TLL Interview With Lobo WBB Coach Mike Bradbury

Joe Auletta

Joe: The season is over, but from all the signs around here—and from things you said last April, it hasn’t slowed down for the staff. Thanks for taking a few minutes to do an interview before things get busy again.  I assume a lot of that is recruits before the late signing period?
Coach Bradbury:  A little bit of that, but mostly it’s dealing with our team. You’ve got to decompress. You’ve got to figure out who’s coming and who’s going. It’s a lot more hectic than you think.
Joe: Last summer you said that things calm down when kids come back in August and you got into a routine.  What keeps you so busy during the next four months until August?
We’re taking care of in house things for now. That will go on until later this month, and then we go out recruiting looking for young kids. That’s towards the end of the month and then we will probably have visits by
people in April and May–people like transfers who want to see if they fit with your kids. We also have a recruiting weekend in May that we have to go out. May’s not bad other than some visits.
June will probably be different because we have to practice for the foreign trip this year, so we’ll have a couple in June. We’ll be doing workouts and camp.
Then July is brutal. That’s always the worse month of the year. Then I believe we leave July 31 for the European trip.
Joe: If I remember right, you said you would be playing only a couple of games on the European trip.
Coach Bradbury: Yes.
Joe: So the trip is as much team building as anything??
Coach Bradbury: Yes, that’s right.
Joe: All throughout this year, you commented how good the team chemistry was. What made it so?
Coach Bradbury: I think we put the time into it. We had team-building specialists out four or five times. We invested a lot of time and effort into it with our team, with our players. I think that’s why we improved.
We will do more of that next season, and we are going to incorporate another part to it. We will use the same person, but we are going to get more involved. Get it to be a little deeper and about more than just getting along. That’s what we had to get accomplished last year and this time around it will be more complex than that.
Joe: A couple of players during the season brought up the team building sessions, and both said they found that very valuable because it let them separate the fact that another person might not be a close friend, but they learned how to get along with them–to separate things off the basketball court from things on the basketball court.
The other thing that is going to be different next year is that you are going to have a couple of players who are going into their third season with you—AT and Jayden. How long does it take before some of stability/tenure starts to show? At what point do you say, “Okay, now I’ve had them long enough that they get where I’m trying to go?”
Coach Bradbury: I think you get closer. Unfortunately, today, it’s never going to be like it was in the past. It does help when you have a core.  I agree with you, this is one of the years on the men’s side of the NCAA tournament for example that there are a lot of older veteran’s teams.  The One & Dones didn’t make it this year. We basically are more like Kentucky and Duke, because we are always going to have a bunch of One and Dones (Nike). Or Two and Dones (Ashia). Because we’re always going to have so many transfers, so it’s never going to end.
So I think it is always going to be an ongoing challenge as far as team chemistry.
Joe: So do you put different emphasis on the personalities if you are bringing in a player for one or two years? If you get someone as a freshman you might figure they have four years to grow up and grow into your culture.
Coach Bradbury: We try to get people that we think are going to fit in. The first couple of recruiting classes, we didn’t do that. Then we just needed to accumulate talent in any way possible. Now with the people we signed this fall and the people we will try to get this spring, we are getting closer to being able to be a little more attentive to things beyond strictly talent–whether it be position or personality–than we were two years ago.
Joe: Talk about talent rather than positions: the first three years you had a different collection of physical talents each year.  Next season is going to be different again. It’s clearly going to be faster, because, again the players that left were good, had great careers, but were not at the fast end of race. How does that change what you are looking to do next year?
Coach Bradbury: I think this year to next year may be the most similar so far–just because Bride will move right into Jaisa’s spot and you won’t see a drop off there. Bride may be a little more athletic, but other than that, their skill level is very similar, and that level is very high. Now, we don’t have anybody like Nike per se. She was a non-traditional four player for us. We normally wouldn’t play that way, but she was really talented so it didn’t make any sense to not play her. I don’t know if she fit, but she made herself fit. Next season we will have a more traditional player, more in line with a Tesha or somebody like that in that spot. Everybody else will be the same.
Joe: One of the reasons you said you wanted a Nike-like player was to match up better with someone with bigger teams out there. If you go back to AT or Shai, they all look physically similar–they don’t look like Nike. So what do you have to adapt to match up to the other MWC teams that are still going to be big?
Coach Bradbury: Fortunately, for us, there are not any in the league. You are talking about the biggest of the Power 5 schools. We have to make it so they also have trouble guarding our people for whatever reason. That’s how you would offset it. The good news is that AT and Shai are at least tall enough, maybe not thick enough, but they are tall enough and athletic enough to be able to cause some problems. You just have to battle your way with it.
Joe: So, if another Nike-like person happens to come along, you won’t turn them down, but you are not actively looking for one?
Coach Bradbury: Well, we weren’t actively looking for Nike either. I would tell you that we are not actively looking for anybody right now other than the people we have already been talking to a little bit. But if something presented itself, we are never going to not take a really good player.
Joe: Broadening bit, you look at the end of this year. The league got one team into the NCAAs. What does the Conference have to do to get back to getting multiple bids on a regular basis?
Coach Bradbury: Simplest question you’ve asked. The easiest answer ever. Scheduling. Non-Conference and Conference scheduling.
Joe: What direction do you think they need to go in?
Coach Bradbury: First thing, you’ve got to get rid of the mirror schedule. That is, IF you care about women’s basketball. Protect the good teams. It’s very simple in Conference scheduling.
Joe: Protect them in what way?
Coach Bradbury: For instance, it was clear this year that we, Boise, and Wyoming, prior to the season, were going to be the best teams. So, you have to make sure that we all play each other both times. So that’s fairly simple.
We need to reduce the number of Conference games from 18 to the most 16; preferably to 14. That’s the NCAA minimum. That allows the good teams to never play any of the bad teams in the league, so your RPI goes up tremendously.
That’s just the Conference. We have a non-Conference scheduling format that is outdated, old and simply does not work.
So the non-Conference scheduling is as simple as this: play the best teams that you can beat. The key to being successful in the RPI is winning. Not playing good teams, it’s winning. To get it to go high, really high, you play the best teams that you can beat. Take this for instance, 50% of the RPI is your opponent’s record. Not how good they are—their record. So I get way more points for beating Stephen F. Austin who went 25 and 5. That’s a great record. We beat them by 40. They finished 55 in RPI, I think. Very good. Or you want me to play middle of the road 17 and 15 (say Oklahoma–Oklahoma finished 120 in RPI this year). Admittedly, that’s a down year for them, not going to happen very often. They finished 120 in the RPI but that game was way more difficult for us to win–we won it in the last minute. We beat Stephen F. Austin by 40 in a game that was never in doubt. That’s how you win in the RPI. That’s how you win.
Joe: How many other schools in the Conference see it as you do?
Coach Bradbury: The ones that care. They know, and they care. I’ve started the last two years, 18th and 23rd entering Conference play. I think we know what we are doing.
Joe: Talking about scheduling, they have sent flyers out for the Cancun trip in November. Do you know who you are playing yet?
Coach Bradbury: Missouri and West Virginia; I don’t know who’s first. We will play Missouri and West Virginia on Thanksgiving Day and that Friday, we will come home Saturday.
Joe: So turkeys will be delayed.
Coach Bradbury: Or eaten early that morning. I don’t know.
Joe: What kind of systemic changes are you looking at doing this summer for next year?
Coach Bradbury: Well, we are taking the European trip. That’s a big deal. That takes a lot of preparation to do that and I’m not just talking about getting over there. You have ten practice days that you have to fit in the month. We’ll take a few at the end of June and some in the month of July. July is hard because we are not here very much, so you have to be really strategic in how you are using your time there. That will be the biggest difference.
Joe: Will all your incoming players will be here?
Coach Bradbury: They will be here in time for the trip. Most will be here by June, some will be here in July for the July term.
Joe: Since we don’t get a lot of game coverage obviously in the next few months, and since whatever we put up for this interview is going to stay near the top for a while, what else do you want to say? What else do you want people to be seeing?
Coach Bradbury: I like where the program is going. We were better in year 2 than in year 1. We were better in year 3 than in year 2. I think we will be better next year. So I think we are going in the right direction. I think our crowd is great, and hopefully, we can continue to build that. Revenues are as high as they have been in forever. I think that is what we are proud of. We’ll have one or two of our seniors playing professionally. All four seniors are going to graduate. They either will graduate this spring or already have. I think that’s a great credit to those four. I think that’s what I want people to know; that people are making good grades, people are graduating and we are also winning. Right now it seems everything is positive. Hopefully, we can provide a bright spot for everybody to be proud.
Joe: Thank you.
After the actual interview was over, Mike spend some time talking about the difficulties of scheduling OOC games. I made a comment about the snowed-out games the past two seasons, and he showed me the “coaches only” web site where a coach can let other schools know whether they are looking for additional OOC games, what their constraints are with timing, home/away, one time vs home & home, etc., etc. There are pages of such requests, and while UNM put out a request only a few days earlier, it was now buried about eight pages down from more recent ones. The 2019-20 UNM schedule is very close to being “formal”, but there is still a lot of percolating out there.
Assuming there are no late changes there should be a few doable road trips look to be on next season’s schedule: besides the two-game NMSU/UTEP trip mentioned a couple weeks ago, there should be a road game at AF in conference (assuming the MWC doesn’t mess that one up again), and very possibly one at Tempe.
I had hoped there would be some Spring signings to announce by the time this went up, but so far no news on that front.