Kevin Burkhardt: You guys have played a couple hard-fought games here early, after a good start you're 0-2 in the conference... what's your state of the team right now after two games?
Steve Lavin: We're 11-3 overall, and we've had some good wins, at Syracuse, St. Mary's, I think even Long Beach State, at the end of the day, will be a quality win once we get the big picture view come March. But we have work to do. Naturally, you don't wanna get off to an 0-2 start in league play, but, overall, this is a group that's improved from year to year, and the schedule comes our way a little bit in February, we have to stay above water here and survive this grind in January because it doesn't get any easier with Villanova, Duke comes in in a nonconference game, at Providence, at DePaul, so it's a daunting task but our kids are looking forward to the challenge.
Ben Howland: I know you're off to a tough start in league play at 0-2, but nobody has been better in college basketball than you at rallying your team when adversity hits. What is your message to the team as you get ready to take on Villanova, who I consider the best team in the Big East this year.
Lavin: I think it's key that you don't live in the peaks or valleys emotionally, the season is so long, it's critical that you focus on the task at hand. Let's get a little bit better each day in all facets of play. Then prepare, with purpose, for an upcoming opponent like Villanova. When you have a setback or a series of defeats, those are report cards. You have to do some self-examination, be honest, tell the truth, do the drillwork, watch the film, and create better basketball habits. A loss is a clue to a better way of doing things. If you do that over the course of the season, incrementally, you improve both as individual players and their skillsets, and collectively as a group. How to play better team defense, how to play a more close knit brand of basketball at the offensive end of the floor, we really try and stay in the moment and just focus on the pass at hand.
Burkhardt: What's the latest on Rysheed Jordan?
Lavin: Rysheed, right now, as has been announced to the media, is on a leave of absence. He's working through a very challenging situation with his family and some personal issues. We'll have a better sense of things -- you know, we want him back, we expect him to be back -- but we also want to respect the family as they go through a very difficult time here. It's not the first time in my career working with young people, as you know -- parents, coaches, teachers -- it's all about maturity, it's all about process, trying to bring forth a young person's full potential. As a basketball family we rally around one another during difficult times. I know these kids were there for me during my cancer and when I lost my father in February 2013. So we're there for the kids, as a coaching staff and as a basketball family, when they go through difficult losses and tough times in their life.
Howland: Talk about D'Angelo Harrison, he has improved so much from his freshman year till not, it's really a credit to you and your program how he's come along and how he's matured as a player
Lavin: Yeah, D'Angelo's been lights out, I call him our Reggie Jackson on the basketball court. He wants the ball in his hands in big-game situations. We all know that he can shoot the ball from long range, he's a marksman, but what's impressed me most is his improved defense. And offensively, he's making good judgments, his choices, the clarity in his judgments, in terms of when to take the ball to the hole, when to pull up from the mid-range, and when to share the ball, or share the sugar, as we like to say, when he's under duress with multiple defenders. He's so improved at finding his teammates, so he's got the complete game and his leadership and maturity on display are as impressed as the physical aspects of his game. He's learned how to channel that emotional fuel, that fire, that energy, in a more productive manner. It's elevated our team as well as his stock as a basketball player. He has a very bright future -- not just here this season, but down the line.