Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Q-and-A with Coach Nessman

SpartanHoops recently did a Q-and-A with Coach George Nessman -- here you go. We'll have the Whitman game preview to you soon.

It all begins on Saturday.

SH - What do you see as the biggest challenge this approaching season?

GN - Our biggest challenge is finding consistent success. For the most part ,that means winning away from home for our program as we have had a winning record at home for a number of seasons now, with an especially strong record last year in the San Jose. We have overcome many obstacles and challenges in developing the program - one hurdle that remains is qualifying for the post season. For a team to have an excellent season, it must find a way to play at least or near .500 on the road while maintaining a significant home court advantage. Our confidence is very high that we will jump this bar this season.

SH - Does the 2010-2011 Spartan squad have the frontcourt size to handle WAC play?

GN - Of course we have enough size in the front court to compete in the WAC.

SH - The dunk and the long distance shot get all the SportsCenter play and what prior positive actions that took place in making those things happen is usually ignored. What do you track offensively that you stress to the players but is generally oblivious to most fans?

GN - Coaches see things that fans miss even though as some fans would have it we can't see the hand in front of our faces! We spend literally thousands of hours in the gym and watching film, observing basketball so our sight is honed. What we look for in developing offense are interactive plays - proper ball movement, screen actions, quality spacing, cuts away from the ball, competing for effective space near the rim are just a few on our radar. Basketball is the most interactive of all sports - it is the ultimate team game in which the players must be in cohesion or the team cannot function at either end of the court - this is probably even more pronounced on offense.

Players must understand their own strengths and play to them. They must be aware of teammates strengths and play to them. That is the essence of filling a role on a basketball team. Two phrases we use to encourage confidence on offense are; do what you do and do what we do.

In person or on tv, the focus is on the ball so the player with the ball draws the primary attention. However, there are four more players out there who need to be moving in concert for offense to work. We have to discipline ourselves as coaches to be ever mindful of what is happening away from the ball because we recognize it's value. Players have to be aware of their position on the floor at all times - sometimes simply to stay out of the way of teammates.

SH - Fans always hear about steals and blocked shots as defensive bellwethers but one aspect of stopping teams from scoring that gets short-shrifted is deflections. Is that as aspect you emphasize and track? If so, why

GN - Our production on defense will in large measure define our season. Steals and blocks are noted by many as signs of defensive prowess, but are not necessarily significant indicators of quality team defense. We make note of deflections - they certainly have a place in good defensive effort regardless of the primary defensive scheme or strategy involved. However, the single most reliable indicator of good team defense is defensive field goal percentage. That derives from putting solid pressure on the ball, challenging shots and not allowing your opponents too many shots near the rim.

SH - Based on observations from the intra-scrimmage, the team seems more intent on reducing open looks outside and unimpeded shots in the paint. Is that your sense?

GN - The narrative from last season was we simply didn't play well enough defensively to stay in the WAC race down the stretch. The stats seem to back that up as on many offensive metrics we were amongst the leaders in the WAC (and the nation for a few) and on many defensive ones we were near the bottom of the WAC. We can't ignore these numbers, and we haven't. The key though in all things is not identifying problems - its identifying solutions.

Our lack of effective depth due to a variety of factors hurt our team. Our defensive effectiveness sagged as the calendar turned to February. Defense requires considerable more energy, stamina and intensity than offense so lack of depth is a key factor. The feel of playing on offense is different than the feel while playing defense when done properly.

We also failed to instill a consistent physical, protect the rim mentality that is so vital to defense. We have broken this down for our guys, and they certainly have embraced a more physical approach. To expect to be more physical in games we need to practice in that manner on a day to day basis.

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