Here’s the transcript of John Beilein’s press conference at Big Ten Media Day in Chicago (courtesy of a Big Ten release). We couldn’t make it to Chicago but we’ll have a full wrap-up post later this evening.
COACH BEILEIN: Thank you. Good morning. This is a very young team. This is probably one of the younger teams I’ve ever coached, and maybe one of the younger ones in the country.
I think we have no seniors. We have two juniors, two sophomores, and six freshmen. So it’s going to be — there’s going to be very challenging moments. And we’re replacing — trying to replace a lot of points and a lot of rebounds in two very good players.
But we’ve practiced so hard and we’re fortunate enough to make a European trip that we learned a lot about ourselves. Many positive things, and also a lot of work to do.
Q. Can you talk about the two Indiana you guys have in Douglass and Novak and what you expect from them this year?
COACH BEILEIN: Both of them have developed and really worked hard. They’re out here today. Just looking at their bodies right now, they were young 18-year-old freshmen and now they’re still probably pretty young but 20-year-old juniors.
And I just really like the leadership they both showed. They’ve seen the best of times, an NCAA Tournament win, and then they saw some very disappointing games last year.
So we’re very optimistic that that’s the type of leadership that we’re going to need to continue to build a program and I’m really happy we don’t know where they’ll be as far as what their main role will be other than leadership right now.
But they’ll be out on the court quite a bit this year.
Q. Tom Crean mentioned — he said that there’s nothing harder than preparing for a John Beilein-coached team. How much will that help you in a year you don’t have the experience?
COACH BEILEIN: I think what will be helpful to us probably is that I don’t see us having a go-to guy right just yet. You always would like to have that in your back pocket. At the same time, I think we’ll have a go-to team that will look for the first open shot, the best opportunity to shoot.
And so hopefully that part of our game will really open up a lot of opportunities for a lot of people. So it will be — it’s a challenge for us right now, but this team is one of my higher IQ teams, I think, as far as just picking up things quickly, whether it’s just college basketball or some nuance that we’re trying to instill.
Q. Talk a little bit about McLimans, his development since joining the program and how you think he’ll be able to match up in his first year against some of the premier talent in the front court.
COACH BEILEIN: He’s made great strides. Blake’s made great strides. He’s getting the body of a 6’10" center in the Big Ten. Still has not had enough experience with the lights on for us really to know what to expect, but does have the ability to — has a nice little soft hook shot that we need him to be able to turn to more often. But he’s got a really nice outside shot that could help us spread the floor. So his development is very important to us.
He is a freshman. Even though he’s redshirted, but his development — if he continues his development from where he came from last year to this year over the next season, he’ll have a chance to get some good quality minutes for us in the years ahead.
Q. If you had a timeline coming in to Michigan, how have you had — for rebuilding, how have you had to assess that timeline or reassess it and where would you say you feel you are now?
COACH BEILEIN: Typically, wherever we’ve been able to go, before you spent your time, we spent most of our time right now recruiting sophomores and juniors. I think in some of the other stops that we’ve had, you’ll basically be able to go somewhere and there’s still seniors available. And you are not waiting two or three years to get the recruits you began recruiting.
So I think as you try to turn programs around, it depends a little bit on what you have, what you inherit, and then where your recruiting classes are. Does it take some of the best recruits that we — I shouldn’t say best recruits — some of the recruits, highly rated recruits we have or we’ll sign, sometimes you have to wait two or three years to actually get them.
And then who knows what’s going to happen in their freshman year. So I think turning the program around is much more difficult than it’s been, because of the early commitments and early recruiting. We have to do it with younger men.
Q. Has there been a guy in practice that surprised you over the first ten days that you’re like: I didn’t know he could maybe do that?
COACH BEILEIN: Every day there seems to be a different guy that we really come out of practice and say: You know, boy, wasn’t he good today.
Colton Christian the other day had a very good practice in a scrimmage that we had, but the day before it wasn’t nearly — I wouldn’t say there’s anyone that has been consistently — other than Zack Novak, probably, has been consistently every day having good practices. That’s what I was looking for, guys that will go three, four, five practices in a row and really be consistent. Darius Morris has probably been the most consistent that he’s been from last year. But I wouldn’t say there’s any wow factor out there right now.
People are establishing it though. There are a couple of young men on our radar screen that we’re seeing some growth.
Q. How have you — you mentioned you have to adjust without DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris for points and rebounds. How have you been able to adjust so far, and was there any chance of you trying to persuade Manny to come back for his senior year?
COACH BEILEIN: The way we’ve been able to adjust is just run whatever action we want to run, both offensively and defensively, and it’s a little bit like next shot a little bit by committee. Who is open? Just some really good teams have four, five, or six players with double figures.
So I enjoy — I enjoy coaching both ways, when you have a guy like Manny or DeShawn Sims, it’s really good to be able to design an offense to get them in their sweet spots.
But at the same time, when you don’t have that type of experience, that type of ability, all that talent is really young, it’s also fun to coach where it’s just, all right, let’s just take good shots as a team and not script — I say script so much.
Manny and I had several discussions. Manny was really passionate about making — going right to the NBA. And his passions have come true so far as he’s on the roster, was on the roster last night. I haven’t checked the box score, whether he played last night or not. But if he really felt in his heart that it was the best thing for him to do, we supported him 100 percent.