The Byrd Cage

Hoop Hour #1

In Game Posts on December 11, 2013 at 11:08 am
Rick gets interviewed by guys with cameras.

Rick gets interviewed by guys with cameras.

I don’t always eat lunch [I pretty much always eat lunch] but when I do [seriously, always] I go to Belmont and  listen to one of the greatest living basketball coaches on the planet break down film. Where are you people? I don’t know.

For those of you unfamiliar with the practice, Belmont holds an event once a month throughout the basketball season called ‘Hoop Hour’ wherein guests eat Sodexho whilst beholding coach Newbauer and Byrd breakdown game footage of their respective teams. It’s always well worth the price of admission to listen to Coach Byrd talk about his team semi-candidly.

So there I was – sitting next to the new Associate Provost and Dr. Rich Tiner in the Vince Gill Room, furiously typing notes on my phone so that you people will have something interesting to tell your fellow Belmont Bball pals. Anyway, there is no narrative to layout – there are only bullets:

  • Kevin Ingram (who hosts these events) introduced Coach Byrd by saying the MTSU game was one of the all-time best coaching jobs he had seen…and he has seen some coaching jobs.
  • Coach mentioned that it felt really weird walking into the locker room after the VCU game as it was only the second time some of his guys had lost at home [WOW]. He compared the feeling to the Febuary 17, 1990 loss to Lipscomb in front of 16,000 fans at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym. Both teams were ranked in the top 5 in the NAIA at the time.
  • He remarked that it would have been nice to have Reece and Craig for the entire VCU game but that’s the way things go sometimes.
  • Coach was excited about the continued attendance increase. Apparently, there was a 30-minute wait to get tickets to the VCU game. In classic Belmont form, PEPSI’S were compensatorily offered to folks who had to wait. Rick did not sound happy about this wait or the ‘peace offering’.
  • Rick talked about how JJ was listed as player of the week by a couple national publications after the UNC game. He guessed JJ was the first player to garner such recognition, immediately after starting the season 1 for 16 from behind the arc.  After this quip, he said he had never coached a player like JJ that wanted so badly to be in an MTSU or UNC-type game situation so he could get the ball, get fouled and/or get points.
  • Rick said a lot of good things have happened for the team to go 8-2 through this schedule – easily the hardest schedule in program history – but there is still a long way to go.
  • Coach Byrd called the upcoming stretch of away games (South Dakota State, Kentucky, and Indiana State) a veritable “murderer’s row”
  • Looking back to the first half of the Indiana State game – when the Bruins were down 16 points – Coach guessed that in that moment – no one on the planet was thinking that they would not only come back to win, but would also turnaround and three days later knock down North Carolina AT THE DEAN CENTER. He said the second half of that Indiana State game may have turned the season around for his team.
  • Coach grabbed a laser pointer and got the film going, joking [I hope] about his players, “I’m not really sure what they’re doing out there half-the-time.”
  • Rick said Evan Bradds  – though its yet to be seen – may be one of the best players he’s ever brought into this program.
  • Chad is seeing more time and playing better but has a hard time with extended minutes.
  • Evan traditionally plays the 3 but is playing the 5 more and more.
  • Coach remarked that he didn’t know the stats but not many people in the country can be shooting like Drew Windler from behind the arc. (Drew is currently 13th in the country in 3Pt%)
  • Rick talked about how the team has played in several of the most hallowed Basketball courts in college basketball over the past few years.
  • Coach said players have a hard time guarding Drew when he sets screens on the perimeter because they don’t know whether he’ll pop out and shoot or roll to the basket.
  • Rick said they have missed Reece’s ability to drive to the basket and breakdown defenses but Caleb Chowbay has become a better player because of the team’s recent injuries. He also said Caleb’s shots will start falling.
  • Coach Byrd said Reece is the best rebounding point guard he’s ever had and for that reason they give him the right to stay back and go for the offensive boards.
  • The crowd watched Rick roll the ecstatic footage of Caleb making the final layup in the Dean Dome to seal the UNC game. Rick said, “Pretty nice moment right there.”
  • Now, there is footage of the VCU game on the projector. Rick pauses the film and shows the room a play from the game where JJ has the ball outside the arc and the offense is in position. He has Blake with the hoop-side edge on his defender for – what at first glance – looks like an easy lob down-low. Instead of immediately going for the pass to Blake, he waits for the weak-side defender to move away from the key to guard Craig who was wide open in the corner. This quick wait gave JJ even more room for an easy post dump to Blake. Rick said that is the kind of savvy basketball they are getting from JJ in his senior year.
  • Rick said when a big defender has to switch off Drew after a screen they will dump it to him. When the help defense inevitably comes to assist the mismatch, Drew can skip pass out to a wide open guard.
  • Showed a clip that illustrated how the Bruins are unselfish after nabbing offensive rebounds. He said a lot of players feel they deserve to shoot the ball after ripping down a board – our guys dish it out to an open shooter.
  • Apparently, Drew ran a Stanford offense at Samford – which means he’s also a genius and feels comfortable making good passes and smart decisions with the ball.
  • Rick shook off Kevin’s earlier compliment of his coaching job at MTSU saying that he didn’t have many options other than to look at the bench and say, “Do you have four fouls? No? Get out there.”
  • There were several clips of Bruins slipping screens for easy points – especially when defenders were calling for a switch before a bruin screen is set.
  • Coach talked about how Evan is an efficient player from the inside.
  • Coach said he is proud of this team – one that is reminding him of Ian and Kerron’s freshman year when no-one thought they would amount to much – but  ended up playing for a conference championship.
  • Noted that last year, Belmont’s RPI would have been good enough to get them into the tournament – even if they hadn’t won the conference championship. No-one would have ever thought that could happen for Belmont.
  • “Loss is misery. Wins are relief.” – Rick Byrd
  • Someone in the room asked Rick the status of Reece and Craig. He told us that Craig had practiced yesterday, and would have been good to go for the Fairfield game – had it not been canceled.  He said Craig only knows how to play one way and that’s all in. He has a long history of concussions so they were careful with him. Noted that Craig went from being a backup for Ian Clark to the MVP of a two-game tournament earlier this year. Rick said Reece is walking around and shooting free throws but using the boot. He is not running or jumping at all. They are taking no chances at all with Reece and want it to heal 100% for conference play. Reece really wants to play in the UK game but Coach doesn’t want him to get hurt, “trying to beat Kentucky”. Rick said Reece could be back for the UK game or Indiana State, or South Dakota State.  Apparently, Rick has broken the same bone in his foot before and knows how tender it can be. Coach Newbauer blurted out, “How do you break your foot playing golf?” and the crowd burst into laughter. Rick said something about taking a shot he shouldn’t have on the side of a hill or something…
  • Coach Newbauer told the crowd that he always asks Coach Byrd how he gets his players to play so hard for him. Rick said that is the best thing you can hear someone ask about your team, especially another coach. He responded to the question by saying that they take no chances on guys when recruiting. They ask, “Does he love the game? Are we going to have to keep him motivated?” If he doesn’t fit the mold then they will pass on him – even a player that many coaches will say is superior. He followed up by saying the guys on the 06-08 teams didn’t have the kind of consistent effort on the defensive end as he’s had over the past four years. ‘They’re much better on D.”
  • Another member of the crowd who had apparently watched Shaka Smart coached teams at Clemson remarked that he had never seen a team handle the Havoc press as well as the Bruins did at the Curb. Coach said that there is no way to prepare a team for that kind of press and that his team still made dumb turnovers especially on in-bound plays. He said it’s a phenomenal system with guys who play really hard. He added that in both of the VCU’s losses the OTHER team has turned the ball over at least 20 times. Rick said in practice Belmont put six defenders on the floor to help get their starters  ready.
  • Rick noted that his teams are always near the top of the pack each year in 2Pt FG% because his philosophy revolves around post shots or high percentage 3 pointers – not many jumpers.
  • Attributed the teams increased foul trouble to his players being mismatched by bigger stronger opponenets. He said that Drew is a great player but is not strong.
  • He said he never would have told you that Holden Mobley was going to play 20+ minutes in a game but he is mentally and physically tough.
  • He said that his zone defense turned the game around for them and is playing it more because of our inability to stop guys who drive to the basket. He thinks that before this year he had only ran two possessions of zone against Jacksonville State.


  1. […] started off by briefly running down the many events that had transpired since the Hoop Hour #1 in December. At that time, The Bruins were 8-2 and had just beaten MTSU at the Murphy Center […]

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