Cardinal Authority: What have you been working on with this team the most to try and improve?
Rick Pitino: We have been trying to work on, more than anything else, keeping our turnovers down. It’s been our Achilles heel. Russ (Smith) has definitely improved in that area, we have worked very hard with Russ. A lot of Peyton’s (Siva) turnovers are because he falls down or slips and looses the ball. Our biggest culprit is Chane (Behanan), he’s a turnover machine. We’re trying to get him to take better care of the ball. But that’s been the main thing, and trying to get Russ to game good shots, well-balanced shots.”
CA: What do you expect from the second exhibition game? Will you get a better test from Bellarmine?
Pitino: “With both exhibition games, our main goal is to play a lot of guys and get through certain things, but we are concerned about Manhattan. We didn’t spend any time on preparation for Pikeville and we won’t on Bellarmine. We’ll talk to the guys on game day about Bellarmine. We know what Bellarmine will give us. All of our effort is going towards Manhattan.”
CA: Any update on Kevin Ware (who was suspended by Pitino for the Pikeville games)?
Pitino: “He’s good to go. He made a mistake and he served a one-game suspension, it’s not a plus or minus. We set rules for what they can and can’t do. He did it and he paid the consequences.”
CA: What about Chane Behanan (who is suspended for the two exhibition games and perhaps longer)?
Pitino: “He’s 50-50 for Manhattan, so far. If he does everything he asked to do this week, then he’s a go.”
CA: Any chance that you’ve seen some other guys on the team, maybe Peyton, step up with those two guys and show some leadership and remind them they need to do the right things?
Pitino: “I haven’t seen that so far. Peyton is the type of guy that he will talk to them after the do something wrong. But these guys don’t go out together all of the time. Peyton – or anyone else – are not their policemen. They know what is right from wrong and they need to do the right things.”
CA: Any surprises so far in preseason practices, you had mentioned the play of Tim Henderson had improved?
Pitino: “Really, everything has gone exactly the way I thought it would go. No surprises. Yes, Tim has improved a lot but it’s not like we expect him to play a lot of minutes. The biggest thing with Tim is that is something happened and we needed him, he could more than handle it in a positive way.”
CA: Any update on Mangok Mathiang? (The NCAA had ruled him ineligible to play as a freshman, but U of L appealed the decision).
Pitino: “He’s not eligible. He’ll have four years of eligibility (after this year). He’s a great kid and is working really hard. We could not recruit a high school senior as good as he is this year.”
CA: I know when you do blogs you like to talk about the questions or comments you get most from the fans. Is there one coming from fans now?
Pitino: “It’s always the same thing, this is the year for the Final Four and to win a championship. I always laugh because we haven’t even played the first game. A lot of fans live in the future so much and that’s something coaches and players never do. It’s like (ESPN’s) Joe Lunardi doing a (mock selection) the first week of the season. It’s just so far from reality, it’s the polar opposite from the way a coach or player is thinking. We talk about winning our first game. We just don’t think that way. Our goals are non-conference, conference games, conference tournament and the real tournament.”
CA: You have been talking about Manhattan a lot in recent weeks. The Jaspers really are going to be a major test for an opener are they not?
Pitino: “They’re a 20-game winner, no different than if we were playing (College of) Charleston, Davidson or Butler. By that, I don’t mean the Final Four Butler, but a team that if you don’t play well can beat you. It’s not the type of game you want to play in the opener because they know you so well. They know everything that we do, but on the flip side we will be very prepared. We have the advantage of being at home and being a bigger team. But there’s really no Lou Holtz in me when I say this will be a very difficult game.”