Thursday, October 19, 2023

Candid Comments From The Coaches Of The Atlantic 10 On Media Day At Barclays Center


Photo by Jason Schott.

The Atlantic 10 Conference Men's Basketball Media Day was held on Tuesday morning at Barclays Center.

Dayton is the favorite in the preseason poll, as they are led by DaRon Holmes II and Malachi Smith, and they have four starters returning that were part of last season's talented team that was riddled with injuries.

VCU won the Atlantic 10 Tournament at Barclays last March, and they were the only team to come out of the conference and make the NCAA Tournament. They were picked second, as they are now led by new head coach Ryan Odom, who comes to the Rams after two years at Utah State, which he took to March Madness. Odom is most famous for being the head coach of UMBC when they knocked off Virginia in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, the first 16th seed to knock off a No. 1. Odom brings a pair of stars with him from Utah, Max Shulga and Sean Bairstow.

The 2023-24 Atlantic 10 Tournament will happen at Barclays Center March 12-17, 2024.

ATLANTIC 10 PRESEASON POLL - rank - team (first place votes) - votes)

1. Dayton (20) - 370

2. VCU (3) - 321

3. St. Bonaventure (1) - 319

4. Duquesne - 302

5. Saint Joseph's - 257

6. Saint Louis - 225

7. Fordham (1) - 215

8. Loyola Chicago - 177

9. George Washington - 173

10. George Mason - 146

11. Richmond - 137

12. Davidson - 118

13. Massachusetts - 93

14. Rhode Island - 76

15. La Salle - 71


DaRon Holmes II - Dayton Junior, forward, 6-10, 18.4 points per game (PPG), 81. rebounds per game (RPG), 1.7 assists per game (APG)

Dae Dae Grant - Duquesne  - Senior, guard, 6-2, 15.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.5 APG

James Bishop IV - George Washington - senior, guard, 6-2, 21.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 5.2 APG

Daryl Banks III - St. Bonaventure - R-Senior, guard, 6-3, 15.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.3 APG

Erik Reynolds II - Saint Joseph's - Junior, guard, 6-2, 19.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.5 APG

Gibson Jimerson - Saint Louis - R-Junior, guard, 6-5, 14.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.2 APG

QUOTEBOOK: A sampling of what Atlantic-10 coaches said at their individual press conferences:

UMASS HEAD COACH FRANK MARTIN: On entering his second year at the helm: "Growth is still what it's all about. Year 2's are what it's all about because you grow from year one to two and two to three, and that's how normal things operate and function, so I'm super-excited about where we're at as a program. More importantly, I got guys like him (Matt Cross, next to him at the dais) that are so much better at this point right now than they were a year ago, not just physically, but also I understand them better. You know, sometimes we forget that, as coaches, we're not analytic computers, we manage people, not games or machines, and understanding the way they function helps us in their journey to grow. I'm extremely happy with where we're at, and even happier with the growth of the returning guys."

On UMass' expectations heading into the season: "Win the next game on the schedule. I mean, I've never been a big fan of putting a number or a certain accomplishment in place; just want to win the next game on the schedule. Some people think I say this just to sound cute, which I've never been, but life's about growth, man, about getting better, and I heard someone say one time, which makes a lot of sense to me, you can't force a flower to bloom bigger or faster than its destined to bloom; all you can do is keep putting water on it and allow it to become what it's going to be. That's what human beings are - you can't force people to win 27 games, all you can do is force people to learn how to go about it in a positive way, and then allow individuals and your team to grow at the pace it's destined to grow, and that's what I worry about. That's why I don't sleep at night, not because we won or lost, that's the journey we signed up for, the world that we're judged on, but what really matters is, for me personally, is where are the guys on my team then, are they moving in the right direction? Are they in a better place? Are they better, are they getting more confident? Because that's what I'm asking. Everyone on the outside rates me based on my career wins and losses. If that's what they put on my tombstone the day it's time for me to go, that makes me a sad human being. I much rather worry about the people that have been able to impact my life, and hopefully, I've had an impact on their life."

ST. BONAVENTURE HEAD COACH MARK SCHMIDT: Opening statement: "Excited to be here, looking forward to a great Atlantic 10 season. We return, unlike two years ago where we didn't return anybody, we return our top six guys, so we have a little bit of a foundation. Practice is going well, we haven't had too many injuries yet, so knock on wood, but looking forward to having a good season."

On the Bonnies' third place ranking in the preseason poll: "You know, I'm not big into polls. I don't remember the last time the polls were right, I guess I hope the polls were wrong again. I think it shows we get some respect...We had a whole new team last year, you know, and I think those guys did a really good job building the foundation, figuring out what we're doing, so now we have some leadership. Those six guys played a lot last year, as it was mentioned last year, played 96 percent (of the minutes), so there's a foundation, there's some leadership, you know, we don't have to teach them the drills, now we can teach them a little about basketball. To answer your question, the polls, they don't mean anything, games are played and won on the court, and that's what we're going to try to do."

On his nearly two decades at St. Bonaventure and how special the Upstate New York program is: "I've been really lucky, you know, my family and I, we love it up there. You know, when we got up here 17 years ago, we had no idea. I knew it was a basketball school, I had no idea that basketball was this important, but it's a unique place. I use an analogy all the time - I went to Boston College, if I'm in the airport and someone's walking by and says, 'hey man, BC grad,' I'm like 'hey, how you doing?' but if there's two Bonaventure people getting together, they'll be tackling each other! It's just that; it's unique, basketball is really, really important, it's a great place to get a good education, there's no distractions, basketball is king, you know, why would I leave? It's just, I feel comfortable there, it's home, it's the longest place that I've ever been professionally, you know, and we got a great situation. The community is behind us, the students make the Reilly Center a special place, you know, the grass is never always greener on the other side."

FORDHAM HEAD COACH KEITH URGO: Opening statement: "Thanks everybody for coming out and having us. You know, Kyle (Rose) and I are very excited to be here, obviously, at the Barclays Center. Thrilled that we're coming back here, doing the A10 Tournament, obviously last year was something really special for our fan base and our team, and hopefully we have an opportunity to replicate what happened last year and bring a great crowd back here...Just really excited for the season to get going. We've got a great young bunch, a little bit different than last year where we had a bunch of older guys who had their professional routines, their greatness, as we call it, but really excited for our young talent, got a lot of depth, a lot of excitement, athleticism, led by this guy right here, Kyle Rose and Antrell Charlton, fantastic leadership, so I really like our group, a bunch of really good guys who are working their tails off."

On replacing a couple of 20-point scorers: "Yeah, it's going, we're gonna find out pretty quickly here, but again, we love our versatility, we've got a lot of young guys with some great skill, but we pride ourselves on defensive end, so looking to create some turnovers, get out in transition, use our depth and athleticism because that's a strength for us. We've got a lot of eager guys to show what they can do with the ball in their hands, so we'll be able to spread it around a little bit more, but, again, our culture is based off of defending and rebounding, creating turnovers, and trying to get out in transition, and you know, I think our fan base is going to love the types of athletes we have on the floor this year."

LA SALLE HEAD COACH FRAN DUNPHY: On having his premiere pair of guards, Bronx native Khalil Brantley and Jhamir Brickus, returning: "Well, it's very important. I think the guards set the table, oftentimes, we need balance, you certainly need balance all the time, but I think it's the guards, they have the ball much of the time, they really make great decisions. We talk about it every year, we talked about it the other day in practice all the time, and Anwar (Gill) agreed with me, which he often does, by the way. We need to set our numbers at, like, 10 turnovers a game, that's our limit. We're not going to give the ball away that many times during the course of a game. The games are too hard to play, these teams are really good in this league, they're well-coached, and it's a terrific league in so many ways, and, but the guards for us are going to set the tone, and even defensively, these guys, if they get posted by a big guy, make sure he doesn't get the ball in front of you so you're trapped a little bit, and help each other, so I think all these things are important. Guards are important, but you need that balance as well to open up. One of our big guys,(Sophomore forward) Rokas Jucius, from Lithuania, hoping he's going to have a really good year; we need him to play a lot of minutes."

SAINT JOSEPH'S HEAD COACH BILLY LANGE: Opening statement: "The Barclays Center is one of the best venues in sports at any level. It's funny how fast time goes, I feel like we were just doing this, and it turns out it was March, so I don't know what's happened between March and October and November, but here we are, excited to have this guy next to me (junior guard Erik Reynolds II). He represents everything we want in a Saint Joseph's basketball player. We've got a great league, it's got great players, this is one of the best right here."

On what stands out about his team's backcourt, which includes Erik Reynolds II, Lynn Greer III, and Cameron Brown: "I mean, they're great people, number one. You know, we spend so much time around each other that, as much as you want great players, you want to like them, you know, you spend so much time with them, and they're just fun to be around. They're fun to go through great moments, they're fun to elevate during moments where maybe they're not holding up to the standard that we know they can play at or they're down a little bit, you gotta pick them up. It all just comes back to their character. You know, with Erik, it's his spirit; he's one of the most selfish people I've ever been around. With Lynn, it's just his connective energy, he cares deeply about making sure the team is united and together. With Cam, it's his steadiness; he's just a loyal, faithful Hawk, and you know, together, they really are a bunch of guys that help each other."

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