BYU coach Chris McGown is keeping his team from panicking about its 0-2 start to the season
Instead, McGown said in an interview with Off the Block on Wednesday that he has worked to keep those two non-conference losses in perspective as the Cougars prepare to open the MPSF season this weekend.
Check out Off the Block’s interview with McGown as the coach discusses how his team is recovering from road losses to No. 2 Loyola and No. 9 Lewis last week, the improvement of All-American outside attacker Taylor Sander and potential starting lineup changes.
Off the Block: Coach, you open your conference season this weekend against Cal State Northridge on Friday and No. 1 Long Beach State on Saturday. What’s your thoughts on not only those matches but the MPSF in general this season?
Chris McGown: It’s remarkable how close [the MPSF] is going to be. There are a lot of teams that have come up from where they where last year, and I think it’s going to be a dogfight the entire time. Our approach to open the conference season is just knowing every match is going to count. We need to prepare well and play hard and invest emotionally in every single match.
OTB: A little bit of a unique situation for your team that they haven’t experience since you’ve been the head coach and that’s having a losing streak. How has your team reacted this week and in practice after losing two road matches to two good quality teams?
CM: We are trying to keep it in perspective. I think what it tells us is that we are not as prepared right now as we were last year. That’s not to say we can’t be a good team. Certainly I think a number of guys have to get a lot better. It’s certainly within their capabilities of doing so. We got to answer a few questions about personnel and how we are to play a little bit too. Those matches were good in that it let us rule-out a few things. They didn’t necessarily solve some issues for us, but they got us closer to the right answer. It’s hard for us to go on the road, and play as you pointed out against two really good quality teams. … It was a tough road trip. The weather was crazy cold and snowy. The transfers between the hotels and the playing sites were long. It made us uncomfortable, which isn’t something I’m not unhappy about. We are not shying away from that. We need to be put in environments where we are uncomfortable, and we need to focus on the task on hand and playing great. It forced us to do that.
OTB: And just to ask you about one personnel decision you don’t have to worry about at all this season is Taylor Sander. How much better has Sander gotten since we last really him at the NCAA Tournament in May?
CM: He’s improved. It’s subtle the improvements that he’s made. He is already playing at a really high level. More than anything the things we are asking him to get better at aren’t necessarily mechanical or tactical, although there is a fair share of those as well. More than anything we are asking to get better at the kind of soft skills of leadership, of opportunity and of body language. Just doing things that make the players on the court around him better every day, both in competition and in practice. It’s one thing for him to go be great, but it’s another thing for him to be inspirational to his teammates and elevate the play of everyone on the floor with him. … He’s worked a lot on that, and I think he understands it. He wants to be really good in that area, and he’s trying and working hard.
OTB: Coach, to ask you about the other side of the court and your opposite position. Tim Dobbert went down with an injury in your exhibition matches two weeks ago. Is he going to be able to play this weekend or is he still rehabbing?
CM: He’s still rehabbing. I don’t anticipate we’ll see him this weekend.
OTB: Have you settled on a starting opposite and starting lineup for the upcoming weekend or is that something that still has to play out this week in practice?
CM: The position is up for grabs. We’re competing for that spot in practice. I’ll be honest, there hasn’t been a front-runner for that spot. We’ve played three or four different players in that position and all of them bring some positives to the position and some liabilities to the position. It’s an ongoing competition.
OTB: Coach, you are opening the conference season at home this weekend. Can you talk a little bit about the home-court advantage it is to play at Smith Fieldhouse with your thousands of fans in attendance?
CM: It’s the most dreaded road trip for teams in the MPSF to go to BYU. … We have the best home-court in the country, and I truly believe that. The chance for us to play a few matches at home is going to be big for us.