JS: What's your first priority now that you're able to contact your players?
DC: Just get our guys under contract into Toronto as quickly as possible so we can start working with them. We were ready to go as soon as they said "go". Get the guys here. Get the physicals done. Make sure we start working with them one-on-one. We can't do any official practices or anything like that, but we can get our hands on them and for me that's the best way for me to get to know players is on the court. You can talk on the phone, you can sit down and talk all you want, but you really don't get to know your own players until you're on the court with them.
JS: Coming into a new situation, that feeling must be even greater.
DC: No question. That's why I want to do it. What I would have been doing, if this had been a normal summer, would be go to their hometowns, where they normally work out, meet their families, meet their friends and wives or whatever the situation is and get to know them on that personal basis. I'm a firm believer in that because you get a feel for what’s important to a guy when you meet them in their home surroundings.
JS: Were there advantages to having a lot of free time with a new organization?
DC: I've probably watched not all 82 (games) from last year, but probably close to 75. But I've watched all the Eastern Conference games because being in the Western Conference, you're not as familiar with the Eastern Conference as you probably would be. I've watched the entire training camp, so when a guy comes and says "well, we did this last year," I can definitely tell them "no, you didn't. I don't know what happened in practice every day, but this is what I saw in training camp and this is what I saw in your 82-game schedule."
It gave me that time -- I would have made time otherwise -- but I've kind of gone slowly and taken notes. Gotten specific about what guys can do and can't do. That's been a positive advantage.
JS: You've also brought in some new names to join your coaching staff here. Can you talk a little bit about the decision-making process with assembling this group?
DC: What I wanted to do is get some of the best teachers because we do have a young team. I'm a firm believer you don't go out and get friends. You want to get someone you're familiar with and that you trust, but not your friends and I did that. I observed Johnny Davis from afar; he coached on my staff in Minnesota and I watched him teach. He's one of the best teachers of young men in the game. He's got championship pedigree from his Portland days, so I wanted guys to draw from a former player and starting point guard.
Tommy Sterner is a guy that I worked with for two years in Dallas, so that was a ringing endorsement for me. He didn't have to send a reference or anything like that. But he's been with a championship organization in Orlando when they went to the Finals in '95 and worked with some good coaches there and great players like Shaq and Penny when they were young. So those are all positives as far things Tommy brings to the table. He’s a very hard worker, very technically savvy as far as video systems and what we can do with video. We want to be cutting edge as far as watching games and how we present game edits, so he's going to be a really big plus for us from that standpoint.
Scott Roth I've known even when he was a player. I also wanted another former player that could work with big guys and knew the players here. Not so close to them -- familiarity sometimes breeds contempt -- but he's been here long enough that he knows the players, the organization, the personalities and what makes them tick, so that was important. He's a good teacher also.
I've known Micah Nori over the years and his knowledge of the league is second to none. He has respect around the league for knowing the league. His contribution will be helping us with game preparation, which is probably one of my top priorities as far as going into a game, leaving no stone unturned in terms of preparing for a team. I pride myself in knowing every play that another team is going to run and I want our staff to be able to not have to look at notes when the (opposing) coach is holding up whatever the call is. We have got to know that and we will know that and Micah's a big contributor to that with his information on the league.
I've known Eric also for many years from back in Seattle when he was working with Gary Payton, who I coached. Watching him first hand working with Gary, teaching him and physically sweating with him, that was huge for me as far as keeping Eric here. He knew the players and he has a great rapport. Again, not so close that he can't hold a guy accountable but still close enough that he has a close relationship with a player.
JS: At your introductory news conference you mentioned your desire to establish a defensive identity for this team. You've now seen a lot of tape, so what are some of those habits you want to change?
DC: I've seen them all. I know them all. I see them in my dreams. So I know exactly the approach we're going to take. We're going to have a strong defensive approach. With our first couple of days of camp, even with an abbreviated camp, it's going to be attention to detail on the defensive end and guys probably won't even touch the ball or think about offence. It's going to be a grind-it-out type of camp but with that said, I don't want to lose the sharpness and some of the positives we had on the offensive end. We can't lose sight of that and we've got to take advantage of a great offensive player like Andrea Bargnani, Leandro Barbosa or DeMar DeRozan. We've got to take advantage of those strengths that those guys have and again, start it out by attacking on the defensive end.
Like I told most of the players before the lockout, when you're 30th in anything, that's not good. That's our challenge, that's our goal and that's what we're going to do. It's not our goal, it's going to be our mission, that's the word I want to use because a goal is something you hope to attain. We're going to get better defensively but again, we don't want to lose that edge that we do have on the offensive end.
JS: You've mentioned a desire to strip it down to the basics on defence. How challenging will that be with a late start and short camp?
DC: That's the challenge with the shortened camp because normally you'd spend a longer period of time on your weaknesses. But in this situation, where it's probably going to be a three-day, maybe four-day camp -- I'm assuming just going on what happened in '98 -- how much can we do it without killing our offensive approach? But believe me, we're going to do something defensively every day. We can't afford not to. It makes things complicated but it doesn't make things impossible. Whether it's shootaround or practice, there will be a defensive emphasis that we will accomplish that day.
We want to build a foundation. If you screw up on the foundation when you're building a house, any storm or any little trouble and the house is going to fall down when you first walk in. So we want to make sure that even though things may be rocky offensively early, we've got our foundation set, which is going to be our defence.
JS: Switching to offence for a minute, you’ve said you want a “free-flowing” offence this season. Can you expand on that?
DC: The NBA now is so sophisticated and so well scouted that I've found -- and the only way I can describe it is where I was previously in Dallas -- that it's much easier to score when you have different weapons and things are random, but there's a method to the madness.
Random pick-and-rolls and random pass-and-cut. It’s about ball movement more so than coming up and calling a set play every time down the floor. Now will we have set plays? Yes. But when we don't have anything, when we push the ball down the floor, we want to flow into our random play. It makes it more difficult for defensive teams to get set, to set on your play, to sit in our offensive players' laps and play their tendencies. But all at once something happens that's random that hasn't been scouted, but that’s within our system. We're going to be organized with it, but it can't be scouted because it’s in the flow of play. Maybe it’s pick-and-rolls, maybe it’s pin downs, but it will be something with the ball going side-to-side with ball movement.
JS: This team has some roster spots open. Have you and Bryan Colangelo discussed what type of personnel you need in order to see your system work properly?
DC: That's what we've been doing. Evaluating the roster, free agents that we're looking at and possible trade scenarios. We've been proactive as far as looking at those situations and trying to evaluate what our needs are. I don't want to go into specific names, but there's some interesting names that we're looking at and that's one thing about Bryan and his track record, anything he can do to help the team get better, he's willing to do and the organization's willing to do.
JS: OK, so no specific names, but what would you like to add to this roster right now? A centre and a veteran presence seem like obvious needs.
DC: I would say those two things. Leadership and rim protection is huge. Veteran leadership that's going to set the tone defensively and in the locker room. That player will bring a degree of professionalism, because again, we're a young team. The one thing I want to do is change the culture to a defensive mentality and that's uncomfortable sometimes, so we probably will need a veteran to come in and help change that culture to that defensive mentality. You do need that leadership, but we need someone who still can play. You don't want someone to come in and just be a veteran. We want someone to contribute on the court and in the locker room and give us that type of presence within our organization.
JS: You mentioned traveling to Lithuania this summer to check out some of your new players at EuroBasket. One of those was first-round pick Jonas Valanciunas. What did you see that you liked and what does he need to work on in the year ahead?
DC: Jonas has had a whirlwind summer and he's just 19. He played in the 19-and-under tournament and they won that. Then he goes right to the Senior National Team at EuroBasket, they finish -- in their minds -- a disappointing fifth in their home country. So that was disappointing for the program and for him because he had played well with them. Then he turns around and has to play for his professional team in Vilnius and then they don't make the EuroLeague, they make the EuroCup. He's had to compete in three pressure situations right in his own country with the spotlight being bright on him, which is a good thing. It helps him grow up a little bit.
But he does so many positive things. He plays hard, he has a quick motor in terms of rolling to the basket and running the floor defensively. He definitely had an offensive presence that I was really impressed with. Now our key as a coaching staff is translating that from a European league to the NBA game, which is going to take time and we've got to be patient with him. But I'm really impressed with his skill level, what he brings to the table as far as hard play, running the floor, blocking shots and just his energy level.
He's not a typical big man that's a plodder, he's athletic for his size, which is going to help him transition to the NBA a lot quicker.
JS: Jonas' club team Lietuvos Rytas is coached by Alexander Dzikic, one of your former assistants in Minnesota. What's the level of communication going to be like between the two of you?
DC: I plan on saying staying in touch with Alex. They're using the same terminology and some of the same offensive sets that we used and are going to use here, so that's going to help. Alex is going to help him with his English and try to get Jonas ready and let him know what NBA culture is about, so that will help the transition be a little bit quicker. He’ll tell him some of the things he can or can't do and just prepare him for being in an NBA setting. That's a big plus for us to have him there as his coach. He's got a job to do, which is try to win for his team, but on the other hand he's going to try to help Jonas as much as he possibly can.