Saturday, May 05, 2001

Matta starts settling in

Q & A with Matta

        The Thad Matta era at Xavier started Friday at square one. Still putting faces to names, he began holding individual meetings with players he first had seen less than a day earlier. This was no time to discuss intricacies of game plans. Matta merely wanted to start by knowing them as people.

        He took time out to discuss his thoughts and goals with the Enquirer's Neil Schmidt:

        Question: How has Day1 been?

        Answer: It's going well. What I'm trying to do is meet with each guy and start building the relationship process. I want to get a feel for what makes them tick, what motivates them, what they want to do in life.

        Q: You told the players Thursday they should be thinking about a Sweet 16 run next season. What are your goals for the season?

        A: I don't know today. I haven't had time to meet all the players yet. And I haven't had time to watch tape on everyone yet. I have to wait on that.

        Q: What is your vision for the program?

        A: To continue on with the success this basketball program has had. To continue to recruit great players that fit into the mission of Xavier University. And hopefully to continue to take (the program) even further.

        Q: Should Xavier be an NCAA Tournament team every year?

        A: I think Xavier is a program that can get to where you're challenging for the tournament every year. So many things come into play at any moment: guys leaving for the NBA, injuries, lots of factors. One of the hardest things to find in college basketball is consistency, and that's what we want. We want to try to be the best program we're capable of.

        Q: What have you perceived to be the fans' expectations?

        A: I really don't have a sense of that yet. One sense I've gotten is for us continuing to put a team on the floor that competes every night, that plays with great passion and pride. The sign of a good program is when the fans care whether you're winning or not.

        A lot of things go into having a great season. Look at some of the teams this year that had injuries and tailed off. All I can say is I'm looking for consistent effort from our guys.

        Q: Xavier has never had a McDonald's All-American recruit. Will you target that upper-echelon type of player, or will you concede the biggest names to top-10 schools and focus on the next tier of talent?

        A: We have to recruit the best players that we can fit into the mold of Xavier University. I think it takes a special type of person that understands what Xavier's all about.

        To be the best team we can be, we have to recruit the best players. As far as McDonald's All-Americans, Top 25 players — with all the parity in college basketball, there's not a lot of difference from (No.)10 to 110 in ability. I also think that with the system we have in place, we have to recruit to the system.

        I've never been a guy consumed with what other people think (of a recruit). We know what we need, and we'll find players based on those needs.

        Q: What's your philosophy on scheduling?

        A: To be the best, you've got to play the best, so we'd love to play anyone home and home. But scheduling is one of the most difficult things to do in college basketball today. At Xavier, we could probably go most places and play on the road. But a lot of teams aren't willing to come play us at Cintas Center. It's not as easy as someone might think to get a Top 25 team in here.

        Q: Recent Xavier teams favored six- and seven-player rotations. You had eight players averaging 10 or more minutes a game this winter at Butler. What do you prefer?

        A: The way that I want to play, we're going to need a lot of guys. I don't know the magic number. But it's like anything else in life: When you're fresh, you're able to perform a little bit better.

        I hope guys are in great shape and able to play long periods of time if we need them to. So much will be determined in October and November (in practice).


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