I'm constantly psyched that he's our coach.
Mike Lantry, 1972
THE MODERATOR: Next up, Michigan head coach John Beilein. He welcomes back four starters from last year's squad, including Pre-Season All-Big Ten selection Manny Harris. Coach, we'll start with an opening statement and then open the floor for questions.
COACH BEILEIN: We're excited to get the season going. I think we're really playing an attractive schedule that will be demanding out of conference, and then when we have the 18 Big Ten games now and the depth of talent in returning players in the Big Ten, it may be one of the most challenging schedules I personally have ever played and maybe Michigan's ever played in a long time.
But we're going after it. And we're excited about it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. You've been able to rebuild the program just by letting the guys know they can trust in you. They talk about your influence on them and several Michigan high school coaches have talked about that. Would you talk about the trust factor that you've built back at Michigan?
COACH BEILEIN: I think it's the way we've tried to coach for a long time that really if you have a relationship, really strong relationships with your players, that they will, they'll usually -- adds a lot of credibility.
You use those old adages. I hate to use the cliches, but they don't care how much they know until they know how much you care. Rules without relationships equals rebellion. Those are two that we use all the time. But you have to build those relationships and then you have that trust. So it's just the thing that we've always done as a coach. And hopefully it's one of the things that can make our program special. And I don't think we're alone in this. I think a lot of coaches, successful coaches do the same thing.
Q. One of the kids on your team, Zack Novak, could you talk about his development from when he came on campus. He was suspended one game and all that just talk about how he's developed not only on the court but as a person.
COACH BEILEIN: First of all, he's in the business school. He's been admitted to the business school at the University of Michigan, which is a great honor to him.
He is a wonderful kid whose body has really changed from probably being a 225-pound probably just slightly overweight, small forward, whatever position is, he's sort of a hybrid of doing a lot of things. He played the two-man and four-man for us last year. Not too many people get to do those two tasks.
And he's really just -- he's done a great job of being a leader. As a sophomore I would say he's one of our leaders, and it gives us a great combination of a kid who can shoot and a kid who can really do a lot of the glue-type of things to keep a team going.
He dives on the floor probably more than anybody. Takes charges as much as anybody. Those are winning plays that win games. Everybody looks at the scores and the rebounds and all those type of things. Sometimes there's a lot of winning plays in there that separate us from the other team.
Q. You obviously have this program turning in the right direction. There's a lot of positives, a lot of high expectations this year. Because of the recent past and the struggles this program went through to get to this point, have you told the kids: You know, let's not get too high on this thing, let's be a little cautious going into this season?
COACH BEILEIN: You know, I wrote them a letter at the beginning of the year or just before we got here about how this was -- we're still hunting. Until we can get Michigan to point where they're in the NCAA tournament, this is normal to be in the NCAA tournament, we haven't turned anything around yet. I think that's where Michigan belongs. If you're in the tournament every year, dang it, you've got a chance of winning it.
That's where we want to go, sustain the program. So this is the second year with a very aggressive schedule, that's what we have to do. So I don't think we've lost that hunger or anybody's thinking about last year as much as saying, hey, hopefully we have a good team and we're going to be playing with the big boys all year long and let's see what we can do.
Q. With the ethics committee stuff and the board of directors voting today, kind of what's your take on what has initially been proposed?
COACH BEILEIN: Boy, there's so many things. Overall, I was in favor of many of the things that they're going to vote about today, but I can't be too specific. But I think we're making progress in some pretty significant areas, I think, according to what we'll see what happens to that.
Q. You played a tough schedule last year with UCLA and Duke. Could you just talk about the value of playing some of those tough teams in the non conference portion of the schedule?
COACH BEILEIN: I think when you have the right team, there's great value in it. When you don't have the right team, it can really ruin the confidence of your team. I think teams have to be very careful about when they do schedule like this.
And it usually comes down to the last couple of games who you're going to play. Are you going to bring in a guaranteed game or are you going to take on another difficult team? And really one of the reasons we do it to make sure that we get -- we've had UCLA at Crisler. Duke at Crisler. Now it's UConn at Crisler and the following year it will be Kansas at Crisler.
That's the back end of things. And in the meantime you have to go to Allen Fieldhouse and try to get a W. But I think we have enough of those games that it gives our kids a great taste. It's just difficult that we've had to space one in the second semester.
It looks like we may continue to do that. But we've got to be very careful of that because of how tough the Big Ten schedule is in the second semester.
Q. Do you worry about the NBA talk with Manny Harris and a little bit with DeShawn Sims being a distraction? Or have those guys handled that stuff well?
COACH BEILEIN: I think if you frame that correctly it could be a great motivator for them that you want to -- we want our guys, if they're going to be going to the NBA want to have careers in the NBA. In order to have careers in the NBA there's a lot of things that you need to be able to do, whether it's getting all your assignments in on time and doing all the tests that you have to do off the court of handling your personal business is a big thing.
So you use that as part of this. This is going to help you if you're fortunate enough to have that opportunity. So we try to use it as a positive there. And some days you want them to practice like there's NBA scouts all over your practice. But, then again, in games you may want them to play like there is no NBA.
This is your only opportunity to play basketball, make the most of it because it's right here and right now is really what's most important.
Q. Can you talk about what you feel the conference schedule is like right now? Is there too many games? Too few games with the 18-game schedule?
COACH BEILEIN: It's been difficult for us, because we have -- the opportunity to be on CBS TV with a big game in the second semester has really cramped ours together. I particularly am not in favor of the times where you play. I think this year we have -- let me see how does it go again.
It starts on a Sunday and then it's a Wednesday, then it's a Saturday, and then it's a Tuesday. There's like five games in a row. And it's very difficult to go through those stretches with the amount of travel that we have to do.
At the same time, everybody's doing it. And everybody has -- you know sometimes when you're playing somebody, it's not who you're playing, it's where you're playing them and when you're playing them that really will make a difference in some games.
So it is difficult. But thank goodness we have -- I was with Gene Keady last night and they're talking about playing a Thursday-Saturday game, leaving on Wednesday and coming back Sunday. So those are tough days, too.
It's part of this league with the footprint that we have that there's a lot of travel involved. We're very fortunate to be able to do it mostly with charter planes and quick bus trips.
I'm constantly psyched that he's our coach.
Class act and a first class coach. He fits Michigan perfectly.
Sounds like Novak is going to be our Brian Cardinal. Diving around, taking charges, not afraid to get bloody or throw an elbow.