The Vikings’ success over the past few years occurred under the guidance of four-time MWC Coach of the Year John Tharp. Once described by his players as their most vocal supporter, Tharp’s sideline intensity is felt not just by players but by fans and officials as well. The winningest coach in Lawrence history found some time in between watching tape and practice to answer a few questions.PR: How are the guys looking in practice so far? How well are the freshman fitting into the system?
Tharp: The team is looking good so far. We feel we have a chance to be good at some point this season. We are trying to improve every day and are looking to our captains – Matt Osland and Ben Rosenblatt – for leadership. Like all freshman it takes a while to learn our system, but we see improvement every day. We think that they all have tremendous upside.
PR: How much, if at all, will your offensive schemes change without Braier in the mix? Which players do you see as candidates for filling the almost 40-point-per-game void left by Braier, MacGillis and Bradley?
Tharp: Our scheme will change a bit without Braier. We tried to run a lot of things through him and now we feel we have a more balanced lineup. We expect to fill the points we lost by not just three guys but more as a whole. We hope that Ryan Kroeger and Andy Hurley become consistent scorers for us and are looking at some of our depth to provide scoring as well.
PR: Every Viking fan is wondering how you can follow an unprecedented season like the one you had last year. With expectations skyrocketing, what approach or attitude are you and the team taking into this season?
Tharp: As a team we are looking forward, not backward. We cherish the season we had but we are looking forward to a new chapter. We hope to achieve another conference title and hopefully the rest will take care of itself.
PR: Two of the Vikings’ closest contests last season were against Carroll and UW-Oshkosh. What factors do you foresee playing the most prominent role in determining the team’s success against the Carrolls, Oshkoshes, and Stevens Points in the division?
Tharp: We feel we have great depth and we hope that we can wear teams down. We also feel we have great home court advantage at Alexander Gymnasium, which has become a very tough place to play, with the great fan support we get. Thanks to everyone for their support and to hopefully another great season.