Larry Scott held his first press conference as interim head coach after practice Tuesday morning. The coach talked about his new job and how the team is dealing with all the events of the last four days, among other things.
Scott opened the press conference confirming the death of Dana Smith, mother of junior defensive back Artie Burns. “This morning, we got some news one of our starting corners – Artie Burns – his mother passed away this morning. Obviously it hit our team hard and our kids pretty hard,” Scott said. “It impacted all of us. She really became a part of the Hurricane family.”
Smith’s passing is the latest of many hardships the Canes have faced the last four days. In addition to fixing his team’s product on the field, Scott is working on the human element and the emotional state of his players. “It’s going to be far more than the X’s and the O’s, and getting this from a standpoint of corrected football,” Scott said. “It’s going to be about being able to mentor and reach these young men, and help them and guide them through a rough period in their lives.”
The new coach believes getting back out onto the field will help the players cope with everything that has happened to the program the last few days. “I think a lot of that helps the healing as well, when you get back out. As I was telling the guys, it’s like getting back out on the playground. It’s like recess,” Scott said. “That’s the environment and that’s what we want to create for these guys right now – an atmosphere of really getting back to enjoying what we do, and how we do it.”
Scott wants the team to focus on the future and get back to enjoying football. “I don’t want to talk about what was. We’re trying to move this thing forward,” Scott said. “Aren’t you supposed to be having fun playing a game that you love? You have to love it. You have to have love for this game. We have to create an atmosphere of guys that are disciplined, smart, but having fun.”
The medical team is still evaluating sophomore Brad Kaaya and he did not give a timetable on when the starting quarterback will return. Kaaya left early in the second quarter of Saturday’s game against Clemson after taking a massive hit and subsequently failing a concussion test on the sideline.“Our doctors and concussion protocol are being handled by our medical team. They’re the experts at that. We’re following their lead with that,” Scott said. “He will be prepared [for Duke]. However, we’re going to follow the protocol and do the right things that our medical team will have us do.”
No other changes have been made on the coaching staff other than the dismissal of Al Golden, but those decisions have been left to Scott. “Right now, they have left a lot of things to me,” he said.
Scott is focused on helping the players finish the rest of the season, not on coaching for the permanent job. “It’s not about me. It’s really not about that,” Scott said. “When this opportunity was presented to me, it was, ‘Yeah. Let’s go to work.’ But for me, it was about the kids. What can we do to help them reach their goal of winning the Coastal?’ That’s been my only focus. That’s it.”
The team has fallen apart following losses to Florida State the last two seasons, going 2-3 in 2013 and 0-3 in 2014. Scott stressed that “relationships” will help the team avoid another letdown after all the recent adversity encountered this season.
“Because of the relationships you have, you’re able to mentor them through tough times, and letting them know that adversity is around every corner,” Scott said. “Being able to understand how to learn and develop – to handle that situation, to overcome that situation – is key. We can overcome anything as long as they stay together, and I think this group will.”
Scott’s first game as head coach of the Hurricanes (4-3, 1-2) is against No. 22 Duke (6-1, 3-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday night in Durham, North Carolina.