bleedCrimson.net will be interviewing Aggie men's head basketball coach Marvin Menzies throughout the 2008/2009 season as the Aggies take aim at their third consecutive WAC championship. This week talked with Coach Menzies about the losses to Nevada and Utah State, the continued learning and growth of the team and their upcoming game against Idaho.
bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the Nevada game this past Thursday night.
Marvin Menzies: Nevada was a very very disappointing loss. I thought we did enough and played well enough to win the game and we made critical errors down the stretch that cost us a 'W'. You don't know if you can get that opportunity back. They're going to be at their house and it could be a different situation next time and it could have been a lost opportunity. However it's over and you try to move forward like we tried to do against Utah State. It's one of those deals where Nevada came in and we thought we had a solid gameplan against them and I thought we did a very good job but you win games in the last few minutes of the game quite often and that's where we did not make the right decisions that cost us the game.
bc.net: The first half you held Luke Babbitt to just six points but in the second half and overtime he kind of got loose but I thought he and Troy had a pretty good battle going on.
MM: He was a very aggressive player in the second half. He knew he had to put his team on his back. He's growing and understanding that even though he's young that he's a leader. If not by words by example. He did a phenomenal job on the road trip, hitting a big three against Louisiana Tech and hitting a big three against us that took the score from 64-60 to 64-63 which moved them right back into contention when it could have went the other way.
Troy's a very good player and Luke's a very good player and I hope they both continue to develop and hopefully have prosperous careers for themselves individually moving forward.
bc.net: The Aggies shot 26% in the second half compared to 45% in the first half. What was the difference in those two halves.
MM: I think it was a combination of things. I think we got away from sharing the ball and running our stuff in the second half. Challenged shots killed us. They did a very good job defensively. They changed up some things that gave us a few problems and by the time we made the adjustment it was a little bit too little too late.
bc.net: A couple of positives from the game were that Troy Gillenwater scored 22 points and Wendell McKines grabbed 15 rebounds.
MM: Wendell's a warrior. He's a kid that when I was speaking at our season ending banquet last year and I eluded to Wendell potentially being in the Hall of Fame here, he has that type of potential and he has that type of skill and athleticism to excel. It's just going to be a matter of him maintaining that consistency that he has done over the past year and a half. Right now he's done a phenomenal job. He's leading the WAC in rebounding and he's on track to be the conference champion in terms of his rebounding. We're optimistic that he'll continue at that pace and start to pull a few guys with him. In terms of his aggressiveness and attitude, it's an attitude. If he can do that, not just will it bode well for him but it'll bode well for us. We've got to get going on the glass.
bc.net: Your thoughts on the Utah State game?
MM: The Utah State game was a disappointing loss as well and not just because of the loss but because of the lost opportunity that presented itself with playing the undefeated team in conference. Anytime you get those golden opportunities to go play at Kansas or go play at USC or Duke, or Louisville or Texas or West Virginia or any of the places we've played in the past year and a half. Those are golden opportunities and so when you have those golden opportunities you're always disappointed when you don't capitalize on it. And unfortunately we didn't get it done so we need to move forward and look to trying to make better decisions down the stretch, trying to execute better and trying to play harder. We need to play harder. One of our dilemmas is our lack of intensity consistently on defense every possession. We've got guys due to fatigue or whatever it may be, mental toughness or whatever I can think of for lack of a better word, the reasons are out there. But at the end of the day the result needs to be defensive toughness every single possession and we're not getting it at the highest clip that we need to get it in order to win down the stretch.
bc.net: Jahmar Young bounced back from his tough night against Nevada to score 18 points, Wendell grabbed nine rebounds and had eleven points as well.
MM: I knew Jahmar wouldn't stay down long offensively. But he had a good line, he had seven rebounds against Nevada, four assists, he had a couple steals. He did some other stuff that could have helped us win the game. And had he made his layup at the end of the game in regulation, which is a tough shot, but he created it for himself, had he made it then he's the hero. You're only as good as your last shot and you're only as good as your last game. With that being said, he came back and had a better scoring night but I think he did enough things to help us win the game but sometimes I think those guys take a little too much honus on themselves to think they've got to do it and we've got a lot of capable guys and we've got to find the highest percentage shot in the framework and the structure which the system presents rather than their ego presents.
In reference to Wendell, Wendell's one of those kids as I mentioned before that's going to give you a consistent effort on a regular basis. He came back strong again and almost had another double-double against Utah State. I couldn't be more pleased with his effort. I think he's another kid who will benefit a great deal from another offseason of skill development and continuing to work on his midrange game and outside jumper and will only make him that much more deadly.
bc.net: Gary Wilkinson scored the first eight points of the game for Utah State in the first three minutes and it looked like he might have one of those games but then Chris Gabriel came in and did a great job, was really physical with him and took him out of his ryhthm.
MM: He did. The thing about Chris is Chris has a very strong physical presence and he's one of those types of kids who if he plays within himself, which he has a tendency to struggle to deal with emotionally, he's got such a competitive spirit that sometimes he can get in foul trouble and try to work outside of himself in terms of comfort zone and do things that he doesn't necessarily need to focus on in his role for this year's team. That's something else that I've got to continue to coach him and teach him to get him to the level where he needs to understand what his role is, what he needs to try to do when he gets on the floor.
bc.net: Certainly there are a lot of positives that you can draw from the last two games. You forced 21 turnovers out of Utah State which is very unusual for them. And you out rebounded both Nevada and Utah State in the first half.
MM: Yeah and there were some positives. As a coach you always feel a little worse than you probably should when a game is over. Then after you evaluate the film you beat yourself up over the missed opportunity here and the missed possession here or whatever. But then as you start getting into it and you examine the lessons that the film gives you then you say, "You know what, we didn't play THAT bad." Overall the game wasn't as bad as I thought it was and you can take some positives away from it. So it's always a little refreshing sometimes. Now sometimes you think you played pretty good and you look at the film and you go, "Man, we were pretty bad!" It goes the other way as well.
bc.net: It certainly isn't all gloom and doom like some people might think. The things that were that maybe cost you the game are certainly not things that are unfixable.
MM: Oh no! We're very confident going forward that we're going to continue to learn and develop. That's going to happen. With any one of my teams they're going to get better, they're going to develop. It's just a matter of how fast and a lot of that has to do with the heart and the character of the players. As a coach you only have so much in your control. At the end of the day you have to push and pull strings and try to push different buttons, it's a process. We're going to get there. I'm fully confident with the fact that we will develop. Now what does that mean in wins and losses? I don't know but I know this team will develop, I know this team will get better, I know this team will work hard, I know that we will continue to mature and I know that as time goes we will get the results that we want as a result of the effort that both the coaching staff and players will put into becoming the type of team that will have the community very proud of.
bc.net: What's been the biggest difference between coaching a senior laden team like last year's team verus a young team like this year's team. You've certainly been a lot more demonstrative on the sidelines this season and you're talking to your guys when they come to the bench.
MM: Like all things in any profession there's development. Last year was my first year as a head coach, I was an assistant coach who had become a head coach. So my challenge personally was to develop, learn from my mistakes, grow, get better, continue to work hard, which I'll always do. I think that after evaluating the season last season there were certain areas that I went to work on for myself, thought I could gain some more information and get some more input. I went out and did that and I'll do that until I hang up my whistle.
bc.net: Thursday night you've got Idaho in town, you'll have the students back which is a big deal. This is obviously not the same Idaho team that won just seven league games in the past three seasons. What will the team need to do against Idaho to come out victorious?
MM: Well, I've got to tell you, it'll be great to have the fans, in reference to the kids but my hope would be that we could give them the desired result. I think the community has been waiting, we've lost three in a row here and that hurts. I haven't lost three in a row at home in quite some time. So we're hungry for a win. I think we'll go out and perform to the best of our abilities and let the chips fall where they may.