Q and A with Tommy Dempsey
Q: Give us one interesting non-basketball thing you did over the summer.
A: My life is pretty boring. As I try to answer this question I’m realizing that. My son played travel baseball with an eight-year old travel team in Langhorne and that was a lot of fun. I followed him around. Sometimes that’s fun to watch from a different perspective. I stay out of it. I never get involved at all with the coaches or anything. I just kind of go there, bring my chair and sit there and watch. I have a lot of fun watching him and then he got right into football in August, so while things were kind of slow here I tried to get to football practice every night. Other than that it was recruiting, our kids are here in the summer, so you never really get far removed from the job here. But I don’t think anything other than that. Just trying to spend as much time with my family as possible in anticipation that once September starts your time becomes less and less at home.
Q. Little Tommy will be on the bench again this year?
A. Absolutely. It’s great for him and the players are great with him. He’s really into it, so he’s probably as excited as I am.
Q. Which summer camp, showcase or tournament is most beneficial from a recruiting standpoint?
A. The tournaments in Las Vegas and Orlando are where you get to see the most kids at once because all the other tournaments have other tournaments going on at the same time, so some of your kids are at one place, some of them are at another, and you have to make a lot of staff decisions about who goes to see which kid where, whereas in Vegas and Orlando, when those tournaments are going on, they’re pretty much the tournaments. Most of your recruits are playing in one of those two tournaments.
Q. Speaking of your staff, you picked up a new assistant who only had to travel the length of his street to get here.
A. I got to know Todd over the last six years that I’ve been here and just through our team camps and being a local high school coach. I had a good relationship with him for the past few years. We’ve actually talked about him joining my staff before when the whole transition happened. I think he really had a desire to get into college coaching. He was looking for an opportunity to do that and when it presented itself this time he decided to make the jump to the college game and to give up his head coaching responsibilities at Notre Dame, which I know was probably tough for him, but ultimately he wants to be a college basketball coach, a head basketball coach, so this was a natural step for him.
Q. Can you tell us what it’s like to have one of your players selected with the No. 12 overall pick in the NBA draft?
A. It was overwhelming, to be honest. It was one of the more special experiences that I’ve had not only in coaching, but in life. To watch a kid that you care that much about and a family that you’re so close to have all of his dreams come true in almost one night. That was something that it’s hard to describe to somebody, the feeling of pride that I felt for him and to watch his hard work rewarded it was a great experience going through the whole draft process; very nerve racking, so there was a lot of stress leading up to the night of June 26, and to hear him picked 12th, it was just the end of a long journey.
Q. How is he doing out in Sacramento?
A. He’s getting adjusted. They start training camp (tomorrow). He’s a little nervous about that and excited about it at the same time and just really believes that he has a chance to make an impact early on.
Q. What are your expectations this year for Ryan Thompson?
A. I think this is going to be a good adjustment for Ryan, but I think he’s one of the best players in the league and I think the other coaches in the league would say the same thing. But it will be a little bit different out there, but he went through the same process in high school, when he was a smaller part of it, especially in high school because Jason was a little bit older, and then when Jason moved on to Rider, he became a much bigger part of it and he handled that very well in high school. He went on and had a couple of big seasons after Jason left, and I expect the same thing here.
Q. Is there one guy on your team who you think is going to make a big jump this year?
A. I think one of the keys to this year’s team will be the play of our point guards. Both Justin and Matt had a lot thrown at them last year to play big minutes as freshmen at the point guard position on a championship caliber team. That’s a rare combination because it’s like having a freshman quarterback in football. Normally those teams aren’t ready to be great if your point guard is really young or your quarterback is really young, and they were the quarterbacks of our team and they had a lot to balance there, knowing that Jason needed his touches and Harris needed his shots and Ryan needed the ball. They sacrificed a lot of themselves for the betterment of the team and now I think as they go to their sophomore year, Justin is going to need to score a little bit more and he’ll have much more of a role this year. I think that’s something he’s looking forward to.
Q. What can you tell us about your freshmen?
A. I love what I’ve seen so far. The keys to these guys will be how ready are they to help us win? How ready are they to defend or to go get a big rebound? Those little intangible things that help you win that the older guys do. But their talent level is great, their work ethic has been very good thus far and their futures are very bright. How ready they are to help us win as freshmen will be a big determining factor to see how ready we are to win as a team.
Q. They’re all between 6-6 and 6-8. It seems, at least at face value, that they’re relatively similar players. Are there a few things that maybe Jermaine does different than Novar or Brandon does different from Jermaine?
A. I think Jermaine is a little more comfortable around the basket right now. He has the ability to step out and shoot but I think early in his career he’ll score most of his baskets inside from 15 feet and in. I think Brandon is more of a jump shooter even though he’s 6-7. He’s really a very good jump shooter and a very good 3-point shooter. Novar is kind of a combination of the two. Novar is a good perimeter jump shooter but he’s also very comfortable attacking the basket and scoring inside and out. He’s probably at this point the most versatile of the three. They all bring something a little bit different, but the one thing that they all bring is energetic, athletic bodies. They all have a great upside and a chance to be really good players.
Q. Last one: you have a couple of weeks until Midnight Madness and then almost a month after that until your opener. Do you have a clock somewhere counting down to when the season finally starts?
A. I think about it every day. I thought about the Saint Joe’s game for months now. I think part of you is anxious to get to that point. The other part of you is smart enough to know how much work lies between today and Nov. 14. You can’t wait to get to the season as a player or a coach. You can’t wait to get to the games. That’s really what drives you and that’s the most fun. The game day preparation, the pregame preparation, the game, that’s what we’re all in this for. But the amount of work that goes into being able to put a successful team on the court between now and then is the part that’s even more important. The game day is when it gets fun.