Video & Transcript: Fran McCaffery Press Conference 2-19-20
Q. Do you have an update on CJ, how he’s coming?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: He is still day-to-day.
Q. Probably not tomorrow, though?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I don’t know, maybe.
Q. On that subject, it seems like you’ve been hesitant to talk about injuries, as a rule. Is that part of a mentality you try to have in the program? In terms of excuse-making, you’ve had a lot of injuries, you could bring that up —
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Yeah, you know, we all know who is not available for duty. Will CJ play? I don’t know. We’ll see what he does today. He was walking yesterday. He did a little bit of running. Now you got to see if he can cut. Then you got to determine, can he do that for 40 minutes against a quality opponent like Ohio State? Is it a stretch? It could be. But he could be available to play, but we really won’t make that decision probably until tomorrow at shoot around.
Q. After Sunday’s game, Connor said that you tell the guys that nobody wants to hear our problems.
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Yeah, I say that all the time. Because the reality is everybody likes to talk about whatever issues you have. This guy was unavailable, that guy is injured, that guy is out. Everybody’s in the same boat. Everybody has somebody out. And you look at the Indiana game; Cordell was unavailable then we get foul trouble, and those kind of things are just part of it. Somebody else has to step in. You have to keep fighting. You have to try to hang in. We hung in that game, thought we could make a run. And then it’s on to the next one. It’s kind of got to be that thought process in this league. Every game is really difficult. Every game on the road is even more difficult. You hope you have your guys, you hope you have your guys stay out of foul trouble, but circumstances change. We have guys that have been sick. That’s a little different. Can they practice, can they play in the game, how do they feel, are they 100 percent. But everybody goes through it, so I just think that the idea is we don’t talk about it and I think that creates an environment where you have a little bit of toughness in that sense, but also there has to be a sense of various individuals who know different spots. And it can’t be, Well, I can’t play that because I don’t know it. No, everybody has to know every spot, so anybody can step in at any given time. So it’s great. Like I said before to you guys a number of times, it’s great, Hey, we’re going to go small. Okay. Well, who is running the 4 spot on this out-of-bounds play, on that press offense? We’re going to go big. Okay. Well, who is running the 3 spot? Which one of you guys is going to run the 3 spot and knows where to go and knows how to execute what we want? So I think if you just kind of don’t talk about it, don’t think about it, but prepare for what might happen, at least you’re in a better position to try to win.
Q. Speaking of Cordell, what did you like about his response? He almost seemed to have one of his best games of the year?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: You know, I think that was the unfortunate thing about the Indiana game because he was working towards that. He felt really good. He had some great practices and felt like he was going to have a good game down there and then didn’t play. I think that made him even hungrier for the next one. And he knew we needed him and he came up big in a huge way and I think his teammates appreciated that.
Q. We keep hearing about the depleted roster, and rightfully so, but you still got a lot of veteran players. Connor is in his third year, Pemsl in his fourth year. How big is that?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I’ve said from the beginning the three guys I typically bring off the bench — now of course Ryan is starting because CJ is out — but Ryan, Cordell and Bakari. It’s two seniors and a fifth-year senior. That’s huge because those guys are typically not mistake-makers. They might not play a perfect game, they might not score a ton, but they also might. But at any given point in time they’re going to pretty much make the right decision. They’re going to be in the right place defensively. They’re not going to panic on the road and that has a very settling influence on everyone else.
Q. Ryan’s a guy who early in his career some other schools were coming to him and saying, Hey, if you come here you can play a ton of minutes, be the go-to guy. And he stuck the course, stayed the course and stayed at Iowa. Now you see him producing what he is. Is that rewarding an as coach to see a guy stick around?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I don’t think there was ever anything there. He was here because he wanted to be here and there was never any doubt in his mind that he belonged here, that he was a Big Ten player. I’m not surprised at all. He had what was on his way to being a great sophomore year until he had two concussions, and that would derail anybody. But other than that, he’s been terrific the whole time he’s been here. Very comfortable in his role, whatever that is. If I start him, great. If I bring him off the bench, fine. He’s never afraid to shoot the ball. And again, he’s one of the toughest guys on the floor no matter who you’re playing against.
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Q. That experience you spoke of, that was clearly evident in Minnesota, the plays that he was making in that game.
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Yeah. And the other thing is when he did make a mistake, to play through it. He didn’t let it linger on him and that’s what veteran guys do. You’re not expecting perfection. You’re not going to get perfection. But can you get to the next play and do something positive and do something more positive and then the next play be positive. And that’s what he typically does.
Q. What’s the hardest thing or the hardest things for a first-year collegian like Joe Toussaint playing point guard in the Big Ten?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I think it’s that everybody guards him differently. How they defend him on ball screens, how are they defending him if we’re running sets, if we’re running motion, in transition. He’s also guarding a really, really good player every time we take the floor. And he is going to see a thousand ball screens. So he’s got to understand how he guards his man, what those tendencies are, but if there’s a switch, if we’re changing defenses, where to go, when to be aggressive and come up, when to contain and stay back, and then execute effectively whatever it is we’re in on offense. If we’re in a press attack, if we’re running late game action, if we’re running motion or sets, or a continuity series, what are we looking for. It’s trying to figure out, why did we call that play. I’m not going down a list and, okay, run that one. There’s a reason why we run a particular play or a particular action. And the great point guards understand why and what we’re looking for. And that’s not easy for a freshman.
Q. You used your three post player lineup quite a bit, some with Cordell a little bit. What was that matchup that you liked there?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Well it was really good defensively because it gives you big bodies on the wings, if we’re in zone in particular. The thing about Cordell is he can guard a 3. A lot of people think because he’s got the big frame that he can’t. He’s really good at that. And so it gives me the flexibility to be able to go with that lineup. He’s also, as is Ryan, they’re both very good screeners. What does that mean? He’s running around screening? No, you’re screening with a purpose, you’re screening with the proper angle. You see when the ball’s being swung and you set a flare screen and if they’re switching then you read the slip. Things like that he has a feel for. So occasionally he has to be reminded of a thing or two that we’re running when he’s in the three spot, but he’s just a veteran guy that figures it out. And then when you’re out there, as you pointed out, with Connor and those other guys, they kind of talk it through.
Q. What does Ohio State do well defensively? I think they’re allowing the fewest points per game.
FRAN MCCAFFERY: They are physical, they’re connected, they’re up on the ball, they’re in the gaps, they fight the post, they run back. But I think ultimately when you look at a team that plays defense statistically like they do, they compete, and I think that’s the best thing you can say about them. Those guys compete.
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Q. As the Name and Likeness bill has been at the committee now, what’s your opinion on that, that whole development?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: It’s inevitable, so we’ll deal with it when it happens.
Q. Has it evolved? Considering you’ve played, coached —
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I don’t think when I was playing you ever thought that this would be even a possibility. But clearly I think most people are in favor of it. I’m in favor of it and support it, and will try to figure it out. It’s going to be difficult to navigate because it’s foreign territory, but we’ll get it figured out, we’ll do the right thing, we’ll do the right thing by the players.
Q. And kind of on that front, it looks like that the waiver thing is good, the one time free pass is going to —
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I think that was inevitable too, because everybody that wanted to transfer was asking for a waiver exception, and this guy gets one and this guy doesn’t. Why did he get it, why he didn’t, that didn’t seem to be fair. So I think you either go to everybody gets a transfer exception one time, or nobody in any sport gets a transfer exception. I think you were going to go one of those two ways. That’s what was pretty obvious it was coming.
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Q. Luka faces another matchup. What is it about Kaleb Wesson?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: He’s really skilled, he’s long, he’s obviously got a wide frame, but he’s a little leaner now. I think he’s really moving well, posts hard, picks and pops. But he’s got a real good feel for how to play the game. When you’re that big with that kind of a length and you can score in a variety of ways and move the way he does, those guys are difficult to handle.
Q. Off topic a little bit. Bergy (Steve Bergman) won his 600th game, one of 15 in Iowa and I figure about 150 of those were with your two boys.
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Yeah, I saw quite a few of them. I’m thrilled for him, but he doesn’t seem to be too excited about it, but that’s him. I think one of the things that is impressive to me is you say, Okay, he won 600 games. Well, does that mean he’s been around a long time? Look at how many losses he has. Not very many. He got to 600 pretty quick and that says a lot about him and how he teaches the game. In particular, I think he’s always been known as a guy that really teaches defense. His teams play defense very consistently. They compete. But he’s been able to build just a winning mindset that, like, no matter who comes in, those kids win and they know how to win and that’s I think one of the greatest attributes that any coach could have.
Q. What did you think of him when you first met him and got to know him?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: When I first met him my boys were still in elementary school. He would come by practice and we got a chance to talk to him and get to know him. Prior to the seasons, periodically high school coaches will come by college practices because they don’t start until later and they’re just trying to get into it. They bring their staff, that kind of thing. So I got to know him. I liked him. Jerry Strom knew him well, introduced him to me, and we kind of hit it off pretty well. And then a couple years later he kind of wanted Connor to go there and so we talked about that and, boy, it really worked out well for both Connor and Patrick. They had a wonderful experience there playing for him.
Q. One of your former college teammates has done very well for himself. When you look back to your college days, did you see this coming for Kevin Warren?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: You could tell that Kevin was going to be incredibly successful. And I’ve said this many times about him. If you ever met his father you would know for sure that his son was going to be successful. Just really a remarkable guy. Kevin was not only really bright, but tremendous personality, a great way with people. And it’s kind of interesting to watch, like, where is he going to end up? Well, he came to Notre Dame and attended law school there, got his law degree from Notre Dame while I was there, so we were teammates. But then we were together again at Notre Dame. His brother-in-law was John Shumate. I replaced John Shumate at Notre Dame. So just really have the utmost respect for him and just a really likeable person. Spent years in the NFL, and did great things with the Vikings. When that decision was made I thought what a great move by our league just continuing to be impressed with the decisions that our league makes with regards to those kind of things. Jim Delany’s — that’s tough shoes to fill, but they got the right guy to do it.