Q&A with Clemson Head Basketball coach Larry Shyatt
(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.