Coach's Corner: Steve Donahue
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
The Heights: How good can he be, because he’s shown flashes of some pretty great play already?
Donahue: I think it’s all up to him. How hard is he going to work? How much stronger is he going to get? How many hours is he willing to put in for his skill? Because he has some things you can’t coach. He has the instincts and the innate ability to play the game at a pretty high level and he isn’t nearly as physical as the guys he’s going against and he’s not nearly as skilled as he is going to be, so if he does those things he has other aspects that are going to take care of itself. Some guys can get bigger, stronger, shoot it, but when they get in a game it doesn’t translate. It translated for him. He showed it, but he’s got to work his tail off to get to that point.
The Heights: It really seemed like Dennis Clifford lost some of his confidence during the season. Did you see that from him?
Donahue: No doubt. I think—and it happens with bigger guys—he had some great stretches, and then he had some stretches that make you scratch your head. I don’t doubt that Dennis is going to work. I know that. He’s going to get bigger and stronger and he’s just too talented a kid and too hard of a worker and has too good of a feel for the game, that when he catches up completely physically and gets that experience playing. He needs hours and hours of playing against really strong and athletic kids. When he gets that, you’re going to see great results. Then, as opposed to being the weakest and the youngest, when he starts being the biggest and the strongest and the oldest in that group in the league, you’re going to see a really good basketball player.
The Heights: Just from observation, it seems like he took a lot of turn-around jump hooks last season. Was it just a confidence thing that he wasn’t working in more post moves?
Donahue: You know, I think I disagree. I want him to do some different things. I think he’s got to go and be faster and more confident and have more attacking in his game in general, and that’s easier said than done. He really needs to go and make plays for himself. I think he tries to be smart and tries to share the ball, and he’s a little conservative. As we get better and we’re not worrying about every possession, he’s got to be aggressive. He’s got to attack the rim and make plays because he’s really hard to guard when he does that. I think what you saw was a kid who was kind of unsure of himself, and that’s probably natural.
The Heights: Do you want him to take some more threes next year?
Donahue: I want him to continue to work on his jump shot. I don’t know if threes are right there yet. I think he’s going to be a terrific face up 17-foot jump shooter. There’s going to be a point, and I think he’s going to play for a long time, where he’s going to be a knockdown 22-foot shot. We tweaked his shot a little bit, and I think he’s going to be a really good 17 to 19-foot shooter.
The Heights: After winning two games early in conference play, you guys dropped six straight losses, and then beat Florida State before having another streak of losses. Did you sense a difference in the locker room with the team’s morale or chemistry?
Donahue: I think for this year that our approach helped these guys. I wasn’t, and never will, judge our team on wins and losses. I want to hopefully judge them on how they’re playing up to the level of their ability. Especially the games after FSU, I thought we stayed in a lot of games, even the games around that FSU game. I thought we played really good ball. There are a couple of disappointing games that I can pick out. NC State there, I thought we didn’t compete well enough and we really allowed their physicality to take over, but I thought we came back which was a great sign here and had an opportunity to win that game against a Sweet 16 team. The other one that I was disappointed in was at Miami on the road at the end of the season. They played well, but we just didn’t compete like we needed to, but we bounced back and won our last game at home, which I thought was important.
The Heights: You mentioned that this year there is still a lot of progress to be made. Do you think that your players are taken aback by the lack of students at the games? Does that affect them at all?
Donahue: I don’t think it affects at all. I know that’s a big topic around here, but to be honest with you, it’s a big topic everywhere. Students are different nowadays. It used to be when you went to college 20 years ago, 10 years ago even, there weren’t a lot of options for entertainment. I would say 15 years ago, there was very rarely cable TV on most campuses, so you couldn’t even watch the games. You can watch so many games now. You can watch our own games on ESPN rather than walk 50 feet down to the gym. I think as you build a team that the students in general feel really connected to—and that’s what we are working on. Being connected to this group, making sure that they feel a part of it, reaching out and going out to the cafeterias and dormitories so they feel a part of it and are invested in it. The other way I do that is I’m trying to bring in kids that they will want to root for and pull for, and we’ll constantly do that. The bottom line is that you’re going to have to play winning, exciting basketball. That the reason you go to watch us play is because everybody else is going and it’s the thing to do. Until you build that—I don’t think anybody in college basketball is getting their kids to games. There are very few that have that. Maybe 10.
The Heights: Yeah, even Duke is having trouble with that.