Thursday, March 27, 2008

From Madison, Wisconsin: The Capital Times

From coaches on down, Badgers, Davidson mirror each other
Rob Schultz — 3/26/2008 6:14 am

It must be an East Coast thing.

Ask Bo Ryan a question about Chester, Pa., and 30 minutes later he'll finish an answer full of colorful soliloquies about growing up in the blue-collar Philadelphia suburb. You get the same thing from Bob McKillop, but his answers are about growing up in New York City.

For instance, take a look at comments made Tuesday by McKillop, the coach of 10th-seeded Davidson (28-6) that will play Ryan's third-seeded University of Wisconsin men's basketball team (31-4) in a NCAA tournament Midwest Regional Sweet 16 game Friday night. You'll swear Ryan said them.

"I'm a park guy. I grew up in the parks and the playgrounds. And when you go to the park and you go to the playground, if you don't win, you have to get off the court and sit for 30 minutes or an hour or an hour-and-a-half," said McKillop, who has been at Davidson for 19 years and is the program's winningest coach. "So you develop this mentality that you want to stay on the court. It's a stay-on mentality. You go to the parks where the action is."

It's no surprise that the two former playground rats have similar vocabularies, not to mention winning resumes as coaches.

Ryan's favorite word has always been "next." It was a part of his life on the Philly playgrounds -- Who's next? Or what team is next? -- and remains a part of his life as the UW coach. McKillop's favorite words are "Where is the action?" They came from the New York playgrounds and remain a part of his life.

"Action was a simple term to indicate where the great players were, where the best games were, where the best players were," McKillop explained. "You could go to a park -- be it Riis Park, or Rockaway Park or Prospect Park or whatever park you could go to, and maybe 2-3 courts, you would go to the court and stay where the great action was. And if you lost, you didn't go to the other court and start playing a pickup game at the other court. That was sort of like sacrilegious. You went where the action was.

"I think our program has tried to do that. We have gone where the action is. And we have tried to develop a 'stay on' mentality," said McKillop, who added that is why Davidson scheduled games with UCLA, Duke, North Carolina and Gonzaga this season.

"I think that's been so beneficial for us as we've gotten to this step in our process," he said. "With that, the roots I had growing up in New York were some of the greatest roots any kid could have. Can you imagine us growing up in the '50s in New York with the Giants and Yankees and Dodgers? My goodness, gracious. Snider, Mantle, Mays? Ain't no better time in a childhood than to have that."

Give Ryan a moment and it's a good bet he'll better it with tales of the Eagles, Phillies and Sixers.

Sharing the prize

It shouldn't surprise anyone that Ryan and McKillop share similar coaching strategies, too. Both stress teamwork and keep in touch with all the athletes of past teams who won the same old-fashioned way.

They've also won with extraordinary athletes.

Ryan's Wisconsin team won 30 games last year with first-team All-American Alando Tucker, who is now part of the Phoenix Suns organization. Davidson is winning this year with sophomore guard Stephen Curry, the Southern Conference player of the year and second-team All-American who scored 70 points in the Wildcats' two NCAA tournament wins last weekend. Both fit in because they are team players.

"Steph Curry is a magnificent basketball player and deserving of all the accolades that have come his way. And he has handled it as humbly, and with the great poise, of a true champion. But Steph understands, and our team understands, that basketball is a team game," McKillop said.

"If we wanted to be individuals, we'd go play golf or tennis. We understand that five people together make it a team operation. And when five people are working to do their job, someone is going to be rewarded. And our players are willing to understand that Steph is getting a lot of the rewards, but in the process of Steph getting a lot of rewards, the banner that's going to hang in the rafters of being an NCAA tournament team is a banner that's owned by every guy on the team."

More mirrors

The teams are also similar statistically, which McKillop pointed out as he expressed his views on what it will take for his team to upset the Badgers Friday night.

"We have to be able to score. We have to be able to rebound. And we have to be able to defend. And I don't think it's any magic; we're not reinventing the wheel here. They've only lost four times this year, so there's no recipe out there that I can look to and say, 'Geez, these are ingredients for beating Wisconsin,' " he said.

"They're an outstanding defensive team; the numbers clearly demonstrate that. They are a superb rebounding team, they shoot a very good percentage. Their foul shooting is superb. And you look at their assist-to-turnover ratio."

McKillop concluded that the Wildcats, to a degree, mirror the Badgers.

"We shoot fouls very well; our field-goal percentage defense may not be at their level but our rebounding percentages are very similar to theirs and our assist-to-turnover percentage is very similar to theirs," he said. "But we've done it against Southern Conference opponents; they've done it against Big Ten opponents."

No comments: