ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan coach John Beilein addressed the media on Thursday. Below are some key comments and video from Tuesday’s press conference.
Opening statement : "Thank you everyone for coming today. It's a great day to have media day and begin the process of beginning to play games. Two weeks from tomorrow will be our first real game, and we're excited about it. We've had a great preseason. It's different because it's been a different schedule, but I think we've been experimenting in some areas; how to keep them fresh, but at the same time make the right progress. I'm sure we didn't do everything right, but I think we like that we're fairly healthy right now, and we're playing as good as we can for this point in the season. I like the guys on this team; they're a good bunch of young men, virtually maintenance-free up to this point. Now we go ahead and we go about trying to help them develop their skills while teaching them what winning basketball at Michigan is all about. I'm sure you have a lot of questions, and I look forward to you meeting some of these young men and having some time with them because I think you'll really like them. The seven young men that were with us last year that are not with us, the five seniors and Trey [Burke] and Tim [Hardaway Jr.], were great representatives of the University. I think you'll find the same thing with these three new scholarship players and walk-ons that we have."
On the health of Mitch McGary: "He's making great progress, but we're super cautious. He's been doing underwater treadmill workouts that are really productive. I know I couldn't do some of those, and so it's really good but we're being very cautious as well. If he keeps making this progress day after day (he's still day-to-day), one of these days he's going to have to get out there to see what he can do. But we're very cautious."
On the versatility of this year's team: "I think with Mitch not being in there right now, we're not as versatile as we'd like to be because we want to have people playing a lot of different positions. When Mitch is healthy, we are fairly versatile where we can play a bunch of multi-position players and just let it roll. Some things have happened in practice thus far that would be good for us to just play that way, whether it's continually with a big lineup or really small, all long guys at one time. I do like that part."
On any similarities between Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway to Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr.:"There are some similarities. Tim was certainly a shooter that learned to drive and handle. I think Zak has done a lot of those things. Derrick is 100 percent right now; at least he has been in practice. He missed about four or five days just while we made sure that his foot was fine. I've seen great decision making by Derrick, which is really good. I've seen that type of thing from very few freshmen. Both Tim and Trey had a different air about them; one was a quiet confidence, one was more pronounced. I see both of those qualities."
On the biggest challenge going into this year: "I think the two biggest ones are to replace the intangibles we had off those five seniors that left this team and won a lot of games in their time. There were things going on in the locker room, in practice, in the weight room, meals, and it's hard to replace those things. And then the whole idea that there's Tim and Trey at the end of the shot clock and at the end of games, if we were drawing up things it was going to them. Who are you drawing up things for at the end of the games? That's something we're working through right now. Two first round draft choices, it's been a long time since we've had a first round draft choice. We had two in the same year that we've lost, so trying to replace that, we'll learn on the fly a little bit."
On the high expectations for this season despite losing two first round draft picks:"I think a lot is premature. We're not going to know what we've lost until we find out what we can do. But at the same time, I think Michigan should have high expectations every year. You don't do as well some years, well then the expectations probably were too much. It beats the alternative, certainly, but we're trying to handle it well. To be honest with you, after our second NCAA Tournament year where we almost beat Duke in the second round, there were high expectations and last year there were even higher expectations. They've been able to meet them pretty well, but you're never going to meet all expectations that everyone has."
On the strength and depth of the front court:"It's flipped, hasn't it? All of a sudden we have a very experienced front court, not very experienced but one year of experience. I think that we can multi-position those guys, that's one thing, and we can continue to do what we've been doing, I mean really multi-position, like something no one's ever seen. Guys like Caris and Nik, who are all 6-foot-6, and ones that are almost 200 pounds and ones that are over 200 pounds; they can play a lot of positions."
On handling the point guard position and who will start on Tuesday's exhibition: "We have to put a thing down and make sure we get enough minutes during those days, and it's real good to have a local school, Concordia, be able to come over. It's really neat for them and good for us. I'll wait a couple more days, but between Derrick or Spike, I guarantee one of them will be at point guard. But it's very different than everybody knowing that Trey was going to be at point two straight years. But we'll play with that a little bit and see who is best coming off the bench. You know the deal with me, sometimes the guy coming off the bench may be the better fit for the team, or who he's in with. It took Trey a little bit to get in front of Stu [Douglass]. Derrick is coming on really strong, but I think Spike right now - I think the other day he had 20 assists and two turnovers, and I'm saying, 'I'm still mad, Spike, about those two turnovers,' because I thought they were turnovers that he knew better than to make. Spike's teams traditionally win in scrimmages no matter who we put him with, so we're still trying to figure that out. Some of those answers are fundamental; it's just about the right guys."
On if the shooting guard position is set yet:"I think that Nik and Caris can both play like a big guard. Both of them are two-position players. Caris probably can play either guard and Nik can probably play what he played before and play the off-guard. We could play the two point guards as well. With Zak Irvin, you'll mostly see him as a forward right now."