CHESTNUT HILL - Six head coaches from the Division I men's basketball teams in Massachusetts converged inside Conte Forum for the second annual group media day on Tuesday morning. Steve Donahue of Boston College, Joe Jones of Boston University, Derek Kellog of the University of Massachusetts, Tommy Amaker of Harvard, Bill Coen of Northeastern and Milan Brown of Holy Cross were all in attendance along with a couple of players.
Quotes and audio clips from the six schools at media day are available below.
BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES
Last season was a growing experience for Boston College, and with growth comes growing pains. The Eagles went 9-22 overall (4-12 in Atlantic Coast Conference) and were bounced in the first round of the ACC Tournament. BC's struggles came because of youth and inexperience, something that hopefully won't be as big of an issue this year.
"I think like everybody else at this time of the year we're very excited," said third-year Eagles head coach Steve Donahue. "In particular, we have so many guys coming off their first year of college basketball. We see the improvement. So it's an exciting time for us because there's such youth involved. I think typically kids make their biggest strides from [their] freshman to their sophomore season. I think you'll see that with our group. I think the guys have done a great job for the last six months and we're excited to get going."
BOSTON UNIVERSITY TERRIERS
Joe Jones took the reins at Boston University last season after serving as an assistant under Donahue during his first year at Boston College. Jones guided the Terriers to a respectable 16-16 overall record (12-4 in America East Conference). BU lost star guard Darryl Partin, but with D.J. Irving still on the roster, things should be looking up for BU. Unfortunately, the Terriers are ineligible for conference postseason play as they move to the Patriot League next year.
"I think every year we're at BU [the goal] is going to be to win the regular season championship," said Jones. "That doesn't change at a place like BU. That's what we're about. Not just the basketball, in all sports. ... The big challenge is going to be keeping these guys focused on the here and now and not looking ahead and try to focus on each game as it comes and then play that out. I think there are going to be maybe some underlying pressures because now every conference game means so much to us because we're trying to win the championship, so we'll have to deal with that as it comes. But I like the challenge of going out, having my guys ready each and every night and playing at their best, and that's kind of what we need to be."
Harvard is coming off the most successful year in recent history, with the Crimson posting a New England-best 26-5 overall record and a conference best 12-2 record in the Ivy League. Some bad publicity in the offseason resulted in the withdrawals of Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, and Keith Wright and Oliver McNally are no longer there, but Crimson head coach Tommy Amaker remains optimistic despite a difficult schedule.
"I was amazed at our team this past year for carrying that banner, being predicted [to be league champion], having the bullseye, all those things you want to label, for our team to not only to do that, but I think in my mind exceed that," said Amaker. "I think going into this year for us, we're going to prepare the same. We're going to do the things that we've done that we know work for us, continue to implement our style and our system for our young kids, try to bring them up to speed as quickly as possible. I think we have a very, very daunting schedule, our toughest one since we've been here at Harvard, so we have our work cut out for us."
HOLY CROSS CRUSADERS
Holy Cross was above average last season, with their 15-4 overall record and 9-5 conference mark placing them fourth in the Patriot League. The Crusaders will open their season against future conference foe Boston University. Bucknell and Lehigh, who finished Nos. 1 and 2 respectively in the conference last season, will be Holy Cross' two biggest challenges, but head coach Milan Brown thinks that the Crusaders can accomplish their goals if their mindset is right.
"The bar is always going to be high for us," said Brown. "Our goal is to win the conference and go to the NCAA Tournament. The thing that could be different for us this year is that we don't know where that road is going to take you, but we know where it's going to have to go through, and that's Bucknell and Lehigh. We know that from day one. I still think it's a goal that is achievable to us. The thing that we don't have ... our margin for error isn't as great as theirs. We right now don't have a great, dominant player, so we're going to have to be really good collectively. I think it's a goal we can achieve, we're just going to have to be really good at what we do. My message to our guys has been our work has to match our dream. The dream of winning the championship is great, now does our work match that? If it doesn't, we need to change the dream."
Behind Harvard, the UMass Minutemen had the best season in New England, going 25-12 overall and 9-7 in the Atlantic 10 conference. While that mark wasn't good enough to give the Minutemen an NCAA Tournament berth, they made it all the way to the NIT semifinals before losing to Stanford. The road won't get any easier for the Minutemen, as both Butler and VCU have joined the A10 and will provide UMass with an even tougher in-conference schedule.
"We joked about it at media day. It's great for the conference, probably not good for coaches," UMass head coach Derek Kellog said. "But the ultimate goal for every coach in our league is postseason play. To have to win 12 games to get to postseason or somewhere around there, but adding a few top 50 RPI games I think that gives you a little leeway to say now we don't have to win every single time you play. I think it's great for the conference. We ended up getting a really good TV deal out of it, our conference has moved to the Barclay's center, and VCU and Butler are two teams who have been to the Final Four. What you have now are a bunch of coaches in the league withstanding the test of time, I'm hoping to be one of those guys ... now we have really some top, top basketball teams in our conference. I think we could have anywhere from the fourth to the seventh best conference in the country, on paper. We'll see."
Northeastern was three games under .500 last season, going 14-17 overall, but was able to post a 9-9 record in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Huskies return four starters from last year, who happened to be the Huskies' leading scorers and rebounders, but has a group of inexperienced players behind them, but head coach Bill Coen is still optimistic.
"Everybody has to be optimistic at this point in the year. Everybody's undefeated," said Coen. "You're going into it, you're trying to get better. We have a good core group of four returning starters, our leading scorers, our leading rebounders, so that's the good news. We have a core group of inexperienced players behind them that we're going to have to bring up to speed and get ready to play by [opening day]."