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Q&A: Jay Bilas

Mike Monaco | Friday, February 8, 2013


Coming out here after you’ve been to some great places like Bloomington [Ind.], Butler, NC State, what’s different about Notre Dame?

Well we’ve been here before so we’re used to it and we get to see what Digger talks about all the time. We give Digger a hard time about how he feels about this place. But when you see it you know why he feels this way. It’s an extraordinary place and it’s more than just a university; it’s a community. And it’s a worldwide community, not just here in South Bend. It’s just a great place.

I love coming here for a variety of reasons. I’ve got so many friends here. But there’s just something special. When I was kid – I grew up in Los Angeles – Notre Dame was always playing. Football played USC and then basketball played UCLA. So I’ve always sort of had my antenna up for all things Notre Dame and so many of Digger’s players are friends of mine and then having Mike [Brey] as such a close friend for so many years, I’ve gotten to know the place even better. It’s a special place.

What do you think about the job that [Brey] has done over the years, but specifically this year bringing everyone back and then the injury to Scott [Martin]? What do you think about where they sit now and where look to be going forward?

You know Mike is an extraordinary competitor. I think people who don’t know him may not realize that he’s not only one of the toughest competitors in the game but – I’ve always felt this since I first met him – I don’t know a person that’s got a better sense of perspective about what things are all about better than Mike. That he’s able to understand what the kids are going through, what the players are going through at every given time. He’s always got the right motivation. He’s always on an even keel. He knows when to step it up and when to take it down a notch. He’s got a great feel.

And I believe this – I’ve never asked him this – I think his experience (he was a high school teacher at DeMatha) so he was teaching school and coaching high school kids. He gets it about teaching. A lot of coaches, and this is not to denigrate them, didn’t come up that way. They come in as coaches. That’s all they do is coach. And he started as a teacher and I think that gives him a better foundation for that perspective.

Switching to the game itself, what do you think of the guard matchup between guys like [Eric] Atkins and [Jerian] Grant going up against [Peyton] Siva and Russ Smith, a prolific scorer?

Awesome. It’s a great sort of contrast because Grant and Atkins are low-turnover – they’re really good athletes now – but these guys Siva and Smith are as fast as you could imagine. They’re so quick and they’re strong too. So it’s great athlete against unbelievably quick athlete and those [Louisville] guys don’t try to beat you to a spot; they try to take the ball away from you and deflect it and cause you to do something you don’t normally want to do.

I don’t think that the issue is going to be so much Grant and Atkins as it is going to be [Tom] Knight and [Zach] Auguste and [Jack] Cooley and some of these other guys because they’re going to be made to handle the ball more. The charge for Louisville is going to be get the ball out of the hands of the main handlers and let’s make the other guys make some decisions and have to handle the ball. I think those guys are going to have to be prepared a) to be receivers and b) once they receive it to catch, face and be able to make a play without turning the ball over because that’s where a lot of the turnovers may come. It’s from guys other than Grant and Atkins. That’s traditionally the way it is when you play Louisville.

Switching gears a little bit, talking about the NCAA as a whole, what’s the main thing you would like to see changed with they handle something like the [Texas guard] Myck Kabongo [issue]?

Well I think it’s an enforcement issue. I differ with the way the system works. I don’t think that within one body there should be rules-maker, policeman, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. I don’t think that works. I don’t think it’s trustworthy. I think they’ve proven that given what’s come out in this Miami case.

The US Olympic Committee, the United States Anti-Doping Agency, they all use the American Arbitration Association to resolve their disputes. There’s no reason that the NCAA can’t do that. The only reason they won’t is they don’t want to give up control.

And I think you can understand the mentality issue, the mentality problem, where you’re always hearing people from the NCAA say we don’t have subpoena power. Well neither do I. Neither do you. Neither does everybody but the government in court cases. The problem is [the NCAA] thinks it deserves it. And they think they should be able to do whatever it takes to get it. And I don’t think that’s right.

The NCAA doesn’t stay in its lane and until it does that we’re going to keep having problems. We’re going to keep having these made-up scandals. The Myck Kabongo case isn’t a scandal. That’s not a scandal. They made it into a scandal so now our august body, the NCAA, called a really good kid unethical and a liar. Well, look who’s dealing with ethical problems now?

Now they’re trying to be reasonable about it like ‘I didn’t know’ and ‘Boy, don’t look over here’ and ‘Yeah, we didn’t know this and we’ll have to straighten this all out.’ You don’t see anybody saying ‘Unethical conduct, you’re fired.’ They’re going to lay it off on these investigators and that will be the end of it.