Question and answer session with head basketball coaches

Katie Bultman

North Wind: You played UW-GB this weekend, just talk a little bit about that and how you thought your team did.

Mattson: I thought we played fairly well. Green Bay has one of the notoriously best teams in the country every single year in Division I, and even though they might be a little bit down this year from what they’re used to, they’re still coached extremely well by Coach Borseth. Their team has people returning and it was exciting for us to be able to go and have the opportunity to play. We have girls on our team from Wisconsin and haven’t had the chance to play in Wisconsin in front of their family and friends before. We had quite a following there and it was a great crowd. For the first game of the year, you want things to go extremely well and I thought we played fairly well. We, after watching film, realized that we did a lot of things that I expected us to do at this point in our careers and [the loss] is a little bit disappointing from that standpoint, but we were in a close game our whole game with a Division I opponent and should feel fairly well about that. I just expect a lot from these girls right now and I’m not going to change my attitude toward the way I think we should be right now. I felt like we let an opportunity slip away because I felt like we could have made that even closer than it was and possibly have had a chance to win.

North Wind: How do you think the girls did, playing together for the first time this year with any new recruits that you brought up and any new transfers?

Mattson: The only one that’s really new is [freshman guard Bre] Gaspervich, who is really about the only one that’s seen any major minutes that’s new to us. We have pretty much everybody else returning and we have a pretty good understanding of who can do what and what is expected of each person and what their roles are. All that stuff kind of fell into place and looked the same to me. Hopefully we’ll make the corrections and these are good people, so they will try to make the corrections properly so that we can become a better team.

North Wind: How have practices been with the girls? Do you think they’ve been putting in a lot of effort to prepare for the season?

Mattson: Like I said, these are good people on this team. They’re good in school, they’re good with the community, they’re good with basketball and very, very serious about becoming a good basketball team. Practices have been very easy to coach, actually. From that standpoint, there are no issues regarding any team dissension or anything like that. We’re just trying to get as good as we can get and we need some people to just play a little bit better than we did the other day, and I think we could have had an outstanding performance to tell you the truth.

North Wind: What do you think are some of the main things that the girls need to work on from last year?

Mattson: Paying attention to detail, that’s our next step. Physically we’re not going to get any better right now. We’re really, physically, a pretty good Division II size, speed, ability to make plays, type team. Now we have to pay attention to detail and make sure we don’t break down in a lot of areas that we shouldn’t on defense because these people have played major minutes here for the last couple years. Like I said, we’re expecting big things from them and we need to make sure we are not making the same mistakes that we did when we were freshman so that we can advance as a team.

North Wind: Looking at the teams this year in the conference, which ones do you think are going to be some of the big matchups?

Mattson: The North Division in women’s basketball is as competitive as it has ever been. I think of the eight teams in there, seven of them will probably have a chance to compete for a conference title. It’s that close. There are two teams that kind of stand out in my mind right now that potentially could play for National Championship. Wayne State University has brought in two or three transfers that are going to make drastic, major problems for teams in our league and Ferris State is reloaded off a lot of injuries last year and has one of the finest basketball teams in the country, I feel. The North Division is really, really tough right now and we need to be on the top of our game every night.

North Wind: Do you think your nonconference games are going to be good to prepare the team for that?

Mattson: Yeah I do. We’re playing the No. 16 team in the country, Lewis University, and we’re playing the No. 15 team in the country, Concordia-St. Paul. So two of our four nonconference games are against top 20 teams in the country and will give us a good idea to what level we need to get to and how to get better.

North Wind: What kind of offense do your girls run? Are you running the same thing as last year?

Mattson: We run a lot of the same stuff we have been. The one thing about bringing people back is you keep them comfortable with what we do. We’re not going to be able to do anything more than what personnel we have on our team. We’re going to try to get the ball inside. We have six, seven, eight people that can post up in the paint and we’re going to try to get the ball to them and let them see what they can do. We have people that can shoot from the outside so if they double in, you know we’ve got a nice supporting cast. My biggest concern is, are we going to make it mentally to that next level? Defensively, like I said, paying attention to detail and offensively taking care of the basketball, making sure we get good shots down the court and people being tough enough to finish shots when we’re supposed to finish them. We do have some of those little bit of issues that need to be resolved by people being upperclassmen and it’s time for them to step up.

North Wind: How do you think the defense has been looking in the first game and practices?

Mattson: After the Green Bay game I’m not very happy. We should be a real good defensive team, and at times last year we were a very, very good defensive team. Rebounding, we were one of the best in the league last year. Next to Ashland University and Wayne State, we might have been the next best rebounding team in the league. With returning everybody, I would expect the same from us and a very, very good rebounding team. We have a lot of things in place. We’ve just got to make sure we mature as a group and become a better team.

North Wind: Are you looking forward to anything in particular this weekend that you are going to be working on, and how do you think the team is going to be?

Mattson: We’re looking at doing a couple things to create more turnovers for ourselves so that we get more scoring opportunities. I’m hoping that we can grasp that challenge so that we can try to help ourselves out. On the offensive end, [we need to] score more points by creating a bit more defensive opportunities for us. We’ll see if that works and see how long they stay with it.

Men’s Head Coach Bill Sall

North Wind: Looking ahead, you guys have your first game this weekend, you guys have had some time to prepare and practice since I’ve last talked to you, and how do you think the team is looking now that you’ve seen them in practice and how do you think they’re going to do this weekend?

Sall: First off, I’ve been very happy. We’re about 17 practices into the season and from day one to day 17 we’ve certainly seen quite a bit of improvement. Just as important, it’s interesting, 12 new guys, we’re dealing with a group that really didn’t even know who each other was six months ago and I think they’ve done a nice job of really trying to bond as a team. As far as what to expect come Saturday, that’s a great question and one I can’t really answer. Really, the main goal is that we go out there and really, the three monikers, play hard, play smart, play together and see where that takes us. Again, I think through the process of it all, we’ve seen really good signs, but now it’s to try to put it together in a game and that will be the big thing for us to see.

North Wind: It’s a DI arena this weekend, do you think that’s going to get the guys pumped up for the game and a little more excited to play, or is it going to make them more nervous?

Sall: I don’t worry so much about the opponent. We’re going to prepare for them just like we would prepare for anybody. I think the one thing is that, yeah, you have to always make sure that your guys stay in the system of what we want to do. Sometimes when you play Division I [school]s you have a player that suddenly wants to go outside of what we would like them to do because they want to show that, ‘Hey, I’m  good enough to play at this level.’ When you actually go out there and play the way you’re supposed to play, that shows itself anyway. For us right now, it’s more of actually going out there, and it’s the first time for a lot of these guys in a Northern Michigan uniform, and going out there and really seeing their level of competition.

North Wind: We talked about how there is new coaching staff, new players; how do you think everybody has been doing with the different coaching styles? Have they been meshing together pretty well? Have you found that balance for the team?

Sall: That’s a constant work in progress, too. We’re doing a lot of teaching and that’s really what coaching is anyway because, again, we have a number of new guys. For all 15 guys it’s a new system and how we want things to be done obviously is going to be different than probably the previous coaches that they’ve had, so that’s kind of the feeling out process that hasn’t happened. What I like about it, is these guys are really willing to learn and they have been very, very coachable.

North Wind: Have you found an offense and a defense that work for you really well?

Sall: We’re putting in the system that I’ve been doing at Ferris and the components of it. As you get players with different abilities you have to kind of take some new things and look at some new things, but the basics, and the basics of what I want done, are going to hold true from really 21 years of coaching college basketball.

North Wind: Looking ahead at the conference what do you expect from it, who’re you looking at as some of the bigger rivalries, and some of the teams you think will do well this season?

Sall: There’s a lot of really good teams. The GLIAC is always strong and if you look and list the same names that are always there, there are those traditional powers are still going to be very good. Michigan Tech, Ferris, Grand Valley, Wayne State, Findlay, Hillsdale, Lake State are all going to have very good teams. All those powerhouses are still with a lot of leadership and a lot of guys that are juniors and seniors. That’s the whole thing about GLIAC basketball. It’s 22 games and you have to do the tremendous job of going through the grind of the season and getting yourself prepared to play every time you go out there.

North Wind: Last season one of the big things for the team was the injuries. Was that something you are going to try to focus on preventing?

Sall: They’re very hard to prevent. When you go out there, you hope that you have conditioning. You hope that there is some sort of injury prevention if you do have guys that are in shape and taking care of their bodies, but anything can happen. Literally you could go out there today and have two guys go down. Strange enough we’ve had three injuries and not any of them had been on the basketball court. You can’t control that. I think that’s the biggest thing you have to factor in, what are the things you can control? What you can control is that every day, with the group that you have, you try to be as good as you can be and try to improve every day and work harder.

North Wind: Have you seen any team leaders step up this year, anybody that really is motivating the guys?

Sall: We’re certainly hoping, especially with the guys that are returning. Mike Smith, Spencer Huss, and Terry Nash, those are really the three guys that have actually played some GLIAC basketball and been in some games. We are going to count on them to be the guys that are going to lead and help us through that process.

North Wind: Anything you’d like to add about looking forward to the season?

Sall: Hey, we’re ready to go. The simple fact is you can only practice for so long. You’ve got to start playing games and right now that’s the primary focus that we have. We’re going to start here quickly and when the lights get turned on and we go out there, we’ll get a lot better idea of where this team is and what we need to do.