Buzz Williams joined 540 ESPN’s Drew Olson and Dan Needles in-studio today to talk about his work as an analyst at CBS at the Final Four, and also about the happenings of Marquette basketball. You can listen to the entire segment here.
Here are Williams’ answers regarding Marquette basketball.
Trent Lockett situation, being a one-year graduate transfer: “And some people have problems with that. There’s college coaches who are staunchly against that rule, more staunchly against that rule than kids who can leave after one year. And they’re entitled to their opinions. I don’t make the rules, I don’t set the rules, I have a hard time keeping up with the rules. And so whatever the rules are, how can we best help our program be what we want it to be on and off the floor. And I think Trent fits into that. I’m excited Trent is a part of that, but there are coaches that are against that rule.”
Davante Gardner’s off-season: “Davante’s been OK. He’s 286 pounds today, that’s probably 8-10 pounds over where he should be. When you’re that big, when you take an extended period of time where you can’t do anything physically, it’s harder to get that weight off once it’s back on. And so he has been diligent in his work. Ernest and Todd have done a great job with him. I think this summer will be really important for Davante, just like I feel that-a-way for all our guys, but I think he’s been fine.”
Lockett and T.J. Taylor’s contributions next year: “Obviously there’s more of a sample of evidence of what Trent has been able to do over his college career, as compared to T.J. I’ve known T.J. since he was a kid. He’s from the same county that I grew up in, so I’ve known he and his mom long before I came to Marquette. And so I have great trust and faith in who T.J. is and what his family represents.
I’m excited to have the opportunity to coach him, but also being realistic, he’s yet to play a Division I game. He’s yet to play a Division I game at the high-major level, so when you look at the teams that we play in non-conference and conference once our schedule is released, that’s expecting a lot from a kid who’s yet to do it. He’s older than your typical high school senior, and I do think there’s value in that, and I do think he will have a distinct niche on our team. But I think it’s presumptuous to go, ‘Hey, this is who he is,’ because he’s yet to do it. But I pull for him, I root for those kinds of kids. I think the combination of he and Trent will help us try to shore up some of what we lose from Jae and D.J..”
On Tony Benford’s head coaching position at North Texas: “I’m so happy for Tony. I talk to Tony every day. He’ll be fine. He’ll be great, he doesn’t need any of my help. I’m very thankful he got an opportunity as a by-product of our success. He’s probably the best pro in every way that I’ve ever known in our business, and I have great respect for him. He took Bart Lundy, our operations guy, with him as a full-time assistant, which is outstanding for Bart and his family. So I couldn’t be happier for either of those guys. I think they’ll be great.
North Texas is the job I grew up wanting as a kid. It was about 45 miles from the little country town I graduated from. And if you were smart enough to go to college when you graduated, that’s where you went to college. And I wasn’t smart enough to go there, but in my discussions with the (UNT) athletic director prior to them hiring Tony, I said, ‘In my whole life, there were only two jobs I wanted: the head coaching job at Navarro College, because I worked for coach Orr, and the head coaching job at University of North Texas. And I’ve yet to accomplish either of those goals, but I can’t imagine there’s a better person that will represent your institution than Tony.’ He’ll be great. It’s a really good job, it’s surrounded by really good players, and they’ll be really good this upcoming year, and they’ll be good as long as Tony is there.”
On replacing Benford: “I’ve returned every text, every call, every email from everybody that’s called. It’s amazing. I use these as opportunities to learn, use it as opportunites to grow and build relationships. On a deeper level or to begin a new relationship, NBA guys call, fired coaches call, guys that you would not imagine call. Agents call, search firms call, and I love listening to all of that. I don’t necessarily subscribe to all that, but I listen to all of it beause I think it’s healthy, relative to my career and plight to be able to connect dots. And sometimes when you have jobs open, guys will reveal things to you that they won’t tell you when you do’t have a job open.
So similar to when I got this job, I was undeserving of the opporuntity, I understood that, and once I did get the job there was a mass concern of, ‘Well Buzz, we think we know who you are, but who are you gonna hire?’ And I was very slow and deliberate about who I hired, and not to be arrogant but I think I put together a really good staff, and what we’ve been able to do during our tenure together speaks for itself.
And which direction I go, I don’t know. I’ll pray about it, I’ll think about it, I’ll study it. Until we finish recruiting I’m not making any decisions. I think players are always more important than coaches, and because of the chair I sit in, the most important relationship is always with the guy that subs them in and out of the game. And so getting Trent was a big part of that, and we’ll see how it plays out from a recruiting perspective as the spring and summer unfold. But I had great respect, trust and relationship with Tony and with Bart, and as weird as I am and as unique as how we operate, I’m not real big on someone jumping on the boat because they think we’re good and they think they wanna be a part of our success yet they havent earned the ability to be part of our success.
Addressing junior college criticisms: “When it comes to the perception of junior college players, I really like to hear the criticism, because I then know who those people are and what their stance is, relative to people’s lives. I was a non-qualifier out of high school. I could not have attended a D1 institution. Was it because intellectually I couldn’t have? No, it was because I never got the right ‘intel’ in the little country town I was from, that this is what you do to be admitted into a four-year, Division I institution. And so does that mean I was given a second chance? I don’t know.
How about Jae Crowder, who weighed 260 pounds as a high school senior. He went to a non-accredited junior college. He didnt know that. He had no idea. He was 260 pounds, he was a fat kid. So he was happy somebody would give him room and board, and then a year into his freshman year he goes, ‘These classes don’t count?’ So technically, did we give Jae a second chance? DJO was never cleared through the Clearinghouse. I know exactly why he wasn’t cleared through the Clearninghouse. It was not DJO’s fault. The high school he attended, it was not their fault. It was a clerical error.
So if you think of all the guys we’ve signed, we have only signed two junior college players. Two straight up, didn’t qualify out of high school palyers. Dwight Buycks, MPS alum. And Jae Crowder. So Buycks, first MPS kid to play here since Terry Sanders. You gonna say now you can’t come back here because you didn’t qualify out of high school? I’m not doing that.
And then the second thing is Crowder, his first year nothing counted toward any four year diploma at any level, and three years later he’s player of the year. And not saying that the other two weren’t important, but he was player of the year in one of the best conferences of all-time. So are we gonna say, ‘Hey Jae, here’s the deal. You made a bad decision when you were a senior in high school, and you didn’t have the right people around you and you went to a non accredited school. We don’t want you to come to Marquette because of the perception, not that you were player of the year, not because you’re an NBA draft pick, not because you helped us to back-to-back Sweet Sixteen’s, but because before I knew you and you knew me, you made a decision that you didn’t know.’
And so I, kind of in a demented way, like it when people have the perception of, ‘Wow, there’s too many junior college guys on that team. Really? There was only one on our team last year. There’s only one, but they attended a junior college. So is it a second chance, because they could have attended a Division I school? No Division I school recruited DJO.
So again, like Oprah says, ‘everybody has a story.’ And so do I have an edge about answering that question? I do, I do. But i also have an edge in how I live and how I coach.”