UCLA men’s basketball head coach Mitch Cronin started off his presser yesterday talking about how concerned he was about the frigid weather in South Bend, as the Bruins are travelling to Notre Dame this Saturday to take on the Irish.
When it comes to travelling, UCLA has a young team that needs to get used to being on the road. He said “It’s just you and your bench” and intends on bringing t-shirts for the Bruin faithful to keep the team spirit alive. He discussed Notre Dame’s strengths, and he stated, “You can’t turn the ball over because they’re not gonna turn it over.” Cronin is familiar with the ACC and is fairly close with Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey. The Irish are in flux this year and have struggled here and there, but Cronin is convinced adversity brings out the best in a team. He likes the rivalry and seems to understand the history behind it.
Cronin also talked a lot about his job teaching discipline to the team beyond the fundamentals and referred specifically to a technical foul that was earned by Cody Riley. He said Riley was in his office the next day and hadn’t slept the night before because he was bothered by the incident. Cronin offered:
We gotta grow up. It’s my job to teach them. There’s certain things that are going to get us beat in a real game. So, there’s a T...so, it’s totally different than a game like a Denver where I’m pretty confident we’re going to be okay.
UCLA is moving into a new phase of their schedule, where major mistakes can cost them games. He teaches them during games as well, when players sit on the bench between coaches. Cronin referred to it as “the teaching chair.” He takes his job as a coach in all aspects very seriously and is concerned with more than just coaching basketball. He explained, “The players know I care more about them as a person than as a player.”
Cronin was asked about a few specific stats, including opponent free throw percentage, which is over 70%. He discussed the importance of experience and growing as a basketball player, getting minutes in real games. He has been in a rebuilding situation back in the Big East. So, he is well aware of what it takes to move a team forward.
Here is his interview, courtesy of UCLA Athletics:
Prince Ali was the first team member up for player interviews and he discussed going into a road environment like Notre Dame and being able to grind it out and get the win. He said Cronin has been preparing them for battle all week. He specifically mentioned encouraging fellow team members and not taking offense when coaches pull players out of the game for making mistakes, calling it a “learning experience.” Drawing on the experience of last year’s first road game against Cincinnati, he talked about not “taking your foot off the gas” so you end up giving up a huge lead and the win.
Chris Smith was next, and he feels like their first road game will be better than last year due to the fact that the team is more experienced and they feel better prepared. He said they have a long way to go and “our defense still has holes in it,” but they are “playing more as a team”. They are emphasizing boxing out and keeping the opposing team off the boards to get rebounds.
Finally, Tyger Campbell gave his interview, and he said he is excited about going into an environment like Notre Dame. Being the away team, he offered, “you can’t turn the ball over...you have to play smart the whole game.” He said they are talking more on defense and getting closer as a team. As a team, UCLA has not been shooting well outside the arc, and Campbell said they need to “shoot with more confidence”. They are shooting well in practice and they are just focused on winning.
Here is the full video of the player interviews, also thanks to UCLA Athletics:
Thank you to UCLA Athletics for both interviews.