Coach's Corner: Steve Donahue
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
The Heights: You mentioned the trip to Spain. What will that mean from a basketball perspective but also from just a life perspective for your players?
Donahue: I’ve done these trips I think three times, and they’ve all really been great experiences in all aspects of their life. We’ve talked to these kids, and the one thing they always remember out of their four years is their foreign trip, and where we went, and the fun we had, and just the experiences of seeing a part of the world that maybe you’ll never see again, and maybe the opportunity there, because you played basketball really makes it special. I think all of the guys are really grateful after they do it. For us, basketball-wise, I think it’s so key because we’re really still growing in chemistry and still trying to figure out who we are, and then you add the new pieces who I think are going to be really important to this next year’s success and get that early jump on it, so I can start practicing with those guys and get them in there. So I think it’s a huge advantage for someone like us, as young as we are, with new pieces still coming in to do this trip and then obviously to get that experience before the season even starts.
The Heights: So [incoming recruits] Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon are planning on going on the trip?
Donahue: Yeah, definitely.
The Heights: At what point in the season did you feel like the team really had a grip on the motion offense, or do you think that still hasn’t really come yet?
Donahue: I think the offensive side, and the defensive side, are lightyears away from where we’ve got to be. That’s not how we’re going to play. We were basically trying to design a plan where our guys can compete for 40 minutes in the ACC against those teams. It’s not like we were trying to figure out how we’re going to beat teams in the long run. We’re going to play fast, we’re going to try to score 75 to 80 points, we’re going to mix up defenses, we’re going to be aggressive, we’re going to play nine to 10 guys. All the things I just said just weren’t realistically options with such youth and inexperience and weak bodies and cardio fitness. All those things have got to be terrific—and, you know, just not enough pieces. So I think we are really far away, but what I do like is I think the guys are willing to learn. I think there’s a good skill level. I think as they get bigger, stronger, and more experienced you’ll see all of the things we’re trying to do come into light as each guy gets better at every position.
The Heights: There was mainly a lot of man last year. Is it your goal to be able to mix up defenses more down the line?
Donahue: Yeah, I think so. I want to use our intelligence. The one thing I think we try to recruit is intelligent basketball players. I think that’s an advantage. I think we have to do that. We’re not going to get the strength and athleticism that the Dukes and North Carolinas and the Syracuses get, so we’ve got to combat that somehow and I think one way is with really intelligent basketball players. When you do that you can do that on both sides of the ball. I think we can do it on defense. I think we can mix up defenses. I think we can do a lot of things that knock teams off their feet and knock them off balance. That being said, I think our core needs to be the man-to-man. I think we’ve got to be really good in transition defense, half court man where we are really making them shoot challenged shots and limiting them to one. It’s not like we are going to constantly get in passing lanes and do those type of things that lead to easy baskets, but we’ve got to make sure we can do something to mix it up.
The Heights: How tough of a season was it for Patrick Heckmann, and how is he handling the off-season and heading into next season?
Donahue: I think it was a difficult transition for Patrick. I think what we probably underestimated were two things. First, the style of basketball in the States, and then the level of talent that he was playing against. Although he played in the professional league over there, there were probably one or two good players on each team, so he got away with a lot of things, and I think against the lesser competition here you saw that he was able to do some things. His adjustment has to be that he’s not going to be able to get away with a lot of the things that he got away with, so he’s got to pick up and understand what the game is really about in taking care of the ball, and guarding more, and competing more against this level of athlete. That being said, I don’t think there is anyone on this team that has a higher ceiling than Patrick. I think that if he continues to work hard, he’s a kid that can be a real good ACC player in time.
The Heights: Ryan Anderson really came on strong at the end of the season as a scorer. Is that something that came naturally or something that you worked on with him?
Donahue: Well, with all these guys, the reason they get better is because they work hard and they take it all in. I never think a coach is responsible for a kid in that sense. In Ryan’s situation, I think he made an incredible adjustment, because he really got off to a hard start. He just didn’t know where he fit into the offense. He didn’t know where he was going to be successful, and not only that but he allowed that to affect other parts of his game because he wasn’t scoring and it wasn’t coming easy. I think after December, that Rhode Island game was a good game for him where he really got after the ball. He just decided that, “I can still get rebounds. I still have a knack for scoring around the rim. I’ve got to do things like that, that I know I can do.” And he really just kept improving, and his confidence grew as he did that and other aspects of his game grew. I thought his defense got better and his defensive rebounding got better. I thought it was real impressive that, especially bigger guys who try to match the physicality that you have to at this level, I think that’s the hardest thing to do at this level.