Jeff Bzdelik: I'm excited about the challenge that awaits us, and I understand it's a great challenge. It's a great league filled with great coaches, great tradition, great talent, and I have both eyes open.
Q: When you say you come in with both eyes open, what does that mean in Colorado, because your predecessor always complained about a lack of support from the administration?
JEFF BZDELIK: Well, there is no lack of support at CU. When Chancellor Peterson and Mike Bohn came to my house to talk to me about the job, the first thing I said to the chancellor was, yes, you have a beautiful location, you have a great academic institution, but you do have the worst facility in the Big 12. And we're kidding ourselves — you're kidding yourself if you think you can compete on a yearly basis in this league, because let's face it, what do 18-year olds want to see?
And (the chancellor) understands that. He played football at Kansas State. He's only been there 14 months. As we speak, they're putting $950,000 into a basketball operations center, which we'll move into around Thanksgiving. We're putting about $750,000 into a basketball locker room that is under construction right now. It's in my contract they have to build a practice facility within three years. We've already been on some trips with several administrators from the school looking at other practice facilities so we can have a state-of-the-art one.
What I meant about both eyes open, I understand where we are. I understand we're looking up at the league, and the winning and losing, I’m not concerned with. I’m just concerned with my team playing with a desperate effort and playing as well as they can individually and collectively and getting better on a daily basis. If we couple that with new facilities and couple that with some really solid recruiting classes, then eventually the winning and losing will take care of itself in a positive way.
Q: Three seniors, one junior, talk about your philosophy in rebuilding this program from the bottom up with freshmen classes and working with that.
JEFF BZDELIK: Again, to me it's a mix. Marcus Hall and Richard Roby are proven Big 12 players. I think they'll fit very well into the style of play we're going to play.
We're going to have to get contributions from our freshmen. We have a couple of freshmen in particular that are doing well right now. We're going to be grossly under-sized, but we will have athleticism and some length in some certain other positions.
Again, we're just going to have to be really efficient at offense to the point where we don't allow easy baskets in transitions for our opponents and try to keep them shooting contested perimeter shots and getting the rebound and just play that way for 40 minutes, possession by possession. Hopefully, we put ourselves in the position to be competitive and have a chance to win. Again, that goes with the expression, both eyes open. I understand what we're up against.
Q: You kind of bounced around a little bit the last few years. Do you think Colorado is a place you can stay and build something lasting?
JEFF BZDELIK: I haven't really bounced around, I've stayed in the same home, just changed direction on the I-25. I've been asked that question. I love the state of Colorado. I was the head coach of the Denver Nuggets, as you know. They were doing pretty well until Carmelo and Kenyon and a couple of guys got hurt and you lose a couple of games and they're gone, and therefore it opened up. And I didn't want to move my family and this opportunity presented itself and I'm still in the same home. My son's a freshman at CU, and my daughter is still in her same high school. My wife loves where we live and I do, too. Hopefully I can stay there for a long time. But of course in order to do that you need to win games.
Q: I know Marcus Hall was out last year with academic problems, but we all saw what kind of explosive player he was before. How is he fitting into your system and what do you see for him this year?
JEFF BZDELIK: Well, we expect great things from Marcus Hall. It's great to have a player with that kind of experience and talent back. So much is made about our system, but really it's just basketball. I just want players that — in order for the so-called system to work players need to be able to pass, dribble and shoot and have a high intelligence. And Marcus and Richard are excellent players in that regard. They're versatile, they can score in a variety of ways. They can hit perimeter shots. They can score off the dribble. They can post up, they can do those kind of things.
The system is based on spacing and reading the defense. But all players need to be able to do that, the passer, the screener, the cutter. So I'm very pleased with having those two kind of players back.
They've really shown great leadership. They've picked up what we've asked them to do in a great way and I actually have encouraged them to teach other players, to help their learning process, as well, when they're on the sidelines and another group is going through learning it. It's great to have them back.
Q: Regarding Roby, the fall off, relative fall off for him last year over what was expected, is it something you have to rebuild or he has to rebuild himself? Was this his fault or was this the system's fault?
JEFF BZDELIK: I think there's a lot of reasons why he didn't play well last year. First of all, Coach Patton — let me say this, Coach Patton did a great job, did a great job under the circumstances. I wish him well. We know each other and respect one another.
Richard, yeah, he didn't shoot the ball well. I don't think it was a case of his skill, not being able to shoot the ball well, it was the quality of shot that he took. When Coach Patton resigned so early on in the season it was really — everything was just kind of thrown into a spiral downward. And the players kind of got caught up in that.
I don't think it's all Richard's fault. What Richard has to do is be an active participant in his own rescue. Richard, that's over with now. Now we need to play with desperate effort, we need to just play solid team basketball and care more about the name on the front than the name on the back and work hard on a daily basis to improve your overall game. And of course defensively we need to get a heck of a lot better.
I'm challenging him, both on and off the court, to be the type of young man and player that he needs to be and should be.
Q: In regards to the spiral, how much of a cultural winning mentality are you facing, how much of that are you having to rebuild?
JEFF BZDELIK: You need to have an environment conducive to winning, and that comes off the court as much as on the court. You need to get up and eat breakfast and have lunch and dinner and go to bed at a decent time so you can be in optimum shape. The altitude is a factor. You need to make it a factor. I bring up the term desperate effort. That only gives us an opportunity to have a chance to be competitive in the game. Going to class, we're very tough on them in the classroom. If you don't care about your future and understand the school is a four to five-year investment in the next 40 or 50 years of your life, how are you going to be disciplined enough to do things right on the court. If you don't care about yourself, how are you going to care about someone else — that comes with team play.
On the court there has to be a no-nonsense approach, defensively, running the court and especially defensive transition is going to be a huge force. Colorado was 300 plus whatever in defense. It comes with taking good shots and getting your butt back defensively, so no one gets behind you. So all these kind of things is just a cultural change that needs to take place for us to have a chance to be competitive.
Q: How much do you use or how much does your NBA experience come up in recruiting?
JEFF BZDELIK: It's been huge. I can't talk about recruiting, specifically, but we have several commitments right now. I don't have the household name collegiately like other coaches that are going to be up here, but one advantage I do have is I've been to the NBA playoffs nine times as an assistant and head coach. And there's a lot of players that I've been able to coach and have a very positive relationship with and been very fortunate to be around Hall of Famers, like Wes Unseld and Pat Riley, that I've worked under. And I've learned a lot. And that's something that is a little bit unique when I go into a home. And it's been very successful this far, and hopefully that continues to be, because as we all know recruiting is very critical.