"We Grind You Up": An Ed Tapscott Q&A
There were some smiles at this morning's Wiz shootaround. While the practice was still closed to the media, loud laughter was heard at one point, and Brendan Haywood was running stairs in the upper level of the arena with strength and conditioning coach Drew Cleary. That's always good for some fun.
But there was definitely a bite in the air. Caron Butler didn't smile throughout his daily shooting contest with Oleksiy Pecherov, and left the court quickly, without even glancing at the media. Antawn Jamison also left without speaking to the media, leaving Antonio Daniels to serve as today's official veteran spokesman about the change.
"It already does feel different," Daniels said. "It's an adjustment, but professional sports is about adjustments. We have to adjust to different things on a constant basis. We believe in Tap, what he's trying to implement, and for us to be successful we have to. It's tough to have a different style in 24 hours. We just need to go out and execute, regardless as to who the coach is. When it was Coach Jordan, we didn't do as good a job as we needed to, and now that Tap's here we need to do a much better job for us to be successful."
But look, we have to move on. And the new coach, Ed Tapscott, is nicknamed Tap, which has all sorts of comedic potential. Plus, a reader pointed out that Tapscott succeeded Gary Williams at American, while his No. 1 assistant, Randy Ayers, succeeded Gary at Ohio State. Paging Jim O'Brien.
Anyhow, after today's shootaround, Tapscott spent about 15 minutes chatting with the media. Some highlights below. Try go guess which questions were mine.
How'd you sleep last night?
You know, my stomach was in another room I think, and I kept chasing it around. Look, I had butterflies. Anybody would and should. Although today has been a bit more of a normal day....You know, it'll be a very interesting time, a wonderful time when the lights go on tonight at 7.
How much realistically can change in one practice, one shootaround?
Well, I try to divide what we do into three components. We have scheme, we have execution, and we have approach. Can't do but so much with scheme. You know, we've been working since September on that, and we've got good schemes, we've got very very solid schemes. We can always work on execution, and that's what we obviously have tried to do, and that's a process. I think the biggest thing where we can make a difference is in the approach. How we go out on the floor, how we leave the floor and what we've left out there, and that's been my big focus. We can play better by playing harder, by focusing more, by playing with more intensity.
What would you have thought a year ago if someone said a year from now you're gonna be the head coach of the Wizards?
I would have been dreaming, obviously. It wouldn't have been reality. Strange things happen in this world, and so this is a wonderful opportunity. I'm very very grateful to Mr. Pollin, obviously, and to Ernie Grunfeld for this opportunity. I'm very very grateful to the gentlemen who I worked with before, in Eddie Jordan and Mike O'Koren, they were very very good to me. And so I'm very very appreciative personally at this time, but I also look at this as a chance to work with 12 to 15 world class athletes. What guy wouldn't want that opportunity?
How have the guys in your eyes sort of taken this? They're human beings too, a lot of them have a fondness for Eddie. How are they emotionally?
Well, in the NBA, we all get shocked every once in a while, and I think there was some shock. If there was a consolation for them, the gentleman who moved into the position to lead them was someone they knew. So that does reduce some of the worry and some of the tension, I think. Now I've got to develop a coaching personal with them, we've got to develop our own relationships and we started some meetings today, individual meetings with individual players and also with my team captains, so that will be some of the dialog in the next coming weeks and months.
With how long it's been since you actually have been behind a bench....
Well, I've been on the bench for the last 15, 18 months.
....In terms of actually running the show, is there anything in the interim that kind of compares to that?
Well, I've been coaching back there every night as well, I want you to know. My own specialty that I had was with the defense, supporting Randy Ayers. And any guy who's ever been a coach coaches every game he watches and very game he's involved in. So yes, it'll be different sitting in the big chair on the front of the row tonight. I make absolutely no bones about that. But we'll figure it out.
When will it be real to you? When the ball goes up? When you get your first T? When you get your first win?
You know, interestingly enough, you know when it's gonna be real? It'll be that last 20 minutes before you walk out, which is the worst 20 minutes of your life. Every time you have a game. The game plan is done, the preparation is done, you've talked to the team, they walk out and you've still got 20 minutes to sit there. It just churns with you. And when you then walk out from that, then all of the sudden you've gotten through that feeling and now you're ready to go. I used to always sit in the locker room and say 'Wow, if we could just get rid of this 20 minutes, this thing would be a lot easier.'
Can I ask about the media thing? Obviously you dealt with it when you were at Charlotte, but at American I can't imagine there were that many media covering the team on a regular basis.
Do you know who the beat writer was for me when I was at American? Michael Wilbon. Absolutely. So you know, I had this young, energetic, ambitious writer who was grilling me on a regular basis, so I think that's when the practice started. David Aldridge actually was the editor of the student newspaper there, and so I worked with two guys who turned out to be luminaries in this business.
Do you like doing it, do you enjoy it? Obviously you've been on the other end of it, too.
You know, I guess because I've been on the other end I have an appreciation for the job that the media does. How do we best speak to our fans but through the media? I can't go and greet everybody who comes to the game, I can't engage in one-on-one's with all oft hem, so you gentlemen are the conduit. And so you have a job to do, it's to get the word out. Your job is to get the word out to the public, I'm trying to get my version of it, and we'll share that process, so that's how I look at the media.
You grew up a Bullets fan?
Oh absolutely, absolutely. You know, I used to go down to Landover, go to the Caps Center, go to games when I was here as a younger fella, when I was coaching here at American. I knew many of the players. Gary Williams was the guy who really started me in this business and I owe him a huge debt for what I learned from him, and then another person who had a big role in what I did in the NBA other than Ernie Grunfeld was Bernie Bickerstaff. Bernie was here and I got to know Bernie, I would come to practices and see him at the summer league and talk about basketball. He took a couple of my players on the summer league teams and I learned a lot from Bernie.
Did you have any favorite Bullets players when you were growing up?
Oh yeah. I'll show you how old I am, it started with Earl Monroe, all right? When I was in high school I had an Earn Monroe spin. Well, it was a quasi, somewhat, diluted, slower Earl Monroe spin. A lot lower to the ground, too. And then Phil Chenier, who now does the broadcast here, I liked watching Phil. Those were two of my favorites when I was a youngster coming up, and you know, the championship team, I could still tell you who started on that team. Watched those games with great, great interest. So yeah, I've been a fan of this team for quite a while.
Can I ask one goofy thing, does your bench wardrobe change at all when you move into the big chair?
No. No. We wear a suit and tie.
You gotta wear [something special] tonight, you gotta wear your lucky tie.
You know, I gave it up some time ago. When you're starting a franchise, there are no lucky ties. There are no lucky suits. I did have a .500 suit one time. The interesting thing is when I was in Charlotte we opened with the Wizards. That was our first game ever, all right? And we lost that game in a pretty good battle, it was a tight game, came down to the last minute. And I remember saying to Steve Buckhantz when he came down to see me to wish me good luck, I said, 'I just want to make sure you don't say Dagger!!!! in the second quarter tonight.'
And so we go on to play that game, and then the next time we play we have a home game, we play the Orlando Magic, and we win. So we were like the first expansion team ever to go .500 after two games. And I went down to the coaching staff, I took the entire coaching staff out to dinner, I said, 'Let's celebrate this moment, because it's gonna be a while before we see that again.' And so that suit might be my lucky suit. But like I said, when you're starting a franchise, there are no lucky ties or lucky suits, but you have a to have an awful lot of them over time.
This is really about our guys, our players, our team coming out and playing more to the potential we think they have, more to the potential that I know THEY think that they have....And so one of the things I told them, 'It's time for us to establish a signature.' What do we stand for? Every team that's pretty good has a signature.
What about for you, for the Wizards?
I want ours to be this is one of the hardest working teams, and one that executes. We grind you up, and we execute....We play hard and we execute, because we can control that. Those are the things we can control. Don't ask guys to do things they can't control, you ask guys to do things they can control. So that's how we want to change our approach, we want to develop a signature, and so if that's our signature after some time here, then we will meet with some more success, I really believe that.
Is Caron still Tuff Juice? That was kind of Eddie's thing.
Caron can be anything Caron wants to be. If he wants Tuff Juice, he's Tuff Juice. If he wants another moniker, he's got that one too.
When did you get out of here yesterday?
I got home around 10:30, and showed my wife what life was going to be like by falling asleep on the couch with the remote in my hand, watching the Warriors.
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