Oct. 31, 2007
Men's basketball Head Coach Dave Dickerson
"I just want to thank you all for coming, especially with the city inundated with a lot of situations. First, I want to introduce the players, Dave Gomez who is in his senior year who is 83 points away from achieving the 1,000 point plateau. Dave returns to us being our leading scorer and leading rebounder. Matt Wheaton, who is a senior, and we also have Kevin Sims, who is our returning starting point guard.
Also, I want to introduce the coaches. We have Andrew Novick who should be in here but is not. He has been with me since I have been here and we went through the whole Katrina deal and being displaced at Texas A&M. He has done a great job for us. We have two new coaches because we had to replace two of the coaches from last year. We replaced Benjy Taylor who is the head coach at Chicago State and William Small who went to Georgia State. So we have Dick Bender. He and I worked together for four years at Radford University, and he is coming from Indiana State, and he is a personal friend of mine. We also have Chris Hawkins who played for coach Bender at Radford for one year and then spent his last seven years at Buffalo. We also have Brent Hartman who is coming back for his second year. He is our graduate assistant/director of basketball operations/manager. So he does it all for us.
Before we talk about this year's team, we have to talk about last year's finish. We won our last eight out of 11 games, with our three losses coming at Houston and at Memphis twice - once during the regular season and once during the conference tournament. In the last two years, we have won the majority of our games in conference. We have won 17 of our games in conference in the last two years. Non-conference is where we haven't been successful. We have only won 12 games in non-conference. That is something that we have to figure out. In order to be a successful basketball team, you need to win non-conference games and we have realized that we have beefed up our schedule to reflect that. The fact that we are playing Auburn the first home game will be a stiff test for us and then we go on the road and play Charleston-Southern and then come back and play Nicholls State and UNO who will be a good team this year. They do have a lot of good players returning. We also take a road trip up in the North East where we play at Buffalo and at Syracuse that will be two challenging games for our team. Then after final exams we take a trip to Hawaii where we play in the Rainbow Classic with St. John's, Georgia, Ohio University. We kick off with St Mary's of California who is a good team. We also play LSU in the [New Orleans] Arena on January 2nd which will be a double header with the women's team, which will be a difficult game. I talked to Coach Brady a couple of times and even though he is not as talented as he has had in the last couple years, he really likes his team. When a coach likes his team that is a good sign. Our schedule will be challenging.
We have a few goals this year as a team, and one of them is to try and get to post-season play, but we understand that it has to be one step at a time. We have to try and be successful non-conference-wise if we want to have a chance at post-season play, we have to win some non-conference games. I hope we can do that.
This year's team returns four starters with Kevin Sims, Matt Wheaton, Dave Gomez, and Robinson Louisme. One our biggest challenge for this year is trying to find our fifth starter. I think those guys have played well enough to put themselves in position to be a starter for this upcoming season. Those four guys have done a great job and have great chemistry from last season and now we have to find a fifth starter. We will be looking at guys who will be returning also. Donnie Stith, who is returning for his senior season, Daniel Puckett who is returning for his junior year, and Asim McQueen - all seven of those guys played a lot of minutes last year. Our two major concerns will be to, like I said, to find a fifth starter and to concentrate on our perimeter scoring. As you know last year we lost Andrew Garcia, who was our backup point guard behind Kevin Sims and we have to find a replacement for Andrew Garcia. We have been looking at two guys, Kris Richard who is the incoming freshman and we are going to look at Jake Henderson who is an incoming freshman. Both of those guys can do as good a job as Andrew Garcia did for us last year. We have to find our fifth starter. We have Eric Vianney who had an unbelievable intrasquad scrimmage this past Saturday. He had 28 points and 9 rebounds. He really did a great job throughout the 40-45 minutes we played. We are also going to take a strong look at Eric, who is a transfer from Illinois State, who sat out last year. We are also going to look at Johnny Mayhane, who was a freshman, but was out with a knee injury so he redshirted. So both those guys will get a close look in the exhibition game tomorrow against Loyola (La.) and then our scrimmage against Southeastern (La.) on Sunday. We will take a look at what those guys can do and what they can bring to the table. You can also throw Kris Richard in that mix because we want to be able to play him at two to three positions and I hope we will be able to do that.
This is my third year at Tulane and this is definitely the offseason that we have had the least amount of distractions. Coming in as a first year basketball coach and having to deal with what we dealt with Katrina was a little overwhelming and last year we just had to deal with the after math of trying to get things back on track. But we did a good job at the end of the year. My whole makeup is not trying to rebuild a program or not coming into a program and knowing from the start you have to take your lumps. We want to try and be as successful as we possibly can in every game that we play. We have a chance this year with seven out of our top nine guys returning and to have some guys who have proven, who have played a lot of minutes, to where we can have a chance to win a lot of games and hopefully we can do that. It is all going to depend on how we get started this year and it is going to be tough. There are a lot of concerns that I have a as a head basketball coach with this team and there are some key positions that we have to replace. If all those things come together than we have a chance to be good. I am pleased to say we are excited about the year, we are nervous about the up and coming season but I don't know of any coach in the country that isn't nervous about their team, I just join the crowd.
On the routine of the off-season
It was very routine. This is what I envisioned of being a head basketball coach where you have a situation where you can concentrate on your team and concentrate on your crew and concentrate on trying to build a program. Ultimately, I feel like this is my first year here but it is not. I have gone through two years, but it has been a very routine off-season and it is something that I look forward to.
On the difficultly of the Katrina season
They were difficult. We started our semester on the Texas A&M campus and we played 8 of our first games on the road away from Fogelman Arena without our home crowd or familiarity with our campus and students and everything like that. So that was very difficult. Last year was just trying to get back to some normalcy and just feeling things out. This year is just having a chance to be around the guys a lot more and concentrating on things like just like trying to go day by day. This off-season we had a plan on how we were going to attack the off-season heading into the year and it went pretty smoothly.
On returning four starters
To return four starters, it feels really good. When I took the job, we had a lot of kids returning but due to Katrina we lost a lot of kids that were key to our program, due to injury and transfers that never played for me as a head coach here. Having the four starters that we have returned, you can depend on those guys to do certain things and help the younger guys out. The fact that the four starters are very talented helps out. We have Kevin who was on the all-freshman team and Dave who was all-conference, Matt who made some big plays for us last year and won two games for us in the last seconds, and then Robbie who played last year off of a redshirt who really that I thought at the end of the year was one of our better players. To have that kind of experience makes me very confident.
On the conference competition this year
Conference USA might be as competitive as it has ever been in three years since the split and with what we did last year. If we stay the same then we won't have success at all in conference because there are six or seven programs who have gotten better and they have stepped up to the plate and did some things for their programs that we still have to do. What we have to do is just find some positions in our program. We have to find our backup point guard which is important because I don't know anybody who can play 40 minutes each game all year long and be successful. So we have to find that and then we need to find our fifth starter which will be a challenge. Losing Chris Moore, who was a player that, even though he ended up having a great career for us, he was a player that I trusted dearly with everything that we did. He became a personal friend of mine. We have to replace those two key positions. In any team you have to have someone who can shoot the basketball and someone who can take the backup point guard. If we can successfully replace those two guys then I think we have a chance, then I think we have a chance to be good.
On the style of play his team will use this season
We are going to play our same style of basketball, where we are going to try and play as up tempo as possible. We are going to excited and try to score a lot of points. My first year we averaged 59 points in conference and last year averaged 72 which was second behind Memphis. We have made a big jump as far as that is concerned. Defensively we are one of the best teams in the conference also. What we are trying to do is solidify those two things to where it is a given that we can do those things and now use those two avenues to win non-conference games. The biggest thing we need is physical support and for them to come and support us and be fans and come to the games, most importantly our students. Any program that is successful has a good base with the students and that is one thing that we are trying to develop here. Not only for our program but for every program here. If we can get the top support then we have a chance to win home games. We have 16 home games this year and if we can win those 16 games just based on our home court advantage then that is half way there. With a few on the road then you have a chance to win about 20 games and go to post season play. All those things, I don't have a lot of disconnects. I think it's great to have four starters returning, but I also think it would be great to have fans in the stands to where we can really have something to feed off of.
On the competition in the conference this season
This is going to be a telling year. My first year in the conference, we got four teams in postseason play, two in NCAA and two in the NIT. And then last year, we only got one team in postseason play, and that was Memphis. They were the most deserving team from our conference. Our conference has great coaches on the men's side. We have Mike Davis, who took a team to the Final Four and was in the championship game, and Matt Doherty, who was the national coach of the year, along with Larry Eustachy and then you have John Calipari who is going to be in the Hall of Fame as a college basketball coach. All of those programs have improved, and they have a lot of players returning on each of those teams. So, I think we are very, very close to getting multiple teams into postseason play. This is an important year for us to go out and win some non-conference games so we can give our conference a chance.
On if the seniors believe they deserve to make the postseason this year
Well, we can look at how we finished the year off last year. We won eight out of 11 games and we thought that we needed to get to the conference finals to have a chance to get to the NIT, but in the second round of the tournament we had to play Memphis, who we haven't had much success with since I've been here. We have some momentum and we have have some motivation. Plus, Dave Gomez and Matt and Donnie - those guys have been here four years and they haven't played in postseason play. They've gone through a coaching change. They've gone through Katrina. They've gone through the aftermath of what has happened to our school and our city and our program. I mean, those guys deserve to have a chance to play in postseason play. If there is any group of guys in the country who should be hungry to get to postseason play, it should be those three."