STILLWATER — For the first time in his tenure, Mike Boynton is coaching a nationally ranked basketball team.
Oklahoma State dominated at the NIT Season Tip-Off last week and returned to Stillwater 7-0 and with a Top 25 ranking for the first time since Travis Ford was the Cowboys’ coach. Boynton met with reporters before his team’s Monday practice. Here is a breakdown of what he said.
• On seeing his team play well in Brooklyn: “I don’t want to say that I expected us to play that well, but I know the work that these guys have put in. So I wasn’t surprised that we had success. I think we’ll continue to grow as a team. I’m excited that we’re starting to see what we’re capable of becoming actually play out in games.”
• On Chris Harris’ success against Syracuse: “I think, in some ways, it validates our staff’s belief that work wins, that ultimately you just trust what you do every day, you don’t get discouraged by the results, you let your work dictate how things are gonna play out long term. We certainly needed it, right? Playing against a zone, we needed somebody to step up and make some shots. He kinda helped open up the game a little bit for us, gave us an opportunity to start driving it a little bit more.”
• On practicing in his old high school gym: “I have been there. It’s not like I hadn’t been back since I left, but to be able to take a team that I was the head coach of was a different experience. I sometimes reference my playing days, not very often. I wonder sometimes if guys don’t necessarily believe that I actually played. My name’s on the wall. There’s some proof. I guess I could’ve staged that, but it kinda validates that maybe Coach knows a little bit of what he’s talking about. My high school coach being there and kinda being able to visit with our team, my dad was there, just a lot of people who believed in me and who support our program from afar, being able to be there first hand with those people was pretty special.”
• On what those games can do for the team’s confidence: “I hope it means that our guys will continue to believe in what our coaches are telling them. I told them after the game, the only thing that matters moving forward is that we don’t change, is that we continue to work the same way, is that we continue to believe in each other.”
• On Isaac Likekele: “He is probably a great example of a guy who’s completely bought into it’s about winning, it’s about putting our team in a position to have success. I don’t know who our best player is, right? It’s arguable at minimum. We have leaders, we have older guys, we have some young talented guys, but I think we have a bunch guys who are bought into from an individual standpoint doing whatever the team needs to win. He does that because he can do so many of those things. It looks different for him from night to night. Some nights it is scoring. Some nights it’s being a lockdown defender. I thought his defense was tremendous in both games. That’s where it’s gotta start for us, for him because his energy, his size at his position can really be imposing for other team’s point guards. I’m certainly glad I’m not trying to prepare to play against him because you maybe look at his game and, ‘Eh, I don’t know what he does well,’ then you gotta compete against him and he’s a pitbull.”
• On how Jonathan Laurent has adjusted to OSU’s aggressive defense: “It’s really hard. It’s the hardest of our adjustments for any of our newcomers. Just understanding the level of effort, energy, emotion, talk that it takes for us to be good in our defense. It’s hard to coach to be perfectly honest. I’m not saying we’re doing anything that anyone else isn’t doing, but it takes every day being committed to demanding the level of effort it’s going to take to have success in games.”
• On coaching against Patrick Ewing: “Man, so my dad was a Georgetown fan, partly because of the influence that Coach (John) Thompson had on college basketball. Then Patrick Ewing gets drafted by the Knicks, and I think his fandom went to a whole other height. I grew up watching him play. My first time watching an NBA game was at Madison Square Garden. We had nosebleed seats probably somewhere near the cameras, the sky zone up there.
“We got there early enough just so I could kinda at least get close to the floor to see how big those guys were. He was like the biggest human being I’ve ever seen in my life. I was 7 or 8 years old. There still haven’t been many that’s past him.
“It’s pretty cool just to see how life kinda happens. I admire what he’s done for the game, both as a player and as a coach, and he’ll have Georgetown back competing for national championships really soon. I believe that.”
• Boynton said he and Ewing don’t have that big of a preexisting relationship, but they have met on the recruiting trail.
• Boynton said his favorite player growing up was John Starks, a former Cowboy who played for the New York Knicks when Boynton was young.
“I didn’t know this at the time. I only knew him as No. 3 for the Knicks.”
• “I admired Michael Jordan a ton. I didn’t like that he always beat the Knicks. I think all of us were Jordan fans just because his talent, but I think Starks was my favorite guy.”
• On if he has to explain to his team how good Ewing was: “Yeah, I mean the game’s so different now, especially. We don’t really talk about him as much as much as the generational differences in basketball. I’m still convinced that he could be a really good player in today’s NBA. Some of our guys may think a 7-footer who couldn’t shoot outside, probably not. … Man, he was really, really good when he played.”
• On Hidde Roessink’s performance in Brooklyn after missing a few weeks with injury: “I was cautious with him a little bit. He didn’t play a ton, but I wanted to see what he was capable of doing because he hasn’t played at all. He felt good in practice, but he never really got comfortable in terms of the flow of the game. He’ll be fine. He’s gotta continue to get better, gain more confidence in our system and just the consistency which with he’ll play. But it’s all a work in progress for him.
• On if the Big12/Big East Battle is cool for him: “Yeah just because of the familiarity with some of the teams. Obviously we’ll travel to some of these places that I probably visited when I was younger, Seton Hall, Villanova. There’s some new teams in the league, though, Butler and Creighton, Xavier that I haven’t necessarily associated with the Big East when I was younger.
“I think it’s cool just because it gives us another quality opponent every other year at home. So along with the SEC Challenge, we’ll always have, in addition to the nine conference teams coming in here, we’ll have at least one other. We’ll always try to schedule a couple more outside of the league.”
• On what he’s seen from Georgetown: “They’re really aggressive defensively. They’re really long, athletic, deep. They play really hard. They press quite often. And they have a really good big (Omer Yurtseven). It’s probably the most athletic backcourt we’ve faced in (James) Akinjo and (Mac) McClung, two guys that play above the rim at just over six feet tall. They’re a really, really good team. We have our hands full on Wednesday night.”
• On his young team dealing with success: “What I was trying to help them understand is, it’s not always motivated by negative circumstances. Sometimes positive circumstances can create noise that’s irrelevant. The polls, the 7-0 start, those things are really … if we don’t have a good practice today, it’s kind of a waste. Just trying to help our guys understand, don’t get distracted. That’s kind of been our motto the last couple weeks is just focus on doing your job the best you can every day and be locked in on helping your teammates. For the most part, they’ve done that. So I’m curious, we had a really good practice yesterday, if we can replicate that again today and tomorrow, then what happens on Wednesday will be a product of that.”
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