Andy Katz catches up with Colorado men's basketball head coach Tad Boyle for a Pac-12 chat to discuss an assortment of topics including McKinley Wright IV's NBA prospects, the Pac-12's success at the 2021 NCAA Tournament, and what Buffs fans can look forward to in the 2021-2022 season. Download the Pac-12 Now App today and set alerts for men's basketball to make sure you never miss a moment of the action. Pac-12 Now is available today in your app store for iOS, Android, and Apple TV.
ANDY KATZ: And welcome everyone to a Pac-12 chat. I'm Andy Katz, pleased to be joined by Colorado head coach Tad Boyle. And Tad, you guys are now actually doing summer workouts, how normal does it feel a year after the pandemic where you couldn't even be together, let alone on campus, let alone in a gym at this time in 2020?
TAD BOYLE: It feels so good Andy. It's close to normal. We're mostly all vaccinated or in the process of being vaccinated. Our whole coaching staff is and players are-- some are in the process, some are fully vaccinated. So yeah, it's wonderful to be out on the floor and coaching and talking and not thinking about COVID. Obviously we know it's still among us and with us, and we're not putting our guard down too much, but it is semi normal.
ANDY KATZ: When you look back at this year, that despite all those obstacles, you guys were still able to have a successful season, get in the tournament, win a game, all goals that you guys wanted to have met at the beginning of the season. How would you assess the way this group persevered?
TAD BOYLE: Oh, unbelievably well. You know, from the daily testing to some of the positive tests that hit us, contact tracing, and our guys were phenomenal. And we got every game in on our schedule that was scheduled. And so that's a testament to them and their perseverance and sacrifice. It's a team that I will never forget, it was one of those teams I loved coaching. And we had some veterans that it meant a lot to them and they showed it with their daily discipline and routines they stayed in.
ANDY KATZ: So we've had these conversations before about the Pac-12, it was a banner postseason. No way to slice it, it was great. UCLA within a whisker of playing for the National Championship, you guys won a game, Oregon State gets [? irritated ?] and they surprised everyone by winning the Pac-12 tournament, USC and Oregon had their moments in the NCAA tournament as well. How would you judge sort of what this postseason was like for the Pac-12?
TAD BOYLE: We've been talking for years and yes, this is my 10th year in the league, and we've been talking for years. Some years we've performed well, some years we haven't performed well and we're always fighting to get national respect. The only way you get it is to do what we did this year in the postseason, get a team in the Final Four. We still need one to win a national championship here before long, but yeah, to have five teams in and all advance, and we were the highest seed and we were the first ones out. And sometimes it works that way, you know, in the tournament, but no, it was a great year. And now we have to do is start putting that back to back and I think then the respect will come, because you can't ask for respect, you can't beg for it, you got to go earn it.
This past year was certainly a step in the right direction. A few years ago we had seven teams in, but we continue to recruit well as programs, and we've got a couple of new coaches in the league that are terrific coaches so I think the needle is pointing out for the Pac-12 without a doubt.
ANDY KATZ: All right, so let's unpack a couple of things here. First off I want to just put a bow on McKinley right before and I hope he gets a shot. We're seeing plenty of guards that I think are like him being successful in the NBA. Just how do you describe what he has been to you this program and your hopes for what he could do potentially professionally?
TAD BOYLE: Well, it's hard to put into words how much he's meant to us. I mean anybody who's watched our program the last four years knows. You saw him--
ANDY KATZ: At the beginning.
TAD BOYLE: --at the beginning at Paradise Jam in Lynchburg, Virginia when he hit a buzzer beater against Quinnipiac to save our bacon that night. But he's been so important to this program and the steps that we've taken. You want to put a bow on it, I'd like to open up that bow and have for more years, you know, but it doesn't work like that. But look, he's in a position-- I understand-- I think he just got invited to the combine and that's a step in the right direction. I remember Derrick White a few years ago came out, he was invited to Portsmouth and had to play his way in the combine. So all McKinley Wright needs is an opportunity.
He had an opportunity in Colorado, he showed what he did with it. I really believe if an NBA team gives him an opportunity, they'll have an opportunity to combine, no doubt in my mind he'll play well, but if somebody gives him a shot they will not-- they will not be disappointed, because he is an NBA player, he's a professional in terms of how he handles himself off the floor, and he is a bulldog, you know, a competitive dude that's going to help your team win. He did that for us for four years in Colorado, he'll do that for whatever professional team he plays for.
TAD BOYLE: All right, so let's look at this team. Jabari Walker, he's going to be-- get a chance to make the U19 USA basketball team. Evan Battey has been so good for you over the years and I just-- infectious smile, I love everything about that young man. The recruiting class Quincy Allen, Lawson Lovering, K.J. Simpson, which has sprinkled East West among the class. What do you think this team could look like, especially with some of these opportunities obviously here in the off season or the summer, like Walker has?
TAD BOYLE: Yeah, big time upside. The guy you didn't mention Christian Silva is going to be playing--
TAD BOYLE: Oh, sorry. Thank you.
TAD BOYLE: --he'll be-- no that's OK, he'll be playing with his national team in Germany for the month of July and, they got a couple of tournaments they're playing in and he'll, so we'll get great competition. Evan Battey isn't going to be on our team, he is going over to Switzerland to play and do some touring. We are taking our entire team to Costa Rica in August, right before school starts, for a foreign trip. So we'll get a blend, you know, the Eli Parquets and Evan Batteys, the Christian Bartholomews, along with Luke O'Brien and Dominique Clifford, who didn't play a lot last year, returning guys with all the new guys you mentioned. Julian Hammond is another one.
Andy, our program-- the other day I found out we had three Gatorade players of the year that are going to be in Buffs uniforms over the next couple of years. And we should have had four if Lawson Lovering would have gotten the Wyoming one, he didn't get that Gatorade Player of the Year, but that that's unprecedented in Colorado. So we got a lot of young talent coming in this program, a lot of returning talent, the key for us is going to be blending that together.
And that was so different from last year when we had some young talent and some new guys but a largely, a veteran crew last year. This is going to be a lot of new faces. And so it's going to take some time to put it all together, but this team has tremendous, tremendous upside. I expect an NCAA tournament bid again, quite frankly.
ANDY KATZ: And the schedule, and you're not alone in this, games that we're supposed to be in your place because of obviously everything that happened with the non-conference, so Kansas coming in and Tennessee, which I know was a pickup, coming to Boulder, what's that going to mean non-conference as you build this team next season?
TAD BOYLE: Yeah, it's going to mean a lot, and we're also going to Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands again, and this time is, I think going to be in the Virgin Islands.
ANDY KATZ: Yeah, in St. Thomas.
TAD BOYLE: Hopefully no hurricanes hit this year, but no, it's an exciting non-conference schedule. We're getting ready to announce the rest of the games along with the Tennessee and the Kansas game and the Paradise Jam, but opportunities for us to gain some respect, to help the league, and to test as we get into another second year of a 20 game league schedule, which as you know is just an absolute bear in any league. But that's what's ahead of us.
TAD BOYLE: And last thing Tad, obviously you've been well versed in the rules, as a member of the Rules Committee and leading that, which rule if any, do you think will have the most impact next season?
TAD BOYLE: I don't know if there's going to be really any impactful rules. A lot of them they were tweaks from things that were kind of on the agenda, but I don't see any Earth shattering rules that are coming into the game this year. We continue to try to get flopping out of our game, to reduce the physicality and freedom of movement and those sorts of things, we're going to experiment this year in the U19 with a new disqualification rule, that will be interesting to see what kind of feedback is on that. But no, I would not say there is any major rule changes, you know, two years ago the three point line obviously moved back, we looked at widening of the lane, that didn't have a lot of support, so we did not go down that route, and just trying to keep the game the way it, which is in pretty good darn good shape, it's not perfect, but that's what's great about being on that committee and being around a lot of great people.
ANDY KATZ: Well, all positive news, let's keep it going. Appreciate it Tad, and it's great that you're back on the court, no masks, getting vaccinated, and things are moving in the right direction there in Boulder. Appreciate it, thank you.
TAD BOYLE: Absolutely, thanks Andy.