Posted: Friday December 1, 2006 12:23AM; Updated: Friday December 1, 2006 3:21PM
On how the Blazers earned that negative reputation:
"First you look at some of the things that the players did on and off the court, in their vehicles -- it was a lot. And then the image, the perception of those guys was important. I talked to Zach about what he does on the floor. He used to like to throw his wristbands, but that sends a bad message. So don't do that, and don't toss the ball in the air. That's bringing attention that you don't want.
"But there's no guarantee. Every day you work on teaching those guys, but you just don't know. All of our parents raised us to be good citizens, to work hard and do the right thing, but [some become] bank robbers, they're murderers, there are a lot of people out there who do a lot of bad things. Some of that you can't control. You try to prevent it by meeting, talking, counseling -- `You're doing well, keep working; I know you're trying hard, keep working.' ''
On reestablishing Portland as a popular home for players:
"Most of the guys who do well in Portland are married guys, family-oriented guys. It's more about us bringing the right guy to Portland, as opposed to getting guys to fit Portland. There's not a lot of nightlife, not a lot of things for black players to do in Portland. Most of them are not outdoorsmen or into fishing, they're just not.
"It's about us getting guys to fit Portland, and that's what we did. [Brandon] Roy is a Northwest guy, Martell [Webster] is a Northwest guy. LaMarcus [Aldridge] is a guy who will fit into any environment because he's about hard work. It's important that the players want to be there. If they don't want to be there, it's going to be difficult for them to perform.''
On realizing the depth of Portland's negative reputation:
"This summer I was with the national team and hearing comments from people during that time, it was embarrassing. It was really a difficult time and sometimes I had to bite my tongue. I won't say with who or from who, but remarks were made and I took it personal. You hear it but you don't respond to it. It just motivated me to come back and get it right.
"Even though I played against Portland and I knew they were going through some tough times, I didn't look at them like people looked at them. I think if I did, I probably wouldn't have come down [to coach the Blazers]. This summer really opened my eyes to the fact that there are people who think nothing about us. We don't even exist to some of these people.''
On raising the standards for his players:
"Be proud of who you are and who you play for, because we're not that team from the past. You walk out there with a swagger. We talk about that not only in practice but in the games: Don't approach the game like you're a young team and you're not supposed to win.''
On making the team younger last summer:
"No, I didn't want to get younger. This organization was committed to redoing this with youth; I didn't want to get younger. I thought we needed to add some [older] players to what we had. But [team president] Steve Patterson and [director of player personnel] Kevin Pritchard and [owner] Mr. [Paul] Allen had a plan, and they made those decisions. And they were great calls. OK, we are younger, but I like it. This is what I have to work with and I like it, and now I'll make this adjustment and I'll work with this.
"But most coaches wouldn't have wanted to get younger, and I didn't.''
On recruiting the right veterans:
"Do you go out and get Jalen Rose? What would he do for us? Would Jalen really want to be here? It has to fit what we're trying to do out here. So it has to be very selective. We had a ton of veterans to call us wanting to come because they saw opportunity. We had a young backcourt, a young team, and they saw an opportunity to come get a paycheck and hang out for a year. But it wasn't about that. We're risking losing a lot of games, and of course that has an effect on my record, and most coaches when they get a new job they're looking at their winning percentage whereas mine is taking a hit -- not that it's OK.
"The thing is I'm committed to trying to get this right. I don't know if I'll see it out. Maybe we get close and my contract is up and then somebody else is there. But if I could see it out, I would love to be coach [Jerry] Sloan, I really would. He definitely is my all-time favorite coach as a man I played against, I coached against and respect. He hasn't won a title, but if I could do it the way he has done it with the perception of his club, his players, his team, how they play, how that organization is operated and run -- if that can be done, I'll take it. That's my goal.''
On realizing that his players in Seattle tired of his hard-edged approach:
"If you're yelling-yelling-yelling-yelling-yelling, and not encouraging, supporting and communicating, it will happen quick. I'm well aware of that, because I've had to be a little bit more firm with these guys. We lose three in a row and it becomes more of a let's-get-their-spirits-up approach, because everybody's heads are down here. The bottom line is to get them ready to perform tomorrow.''