Comments from McDonald, Bjork and WKU assistant coach Ray Harper

14 03 2011

Here are some comments from Ken McDonald and Ross Bjork during the question and answer portion of Monday’s news conference:

Bjork on McDonald’s four-year extension at $250,000-base:

“It’s a revised contract, but it’s a four-year contract. Do the math ’11-12, ’12-13, ’13-14, ’14-15. It’s a four-year contract with a reset of the salary at $250,000.”

Bjork on the overall evaluation standard for next season, a season where McDonald and company will rely heavily on youth:

“There are a lot of indicators that we can evaluate the program on. President Ransdell, when I got hired, talked about RPI, GPA and attendance. So those can be measured. To me, what I want to see is if we’re improving – that we’re improving and doing the little things that make a big difference. That we’re developing players. To pin the number of wins on a program is totally unfair, anyone who does that has set themselves up for failure. We need to improve in those indicators and how we run the program day in and day out – and that’s what I’ll be looking for, starting today.”

McDonald on winning back the fans at this point:

“I’ve always though that the fans want to see a product on the floor that they’re proud of. They’re spending hard-earned money and time to come out and support the team and they want to see something they’re proud of. When we’re not putting a product on the floor that’s not at the level of WKU basketball – it’s really hard on us, too. It’s hard because we don’t want that. We have to mentor these kids to understand the expectations and then come out and execute. And it starts with recruiting.

“What kind of kids are you recruiting? High character? Do they understand the value of an education and are they coming out on the floor and giving it their all? There are indicators with the program and how hard we play and it all carries over. The recruiting model has to stay consistent.

“Today is a new day in a sense that we are hitting the reset button – in a sense. When we started 5-11 our staff and players buckled down, I want to see us be consistent year-round with that focus.”

McDonald on how he has to change the overall organization aspect of the program:

“Expectations of the staff and the players need to be there. When something isn’t at the level you want it, you have to pick it up. I’m looking at myself first and making the sure the staff is in line with me and then making sure the players follow it. We’re going to be young, so we’re going to have to instil some discipline and be demanding of the players returning.

“What has gone on is not acceptable. It’s our job, it’s my job as the head coach to make sure we’re getting back on track.”

Bjork on how important a role WKU’s 2011 recruiting class played in the decision to retain McDonald and staff:

“I’ve gotten to know all of them, some better than others. It’s a factor for sure when you retain a staff because you want the best program possible. Three years was too short of a circuit – and the recruiting class coming in is high level, it’s energized and it has formed a unique bond. If you follow Derrick Gordon on Twitter – he’s Mr. Positive. George Fant is the same way.

“That was a factor, but it’s overall continuity of the program – three years is not a big enough window to judge a full body of work.”

McDonald on limiting the massive roster turnover WKU has suffered from during his tenure:

“One thing that helps is when you know kids. The more of a relationship you have with them, the more you know what you’re getting. A lot of these kids coming in, we’ve known for three years. Derrick Gordon, coach (Lawrence) Brenneman has known his family for six. When you know kids and you know what’s coming in, you have a much better feel for what the challenges of that particular prospect are going to be.

“At times, we have not made the right decisions in recruiting. That stuff is hit and miss sometimes, but that’s the biggest part. You can go down the list of kids that have left and it’s a different reason.

“We have to mentor these kids to understand that value of this program. And also it’s important to make them understand that you have to pay your dues a little bit. In society today, it’s ‘what have you done for me lately.’ And that’s part of it. But if there’ s a strong relationship between me, the coaches and the players (that number will improve).”

Bjork added to that: “We’re not saying there is a restriction on players transferring.”

McDonald on how difficult it’s been to hear constant criticism from people in the community, as well as supporters while going through many personal issues – including a divorce – as well as on-court struggles:

“It is difficult. There were times I’d try to talk myself in saying that it’d be Ok and I could handle it and you try to act tough. But it’s not the people that know you that I worry about, the people I’ve known around town for eight years have been very supportive.

“It’s the people that don’t know me, and understandably, they’re quick to judge or look at you with a different eye – and that’s tough. You want to be liked and thought of in a high regard, but it all snowballs once you start doing bad. It’s tough to grow when you’re not doing well as a program.

“It’s been difficult. I’ve got a daughter that lives in Texas now, and we’re trying to raise her long-distance and doing the best we can with what we have and that’s not easy. There have been people that have been very supportive, though, and that means a lot.”

McDonald on ‘restoring his image’

“That’s important. If I’m an athletic director, that’s something you have to be concerned with. The professionalism has to be there. I understand where we’re at and I understand how to get out of this. And Ross being confident in me being the person to lead the charge means a lot.

“We’re going to take this opportunity to keep the support of the people we have, and to re-gain the support of the people we’ve lost over the past year or two.

“I know the product on the floor is going to be a whole lot more fun to watch – because I know the character level of the guys returning and coming in.”

WKU assistant coach Ray Harper on the process as a whole, and the chance to reset

“Everybody’s just thankful we’re here and we feel like we can do some great things. We feel good about our recruiting class, but don’t get lost on the guys we have returning – we have some good guys and we’re looking forward to some spring signees.

“(The last few days) have been hectic and I felt for Ken. Coach and I talked on a daily basis and sometimes two or three times per day, going to lunch and all – it’s never easy, but I’m happy it turned out the way it did and hoping to move forward and building on some of the success we’ve had in the past.”

Harper on his commitment to WKU

“We know where we’ve made mistakes and we want to move forward. Coach Mac’s been here eight years, I grew up watching Western Kentucky basketball – I know the proud tradition and proud history. You wouldn’t want to be somewhere where they didn’t care, and there’s no question they care here.

“I’m no different than any other assistant. Do I want to be a head coach at the Division I level someday? Absolutely. But I’m happy, this is where I’ve always wanted to be and I still thank coach McDonald for giving me the opportunity to come here three years ago.

“Am I looking to leave? Absolutely not. I’m happy and I feel like we’re going to do some special things here and I just want to be a part of it.”

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