Q&A with Clemson Head Basketball coach Larry Shyatt

by - Correspondent -

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Less than two weeks ago, following Clemson's 17-point loss to South Carolina, published reports quoted an unnamed high-ranking Clemson athletic department official as saying even a winning record and NIT berth might not be enough to save head coach Larry Shyatt's job. Since then the Tigers have won three straight ACC games for the first time since 1996-97 and have rekindled outside hopes of making the NCAA Tournament. Dan Scott recently talked to Shyatt about his team, his players and his job.)

DS: You should be used to this by now, but what was your take on the latest story about your job security that surfaced almost two weeks ago?

LS: They (media) have their own venue. There are certain things (the media) need to talk about, or need to write about, or need to talk with outsiders about. That's what makes this profession so tough, but it's also what makes it so exciting.

DS: Whenever it has happened, either now or in the past, you've always tried to keep such talk away from your players so they could focus strictly on basketball. And it seems to be working, because they've improved despite the rumors and innuendo.

LS: I think the most important thing to understand is that from start to finish these guys have played hard, they've tried to represent this institution as well as they can, and they've gotten better (as) young players. I mean, (point guard Edward Scott) is a senior leader, but he's out there with quite a few young people who really believe they're here for the right reasons. They're going to continue to go moving in the right direction.

DS: So you think they've handled it as well as possible?

LS: Probably the best test, when these guys were faced with adversity a month ago - how did they react, how did they stay focused. For all I know, maybe they don't listen to talk radio shows or maybe they don't read the papers. But if they do, mind you, their focus remained 100 percent intent on just simply playing hard and getting better.

DS: Personally, you've gotten pretty good at deflecting any talk of your future.

LS: I try.

DS: But at the same time, you're human. You know what's being written and said about you. You've been through this for three years now, as has your family. That being the case, can you at least admit that the three straight wins in conference were personally satisfying?

LS: They have been, and I've tried to say this as well as I could, unbelievably satisfying for me. I can promise you the Shyatt family is fine. Always has been. Really probably more together than we've ever been.

DS: You seem the least surprised of anybody that your team already has guaranteed itself a winning season, won more conference games than it did a year ago and has postseason dreams still alive. Is it almost like the final pieces of a master plan falling into place?

LS: I know when Boogie (McIntyre) and that crew left (1998-99) what we had faced in front of us. And I totally knew how we'd have to go about doing things because of the nature and talent of this conference at that time. Not three years earlier. Then these guys came in here - 10 wins, then 12 wins, 13 wins, now we're already at 15 (prior to Tuesday night's game at Maryland). As I said to them, they've earned a position and they've done it the hardest of hardest ways.

DS: It's obvious they've responded, and it appears the fans are beginning to notice.

LS: I couldn't have been more happy for them, and happy to see them play, in an 80-85 percent filled house on a Saturday at noon against a Florida State team some thought may be a pushover. That's the highest compliment you can give this group.

Other ACC Games this week

Wednesday, February 26

Duke at Ga. Tech, ESPN, 7 p.m.

Daniel Ewing came off the bench to score 18 points, 11 in the second half as Duke extended its home winning streak to 27 games in a row with a 79-68 victory over NC State ... Dahntay Jones has scored in double figures in 21 of 23 games this season and leads the team in scoring (16.9) ... in the last three games junior Chris Duhon has had 13 assists with only one turnover ... Duhon is tied for seventh on Duke's all-time steal list (203) ... the Blue Devils are 93-16 in ACC play since 1997 ... the Blue Devils moved up three positions and are seventh by the RPI Report with a schedule ranking of 20th ... Sophomore B.J. Elder (15.8) and freshman Chris Bosh (15.5) of Tech are both listed among the top 10 ACC scorers ... over his last seven games Jarrett Jack is averaging 14.6 points, 6.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game while shooting .528 from the floor (37-of-70) ... Marvin Lewis is shooting .469 from three-point range in ACC games (30-for-64) ... Ed Nelson is second on the team in rebounds (6.9) ... Bosh leads the ACC in field goal percentage (.557) and is bidding to join UNC's Antawn Jamison as only the second freshmen to lead the ACC in field goal percentage ... the Yellow Jackets' schedule is ranked 31st by the RPI Report.

Wake at FSU, RSN-TV, 9 p.m.

Wake Forest's Josh Howard has scored in double figures a league-high 18 straight games and leads the ACC in scoring (19.1) ... Howard has 12 games with 20 or more points and is averaging 22.2 points and 7.9 rebounds in 11 conference games ...Wake is 3-3 against ranked teams ... Vytas Danelius has three double-doubles this season and five for his career and is averaging 14.4 ppg in league games and 11.5 in non-ACC contests ... keyed by three players averaging 6.0-or-more rebounds per game, the Deacs lead the ACC in rebound margin (+10.0) ... Wake is ranked 12th in the RPI Report ... Over his last four games FSU senior center Trevor Harvey is averaging 13.5 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting .611 (22-36) ... five of FSU's 10 losses on the season have been by a total of 18 points, including two onepoint decisions ... the RPI Report lists the Seminoles' schedule as the 39th-toughest in the nation ... Tim Pickett has scored 20 or more points eight times this season and has 10 or more points in 21 of FSU's 24 games and leads the team in scoring (16.5) ... Anthony Richardson is averaging 13.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in 13 ACC games ... Todd Galloway has hit on .462 from 3-point range in ACC play.

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