John Beilein kicked off Michigan Basketball Media Day this afternoon with his season opening press conference. You can watch the entire press conference in the embedded media player below or find a transcript after the jump.
Opening statement … "We are getting closer and closer to the season and we look forward to these days. I look forward to having you all meet some of these young men we are getting to coach right now. They have really worked hard; they have been healthy, which is really good, and we are just two weeks away from our first games. It is unique getting ready, because as you know, the last couple years we have changed where we can work kids out in the summer. We can work them out in the fall and we can make foreign trips. That has been the biggest battle for someone like me, who likes to be really organized about what the process is when you have these early starts. You don’t want things to slip because you assume things or because you covered it last July; you want to be thorough. So we will find out more, and we are doing a secret scrimmage this year as well, as some of you have called it. We cannot talk about it; we are not going to talk about it. But it is another way for us to try and prepare. We have got a lot of things juggling right now with the team because we have five players, five letterman players back, and a bunch of guys that will be going on the court for the first time. It is going to be a great opportunity for some young men to really grow. The veterans may even be a bigger area of growth that we are going to need and that they want to have. Hopefully it is moving that direction every day."
On the freshman class and how they compare to past classes … "It comes and goes, and I won’t single people out right now, but there are a couple of them right now that are exceptional at taking the task and applying it, as we say. There are some other ones that are really typical. I don’t think anyone has been, ‘oh my goodness, this could be a two- or three-year project.’ I like what I have seen so far. We continue to throw more things at them, and we’ve had a lot of practice so far. We have a list of so many things we have to do to still improve that we haven’t even touched, that we could see in our first game. You don’t know where they are and you hate to make the comparisons, but the Trey Burkes and the Tim Hardaways were not as highly recruited either, nor were the Caris LeVerts and the Spikes and all that. I think we have all learned in time, as we continue to look at those lists, that they are just lists."
On freshmen filling in the vacant front court positions … "I think that is one position where, when you are a freshman, the basics and just keeping things simpler are really key. Finishing around the rim, framing up, being big, keep your footwork. Footwork is usually the biggest thing that Bacari (Alexander) and I work with them on. That is what we just focused on. The only thing we mention a lot about Jon (Horford) and Jordan (Morgan), how solid they were just in being team guys. That brought them a lot of success, and as a result, brought the team success. That is the big focus. Fit in before you try to stand out, but the energy and the enthusiasm and the willingness to be a team guy with all of our team guys has been really good."
On whether or not Kentucky’s last-second shot will be a point of motivation … "I talked about it, and we have this poem that we read the other day — One Possession by Jeff Smith. It is sort of this corny poem about a guy saying, ‘Coach, come on, get off my back. It is a turnover and there are still 39 minutes to play,’ but then the poem comes down to like a Casey at the Bat, there is one play left. We talked about that because Caris (LeVert) played exceptional defense on that. He was perfect. But was there one other play in that game that could have turned that game. We will talk about that. I think we had an outstanding record last year in close games in the Big Ten. So those close games were not decided in the last minute. They were maybe decided in the first minute. So it’s a continuous point of emphasis."
On sophomore guard Zak Irvin’s summer … "I think that he has really worked. When you see him in the work out right now, and I think you guys saw a little bit this summer, you will see a different athleticism than you saw last year. He has really worked hard with John Sanderson — I think you will see a difference there. We want his shooting to be just as accurate as it was last year, but he will obviously get a lot more opportunities, a lot more volume to his shots. But he is making good progressions in every area."
On the role of Austin Hatch … "He is one of our thirteen scholarship players right now. He has done a great job of embracing the team and being a part of the team and giving us everything he can give us every practice. He is limited in practice right now as he continues to improve his skill level. At the same time, the kids love him, you will (see that) in practice today. He will be in some of the early exercises and he won’t be in some of the more competitive ones. He has brought a lot to this team. I think (his role) will be one as a student of the game that will try to give us everything that he can in practice, help in any way that he can on and off the floor. So many people say ‘what a great thing to have him on this basketball team’. No. The gift is from Austin Hatch to every one of us. When you watch him go through our drills and our kids are encouraging him, that is a tremendous blessing to the team to see what a young man can do. I have requested and received a film of him playing in high school, that we don’t really know how to show the rest of the team, but we will do it, because when he was playing before the injuries, it is really a great video."
On if he ever envisioned basketball becoming a savior to Michigan fans … "Regardless of the success of any athletic teams here, to me, watching Michigan from afar — yeah, I love Michigan Football, but Michigan Basketball has been an icon for years. I think that is why I want people to really value what we have brought here. We are trying to bring it back so it is a yearly conversation. Michigan Basketball, what type of year are they going to have? Yeah it is rebuilding but they are going to be good in the future. I don’t want it to have the lack of consistency that maybe it has had before."
On where the team is looking for leadership this season … "I think in men’s basketball in particular, you have to talk about veteran leadership. I don’t think you can talk about senior leadership anymore. At least at this level, the transfer to the NBA just happens so much more readily than it did (in the past) and the numbers are so small. I would say the veteran leadership is going to come from Max (Bielfeldt) obviously, and Spike (Albrecht) and Caris (LeVert). But Derrick (Walton) too; if we had a core five those would be the core five, because they have been so involved. Andrew Dakich and Sean Lonergan as well. This is crazy to say, that they are veterans, but when you know they are the only veterans that you have, you have no other choice. They have been really good at that."
On the leadership role of junior guard Caris LeVert … "There are guys that, if they are not comfortable being vocal, they may not help. I wouldn’t say he is not comfortable; he is just not going to be the Zack Novak-type. He is not going to be the guy that is really going to jump in someone’s face, which Zack was very happy to do several times. You can still get it across. His effort every day and his attitude of being coachable speaks volumes for who he is. He has always been that way, but now, as one of the veteran players, our guys are watching him, and that is where I want to get that program too. It wasn’t just the coaches teaching, they just saw it. I’m sure he also will be, if we are tough on a kid someday, I’m sure he’s got his arm around some guy on the way to the training table saying, alright, so you learned this today. There are many ways to lead, and Caris has a really good method of leading."
On the direction basketball recruiting is going in terms of players leaving early … "These guys will tell you, I am never surprised by anything, and that is why I love to coach. The puzzle is always changing; the pieces in the puzzle are always changing. You never can get content, you just have to keep changing, because you have to understand that the puzzle is going to change. There is a different piece every year; there is a different piece every game. You have to try to plug that in."
Quotes via MGoBlue.com.