bleedCrimson.net caught up with Aggie basketball head coach Marvin Menzies this week and Coach Menzies shared his thoughts on the season, talked about some of the offseason improvements that his young players need to make and shares his pick for the NCAA tournament.
bleedCrimson.net: Now that you've had a couple weeks to digest and look back, what are your overall thoughts on the season?
Marvin Menzies: Obviously it was an up and down year in the very beginning but then things started rolling a little bit when started to get our chemistry together both with the seniors and freshmen trying to shorten that gap between them in a variety of ways. I think as that started to develop and we got al our kids back and got everybody healthy and on the floor we had a chance to start our growth and development. I think once we got going, luckily it was before conference started when we had a chance to get everybody there. Then we ended up on a positive note. I wish we would have had everybody the whole time but that's spilled milk and you just do the best you can and our best was three overtimes and a couple points short. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to make it to The Dance this year but that's our goal every year so we're optimistic that we can build on the new team next year. It'll be a young team but we'll just do the best we can.
bc.net: You finished the season with 21 wins and won a share of the conference crown, talk about being able to accomplish that in your first season?
MM: Well you know it's funny, you don't really have a chance to understand what that means until it's all said and done because during the year you're just concentrating on the next game. After the season was over I was able to appreciate it a little bit and say "Hey, it wasn't that bad a year after all." But as you're taking losses and you win a game and then you take a loss, that kind of thing, it's hard to appreciate it until it's all said and done. After I was through licking my wounds after that last game I was able to say that wasn't a bad start. We've gotta build and obviously our goals are to go a little further and do a little more and get some more wins and the whole thing in terms of trying to represent the whole city in a better fashion when it comes to putting a product out on the floor that we really like and we're proud of. I think we did that towards the end of the year and hopefully we can build on that.
bc.net: You're no stranger to the west coast, what were your impressions of the WAC in your first season?
MM: You know what, it's a very good conference. Like all conferences it's going to have stronger years than other sometimes, you'll go back and forth. I think this year's RPI was an indication that it was for the most part from top to bottom, it was a year that the conference was down. I think that we have a lot of returning talented players in the conference and I think we'll be up from this year in terms of our overall ranking in the big picture in terms of the other conferences in the country. We'll see where that is and hopefully that'll give us an opportunity to get more than one team into the NCAA tournament next year.
bc.net: As a first year head coach, what was the biggest change from the beginning of the season to the end of the season for yourself?
MM: Just developing the familiarity with the players and getting them to be familiar with me and how I was going to do things. Just getting the comfort level as the year went on, the chemistry of everybody both staff and players. I think that was the biggest adjustment, it was a gradual adjustment but I think that was the thing that helped us end on a positive note.
bc.net: A lot is made of the Pitino coaching tree and obviously rightly so, each of the assistants of his that have gone on to be head coaches take a little bit of the Pitino system and makes it their own, what's been your stamp on the system and what do you want your teams to be known for?
MM: I want to be known for our defense. I think that's something, a staple that you can point to year in and year out regardless of how you end up. If you're doing that, I think you're gonna pretty much be in the upper echelon. I want to be known for a really strong defensive mindset, aggressive team that plays really hard and never quits. I think we started to see a taste of that towards the end of the season.
bc.net: The guys you have returning, Herb [Pope], JY [Jahmar Young], Jonathan Gibson and Wendell [McKines], what do they need to work on in the offseason?
MM: The same things they've been working on all year long. Each kid has a different set of skills that he needs to improve upon and also skills that they need to make sure they don't lose and build on. They all have different things that they need to work on. I think just them all coming back now and being young kids that are familiar with the program and Division I and how things work, I think it's important that they're really adding maturity to their repertoire because of the fact that we won't be a senior laden team. There's no telling on how mature we're going to be and that's really going to be the main thing for them is to tap into the experience they just had and try to grow up quickly.
bc.net: Wendell McKines had a big impact as a freshman this season, did you know when you got him that he'd have such an immediate impact, especially considering you had Martin and Hatila playing in front of him?
MM: Oh yeah. I knew who he was when I got him. He's a tough kid that has a few skills right now that are beneficial to a team. His toughness, his competitiveness, his athleticism, his ability instinctively to rebound. He's got some things that I knew would be able to help us right away. I also know his better days are ahead of him too in terms of his overall contributions.
bc.net: Stability in a program is obviously a big key to success but so is having your own your own staff, Coach Pompey, Coach McMullen and Coach Grady, can we expect all of them to be back next season and for the long haul?
MM: I think I like to give guys opportunities to advance if it's something that's good for them. I'm a big advocate of guys being able to promote and progress and if they have situations that are appealing to them I'm going to support that. At this juncture they're pretty much back.
bc.net: Do you get a chance to watch any of the tournament?
MM: Yeah. I've picked up a few games here and there. I've participated in them before, it's an exciting time of year and I'm looking forward to going to the Final Four next week.
bc.net: Who do you think has the best chance?
MM: Louisville. That's a no brainer. Whether they've got a good shot or not I'm pulling for them.