"Whenever the Chicago Luncheon happens you know that basketball is right around the corner."This was one of the first things that Terri Mitchell said at the Chicago Coaches Luncheon this afternoon, and she happened to repeat it twice. Soon enough, Marquette fans, basketball season will be in full swing. As Coach Mitchell mentioned, one of the first signs of basketball season is the Chicago Coaches Luncheon, and Cracked Sidewalks was there to cover it.
Coach Terri Mitchell
After an introduction and the blessing, Coach Mitchell took the stage. She talked about how last year's team was young, with seven underclassmen on the roster, and how many times the team didn't know how to finish. While not being dismissive of the NCAA, Coach Mitchell was grateful of the opportunity to play (and win) in the NIT. She specifically mentioned how the women's team had a change in mentality in the first game of the NIT against Creighton.
Her team motto for this year is "Winning's fun." Coach Mitchell then spent time talking about the schedule, mentioning a tournament that will happen around Thanksgiving as preparation for the upcoming Big East schedule. Also, as a special bonus.....did-you-know that Krystal Ellis has a chance to be the all-time leading scorer at Marquette for both men and women. Overall, it was nice to hear Coach Mitchell discuss the women's team, because they so often get overlooked (including by us).
Coach Buzz Williams
Coach Buzz Williams then took the stage. He started off by saying that the team had a bad day of focus yesterday, so he stopped practice after only 17 minutes. Practice resumed this morning, and after thirteen minutes, he stopped it again. He said that he would restart practice later today after study hall. Sounds like Coach Williams is laying down the law with his veteran squad. Then, Buzz mentioned that it's his 168th day on the job. While he admitted that even his wife gets on him for being repetitive, Buzz indicated that he does it as a reminder to focus just on today. This is an area that he mentioned several times throughout his talk, involving performance on the court and in the classroom.
Practice officially starts on Ocotober 17. Buzz mentioned he's heard that many of the papers are saying that four of the top 10 teams in the nation play in the Big East. Although he doesn't read the papers, he believes that six of the top ten teams are in the Big East. Buzz was very upfront with recognizing that despite the caliber of the three guards, the team still needs two additional players to contribute as well.
In other news, David Cubillan was cleared to touch the ball (and shoot) for the first time since Buzz has been coach. Coach Williams also discussed that the new guys have "walked into a hornet's nest", in many areas of their transition. Buzz was complimentary of new big man Liam McMorrow and said he would play minutes this year if he was eligible.
The core the team is still going to remain the same. The team will be perimeter focused, with a need to create turnovers and make the game "longer". In a follow-up question later, Buzz mentioned that the team will need to play an unorthodox and unconventional style. I'm honestly not quite sure what he meant by this, but he was specifically referring to the fact that it would be hard for MU to match up with Hasheem Thabeet in a traditional format. Coach Williams also believes that the team will need to create extra shots and speed the game up, but that they can't forfeit rebounding opportunities as a result of faster pace.
Other than that, Buzz was really trying to minimize expectations. He didn't want to discuss any predictions for the season with the team, and said several times that he didn't know how good they would be. His focus was on trying to be better today. Buzz also said that they couldn't talk about recruits.
In the question and answer period, Buzz spent a decent amount of time talking about his coaching staff. He thought there was too much focus on the head coach, and spent a few minutes talking up each coach: Dale Layer (23 years head coach, several pros), Tony Benford (hardest worker and effective recruiter), Aki Collins (recruit where you play), Scott Monarch (industrious ops guy), Brad Autry (first hire and the guy who has to know everything about the players).
Coach Williams also tackled the Trevor Mbakwe question. As has been reported, Buzz found out at 5 pm on a Friday night that Mbakwe wanted out. What was interesting was that Mbakwe told Buzz "his people" thought he should go JuCo. Read into that what you wish, but there was nothing Marquette related associated with the transfer. Buzz felt that he wanted people in the program that wanted to be part of the program. Interesting recruiting note... Buzz doesn't ever mention other programs that might be recruiting a player because he wants players that are interested in Marquette.
One additional question was asked about the turmoil in April and how he managed the transition. Buzz said that his focus was about the eight kids in the program and him. They had twenty-two days for one-on-one time, so the players and Buzz spent a lot of time in the gym and talking in his office. Buzz said that the players were phenomenal in their approach to dealing with the transition.
A Cracked Sidewalks Magnet
Courtesy of an assist from another AD rep (thanks JT), I managed to catch Deputy Athletic Director Mike Broeker and Buzz Williams as they were leaving the event. Mike has been very helpful in previous posts relating to tickets and other items. While it was a little disappointing to find that Coach Williams was unfamiliar with Cracked Sidewalks, it did give me an opportunity to enlighten him. So, Buzz got a special edition Cracked Sidewalks magnet, which I hope made it back to Milwaukee.
Finally, it was a pleasure meeting Stan and his lovely wife... thanks for reading CS and donating to the Al's Run tip jar!
The luncheon was very well put together, and due credit deserves to the Chicago Marquette Alumni Association. As Coach Mitchell said, "basketball is right around the corner".