John Beilein, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. were on the podium Wednesday afternoon at the Palace of Auburn Hills to discuss Michigan’s Saturday afternoon NCAA tournament matchup with VCU. Read their comments in the full transcript below.
Q. I’m wondering if you could tell me what type of coach John Beilein is. If you could, please, elaborate and tell me does he push your buttons by yelling and screaming? Is he analytical? Is he patient? What does he do to get the best out of you guys?
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Coach Beilein’s very patient with the team, and one thing that makes Coach Beilein really special is he’s a teacher of the game. He really takes film very seriously when you’re not having practice that much.
And he really wants his guys to really learn the fundamentals of the game and just try to make the game easier for yourself while you’re being coached by him. So that’s one aspect of Coach Beilein that’s really important to know about him.
TREY BURKE: Oh, I would say Coach Beilein, like he said, is definitely patient.
He’s one of the coaches — the few coaches that I’ve played with my whole life that takes the, you know, game — I wouldn’t say seriously, but, you know, he prepares us so well by just having us come in for film and just making sure we’re going into the game prepared.
He feels like, you know, he failed if he feels like we didn’t watch enough film or prepare enough for the next team.
And another thing about Coach Beilein, he’s a player’s coach. He definitely lets his players play free and, you know, he lets you play with freedom out there. You know, anybody would love to play for him.
Q. Trey, what is the challenge of playing against this havoc defense?
TREY BURKE: The challenge is just playing patient, really. You know, we haven’t played a lot of teams in the Big Ten that press the way that they do. Well, we haven’t played anyone.
So we just have to play patient, play smart, and limit turnovers. They score off of turnovers really well, and you know, they call their defense havoc. So we just have to try not to allow them to force havoc and just play patient, play at our own pace.
Q. You didn’t play against a lot of teams that play like this in the Big Ten. Is there anybody you played in nonconference you can compare them to?
TREY BURKE: Arkansas was a team that plays similar to VCU. Arkansas doesn’t press as much as they do, but they pressed pretty much the whole game.
You know, I think we watched — if we go back and watch film on Arkansas, you know, it would kind of give us a sense or a feeling of how VCU’s defense is going to be tomorrow.
Q. Is it a big deal to have this game Saturday essentially in your own backyard against VCU?
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Well, I mean, I’ll be lying if I said it wouldn’t be, but, yeah, it’s good to have our fan base behind us while we’re playing here.
We know they’re going to bring energy, just like we’re going to try to bring energy. So it’s going to be a tough matchup for us, and both teams are really going to bring it.
Q. One hallmark of Coach Beilein’s teams, I know at least when he was at Richmond, is he values the basketball, he values possessions. What does he do to stress that with you guys?
TREY BURKE: Just prepare us. Like I said, you know, he’s went back to watching film against Arkansas and showing us the way that we, you know, beat their press and, you know, he’s thrown in some press-breaker sets from the beginning of the year.
And I think we’ll be prepared for it. He does a good job of showing us different options and different ways to attack full court pressure. So we should be ready tomorrow.
Q. Trey, you seem to not really buy into the Wolters verses you matchup. Does it excite you more to go against a press like this, something that is challenging for ball handlers? Tim, are you expecting to have to handle the ball a little more because you’re facing this full court press?
TREY BURKE: I definitely think it’s — you know, it’s exciting for me. It’s exciting for everyone. Playing in this game, a chance to go to the Sweet 16, we’re all excited.
They’re going to challenge us. They going to give us everything that they have. You know, they have the same goal in mind as we do. Like I said, I just have to play poised out there. You know, it’s my job to set the token, set the table, and make the right passes.
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: For that havoc defense, I think they’re going to stress a lot to try to get the ball out of Trey Burke’s hands and just try to do the best they can to make myself, Nik Stauskas, and even Caris LeVert bring the ball up the court. So we’re definitely going to stress us bringing the ball up the court with confidence and just try to get ourselves into offense.
Q. Tim, talk about how the freshman took playing in that first NCAA game yesterday, not from a performance standpoint, but just emotionally and psychologically?
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Well, I think a plus for them was just playing in Michigan, playing Auburn Hills, playing close to campus and having the fan base we did. I think they felt very comfortable with their surroundings and I think that really helped them out with their first NCAA tournament.
Q. Tim, we’ve followed a lot of these games and throughout your career, what do you remember when you were growing up when you first started playing? What was that like having a father who’d accomplished so much in the game?
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: It was hard just to try to follow his footsteps, and you try not to worry about it. You try to leave a legacy of your own.
It takes a long time to do that, so, I mean, he just tells me to go out there, have fun, just play my hardest, and he’s behind me a hundred percent.
Q. Trey, two questions. First, how do you feel today? Second, pretend for a moment you’re not playing VCU, and if you could just describe to me what Coach Beilein does to stress safe ball handling?
TREY BURKE: Well, I feel pretty good. Obviously my back is a little sore.
I did a lot of treatment and recovery for it today, but for the most part I feel okay.
As far as if we weren’t playing VCU, you know, Coach Beilein, like I said, he does a really good job of showing us different ways and different options to attack different teams.
If it’s taking back dribbles and retreat dribbles and finding the next open man or, you know, hitting the next man on the outside hand so the defender can’t shoot the lane to get a steal. You know, backdoor cuts, just different options and different ways to, you know, hit the open man.
That just depends on what, you know, the defensive tendency of the team we’re playing is.
Q. On paper, it’s VCU’s guards. They’re a bunch of fast guards against your guards. You guys turn it over less than anyone in the country. How big of a deal is that for you guys in terms of mind-set going into a game like this?
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: I think we just — you know, playing against Aaron Craft, Victor Oladipo, and, you know, West Virginia guards, Arkansas guards, I think we kind of know what to expect from them.
Like we said, Coach Beilein just going to do a great job of just preparing us and we’re just going to have to watch a lot of film from here on out before the game starts in order to see what we have to do in order to win.
For either one of you, do you think this is getting overplayed and that everybody’s focused on you guys breaking the press and no one seems to be paying any attention to when they have the ball and the rest of the game?
TREY BURKE: Well, you know, not necessarily. That’s one of their tendencies that they’re really good at. So we’re obviously going to have to be ready for it.
But at the end of the day, it’s going to be times where it’s going to be half court offense, half court defense for both teams. So it may be getting a little overtalked about, but, you know, like I said, they do a really good job of turning teams over. We got to be prepared for that.
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: I mean, it is what they do. I mean, that’s VCU’s whole mind-set, is to turn you over. They’re going to play that havoc defense and they’re going to do a great job of it.
We just have to go out there and contain it and just try to make sure we don’t get scared, don’t get nervous when they’re in it.
MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.
Opening statement with Coach Beilein.
COACH BEILEIN: Well, obviously pleased to get the win yesterday, but the challenges keep getting bigger.
I watched about ten minutes of the VCU game live, then watched a lot of video starting early this morning, last night, and a really talented team that plays a very different style than most teams that we see, and making that adjustment of in one day is difficult.
At the same time, we’re thankful for this opportunity to be able to play, and we’re going to be as ready as we can be in the short turnaround.
Q. You’ve never been an assistant coach, and I wondered about the advantages and disadvantages of that and how that’s shaped your coaching philosophy?
COACH BEILEIN: Well, the disadvantage is you learn the hard way, because you don’t really know everything you’re doing when you’re a head coach, whether it’s junior college, NAIA, Division III, Division II, wherever I was.
The advantage is that when you learn something, you don’t forget it, and you’re able to put things into action right away and you find out what works and what doesn’t work, much quicker than if you were the assistant. Where the assistant might have said to somebody, why don’t you try this and he does it or not, you actually get to try it. And sometimes it’s really painful when you’re really a dumb coach. At other times it’s very rewarding because you learn from that.
Q. Coach, you see defenses like this come through the tournament over the years, 40 minutes of hell with Arkansas. Can you just kind of talk about what that does in a setting like this?
COACH BEILEIN: Basically, the way I see the evolution of the press, when John Wooden and these people were so successful, was before the three-point shot. Because it will give up open threes. So people that were playing presses earlier would pay for it.
VCU’s found a way to be able to press and still not give out open looks. You have to have superior quickness to do that. They do. You have to have a great plan and a changing scheme, which they do. But it’s something that we don’t see.
It reminds me of when we were playing the one-three-one a lot. That used to be a very common. And when he we started running it, it was very uncommon, and I think it’s still uncommon again, but people really didn’t have that plan in place. So I think that’s so unique. It makes it so difficult for every team.
I think teams in the A10 or NCAA got a little bit used to it and they at least had a couple days, but this, I think it really shows why they can be successful this time of the year, as they were last night.
Q. Your 7 and 3 lifetime versus VCU. One, what do you remember about the battles with VCU. Two, comment on where they were and where they are now?
COACH BEILEIN: The first games were against Sonny Smith, and we might have split them. We might have won those first two because we had a really good team my first year with those five seniors.
I remember playing in the old Richmond coliseum against them, and actually, we lost in the tournament to them I think the second year.
And then playing at their new place, where we really played well at their new place. And then my last year there, we were playing as good as we could play and they were having a tough time and they came to our place and they just smoked us. So there was always good rivalries.
You know, when Richmond plays VCU, I’m still a Spider fan during those times, but those were really — between Mack McCarthy and Sonny and the CA tournament the way it was selling out, and I’m sure they still get good crowds, that was a very special experience for our family and for Richmond.
Q. You mentioned the fact about the difficulty to prepare for their style of defense basically in a day. How much of it is an advantage to have this game essentially so close to home where you have the home crowd behind you?
COACH BEILEIN: Well, I don’t know. We’ll find out about that. You look at — I think they’re 8 and 3 on the road with people having — you know, their game travels. Some teams’ games don’t travel. When you do this, you have a bad shooting night but you get layups forcing 18 to 20 turnovers, that game travels.
That’s why the home advantage, while it’s nice for us to have the fan base we had here last night, and we’ll probably have again tomorrow. Michigan State fans may be going with VCU, who knows, and Michigan fans may be going with Memphis. I don’t know, but it will be a good atmosphere.
As I said before, the way they play, if doesn’t make a difference where they are. They’re very good at it.
Q. John, as you mentioned just a moment ago, you’ve coached at about every level possible, and I wondered how does that help you prepare for the stage you’re on now?
COACH BEILEIN: Paul, I think one of the strengths of having — not having any assistant coaches and driving advance and not having warmup times and, you know, waiting for the women’s game to finish before you could get out there is you become very versatile and very adaptable at conditions that come along.
For us, this is the occupation I chose, and all of a sudden you’re playing a team last night that will play very containing defense, very good defense, but they’ll let you make every pass and then contain you. We just got done playing Wisconsin like that. That will force five to six turnovers a game and still beat you. And now you turn around, you’re playing a team that won’t let you make a pass.
So you just — as a coach, that’s what you learn, that’s the way it was. You just learn.
Back in the day, we didn’t even have — we didn’t have videotape. We had a videotape in the ’70s and ’80s. It was like incredible, espionage, to have a videotape of another team.
(Laughter). Now we have synergy on everything they do. So I’ve learned to be very adaptable and hopefully it’s helped me, helped our staffs.
Q. A lot is being made of your offense verse their defense. What about your defense verses their offense?
COACH BEILEIN: That’s going to be difficult — their quickness is incredible, how quick they can get to the rim.
Once again, we’re going to see a very experienced team. They have one sophomore in the starting lineup, two juniors, two seniors that have experienced a lot of success at VCU in a very short time. It’s going to be difficult. They get downhill as good as any team that we’ve seen. They do have a nice compliment of inside/outside game, and I think I’ve had one — with all the shooters we’ve had at Richmond, Canisius, West Virginia here, I’ve only had one player ever have 100 threes in a year, and that young man, No. 30, with 119 threes, that’s like astronomical to have that, unless you’re like the only good player on that team.
There’s some really big challenge for us defensively. And because of our roster makeup, frankly that’s been every game. If you could picture if VCU had three or four freshman out there a lot, last night we had two guys — Jordan Morgan played one minute, we had two guys that ever played in an NCAA game. So this is great stuff for us right now to learn what it’s like to play at this level.
Q. A lot talk about VCU being able to turn opponents over. You guys turn it over at a lower rate than anybody in the country. What has allowed you guys to be so good with the ball this year?
COACH BEILEIN: Well, we really preach it like VCU is trying to touch the ball, they’re trying to get deflections, they’re trying to wreak havoc, I guess is the word they like to use.
We love to be able to get a shot every time up the floor. You can shoot a lower percentage and have a bad night, but if you get a shot every time, it’s really a game of possessions. So we recruit kids that usually have a high skill level, but we also preach it every day. People don’t want to turn the ball over in our practice, and people don’t want to turn the ball over in games, because they know valuing possessions is a huge philosophy that we have.
Q. What do you tell Trey Burke when he’s facing this and your other guards as well?
COACH BEILEIN: Well, you know, he’s got to keep his head up tomorrow because people will come at him from all different angles.
He’ll have opportunities where two people will be on him. They’ll put him in no catch situations. They may show that they’re not going to guard him and jump him very quickly with double teams. So he’s got to have his head on a swivel all day long to see everybody.
Thank goodness we have a ball handling team that’s pretty good at several positions because you need that. But we have not seen very many times, maybe with Arkansas earlier in the year, and a little bit — I don’t know if we’ve seen any — in the Big Ten, we have not seen this type of defense since back in December. So it does take a minute and that’s why it can be so effective. In a minute, you can be down 10-0. So adjusting is hard.
Q. Coach, you said you watched some of the game last night. When a team wins by 46, do you have to do anything extra to get your players’ attention?
COACH BEILEIN: No, we rely a lot on the amount of video we already have. That game — I think Akron, especially with missing their point guard, they wouldn’t have won last night with him maybe. It probably would have been a closer game.
But they played so well, I mean, VCU. But we look at a volume of games as opposed to that game. So it was better for me just to — I wanted to see it live in action. Mostly I rely on just video because we’re not allowed to tape otherwise. I just wanted to see it live yesterday. I was really impressed.
Q. John, Tim Hardaway and Trey Burke described you as a players’ coach, so I wondered if you have an idea of why you’re a players’ coach. Second part of the question is you said players don’t want to turn the ball over in practice. What happens when they do turn the ball over in practice?
COACH BEILEIN: Well, I’m glad they would say I’m a players’ coach. I think I’d like to be known that way, but I also — you know, we’re not soft either in practice as far as how much we demand of our players, but I don’t think if you come into our practice you’re going to hear a lot of cursing and a lot of — we want them to see a coach that’s really — coaches that are really in control and that are teachers and people who encourage their players to reach their potential.
There’s different things that will happen. We have stairs that go all the way to the top of 12,000 seat arena. It takes a little bit to get up there. It takes about a minute to get up there and back, but it’s not a fun minute. Just a quick sprint on the sideline or just to be critiqued and criticized a bit in practice, to tell them, you know, that is not the way Michigan plays basketball, and there’s different ways, but it’s not — I wouldn’t say it’s medieval punishment or anything like that, but we will get some things — the point will come across.
Q. Shaka uses a lot of players and they push that very fast pace. Do you sense you’re going to need more minutes out of your bench?
COACH BEILEIN: With the CBS game and the longer times, you do have some extra timeouts.
In this time of the year, you know, we probably wouldn’t go past seven or eight. And that’s their style and they’ve done more than that. We may do that just little spots here and there, but we’ll probably pretty much stay the same.
Q. A question about Nik Stauskas. I was wondering your thoughts on how he played in his first game in the tournament ever yesterday and also how he might be able to help you tomorrow beat the press at all and what you’re looking for him to improve on tomorrow?
COACH BEILEIN: You know, as I said earlier before, I don’t want to beat it up, but if I had all those five guys who have never played in an NCAA game yesterday play in it yesterday was huge for us. Nik performed at a very high level. I thought his defense at times was outstanding. He has grown so much in that area during this year, and he always seems to be guarding the guy that can really shoot the ball.
It has been good for him to see this experience. As he would say to you, you know, the Big Ten is no joke, and I just told him, hey, the NCAA tournament is no joke. He understands how physical both of these tournaments are and how well he has to play. So just we love what Nik has brought to our team, not just his ability on offense, his defense is growing, but his attitude and his work habits are excellent.
Q. Trey, yesterday a lot of people made a big deal about him going against Nate Wolters. Do you sense he relishes going against a press like this more than an individual battle like that?
COACH BEILEIN: Well, we haven’t talked that much about what he personally is feeling right now, but I know he’s had some — he’s like a couple of our other guys. They live for opportunities to play on in the NCAA tournament. We have a lot of respect for VCU and what they’re doing as a team. I mean, this is really good what they have going there. Selling out every game, playing at a very high level, playing against anybody in the country, and he has a great deal of respect with that.
At the same time, he loves this, the opportunities he would have to play in the NCAA tournament, and the opponent is a very worthy for sure.
Q. When you were driving vans and washing uniforms as a juco coach, did you have a plan? Was the plan one day to be at Michigan on this stage?
COACH BEILEIN: I was crazy enough to think that this could happen.
(Laughter) I actually was. Any future coaches out there, I wouldn’t suggest this is the path, because it just — there’s not anybody that’s going to hire a Division II coach anymore, it seems like. And there’s many worthy ones out there.
But, no, this was exactly the plan that I felt if you were — if I was a good enough high school coach, I could — I probably thought I could go from Newfane High School to, you know, UCLA in two steps at that time. And I realized that I had a lot of learning to do. And really what it was, the whole process was — when I got my first Division I job at Canisius, I felt I was ready. I didn’t have a couple opportunities earlier in my career at Le Moyne, and I didn’t get those jobs and it was heartbreaking.
But now I look back and I probably wasn’t ready at that time to make the most of the opportunity like we did at Canisius because that helped me get ready for Richmond, which helped me get ready for West Virginia, et cetera.
Q. With that in mind, what did you think of Shaka after the 2011 Final Four run and he stayed?
COACH BEILEIN: I love those things.
As you know, there was never a time that — there was only one time at Nazareth College that I didn’t stay at least five years, and there were some opportunities, great opportunities, but that’s — people hired me to be the coach there and they had a lot of people that were — that they could have hired during that time, and they hired me. And I respected that so much.
When Shaka did that, that sent a great message to what a lot of coaches should consider, is when you do have an opportunity — and I’m a coaching nomad. I mean, I’ve been to so many different places, but every time it’s been five years at least, and I’ve always had a lot of respect for Shaka. I’ve known him as both an assistant and then as a head coach. But him staying like that, when Brad Stevens did as well, those were good things for college basketball that sometimes is your best situation.