Tech Talk Live Notes: Fuente Talks BC and Pitt, and Buzz Williams Makes His Debut

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Buzz Williams made his season debut on Tech Talk Live this week. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Buzz Williams and Justin Fuente were Monday’s guests on Tech Talk Live.

Buzz Williams

On the exhibition against Liberty that helped to support hurricane relief…

I thought it was cool. Obviously we did something similar last year against South Carolina. Last year, the NCAA allowed you to add another game, so to say. This year they did not allow that, so we were scheduled to scrimmage South Carolina, which we did Sunday before last, and we were scheduled to scrimmage at Liberty yesterday. Because the NCAA does not allow you to add another game we just turned the scrimmage to an exhibition, and then obviously with all of the mission-related activities that Liberty is a part of, one of their mission groups provides help/relief to victims of natural disasters. All of it was very smooth, I didn’t really do anything to be honest with you, but I thought the administration of Liberty, all of the different factors that go into that, I thought it went really well. I think it was almost $37,000 raised from the game, and I know we need more than that, but maybe that will help some families get the help they need.

On his first TTL this year…

I’m excited that this is my favorite radio show because we are 0-0, and it is a steep decline from this point forward. I never mind coming to anything public when there is no game involved, but from this point forward, you’ll be asking me, ‘Why did you call timeout? Who’s the free throw coach?’ I think it works perfect to stay at a half hour, and we can keep it that way for the duration.

On the valuable reps the team received against Liberty…

I mentioned that to the program yesterday in the locker room collectively. We all needed that rep, me at the front of it. The timeouts were a little shorter, and typical official, ‘Coach, you’re going to get dinged if you don’t get out of your timeouts quicker.’ It’s a shortened timeout man, shut up. I need those reps of getting out of the huddle quicker, but only at the appropriate allotted time. I thought it was good, I thought it was really good to play on the road, I thought it was good to get a shootaround, I thought it was good to have timeouts, I thought it was good that there were people there and the lights were turned on and the scoreboard was on, I thought it was good to have a halftime, I thought it was good to have a pregame, all of those things. The things that go into a road game, many of which are the same things for a home game. I was very rusty to be honest with you.  I thought we were overly anxious to begin the game, particularly the first six to ten minutes. We tried to make a lot of hero-like plays, some of which were just that, malintent of heart, I think some of it was that we were ultra-excited. I think all of those reps, even the bad reps, will be good for us relative to Friday.

On the improvement in the second half…

We had thirteen turnovers that led to thirteen of their points. We were shooting 50% from the field, but like I was explaining to the team, they had attempted more shots than we had. They were the eighth slowest team in the country last year, very similar to Virginia in regards to how they play defensively. A little bit more, I don’t know that creative is the right word, a much bigger catalog of what they do offensively, but philosophically as far as how the game is played they want to do the same thing. Obviously Ritchie [McKay] was a long-time assistant at UVA.

I thought in the second half we were much more at peace with who we are and who we need to be. I thought we were more patient at trying to get the defense into rotation. 69% of their shots were from three. When we made the wholesale defensive changes last year after Miami, that’s part of the premise of how we’re playing is to force long contested threes. They only shot sixteen twos for the game, so is that a realistic number? I don’t know, but I think to be in an exhibition on the first Sunday in November, there were a lot of good things.

On Liberty conceding on the offensive glass to force a slow transition…

We want to play faster than they do, and they don’t want to give up any transition baskets. On the rise of their shot, they’re all getting back. It wasn’t necessarily a good rep of us, are we going to be able to finish the possession with a defensive rebound? I think we did a good job, we did pretty good because their team is running the other way. In that regard, it was a slower game. It becomes like playing Virginia, you try to speed them up, you’re not going to speed them up. Their defensive numbers, albeit good, part of the reason their defensive numbers are good is because they are so slow offensively, they’re going to play late in the shot clock. So, it’s kind of counter-intuitive, but that’s a portion of why their defensive numbers are always good.

On what Buzz Williams is thinking about ahead of the season opener…

I wanted to go slow, and try to be very thorough and thoughtful about what have we not done and what have we not been through, in terms of situations we may encounter, and how can we recreate those in practice? There are so many firsts in the month of November, and as a coach you always want to be prepared for your kids to handle the first. Typical kid, if this happens, we want to do this, but since that has never happened and they are not necessarily sure what you’re talking about, when you then tell them, this is what we’re going to do, it kind of takes it to another layer.

I watched film earlier this morning just to kind of look at the game from yesterday, and thought “how can we recreate that in practice over the next three days in case that happens again on Friday?” Normally, the tournament that we play in occurs during Thanksgiving week and we usually play two games before the tournament. This is the first time in our tenure here that the tournament comes after just one game. We’re playing Ball State, well Ball State, it will be their third game and only our second game. You think, ‘Well, it’s only one game difference.’ It is one game, but it’s the situations that one game gives you reps of, so just overly paranoid.

On Justin Robinson…

He’s an easy guy to cheer for, he’s an easy kid to love. I’m so grateful for the trust that his parents, and all of those seniors’ parents, had in us when they had nothing to believe in, only the words that we were saying. I think the growth of our program has mirrored the growth of that class. We’re old, relative to power five basketball standards. Next year, we’ll be the youngest team in the league because we’ll be starting over, but I have, maybe you guys do too when you’re calling the game up in the booth, a little bit of peace when Five has the ball in his hands. Like how he played the first ten minutes, at halftime I told him, “I need to say all of this to somebody else. I don’t have time to say this to you, and you don’t have time to do this.”

There’s a little bit of margin for somebody else that doesn’t know what’s going on to do it, but when you’re doing it, the margin goes away because now those kids, they don’t even know what’s happening. I thought he was way out of character, I thought Nickeil [Alexander-Walker] was out of character. Between the two of those guys, that was seven of our thirteen turnovers, Ahmed had two. That was nine of our thirteen turnovers from three of our most experienced guys, and arguably three of our guys who you think, “He has the ball, something good is potentially going to happen, but not the other extreme, something bad is going to happen.”

I think we settled down from that point, we had five turnovers in the second half, but as we’ve said on this show many, many times, we’re not good enough for our turnover rate to be what it was yesterday. I think Five, I only do this because my contract says I have to, if I was more involved in the things that happen in politics, the media, or the politics of college basketball, would have probably have even more notoriety. I just participate in 0% of that, but I think he’s a very, very good player.

On trying to get the ball to Nickeil Alexander-Walker…

We need to continue to try to sort through that and figure that out. I think he’s a very gifted player. I think he’s really improved since the end of last season, not only his body, but his understanding. I think his skill has continued to improve. I don’t exactly know what the answer is today, other than that we need to have the ball in his hands more often. We probably need to figure out how to be more efficient about that. Yesterday, some of his turnovers were ill-advised, unforced, which were very similar to Five’s. We can’t have the two guys that are going to have the ball in their hands that much have seven turnovers against the slowest team in Virginia other than Virginia. We can’t have seven turnovers in twenty minutes.

On Wabissa Bede…

He’s not Bibbs, he’s not Devin Wilson, but he’s of that ilk. Three types of defenders, the ones that make mistakes, the ones that don’t make mistakes, and the ones that cover up the mistakes. We don’t have enough guys that cover up the mistakes. Bede is one of the players that doesn’t make mistakes, we need him to trend towards, he can join KJ as someone that can cover up someone else’s mistakes like Bibbs was, like Devin was. That is a distinct role that we need from Bede.

Can we play Nickeil, Bede, and Five on the floor at the same time? I think we can. I think the teams that win the most are the ones that have the most ball-handlers on the floor. So, any time that one of those guys get it he can, at that moment in time, initiate offense. I think that will open the floor up for those guys, but it doesn’t mean that we’re not going to play with one on the floor or two on the floor. We’ve still got to kind of sort through that. That’s not just kids, that’s also me.

Everything we did yesterday, we had pre-scripted out. Every line-up from ATO (after timeout) to ATO, the only time I deviated was when KJ got his nose broke and I got mad at Kabongo and took him out. Other than that, we stayed to the script and stayed to the playcalls that we wanted with that script. I was a little hamstrung, but I wanted it to be that way. I wanted to force myself to allow those guys to either do good or to do bad. There will be a little more variance with that on Friday, but I think the tape that we will be able to show early in the morning will be good because they will see all of those personnel groupings. I think I said to them at the under four timeout in the first-half, ‘For you smart guys, you understand we’ve scripted who plays.’ Devin was telling them at every timeout, you five guys are in, I never did that except for KJ and Mully.

On defensive adjustments he is trying to make this season, specifically having a shadow defender in the full-court press… 

Where we engage the ball defensively, is higher than it has been in prior years. Because we’re picking up the ball closer to our basket than their basket, we want the other four guys to be closer to the ball than to their man, and the closest guy to the ball that isn’t guarding the ball is the shadow. It’s literally just that, the shadow. As we’re defending the ball coming up the floor, the closest defender is in that gap shadowing. It’s just to get that extra zig-zig, that extra body blow. We’re not trying to knock anybody out, we’re hoping the cumulative effort of a body blow when the team only has one primary ball handler, if somebody is doing a good job in the shadow, the wear and tear of that, probably more so mentally and emotionally, when we score, we’re picking the ball up and there is a shadow defender. We’re hoping that turns into a deflection or a gimme turnover like Notre Dame at Cassell two years ago, jumping on the floor in front of five, that’s the deal.

On freshman Isaiah Wilkins… 

I thought he played great. We call Isaiah, Chico, we call Jonathan Kabongo, Mully, and we call Landers Nolley, Chez. The kid who is redshirting this year, his name is Tyrece Radford from Louisiana, we call him Boots. Chico was tired, but I thought the impact that he had on our team in the first half, I thought he was the reason we were only down one. I thought he played with great energy until the red light on the gas gauge came on. The thing that I thought, I mentioned it to Nickeil and Five, the reason that he played so well was because he only did what he knew he could do. The reason Five and Nickeil were in trouble in the first half, they were trying to do more than we needed them to do. I was excited for Isaiah, I think our kids really like him, and he has an incredible family from North Carolina. He’s the only high school player I’ve signed in my head coaching career that was not enrolled in Summer school. He’s lost 22 pounds since Labor Day. His body has been through a lot, his brain has been through a lot, his emotions have been through a lot, and I’m excited about the rate of growth that he’s had in the last two months.

Justin Fuente

On the fight and effort he saw against Boston College…

Here’s what I told the team afterwards on Sunday, ‘I feel better about our football team than I did seven days ago.’ We went back through the week, we had a great, not a good, but a great Wednesday practice as a team. Thursday was very average and Tuesday was average. I told them, “You should actually gain confidence from this game and here’s why, because that was a very good football team. A veteran team that we’ve seen grow for years with kind of the same names and faces we’ve seen for several years now. You went toe to toe with them and had every chance to win the game. We could argue that if we had played a little bit better in all three phases of the game we would have won, and you now know that you can do this and you know what it takes to get it done. It takes a full week of focus, grinding it out, and attention to detail from us.” If we don’t teach that and get that across, all those people say that we’re going to be good, but that will never happen if we don’t do it right now. I think the guys had a really good workout yesterday and seemed to have some kind of understanding of what we’re talking about.

On the defense playing well despite being beaten up and young… 

That’s what we’ve talked about. We think those guys are going to be good players, we just don’t have time to wait for them. That’s where we’re at. We’re not planning for the future, I’m not patient enough for that, we’re trying to do this right now. It’s what Ricky Walker deserves, it’s what Steven Peoples deserves, the handful of seniors that we do have, this is what they deserve.  We need to learn this lesson now. There was a competitive level there that was good. Ashby didn’t play and Rico [Kearney] filled in for him really well. Dax [Hollifield] brings some excitement to the field, you’re almost pulling him back a little bit, but that’s him. The thing about Dax, is that is all genuine, it’s not made up. That’s how he lives his life, that’s how he goes to math class. He is all in, his grades are impeccable, everything he does, he does both feet all the way in with 100% focus and effort. When you see him do that on the football field, that’s how he lives everyday of his life. When he goes to bed, I’m sure he sleeps like a rock because he is just full bore all the time and it’s a little bit contagious. He’s just a true freshman, but he’s giving us a little bit of life. He has a long way to go as a player, but that’s a little bit of what we need to facilitate on our team.

On the adjustment that Boston College made defensively in the second half… 

Essentially, early in the game they were pressuring us and moving, and we were hurting it really bad. The two extremes that you worry about as an offense are that they put too many guys in the box and you can’t run the football and you can’t make any plays on the outside, or they thin themselves in the box and put two high safeties allowing them to double cover those wide receivers and you can’t run the ball on the inside. So they went away from loading the box because they’ve always been a man-free team, they got out of that and played two high safeties, leaving us with favorable numbers in the box, and we struggled to run the ball. We couldn’t handle them, it’s kind of a shared responsibility. We had a few backs that missed cuts for opportunities to be productive runs, and we had some problems at the point of attack where we struggled. In order to have a chance to have success, on one hand you’re happy that you got them out of that other stuff, but on the other you’re upset that you couldn’t get something going, be efficient, and stay on the chains running the football.

On the fourth and 1 that was stopped by a false start penalty… 

We had no play called. I don’t know what play we were going to run or how we jumped offsides, but we did. I take the blame for that because we had time over there and I told Ryan what we were going to do. We were going to run a little motion with no play and then run quarterback sneak, or whatever it was after that. Ryan echoed that to everyone else and that’s my fault, I thought to myself as I sent them out there that I never should’ve told them what we were going to do afterwards. Those are the little conversations you have in the game. You never tell a quarterback, ‘Hey, really check the post this time.’ They will throw the post 100% of the time that happens no matter what, you never do that. You just say, ‘Do what you’ve been coached to do.’ I told him what we were going to do and Ryan being the good soldier told those guys exactly what we’re going to do, instead of telling them we have no play called. That’s totally my fault, I’ve been kicking myself ever since because I shouldn’t have given him that much information.

On Ryan Willis… 

There are some times when he is quick with his hands and his feet. There is an element of him needing to slow down a little bit. I remember when I had Andy Dalton at TCU, early in the game he was so quick, we always made him call play action first, so he had to do something with his hands first. If not, he was so amped up and excited, he would get the ball out of his hands so fast he would bounce it off guys facemasks and all sorts of stuff. So we made him, like, ‘We’re going to flip the inside zone, and then flip and high-low the corner.’ It was that stuff that made it get better. Ryan isn’t to that point, but there are some times when the ball travels fast and he gets it out pretty quick and it can get on those guys early.

On the upcoming game against Pittsburgh…

It’s a typical Pitt team, at least that’s been my experience of coaching against Coach Narduzzi twice. They’re a physical and big team that starts with running the football and stopping the run. They will devote any resources possible to stopping the run, and you’ve got to find a way to scratch out a living running the football and go make plays on the outside where you have to find a way to hurt them because they do leave their guys on an island. They have changed a little bit from two years ago when we went up there schematically. Offensively, it starts with them running the football and getting it to the perimeter on the fly sweep, then there are a couple things that come after it. Kind of a prototypical team, tough, hard-nosed, and they’ll be motivated. I think it’s their senior day, so they’ll be fired up. I know they have used what happened last year, I don’t know if it’s a mantra, but they’ve talked about it more than once in terms of trying to finish games, so I know they’ll be ready. Our guys will be ready to play too.

On how Pittsburgh has played this season…

They played Notre Dame really well on defense. They did a really good job of defending them. When you look at the Penn State game, if you can name a disaster it happened, from dropping a snap, to dropping a punt, to dropping a field goal. They just had one thing after another, I don’t know if they weren’t excited to play that game, but they never really settled down in that game and played well. Central Florida was a closer game than it looked on the scoreboard. I was a little surprised Central Florida defended them as well as they did, I wasn’t surprised that Central Florida scored a little bit because when you watch them that’s how they’re built, they’re built to run as many plays as they can and score as fast as possible. You think the trade-off for that is they’ll give up more defensively because they have to play more. I was surprised that Pitt didn’t score more on the offensive side against them. The last couple of weeks, they’ve really been clicking. They won a big game against Syracuse in overtime, they won a shootout against Duke which was an odd game just watching the film of it, then played in a downpour for the first quarter against Virginia.

On how the receivers can make plays on the outside against Pitt…

We’ll certainly have to win some one-on-one battles, they don’t make any bones about the way they’re going to line up and challenge our guys on the outside. We’re going to have to do a good job of winning some of those tight, contested balls and find some easier ways to get some things going opposed to having to do that the whole time. We’ll certainly point to the last two games in terms of this, the games have been incredibly close. We had a really good team in 2016 and so did they. They beat Clemson in Clemson that year, they had a tailback that is playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers now that is very good, and they were very good on defense. Then last year, neither team was as good as they were the year before, but it ended in a goal line stand. It’s going to be a tight game, and our preparation, and our discipline level is going to play a big factor as we go down there to play.

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5 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I just love to listen to Buzz talk. I am not sure what it is like to play for him, but the one thing you never worry about is his passion for wanting YOU to succeed, and not just as a player.
    I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a coach as much as Coach Buzz.

    1. He has to participate in Tech Talk Live (and post-game press conferences). Buzz wants to focus on his basketball team and ignore the media.

  2. Trying to understand Buzz can be quite a challenge because so much of what he says comes out in a stream-of-consciousness style. As a reader, I have the luxury of going back and re-reading his comments a few times to get what he’s saying, but it must be tough in real time.

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