Midnight Madness: Coach Speak (Part 1)

Entering his 27th season at Davidson College, McKillop will become one of the few head coaches in Division I history to not only win 500 games, but 500 games at one school. (Strata Lecka/Getty Images)
Entering his 27th season at Davidson College, McKillop will soon become one of the few head coaches in Division I history to not only just win 500 games, but win all of those games at one school. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

No, we’re not holding a slam dunk contest or a laser lights show, but we are in pajamas while posting this story, so we’re qualified and ready to start our own Midnight Madness to kick off the college basketball season.

Last week, many of the top college basketball teams in America made one of their first practices of the season available for public viewing, choosing to continue the long-standing tradition of turning that practice more into resembling Saturday Night Fever. Even as we speak, Michigan State, one of the teams who made their way to the Final Four last season in Indianapolis, is holding their Midnight Madness. (Sadly, it doesn’t look like Tom Izzo is in costume this time around, as opposed to many other times he’s dressed for the event, including like this last year…)

Izzo, channeling his inner Gene Simmons last year at Midnight Madness. (Mike Mulholland/
Izzo, channeling his inner Gene Simmons last year at Midnight Madness. (Mike Mulholland/

We are also ready to start the 2015-16 college basketball season here at A Lot of Sports Talk, and over the past two weeks, editor-in-chief Adesina O. Koiki and staff reporter Amy Kovalchick attended both the Big East and Atlantic 10 Conference Media Days, both taking place in the Big Apple, and recorded more than 30 interviews of coaches and players during the two events.

As the clock strikes midnight on a few days in the next couple of weeks, we will present some of those interviews to you, as we got to talk with championship-winning head coaches as well as some of the players who may very well be household names before the end of the upcoming college basketball season.

In this edition of Midnight Madness, it’s all coach speak, with five different head coaches taking to the microphone, including four that have taken teams to the Sweet 16. Our first interview is with a person who took his squad to the 2007 Final Four, following in his father’s famous footsteps.

1. John Thompson III (Georgetown Hoyas)

Yes, a Syracuse alum spoke with a representative of the Georgetown University men’s basketball team. And it all went well. I promise.

Having to blend experience with a talented quintet of freshmen, Georgetown managed to finish in a tie for second place in the Big East Conference last season with a 12-6 overall record. More importantly, the Hoyas won an NCAA Tournament game to boot, only their third NCAA Tournament victory since their run to the Final Four in 2007. With those freshmen going into their sophomore seasons now, as well as star guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera deciding to come back for his senior year after flirting with going pro, the Hoyas are in prime position to challenge Villanova at the top of the Big East standings. Here’s our interview with coach Thompson…


2. Bob McKillop (Davidson Wildcats)

No one just gets inducted into the New York Basketball Hall of Fame without being one of the best in the game of basketball, especially in a city with such a rich history of a basketball tradition such as the Big Apple.

Bob McKillop, born in Queens and also raised in Long Island, has been one of the best in the coaching business for the last three decades, leading Davidson College to unprecedented heights in Division I basketball. The highlight of his coaching career came in 2008, when the Stephen Curry-led Wildcats were one shot away from upsetting eventual national champion Kansas and reaching the Final Four. McKillop, just five wins shy of 500 in his college coaching career, gives his perspective on the past three decades at Davidson and in college basketball in this interview with Amy Kovalchick.


3. Archie Miller (Dayton Flyers)

Year after year, University of Dayton Arena ranks near the top in the NCAA rankings in total attendance. Outside of Dayton, Ohio being such a basketball-mad town, the Dayton basketball team continuing to be one of the best basketball squads in the Midwest keeps the throngs of people coming to fill UD Arena.

Over the past couple of seasons, fifth-year head coach Archie Miller has returned the Dayton basketball program to heights that it had only really seen during their halcyon days of the mid 1960s. After an Elite Eight appearance in 2014, Dayton followed up by winning another game in the Big Dance last season. Miller, a hot name during discussions when big-time college basketball head coaching jobs open up, signed a contract extension this past March, keeping him at the school contractually until 2022. He recaps last season, as well as the scheduling challenges his school has to face on a year-to-year basis, during this interview with Adesina O. Koiki. 


4. Greg McDermott (Creighton Blue Jays)

The number of close losses suffered in Big East Conference play by the Creighton Blue Jays last season are sure not to happen again. At least that’s what Greg McDermott would like to think.

Despite the 14-19 record last season, a deeper look at their results uncovers that their season could have looked drastically different – and for the better – if a number of close games went their way; The Bluejays suffered four one-point losses and lost five more games between two and four points. In our interview with Coach McDermott, he explains to us how those close losses can become wins in the 2015-16 season, and which players need to step up to return the Bluejays to being one of the best college basketball programs in the Midwest.


5. Dr. John Giannini (La Salle Explorers)

Is there a doctor in the house? Well, we found one during our time in Brooklyn!

Oh, and this doctor of kinesiology also was a person who took a school to the Sweet 16 in 2012. Dr. John Giannini, arguably the best coach in school history not named Speedy Morris, is entering his 12th season in Philadelphia coaching the Explorers. Amy talks with Dr. Giannini, and, among other things, asks him how he uses and applies his knowledge of sports psychology while coaching his players both on and off the court.


[Cover photo (John Thompson III) courtesy of Nate Shron/Getty Images]

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