Clemson basketball head coach Oliver Purnell was a recent guest on SportsTalk with Dan Scott to discuss the start of basketball season. SportsTalk can be heard from 9 a.m.-12, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9 in upstate South Carolina.
Listen to the full interview here: Windows Media
DAN SCOTT: Coach Oliver Purnell is with us and, Coach, thanks for joining us on such short notice. Coach, how're you doing?
COACH PURNELL: Very well. And you?
DAN SCOTT: I'm probably not as exhausted as you guys were after that 3 day run up in Norfolk.
COACH PURNELL: I'm trying to recover and I didn't play! (laughter). It was quite a challenging experience for our guys, particularly being the opening game of the season to be well-conditioned enough to go 3 straight nights and try to play at a high level, and I thought we did for the most part, first game against Arkansas State, we kind of came out of the gates and took care of business right away, we certainly were not picture perfect, but we played extremely hard and we guarded and were up 17 at the half and we came out in the first 4 minutes of the second half and pretty much took control, winning handily by 35 points or something like that, and then the next night, I thought we started a little bit sluggish. I think that was a product of obviously not playing back-to-back games before and Monmouth came out I thought highly motivated and we faced a terrific match-up zone, maybe the best I've ever faced and they play a Princeton offense, so that was a great experience for our guys to go against those 2 difficult situations on both sides of the ball and with 8 minutes to go, it was probably a 1 point ballgame and we took control from there and ended up winning by 12 or 14, and then the next night, obviously, we had to face the "home team" Old Dominion, the team that went to the Final 4 of the NIT last year, a very good basketball team on it's home court, they've been gearing up for this, playing Clemson in the ACC and that kind of thing and to come back on that 3rd afternoon now and play a hard-fought ballgame, we got out of the gates great, and led by 9 at the half and led by as many as 14 in the second half, before they made a comeback that was a bit fueled by us getting a little careless with the basketball, but good to see us really hanging on and make enough break free-throws at the end to win at the end, and so it was a good experience for us in terms of what we had to face, and obviously, any time you win in those situations, it makes it that much better.
DAN SCOTT: I know you said last week beforehand that because you'd already been back to Old Dominion once as an opposing coach that perhaps this time wouldn't be as emotional, but when you played the home-team on that 3rd day, what was that like for you?
COACH PURNELL: It was pretty much the way I thought, you know it wasn't nearly as emotional. Not only had I been back there in the past, but, you know we had 2 other games this weekend in front of many of those people because we had 2 other each day, and by the 3rd day, it was all about winning the championship and beating Old Dominion and trying to go 3-0 and just trying to survive that tournament physically. So, it was kind of business as usual.
DAN SCOTT: I liked what you said afterwards, when it was all said and done, as well as kind of going and planting that seed for down the road in the mind of your kids, that come tournament time, be it ACC, or perhaps or NCAA or whatever, you're going to have to get into a situation where you're going to have to play on multiple days, and this was a good early season experience going through that.
COACH PURNELL: Oh, I think so. Two things, I think it gets you ready for the ACC tournament, but it also gets you ready for the big ACC challenge and I think that we've got to go to Minnesota and play on their home court in an event that's not a home game and playing Old Dominion was similar to that so I think it really helps our club as you mentioned, from a mind-set point of view, having been successful in this type of setting and that type of environment.
DAN SCOTT: It sounded like, from what I was able to hear listening to the broadcast of the 3 games, Oliver, that whenever you needed in that tournament a spark offensively, it was your defense that got you into that mode that turned up the heat and were able to get some turnovers and get the offense rolling that way. Is that accurate?
COACH PURNELL: Yeah, I believe that was definitely accurate and it was really strange on Sunday playing against Old Dominion, you know, we only turned them over 7 times, but you're exactly right, those 7 times were critical, at least 3 or 4 of those were off the full court pressure where they turned in the basket and took maybe a 5 to 7 point lead up to 11 or 12 and now gives you some semblance of control and they were big spurts for us just in terms of the position they put us in the game, you know, put us up and in control and that kind of thing, so our defense defiantly sparked us.
DAN SCOTT: As you come out of that now and start focusing on this week, did you get everything out of those 3 games that you hoped you would? We saw the debut obviously of Trevor Booker and David Potter and your other young guys. Did you get what you wanted out of those 3 days?
COACH PURNELL: Well, yeah, we did. We would have liked to have played the younger guys a little bit more, maybe in the second game, because we did go some major minutes in that second game, because it was such a tough affair. I would say that's probably the only thing we didn't get to do is play them more in the second game, but by and large, we did get what we wanted out of it, you know, obviously going 3-0 and now we come back home for our home opener and I'm very excited about playing in Littlejohn. I do expect a very big crowd in there on Wednesday night. We're going to need that because this is a game that in some ways is like a Furman Super Bowl. They're going to come ready and we've got to answer that, and this is a very experienced basketball team, they're starting 4 seniors and they had a pretty fair year last year, a pretty decent year, and you know what it's like to face a senior-laden ball club who takes care of it, handles it, and shoots it in.
DAN SCOTT: They've also got the X-factor of having a new coach and an entirely new system in there as well.
COACH PURNELL: Well, it's an exciting time for their program. A new coach, a new era, and playing Clemson in the ACC. All of those things add up to a very motivated opponent.
DAN SCOTT: As you get a chance to see, well let's focus a little bit on Trevor Booker, see him under the watch, he's in your starting lineup, we saw him on the exhibition game and what he was able to do for you there and it sounds like he just carried over. He seems to be a kid who steps into your lineup and you hear this all of the time but he seems to be an example of maybe a kid who's mature beyond his years?
COACH PURNELL: Well, he was terrific in those 3 games, there's no question about it, and I would say the way you characterized him was accurate. He did not seem to be awed by the situation, and when I say the situation, it's his first college game or 3 games in 3 days, or playing in hostile territory. He was just very solid and sound and physically was able to handle playing a lot of minutes, so he did a nice job.
DAN SCOTT: Let's go back to Furman now. You talked about them being a senior-laden basketball team, from an offense/defensive standpoint, what do you expect them to do?
COACH PURNELL: They will play a lot of man-to-man, it's not a real pressure man-to-man, they give help and kind of wall you off, so they're going to make you shoot over the top and kind of look to block you out. I've seen some 2-3 zones. Offensively, they will run, but mostly going to look to execute in the half court, you know, against our man-to-man. They do like to run a lot of back doors, ala the Princeton offense and those kinds of things, and they've got the guys who are smart enough and good enough passers to make that work.
DAN SCOTT: I know you don't like to look ahead, but, you've got Furman on Wednesday and then you've got APP State coming on Friday, that's going to be 5 games within the space of the first week, that's a lot of basketball early on.
COACH PURNELL: Well, and I will only look ahead for the reason that you've mentioned, we've got to keep that in mind from a coaching standpoint, that it is a lot of games in a short period of time, and hopefully, we can go 9 or 10 or 11 deep and get some other guys involved here, because fatigue could be a factor.
DAN SCOTT: We appreciate you joining us here on short notice. Congratulations on the quick start. I know that was a tournament with some good basketball teams in it. Monmouth, a second round NCAA tournament team last year? Old Dominion a Final 4 team in the NIT, so a good challenge and so it's nice to see your team getting off to a good start.
COACH PURNELL: Thank you very much and you're definitely right, we started well, and now it's up to us to try and get better.
DAN SCOTT: We'll see you Wednesday night. That was Head Coach Oliver Purnell joining us. That's Wednesday night against Furman and Friday night against Appalachian State, so a lot of basketball here in the early going for Clemson.