They play really hard and together and are well coached with great athletes. We will have to be sharp on Sunday. This is going to be a tough game.”

On spinning the two overtime losses into positives …
“Yeah, I know what you are saying. We are trying to be very realistic with what is going on so it is not all sunshine and rainbows and everybody is doing a great job. We are really trying to get after the team right now to really focus in. We are just a few box outs away or if we just could have talked a couple times better down the stretch against Arizona State. Every time we needed a stop we didn’t get it and that is an issue. That is a problem. We don’t have our heads in the clouds and saying everything is great, we are trying to get after it and being very blunt with them, but at the end of the day definitely trying to let them know that you have not gone out there and played a soft schedule. We are in reality with where we are. We are a good basketball team when we are talking and making shot. We just cannot be the kind of team that if we are not making shots and scoring, we just get beat on that night. We have to find a way to win games when that is not happening. Our 3-point shooting has really let us down in the last three games. We are not making those like we were earlier in the season and we have to get that back on track, but until that happens you have to find a way to get a stop. So it is a balance of trying to be really blunt and honest with them, but in the end letting them know that the stats say they have played one of the toughest schedules and we are in position to have a really great season if we can get it together and we will. They will get it together.” 

On balancing getting things done in practice but also saving the players’ energy …
“Well, it is a real opportunity to learn as a coach and try to figure that out. That is just a work in progress. I was really happy because we really, really put them in a difficult situation that last practice. You are trying to figure out how to practice them and it is a different way then we have had before. But they really responded and it was very difficult and very demanding and very tough. I think right now for us it is a mental battle. We have to do a good job as coaches of letting them know that you have more than enough to get the job done. The team that sent us home last year played five people, six tops and every now and then got a seventh player in there. So we can do it, you just have to have that belief. So as a coach, we are trying to work our way through that and it is a different team but every year is always different and you always have to figure out the best way to get that particular team to perform. We are practicing really hard. You don’t have as many people to get reps so you can move through things and the time that you are out there on the court isn’t as long, so it is a work in progress. I think right now, through 10 games, a third of the season, we are in relatively good shape and they look like they are handling things well right now.” 

On if there’s a confidence problem or mental hurdle UK’s post players need to get over…
“Yes, I think that that’s a fair assessment. I think Evelyn (Akhator) and Alyssa (Rice) are overthinking things and over-processing things, and we had a much better day at just catching the ball and scoring. They’re waiting, they’re hesitating, they don’t have the kind of confidence that they need, but this is one thing you can’t manufacture it. Confidence comes, I always believe this, it’s got to be real. It comes through achievement. If you achieve, then you build your confidence. You can’t fake them out and try to convince them of something that’s not happening. So, they’ve got to believe in their ability, catch the ball, make a play and that’s how you build confidence. We certainly try to put them in positions in practice where they can make plays and try to help them build that confidence, but that needs to improve.”

On what it’s like coaching with two people who are best friends in Kyra Elzy and Niya Butts…
“It’s a lot of fun just because of the depth of the relationship. There’s a one-to-one relationship with Kyra and there’s a one-to-one with Niya, and we have been connected for many, many years since they were in college. I’ve said this before, but they went to bat for me as a graduate assistant. They told Pat (Summitt) that they gave me a vote of confidence and I think they had a role in her feeling comfortable to hire me as a graduate assistant. So I mean, we have a long-term, deep relationship and then they’re so close that the three of us are connected and there’s that dynamic in the relationship. It’s a very strong relationship. They’re very loyal people when I needed that. I was in a time of great need of loyalty and the quality of their expertise in coaching and getting this job done is something that I needed. So, it’s been great and it is fun. We have a lot of laughs together. We have a lot of history to draw on to reminisce, tell stories, remember things that are back 20 years. So, it’s fun and they don’t gang up on me very much. They’ve been great and I probably give them a harder time than they give me. So, it’s a lot of fun having them here and it’s a lot of fun having people that are at a place in their career where they are really here to try to serve our players and try to help them and it’s genuine and it’s so real and authentic and coming from a place of true caring for others. That’s been a wonderful thing to see and to have. So they’re two great people.”

On how competitive Niya and Kyra are with each other…
“They are pretty competitive. You know, they’re like sisters in a lot of respects where they’ll give each other a hard time and I think they’re very competitive. But I think it’s a healthy competition. At the end of the day, everybody on the staff – Kyra, Niya, Lin (Dunn), Amber (Smith), Amy Tilley, Beth Price – all of them in that office, we’re all for each other and that’s been a great thing to see happen. So it’s a good dynamic right now.”

On what he envisioned as Jess Hardin’s role when she joined the team…
“Well, Jess, I was hoping that she could contribute in some way to the team but I didn’t know what was going to happen. So I would say that she’s exceeded anyone’s reasonable expectation. She is a major factor for us. When she plays well, it really helps our team and we play well. I do think her life experience and her maturity helps us a lot and probably helps her handle things better because it’s a different situation. You know, she was starting for Tri Delt this time last year and now she’s playing for the Wildcats and that is a huge transition to make. I just think she’s handled herself so well and you have to believe her character, her maturity, her life experience has helped her in this. She’s a really great person and she’s done a lot for our team and will continue to be a major factor for our team.”

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