Q. Your Sixers team this season was called for a lot of fouls (second-highest opponent free-throw attempt rate). You mentioned in the news conference that you want your team to be physical, so does that mean you live with the fouls?
A. I love it. I love it. There are some things that you are going to have to give up to be a No. 1, No. 2 team in field-goal-percentage defense. There is a sense of urgency on your closeouts where you are just taking people off the 3-point line. There’s a sense of urgency of coming over to protect the rim. We were big in our “N.F.L.” And it was a no-layup mentality. You can figure out what the “F” meant. That mentality, that approach defensively, if at all costs it means they aren’t going to be shooting a layup and they’ll be shooting free throws? We’ll live with it. What we didn’t want are easy opportunities at the rim, or because we were late on closeouts and we didn’t feel like we can corral and take away space. So the mentality of how we wanted to play, the physicality of how we want to play, we live with (the fouls). Here’s the flip side. We go into the playoffs this year and we did talk about talking about defending without fouling. (But) we went into a series wanting to foul even more. We want to be even more physical because we understand this is the playoffs and the referees understand this is the playoffs. They are going to let you get away with a little bit more. They don’t want to disrupt the game. So we didn’t mind being more physical, grabbing and holding a little bit more. We wanted to get underneath the guys, we wanted to be physical, we wanted to be in their bodies. We were encouraging the guys not to foul, but to play more physical, and if that were the consequences, so be it.
Q. Do you see any pieces here with the Hawks that will allow you to play defense the way you did in Philadelphia?
A. They are NBA players. They are competitors. They are athletes. It’s a mind game. It’s preparation, the education of the NBA. How do you take away strengths and impose your will to force weaknesses when you are playing your opponent? All of these guys have the ability. And that’s why I speak so much on the defensive end. All of these guys have the ability to do that. I can’t guarantee that we are going to make 20 3’s every night. I can’t guarantee that everybody is going to be a 60 percent 3-point shooter. I can guarantee you that we can put forth the effort on the defensive end and bring the mentality to compete on the defensive end.
Q. Offensively I assume you want to avoid doing the things that you want to force opponents to do, like take mid-range shots and finish over length?
A. There’s a misconception and everyone is down on the mid-range shot. On every possession you are looking for the best available shot. You prefer high efficiency, and that’s where the 3-point line is taking over. You prefer guys that can get to the rim and finish. You prefer scoring early in the clock before the defense gets set. But there is going to be times when you are going to have to take mid-range shots, and you are going to have to take shots that are available because they are open. You want to encourage your guys to make basketball decisions and not analytical decisions all the time. I think it’s an understanding of trying to balance the two and understand the goal when you are on that end. We want good to great. We want great to greater. When we get in the paint, we want to make right decisions. Sometimes we talk about paint to great. We want to avoid finishing in a crowd. All of those decisions, those reads you have to make on the court, we want to educate our guys. We are not throwing up shots just because it’s the shots it’s available. We have teammates. It’s about “we.” It’s a “we” mentality. It’s us scoring. We want to find the best opportunities and that’s every possession.
Q. Player development is a big part of your background. I know it’s a broad question but what does “player development” mean to you?
A. I think you start by identifying who that player is. And then the flip side is you identify what’s high-efficient basketball from an offensive standpoint, and how do you impact the game from a defensive standpoint. And so as you are trying to put this puzzle together, the development is: How do you best help that player and how does that player best fit into your team, and your scheme, and your situation? Through the course of the summer we will spend some time with the staff and we will look at strengths and weaknesses. How do we avoid someone that is shooting below average from certain parts of the floor from taking that shot, and who is shooting above average from other parts of the floor and encourage him to focus and spend more time there? But it’s a big puzzle. Not everyone is the same. Everybody has a different strength, a different weakness. We want to highlight those strengths and encourage them to get better and continue to work on areas of growth. It may not be that we want you shooting step-back jumpers all the time but that’s part of the game. You want to be as diverse as skilled as you can. I understand that. But player development is just how do you get better, how do you find a niche, how do you find a role, how do you accept that role and enhance that role.
Q. You’ve been in the NBA awhile so you’ve been involved in the draft process. But now that you are the head coach, you will have more of a voice and input into those evaluations. Have you given much thought what that will be like for you?
A. I think the biggest thought is it’s an opportunity for (GM Travis Schlenk) and I to start working together. That’s his area. That’s the area he gets to focus on. I get to focus on the court and he gets to focus a lot more on building the roster. The bottom line in both areas we are going to communicate and it is going to be constant and consistent. I look forward to it. I look forward to seeing how he evaluates guys and what he looks for and me being able to share my input.