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Butch Beard on Sports Online
Tuesday, Nov. 9, 1999

Butch Beard
Butch Beard, Wizards assistant coach
File Photo
Butch Beard, Wizards assistant coach, was on Sports Online fielding questions on Washington's progress this season.

Beard was the head coach for the New Jersey Nets for two seasons and also served as an assistant coach for the Nets, New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks. Beard was the head coach at Howard University from 1990-91 through 1993-94. Beard earned MEAC Coach of the Year honors for the 1991-92 season after guiding the Bison to the NCAA Tournament.

washingtonpost.com: Welcome to Sports Online with our guest, Butch Beard. Butch, thank you for joining us. We've got a bunch of questions, so let's get started.

Washington, D.C.: It appears that as a result of the Wizards now having a bigger, more physical team on the floor, the smaller, opposing point guards are penetrating easier than you would like. This could spell doom when we play teams such as Philly and Milwaukee. How is the team preparing to adapt to this early development?

Butch Beard: The first thing we need to do is shore up our team defense. Not one individual can guard any player one on one. We are trying to get our team principles on the defensive end down.

Smyrna, Ga.: What do you attribute to Mitch Richmond's slow start? I know he didn't play much in the preseason, but in the regular season he's looked a step slower and a bit out of control.

Butch Beard: The biggest problem with Mitch is injuries. He was injured in training camp, did not get an opportunity to participate in the camp, then tried to play the last two games of the preseason and came up with another injury. That's the reason why he has looked the way he haa on the floor. What we must do is to make sure he is totally healthy before he gets out on the floor. The biggest problem is that he wants to play. Being out on the floor has not helped him or the team.

Washington, D.C.: Why do we let the opponent's point guard bring the ball up the court so quickly? With our athletic forwards and a defensive presence like Ike, we could run a press now and again. I feel that this might change the tempo of a game in our favor. At a minimum, a press might give our boys a bit of life.

Butch Beard: In the future we will be pressing more. The reason why we havent' done it is because our first unit has not played or practiced together for an extended period of time. Practice time is the key to implementing a press.

Lanham, Md.: Hey Butch! Do you think with all new rule changes will teams have to rely more on the jump shots and not rely on the inside game?

Butch Beard: The trend in the NBA with the new rules has been a more up tempo game. Teams now are trying to score in early offense or a secondary break. The floor has been spread more in set offensives so that players can drive to the hoop. That's been the big difference in the rule change.

Washington, DC: I would like to know what your role with the team is. Do you specialize in the offensive game plan or the defensive game plan? In addition, I remember your headcoaching days from Howard University and you found away to motivate your team to will them to win. The prime example is when you won the MEAC Tournament and played Kansas. Can you use a similar type of philosophy to will this Wizard team to win? They are looking like a scrimmage squad, and what's worse is that nobody seems to mind. Thank you.

Butch Beard: Well, to answer the first part of the question, I am a little bit of a jack of all trades. I have helped Coach Heard in preparing for our opponents offensively and defensively with our practice plans. Hopefully, when we get the practice time together that is needed to become a cohesive team, we will all be able to motivate our players to play at a high level to win.

Rosslyn, Va.: Butch,

You have your work cut out for you here in D.C., but you are very respected by high school coaches like myself in this area.

Please provide non company line answers to the following...
First, Is Rod Strickland a leader?

Two, is Mitch Richmond playing hurt, still getting into shape or just past his prime?

Good Luck Coach

Butch Beard: Number one, we are looking for Rod to help us in the leadership department because I do not feel that you can have a winning team unless your point guard is leading. As far as Mitch is concerned, he's injured and that is why his play has been the way it has been. He has to be 100% healthy for you to see the true Mitch Richmond.

Forestville, Md.: Coach, do the players today in their rookie seasons have much knowledge of the game? I mean like the fundamentals, basic stuff, or do they have to learn while in the NBA because so many of them are coming out so early?

Butch Beard: Fundamentally the game has taken a back seat from the 70's and 80's. So, we work with the players on the individual fundamentals of the game. Then we have to teach them the NBA game and how it is played along with the terminology, offensively and defensively. That's the biggest challenge that coaches have with young players coming into the NBA.

Lanham, Md.: First of all, I think you, Gar, and the other guys are doing a great job. Don't worry about these first few losses. Keep your chin up. You're going to win the Atlantic Division.

Here's my question – For which position is there the least available talent for pro teams to choose from? Conventional wisdom says that point guards and centers are the positions with the fewest number of players for pro teams to choose from. And that there are plenty of shooting guards and small fowards for pro teams to pick up -college, CBA, etc.-.

What is your experience? And has it changed in the last 10 years?

Butch Beard: I think the biggest defecit we have is that there aren't any big men around. The game has changed from the late 80's even into the early 90's where a big man dominated the game, until now where you try to find super athletes that can play more than one position.

Washington, D.C.: Butch, it appears that the Wizards have gotten exposed already. The loss in the Bosten Garden, I think, revealed a combination of things: inability to protect the basketball; inability to brake an all out press consistently; players not in proper areas; and man to man defense needs major improvement. Michael Smith should come off the bench to provide that intangible that is missing because I think Aron Willams is more athletic and blends better with the other starters. Also, he needs more quality minutes from the outset of the contest.

Butch Beard: Number one, dealing with a press and what Rick Pitino does in Boston isn't conventional NBA basketball, therefore you don't practice going against a press as much as you do man to man. Boston did a good job of forcing us into a lot of turnovers mainly because we did not have good court spacing. But, we are working on that. To answer the second part, our starting line up will probably stay the way that it is, with Michael Smith being our power forward, until we get practice time for the first unit.

Washington D.C.: I read today that Coach Heard is considering going to his reserves if the starters don't get it in gear. It seems awfully early in the season to do that, though. If you make a switch like that, aren't you really burning your bridges? If you bench a regular, and your reserves don't cut it, can you really go back to that regular guy and expect him to play with any fire or desire?

Butch Beard: What has happened to the Wizards in this early part of the season has been the injuries to the proposed starting line up. Three of the players that we had projected to start at training camp got injured and haven't had an opportunity to play together. That is the negative, the postive is the reserves had training camp together, played pre-seaseon games together, therefore they are more in sync with what Coach Heard wants to accomplish on the floor. That is the reason why Coach Heard is not hesitant to go with the reserves early in games.

Bowie, Md.: Good to talk to you again, Coach Beard. Since I know you from your days at Howard, I really wanted to ask you how your son, Cory is doing as well as your former top assistant at Howard, Jerry Eaves?

Continued success with the Wizards.

Butch Beard: My son Cory is doing fine. And Jerry Eaves is an assistant coach with the Charlotte Hornets under Paul Silas.

Miami, Fla.: The the struggling of the offense and the window of oppurtunity for your veterans do you feel the offense can get a jumpstart with young talent – such as Richard Hamilton or will it take a trade or free agent pickup to get you guys over the hump.

Butch Beard: I don't want to sound like a broken record, but the biggest reason why the Wizards have struggled offensively and defensively starting the games had been the injuries to three of the five starters. In any team sport, that makes it hard to find cohesion. As a coaching staff we don't like it either, but we must have patience with the players and continue to work them until we get it done. I will say the last two days that we have practiced the players have worked harder in trying to understand what we want to accomplish. I think that this is the start of something good for us.

Fearnot, Pa.: Hi! What do you think of the 76ers chances this year?

Butch Beard: The 76ers have an exciting, young, ball club with a budding superstar in Iverson. Until they get their injured players back, they are just trying to stay afloat and play .500 basketball. After that it will be up to the players to accomplish more than they did last year.

washingtonpost.com: Butch has to run to a meeting. Our thanks to him for coming on.

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