Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Morning Coffee with Steve Donahue: Part II

Welcome to part two of our three part interview with Coach Donahue.  One of the things that really strikes me about this section is the coach's ability to recite statistics from memory.  You can tell that he spends a lot of time obsessing over statistics and game film.  This guy is clearly a hard worker, and that makes me even more confident that he's going to will this program to success over the next few years.  

Continued from Part I...

So can you talk to me for a minute about Dennis and Kyle? ...because it seems that for most freshmen in the ACC, when they play in the paint they struggle badly.  What are your expectations going in and how are you going to try to manage with that if they do struggle?

Well, they're going to struggle.  There's no doubt that at times we're going to have some really, you know, situations where they're overwhelmed, physically, against some of the athleticism in this league.  That's just the way it is with guys that are three or four years older than them, more experienced, stronger, and heavier.  That being said, I think Dennis...and both of them... I think will, as they go along, how long it takes will be the question...You will see some progress, because they will learn from their experiences.  Dennis is a really good athlete who moves well so maybe he doesn't necessarily back Zeller back to the rim and score over him, but Zeller's going to have his hands full running the floor with Dennis.  He's going to have to face up, because Dennis is going to shoot the ball and do other things...And as Dennis gets older and stronger I think his back to the basket will be good. 

Now that being said, if Dennis is guarded by a 6' 8" guy at this point, I feel confident that he can score, and the defense is going to have to do something.  There's a lot of teams in our league who don't have 7' guys, they have 6' 8"s and 6' 9"s and I think Dennis can have success there. 

Kyle.  Kyle's probably been the biggest pleasant surprise in terms of his improvement from the time I saw him in high school until now.  He's done a great job in the weight room.  We only have ten healthy bodies and he's playing a whole practice.  He's lost 35 pounds since he got here and he's been very impressive on the low block.  He knows how to play, and he uses his frame to score.  So, he's going to have an adjustment when we keep going against athleticism so he's going to have to figure out how he can be successful.  But he's doing everything he can off the court to make sure that he's prepared which is all you can ask of him. 

So obviously losing Jackson is going to hurt because there's not someone on the team who has that same instant threat to penetrate the defense.  Who would be the go-to scorer here if things were going rough and you needed a basket?

That's a real hard one, Mike.  I don't know if you can look at it and compare it to what we did last year.  Most of my teams at Cornell, we had five guys who were averaging between 14 and 9 and 14 and 10 and another three that did 6 and 5 and 4, so I think you're going to be seeing more of that.  I think there will be guys who get 20 points because someone's going to forget about them.  Last year, as I said, when I got here we were trying to figure out how we can win basketball games.  I thought it was important that Reggie had the ability, if we spaced people out, had the ability to get to the rim.  I think that was a way we had to play to be successful. 

We're not going to play that same way.  You're not going to see a dominant guy with the ball.  You're going to see a lot of different guys playing in a lot of different situations where I think their strengths are.  So, I think you'll see guys in different spots score.  Definitely, a concern though, in this league, that you don't have a guy you know can get you 25.  There's no doubt, and it's part of the youth situation and we're going to have to fight through that at times because it could be hard to score at times.  When you play against good defenses that are older...We're going to try to combat it and get better at it but without a doubt, we might struggle at times because no one is really proven in this group. 

Who's the best 3-point shooter on the team? 

Danny Rubin.  I thought he had proven that last year, with I think 44%.  If you ask me as a stand-still shooter, Danny Rubin is a really good shooter.  Lonnie Jackson is a very good shooter.  Jordan Daniels is a very good shooter.  Matt Humphrey is a very good shooter.  They're all pretty good shooters.  Dennis Clifford went 4 for 6 in our scrimmage from 3.  Ryan Anderson went 3 for 5 in our scrimmage.  They both are step-back guys and they get more time because the wings don't get out on them.  I think all these guys are very capable shooters and we're trying to develop that mentality.  There's a couple of things we ask our guys to do; be set, be disciplined, stay and finish the shot.  There's certain things we constantly harp on that they probably didn't do too much of in high school, because as I said earlier, their strengths are something else.  Now we're trying to develop that as well as part of their game.  I think they all have a chance to be really good shooters and we would not have recruited them if we didn't think they could be. 

Could you talk to me about the defense for a little bit?  It seems like defense was an area of struggle of late, a real struggle last year...

...sure was...

...and that was something that seemed to be happening a little at Cornell as well.  So what are some changes you're going to be making this year to try to put a really good, tough defense on the floor?

Actually, we were the best defensive team in the league at Cornell.  It's an assumption you might have because we were so good offensively.  And that's what it was.  We wouldn't have won all those games if we weren't good defensively.  We weren't great, that great, offensively.  There's a way I judge it.  We had the best field goal percentage defense in the Ivies for three straight years.  Teams usually shot 40%, a little under...We wouldn't get into the 37s, but defense has to be a strength.  We've got to limit teams.  We're not going to get past great teams...although I think we were second in the league in steals and first in the league in blocked shots my last year there...but the teams we're going to have to play we're going to have to guard.  We're going to have to make them take hard shots and limit them to one.  We're not a team that's going to get a lot of tips in the passing lane, although we're going to play some different defenses that help.  But it's fun, because a lot of people think, when they thought about our Cornell teams, they just thought about offense, but we went to Kansas and held them to 37%.  There's no way we're in that game unless we can guard.

And last year's team, the year before, unfortunately the guys thought that the style of play was the reason they lost.  The reality is that that was a good offensive basketball team too.  Al's teams, I think, were second in the league in field goal percentage at 46, 47, 45%.  We did a little better offensively and we shot threes but we were the same poor defensive team, unfortunately.  That was previous and that was probably the Achilles Heel, and we didn't do a good job.  We didn't rotate well.  We didn't compete enough.  We didn't, you know, transition defense, and second shots, and our interior defense was poor and we tried to get better at it.
I think, with this group, you'll see guys who move a little better laterally.  We really recruited them because I thought they competed on both sides of the ball.  I think we have better size and length throughout our lineup, which I think will help us be a better defensive basketball team.  Obviously we're stressing from day one, that we're building our fundamentals up from the start so that we have a foundation from how we're going to play defensively...And these guys realize that we hold them accountable.  I think you'll see a team that really competes on the defensive end.  For a young group, they will be overwhelmed at times with the physicality, athleticism, and speed early on, but I think you'll see them improve. 

How much film work would you say that you do in any given week during the season? 

Well even now, we film all of our practices.  So, this is so great the ability that we have now-a-days compared to ten years ago, when I had to take a VHS tape and take it home and spend four hours on one game.  You know, back and forth...I can watch four games in two hours, but I watch all our tapes at night, and I come back in the morning and we watch them as a staff and we plan our practice, and then I watch a little more probably right before I go out to practice, just to give me a couple of things.  So, a large part of your day right now is evaluating where you're at and what you need to get better at.  I would hate to put a number of hours on it but, it's, you know, six hours of film today.  It's hard but probably five or six hours. 

And then during the season, it's more your opponents.  You're watching for those things in game.  But as I've said, with Ipads and laptops now-a-days, you can get a lot done with it. 

Continued Tomorrow with Part III...


  1. That's a lot of film

  2. I could be misreading this but it seemed like Donahue took a (perfectly legitimate) shot at Skinner when discussing the defense - stressing how this team can build up fundamentals "from the start." As someone who witnessed an utter lack of fundamentals on many a Skinner team, this statement both made me laugh and is also hopefully signalling that we won't see as many boneheaded plays in the coming years.

  3. The great thing about the Don is his enthusiasm and his realistic look at how this young team will struggle against the more seasoned ACC teams we'll be facing. But you really get the impression that his enthusiasm will spill over to the team and that everyone (coaches and players alike) are on a mission to get better in steady increments. I can't wiat for the season to start.

  4. Interesting. Don seems to let it slip that there was some dissension with last years team re his scheme. " And last year's team, the year before, unfortunately the guys thought that the style of play was the reason they lost." The team did seem very different as the year progressed. Seems like some of the upperclassmen weren't happy. Excited to see don with his guys.


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