Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Tom Pecora Quotes From Atlantic 10 Media Day
Tom Pecora fielded questions at today's Atlantic 10 media day, held at Barclays Center. (Photo courtesy of Jason Schott)
On significance of Fordham's trip to Canada:
"Yeah, those trips, you know, people look at the trip and they always look at the one week and the number of games you played, and obviously we're thrilled to go 4-0, but so much of it is the ten practices you can have before. You know, we have five incoming freshmen and then two redshirts from last year, so seven new bodies on the floor practicing and you can see how many moving parts there are and where they're going to fit together best, so the practices leading up to it were great, and then while you're there, the cultural experiences of it, exposing these young guys to things that some of them I'm sure never had seen in their lives; I know I hadn't at that age, and then competing and working on all the things that you feel are the meat and potatoes of your basketball DNA as a program, so I think it was a great experience for us."
On Jon Severe and what more he can do:
"A lot. I think there'll be less of a burden on Jon Severe this year. I think he was pressing at the end of the year last season, I think it's part of the maturation process, trying to understand how to still get things done when you're the focal point of an opponent's scouting report, you know? As a true freshman, he's getting defended by seniors, redshirt seniors, grown men who have been playing in this league four or five years, and really, teams' defensive schemes were about shutting down Jon Severe. So, I think he had a good offseason, he approached things maturely, the way he had to work and things he needed to do, and then because of our greater talent this year and greater balance, he won't have to look and score every trip down the floor, you know? There's going to be greater options for him, and that's going to create space, and that's what offense is all about. Once we get into the flow of offense and there's more than one option, I think that's a good thing for everyone, especially for Jon."
On Eric Paschall and his expectations:
"Yeah, Paschall's real, he can really play. He has a little bit of a back issue so he missed a couple of practices, nothing major, you know? He's once again, 17 years old, he won't be 18 until, I believe, early November, and he's every bit of 6-6, about 235, he can play two, three, four if you want to give positions numbers. Up in Canada one night, he had 36 points, you know, against a good opponent, so we really expect a lot out of Eric and that's why he came, you know? We talked to him a lot about going somewhere where you're going to have an impact right away. I believe he can play just about anywhere in the country, as most of the best players in this conference could, so it's going to be great to coach him and he's going to make me look like I know what I'm doing."
On Atlantic 10 TV schedule and its benefits:
"Oh, tremendously. You know, we live in a world now, you know, what we're trying to teach these guys, basketball concepts, you write them on the board, we walk them through them on the court, then when we show them video, they grasp it. You know, we live in a world where all these young people grow up...I have three children of my own, you know? I have them throw the phones in my wife's pocket book when we sit down at dinner because, you know, they're all about this (makes texting motion) and they're all about visual, so we sell it big time in the recruiting process. The number of games that are on, the various venues that they are on, and it helps tremendously in recruiting, and you know, kids don't have to be home at 8:00 to watch the game. They're DVRing it and watching it at one in the morning, so it's become a big part of it, as all of the online and social media has."
On what sets Nemanja Zarkovic apart from Branden Frazier:
"He shoots it better, you know, as a freshman. Bobby Leckie, who's a legendary coach in New York, said to me when Branden was coming out of Bishop Loughlin, he said, 'Tommy, he's scoring 1,000 points no matter where he goes, doesn't matter what level. Wouldn't you rather get a guy who could shoot it and teach him how to guard and run a play?' and that's what we did with Branden. Nemanja probably shoots it better right now, doesn't have as much style to his game or moxie maybe as Branden had early on, but I think he's going to be a big-time contributor right away."
On improvements since trip to Canada:
"Ryan Canty had an operation, he had his back operated on, we're hoping to get him back mid-December, he's doing well in the rehab process. Christian Sengfelder, I think we spoke about him and what a surprise he's been, you know, a big young fellow, another freshman from outside of Munich, Germany at 6-8, 240, who has a great motor and throws his body around, rebounds the basketball, is probably the best screener of any young player I've coached over 30 years, so he's really been a big surprise for us."
On Ryan Rhoomes and his expectations:
"Well, he's going to play a lot of minutes, he's done a great job getting himself in shape being one of our four veterans, him and Mandell Thomas as juniors, and then Bryan Smith and Ryan Canty are our seniors, but Rhoomesie has done good, and he's gotten himself better, his offensive game has come around and blossomed a little bit, he continues to work hard in the weight room and defend; and another freshman, Dekeba Battee from Australia, has been playing backup to him and competing against him, so, you know, every team deals with injuries and things of that nature, so it gives an opportunity for someone else to step up, but I think this is the deepest we've been top to bottom, but especially on the baseline now as we move forward."
On Bryan Smith and whether he can bounce back:
"Yeah, he's smiling all the time! Poor Bryan Smith, you know, 6-3, like 190 pounds, he's battling with the four men in this league and now he's finally playing his natural position, and he's been playing much better to no surprise. He's really made great sacrifices for this program as we've rebuilt this thing."
On Fordham's nonconference schedule:
"Yeah, I think it's a good nonconference schedule. I think when you look at the teams and who they play nonconference, it's really a reflection of where they are in the process. Are you still a rebuilding program as we are, are you a program that's established and you're at the top of your league? Our nonconference schedule here is way different than our nonconference schedule at Hofstra because at Hofstra, we knew we were going to be in the top three or four teams in the conference each year, we knew we were going to accumulate some wins in conference. We haven't got to that point yet at Fordham, so we've had to soften it up a little bit. Most coaches always want it soft, you know, and then you look at 'where are we going to be on January 1?' I think when you look at January 1, you need to be 7-4, 8-3, 9-2 if you're going to have a chance to go play in the postseason, because you're not going to in a league like this, it's going to be rare for teams to win 12 games."
On playing the Battle of the Bronx at Barclays Center:
"Yeah, that's important for New York basketball, and I wanted to get another game at Barclays prior to coming here for the conference tournament. I thought that was really important. You know, we've been playing Manhattan, I believe this is the 106th contest, I'm not sure the number of years, and we gave up a home game, but I think it's important for New York basketball. It's something we're going to do moving forward hopefully. I think it's a very, very important time for college basketball in New York City, and I think this helps the process of making it a big deal."
On whether playing Princeton at Barclays Center in 2012 helped raise profile:
"Yeah! We didn't get a tournament bid that year, but the bottom line is you know where the locker rooms are, you know what hotel you're staying in, all of those things you get to experience by playing in here and hopefully having some success, and it's a big-time doubleheader, I believe Miami and Providence is the other game, and next year, we'll move into here and hopefully I'm hoping we'll be selected to play in the ACC/A-10 Challenge and be one of the teams representing the A-10 here in New York, you know? I'm born and bred here, as many of you are, so it's important for me and for this program to be a big part of New York City college basketball, but I think the Manhattan game helps."
On what Barclays Center hosting Atlantic 10 tournament has done for Atlantic 10:
"I think it's exactly what this conference deserves. We are one of the premier conferences in college basketball, and we deserve to be playing; in my opinion, in the greatest city in the world, but also in a state of the art arena, even when we move on in a couple of years, you know, beautiful place in Pittsburgh, a major arena in a major city. Beautiful venue in D.C. Major conferences belong playing in major arenas in major cities, and we'll come back here to Barclays, but that's what the A-10 deserves."
On how added talent will help Jon Severe:
"Very much so. Look, it's a struggle for every college player that comes in. The majority come from high school winning programs, you know, and I've said to him 'Jon, it hasn't been easy for the coach either,' you know? We were winning pretty regular prior to me coming up here, but I knew it was going to be a great challenge. The way you fix that is by getting talented players, and nothing Jon has ever done has been done for selfish reasons. It's done because he's so competitive and he's 18, you know? I think when you try to make plays to win games as a 21 or 22-year-old senior, those plays are much different than the plays an 18-year-old freshman tries to make to win a game."
On Branden Frazier:
"Branden Frazier, and a lot of you know the story, Branden Frazier was coming to play for me at Hofstra but he hadn't signed, and then when I took the Fordham job, he called me and said 'Coach, wherever you go, I go.' So Branden Frazier has got a place in my heart forever. He made so many sacrifices and did so much during the process at Fordham. The only regret I have is we didn't turn it around while he was there. You know, if we turn it around this year, Branden Frazier will have a lot to do with that because he was as good a person and as good a Fordham Ram, as good a Fordham man, I like to say, in the way he carried himself on the court, off the court, he took care of business academically, he did charitable work, he's just a special, special young guy. He's in Holland now, playing professionally. Branden Frazier, you know, he's like another son to me, and I think Jon as a freshman, watching Branden as a senior carrying himself that way was almost regal, to search for a word, where he was, win or lose, he didn't waver in his love of Fordham or in his love of his teammates, in the mission of turning this around. Special kid, really."
On looking forward to big games:
"Look, playing in the Garden is always special, playing in Barclays is special, playing St. John's in New York is always special. I grew up sneaking into games through the back door with old tickets at St. John's, but I'm hoping they're looking at the first game, New York Tech. If they're a mature team, they understand the process, and it's my job to make sure they're looking at one game at a time, and then we'll look at Penn State, we'll look at Maryland, and then we'll look at UMass-Lowell, and we'll just keep, the term we've always used with all of our teams, whether we've had great seasons or not great seasons, has been 'we want to start a one-game winning streak.' Just start it tonight. Be smart enough, be mature enough to prepare for one opponent at a time, and then you'll have great success at the end of the year when you look back on things."
On last year's loss to St. John's:
"Last year was horrible. I mean, it was, you know, it was a rough beating. I don't know if they shot the ball that well the rest of the season to be quite honest, it was one of those nights where, you know, I was throwing my hands up in the air and then everything they put up went in, but it was a tough night. It was a real tough night, but you know, it's one loss and you move on, and we're going to compete our tails off every night this year."
On additional home games at Rose Hill Gym:
"Yeah, I mean, Rose Hill is a special place, and let me tell you: It's not easy getting them, you know? Year one, we were able to beat St. John's at home, year two we beat Georgia Tech, year three we beat a Top 25 Harvard team. There's a lot of schools we talk to about setting up home-and-home series and they say 'well, when we come to you, we're playing at Barclays or the Garden,' because they're not coming in, so that makes it a great challenge. Anytime we can play in that gym, it's a huge homecourt advantage, and to get 16 games this year with our conference games as well, it's a good thing."
On being the home coach at Rose Hill:
"It's awesome. I mean, I've had visiting coaches...I remember Brad Stevens after the game with Butler, he was like 'you know, Tommy, Hinkle's great, this place is awesome.' For the home coach, it's a great homecourt advantage, I know ESPN had it as a cathedral of college basketball a few years ago, ESPN rated it one of the ten best places to see a college basketball game. With the exception of the new scoreboards, when you walk in, it's like a time warp. You know, if you threw everybody in old school uniforms, it'd be 1970, you know? And that's a cool thing, I think. I know for young kids, to come in with their families and be that close to a game, even if you're in the worst seat in the house, you're on top of the court and you can see it. One of things we implemented as soon as I got there is we put folding chairs on the court. We have 30 folding chairs, and, you know, those chairs are sold out to season ticket holders, and the amazing thing is when people sit in those seats for the first time, often younger children or guys' wives, after the game, the first thing they'll say is 'God, they're so big and so physical!' like they have no idea, but at Rose Hill Gym, you can grasp that and you can see the size and the physicality and the talent of the players in the Atlantic 10."
On defending criticism of Rose Hill Gym:
"I tell them, and this is the truth: There's a profile for the young guys that we recruit at Fordham, and we have to find young guys that are mature enough to understand it's not about bricks and mortar. You could go play in a big time arena somewhere and then you could work for a guy who graduated from Fordham. Now find an 18-year-old that's going to buy it. You know, Mom and Dad (will) right away, and then you've got to work on them and you've got to sell them on that, and then you've got to let them know it's about relationships, and it's about the education you're going to get. It's not a four-year decision, it's a 40-year decision. I say that to them all the time. The parents get on board right away, but we have to find young guys...there's been a number of occasions where my staff has come to me and said 'let's recruit so-and-so,' and the term I use all the time is 'getability,' and I say, 'what's his getability level?' I don't know if he's the kind of kid, he's enjoying the recruiting process a little too much, let's look at the range of schools he has, you know, how important is getting a great education to this young guy, and then you have to make decisions on that."
On importance of having an older venue to sell in recruiting:
"Yeah, we've pulled out all the stops. I tell them 'look, kids visit Duke, and the next week they visit North Carolina, and they go to Duke.' Well, Duke's got an 8,000-seat arena and Carolina's got a 24,000-seat arena. Obviously, there's a little more tradition at Duke than at Fordham, but the point is you're making decisions for mature reasons, and you know, you just can't get caught up in that, you know?"
On mixing this year's recruiting class with veteran personnel:
"Yeah! If you're not excited now, I've said this every year I've been at a media day, pack it in. Go move to Florida and caddy for the winter or something. I don't know what my future brings, but this is the best time of the year for me...it's always been, throughout my life, you know? It's autumn, you get to watch some football, you prepare for basketball, and then you get ready for the marathon of it, but it's the anticipation of a college basketball season, it's the unpredictability of a college basketball season I enjoy, knowing that, you know, when I was a young coach, I was like 'alright, this is how this season is going,' and then you realize it never plays out that way, you know? It's the unpredictability of the college basketball season. You never know what's going to happen, but that's the same as when you go into a game. You go into a game with a game plan, your opponent goes into a game with a game plan, and sometimes the whole thing blows up, someone gets in foul trouble, someone rolls an ankle, someone can't miss...now you've got to coach and now you've got to go to your instincts."
On New York hosting the Atlantic 10 and Big East Championships:
"I mean, I kid around with my son, who's 12, and I tell him 'Sean, in a couple of years, you and your boys are going to just be wearing out the subways. You're going to be going from Big East to A-10 games back and forth in the course of a weekend. For a hoop junkie, you know, there's times, like I have friends, Wall Street guys and insurance salesmen and all the things, cops, firemen...I envy them when they just come to a game and I see them across from me and I say, 'hey man, these guys are going to enjoy the next two hours!' and I'm going to be sweating through a suit, you know? But I mean, that weekend, that Wednesday to Sunday, it's just an awesome time in college basketball, and New York deserves that, and New York's got to support it, you know? I mean, the New York basketball fan, you know, whether you're a St. John's fan in the Big East or a Fordham fan in the A-10, the New York basketball fan should come out and experience that, because it's really a wonderful thing."
On how he would sell Rose Hill Gym to a first-time visitor:
"I would say, if you knew nothing about it and you walked in, it's one of the most unique college basketball experiences in the world to come into a gym that size and watch teams play at such a high level, it just reeks of tradition. I mean, how many years has the New York Catholic League had their finals there, you know? Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) played his last high school game there, he told me, so we're going back into the fifties, I believe, early sixties for sure. So, the place just reeks of tradition, and like I said, it's a cool venue. You've got to get by, it's a beautiful building architecturally. When you come in and you feel the energy, you feel the heat, literally, you feel the heat, you know? How many buildings do you get that experience? I think it's really cool."
On selling both Rose Hill and playing at Barclays Center/Madison Square Garden:
"We sell both. I mean, look, that's what New York is, you know? It really is a reflection of New York. New York is a bunch of small little communities, and then it's this monster city, you know? I grew up in Queens Village, New York. It's a little town, everybody's old man was basically a cop or a fireman, but it was part of this borough of Queens that's part of this biggest, baddest city in the world, New York. You know, our little gym is just like a small neighborhood. We're Rose Hill, you know? We're Arthur Avenue, and we're an important part of this city of New York, and then you go to the Garden, you go to Barclays. I was at the Garden last night, I went to the first half of the Knick game. It's hard to be in midtown and not go to the Garden, you know? I played in high school and I remember playing at Brooklyn Tech, down the block from here before this place was here. I have relatives who still live here in Brooklyn, so the renaissance of Brooklyn, that's what New York's all about, so it's all cool."