Selected quotes from our conversation with American head coach Mike Brennan at AU's media day.
“I don’t think about expectations, to be honest. I like the group, though. They’re working at a high level. Basically every single guy on the team from Delante Jones who everyone knows about to Kevin Brown who nobody knows about, they’re all just basically working at the same level. So our practices — you couldn’t ask for better practices, I don’t think. You can’t ask for much more at this point of the season. That’s why I’m anxious sort of — I’m not anxious to go play Maryland but I’m anxious to get on the court against some other people, see where we’ve got to go next.”
WHAT’S HE LEARNED AS A HEAD COACH
“I’m lucky that we had success early on because I was able to get an extension. And I think that allowed me to do what I did last year which is suffer through the growing pains as opposed to not sticking with the plan and trying to maybe eke out a few more wins here and there and sort of change what you think is best for the team long range. So I had the luxury of doing that. But I’m glad I did it, because they got over the hump and they finished up strong and I think it put us in a good position for this year.”
Brennan said he has a better understanding of the timing of an entire season, what to prioritize. As a first-year guy “I was worried about everything.”
WHAT HE LEARNED LAST YEAR
“Well, I learned the resilience of the group. Believe in young guys. Normally when you have an older group it’s good and you’re trying to get some freshmen in there and they hit the wall naturally. They’re sort of done. I realized that the freshmen can bounce back from that and finish up strong. They’re not necessarily done in the first week of January or second week. They can bounce back. I think that all of our freshmen did that last year and they impressed me.”
HOW DOES PLAYERS’ EXPERIENCE LAST YEAR HELP NOW?
“I think they realize that all the little things we say here on a daily basis in September and October when you’re not winning and losing and everything’s great — they realize the importance of those little things. They know that there’s a difference between winning and losing. So now you have freshmen coming in who don’t necessarily understand that — it’s being sort of emphasized by the guys who’ve been (here).”
ON DELANTE AND EXPECTATIONS
“Just letting him know it’s gonna be hard, it’s gonna be way harder than last year. Everyone was keying on Jesse (Reed) and they didn’t know who Delante was. So now they do obviously. So just stressing to him that it’s gonna be a difficult year and obviously (for him) to continue to expand his game, score points for us, that’s why everyone says first team (Patriot League) or whatever he is because he scores points. So we just don’t want him to be a one-dimensional player. You gotta get other guys to help you be good.”
ON JAMES’ ROLE WITH SA’EED HERE
“Sa’eed will help James. James — a lot was thrown on his plate last year, too. He struggled. He felt a little down. One, it’s normal to struggle as a freshman sometimes. And two, I think Sa’eed will sort of ease the burden on him a little bit and maybe open things up, make things a little easier because they can definitely play together. … I think he had a great freshman year.”
EXPANDED ROLE FOR LONNIE?
“I wish I was able to get him more minutes last year, and I tell him that all the time. It was just a numbers game. I expect just as much from him as Delante and James and Andrija (Matic). He was around all summer, got back and worked his tail off. He’s had a really good preseason so far. So I’m excited about his progress and he’ll get a lot more opportunity this year for sure.”
BIGGEST AREAS OF GROWTH FOR LONNIE. SHOOTING?
“Yeah, sort of just keep it simple offensively. He really worked on his shooting. (To) be able to make an open shot, make good decisions. He is versatile, so he can sort of do a bit of everything OK. So we’re gonna try to get him to do something well and just build from there. But I think his defense — he’s able to guard perimeter guys and big guys. I’m curious to see it to be honest with you.”
HOW WILL ANDRIJA’S ROLE CHANGE PLAYING THE 4?
“It won’t be so much pressure on him to touch the ball constantly and have to make decisions and it’ll help us be bigger. I think that’s sort of been a problem that we’ve had — personnel, style of play. I’m excited about that, too. It’s different for him so he’s gonna go through some growing pains."
“He’ll be like a bigger 4 — I guess it’s been Charlie. Charlie’s been our big forward. We’ll actually have a big, big forward.”
ON GASPERINI PLAYING THE 5
“Right now he’s the guy. If he can stay out of foul trouble, he’s gonna be out there a lot. Again, I like all that I see. He’s obviously a freshman so he’s gonna be falling down and missing shots and making mistakes and throwing the ball all over the place, but having said that, I like all the tools that he has, I like his work ethic, I think he’s gonna be good.”
DO YOU HAVE A STARTING LINEUP YET?