Billy Donovan Media Luncheon


Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 11:53 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 11:53 a.m.

Opening Statement:

"This having been an off week for us may have been good for our team.

It's good to get Matt Walsh back and get his timing back and have him playing again.

I think he was put in a difficult situation against Tennessee because he had only one day of practice before the game.

Our team had to learn to play without Matt while he was out and now we are getting used to playing with him again.

Matt's attitude has been terrific. He has worked hard and the fact that he has gotten himself back to playing without restrictions is a positive.

I think our team also has to understand that with Matt back, we all have roles to play.

Everybody has to do their part and hold up their end. Practice has been good the last couple of days and our guys our realizing this is the last off week.

Starting with Georgia, we have 12 games over the next six weeks.

I think Georgia must be feeling pretty good about themselves. To beat a team like Vanderbilt, who we had a chance to play last week, without their leading scorer Levi Stukes says a lot about their kids, their mindset and where they are at right now.

Any time Georgia and Florida play in anything, it's always s going to be very competitive."

On Walsh returning to the level of play he was at before getting injured:

"What I meant by Matt not being Matt (in response to a question posed at a media luncheon several weeks ago) is I think that sometimes peoples' viewpoint is `OK, Matt's back off of injury, therefore he will pick up right where he left off.'

I don't think that's fair to Matt to have that (pressure) on him. He had a severely high ankle strain and he has done a great job getting himself back to playing.

But at the same point, it's going to take Matt some time. I hope that he can get back, but I also know in talking to the doctors that the type of injury he had can linger for a long period of time.

He is not feeling any pain. I believe with Matt's attitude and the way he works that he can get back to where he was.

But I don't want him feeling that he has to get there today. It will be a process for him. He has to help our team win in any way he can."

On the next two home games:

"I think it is important to protect your home court. Our basketball team has played in front of some great crowds here and there have been some great environments (to play in.)

I think it is important to get road wins, and we've been fortunate to get two of them. It's also very important to hold your home court because road wins are very difficult to come by in this league.

Home wins are difficult to come by too - it's hard to win a game in the SEC. Tomorrow night is a new night, regardless of past wins and losses.

We've got to play well to put ourselves in position to win, and hopefully we will play well."

On Walsh in the Tennessee game:

"I felt Matt tried to do too much in the game. In his first possession when he caught the ball he let a three go.

On his next possession he drove in and charged into a guy. I understand his excitement and enthusiasm.

He had a couple tough possessions in the second half, but they weren't his fault. He's been out for three and a half weeks.

To expect him to play well wouldn't be fair. I know he wanted to be in the game - I knew that when he was sitting on the sidelines in street clothes.

I've never questioned his heart, work ethic or desire. I just felt as a coach that at that time, him playing wasn't best for our team.

We had been playing very well up to then, and I felt that we needed to try to win the game without Matt being there because I think he was putting too much pressure on himself.

He has no playing restrictions, but I felt he was overanxious. This week has been good for him because he has gotten back into the flow of things."

On re-learning how to play with Walsh:

"Matt is a good player who was taken from our team, and now he is back. How do we incorporate him, because Lee Humphrey, Taurean Green and Corey Brewer have been playing very good basketball?

Lee has to maintain a level of aggressiveness. While Matt was out he stepped up and played very well against Florida State, Vanderbilt and Arkansas.

We're going to need him to provide that boost for us whether he is starting or coming off the bench.

He can't back up and say `Matt's back, I need to step back and defer (from shooting).' We need all of our guys to step up and play."

On Joakim Noah:

"He's a hard guy sometimes, because he has such great potential and energy. He sometimes makes mistakes because he tries to do too much.

For him to grow and develop, we have to get him out there and let him play. In the Tennessee game, he was 4-for-4, gave us good minutes and played pretty well.

But he had some mental breakdowns on defensive assignments that cost us some threes. It didn't cost us the game, but there were some breakdowns there.

With the way Al Horford and David Lee are playing right now -there's only 80 minutes at those two spots: power forward and center.

We have to get Jo out there, but to say he will be a 25-30 minute per night guy is hard. With David Lee leaving this year, he will probably have to grow into that position next year.

I love coaching him because he comes passionately to practice, he's always there early, he's energized, he's eager to get better and is about winning and the team."

On Archbishop Malloy High School and coach Jack Curran in Briarwood, N.Y.:

"When it comes to Malloy, you have to start with Jack Curran. Believe it or not, Jack Curran was probably the one responsible for me getting a scholarship to Providence College.

When I was coming out of high school, Kenny Smith was at Malloy at the time. We played Malloy and Providence was looking for a point guard and Jack directed them to me.

He is one of those guys that is a legend in New York. He has coached there for about 40 years.

The thing people don't realize about him is that as much success as he has had producing Kenny Anderson, Kenny Smits or the guys he has had over the years, he may have more baseball state championships than the ones he has in basketball.

He's a guy that coaches both and is a fixture at Malloy. I saw (Georgia's) Sundiata (Gaines, from Malloy) play and he's a good player.

At the time we had signed Taurean, and wasn't in need for that position, but he was a guy that we were very much aware of."

On balance

"We need other guys to step up and not defer because Walsh is back or Roberson is in. We have to be balanced.

Against Auburn and Vanderbilt, I didn't mind Roberson getting the amount of points that he got because he did it in a low number of shots.

When he is scoring, I always look at his shooting percentage. If he is shooting a high percentage, I don't mind him getting (that many points.)

I have always been a big believer of having four or five guys with double figures in scoring and being balanced. If a team tries to take away one thing, you have other players to step up.

Roberson had a difficult night shooting the ball against Tennessee, but we didn't seem to have another offensive threat step up.

I don't want it to be `Well Matt's back, so he's now that guy.' Guys have got to make plays, try and create (opportunities) and be aggressive.

It must be done collectively as a unit. We have to force our guys to do that."

On building Al Horford's confidence:

"That's the trick in coaching. I've often said this, Al Horford is not a three-point shooter and he's not a jump shooter, he's a low-post player.

Sometimes in offense, I can believe in my heart that a guy can get something done in the game. But if he's a little unsure of himself, it doesn't make a difference what I think.

One of the things I've been trying to do with Al, Chris and David is when they catch and locate, and there's no double team, they've got to try and score.

So much of posting up is putting yourself in a position to score before you catch the ball. At times, Al has caught the ball and although he's been inside with his back to the basket, he hasn't been in good enough range to go score and be comfortable where he's at.

Every guy on our team is different in the low post. David Lee feels more comfortable two or three steps off the post, where he can catch it with his back to the basket, turn and face, and make progress toward the basket. If he gets double-teamed, he's very good at passing.

Al's probably more comfortable catching the ball closer to the rim where he can catch and go score.

I think the big thing for Al is him getting himself in position where he's got the confidence level that he has the ball in a good area and feels like he can score."

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