NCAA Tournament Press Conference Quotes
March 13, 2002
Head Coach Lute Olson
Q. Could you talke about teaching, coaching and planning at this point inyour career...
A. I think the experience i having been in as many appearances is certainlyhelpful, maybe in terms of making sure that the team doesn't get toouptight about things. We try to keep them a lot looser. I think the firstfew times that you are in it you are uptight yourself -- and it's hard forthe players not to see that. I think that the experience has helped a lotin making them undesstand that it is not bigger than life.'
Q. How is Luke Walton a different player this year?
A. 'Luke always has had that great sense of how the game needs to beplayed. Even when I watched him play in high school, as early as hissophomore year, he just had a feel for the game that you just don't teach.He just reacts. This year the biggest thing that he needed to understandwas that we had to get the ball in his hands as often as we could get itthere. When he has the ball, most of the times good thingsare going tohappen. If you take a look at his shooting percentage in non-conferencegames and take a look at his three-point shooting in conference and hisshooting in general, he has improved as he adjusted to the role of scorer.Prior to this year, we had so many different scorers on the team that hedidn't need to step up as much. Now he does.'
Q. Could you talk about being seeded No. 3 vs. a 14 seed..
A. 'I don't think there is a problem with our team, maybe there is aproblem with our fans. The team understands that we have one more game andif we do a good enough job we have one more game. I don't thinkthat thereis any danger whatsoever of this team looking ahead to anybody else.'
Q. What about your return to The Pit and past experiences here?
A. 'We are 1-1 at The Pit for neutral-site games. These (New Mexico) fansare great from the standpoint that they put a lot into the game. They arelike our fans in Tucson where we said from the start that we don't needspectators -- we need participants. Our fans in Tucson participate in thegame. I've said that I hope you leave McKale Center as tired as my playersdo. I think that it is very obvious here with this scene.We like to play inplaces where there are enthusiastic fans.'
Guard Jason Gardner:
Q. The Wildcats have been very successful despite some serious personnellosses. Could you explain why?
A. 'I think a lot of it has to do with the off-season, with Luke and Ricktelling the guys in the weight room and in conditioning, how hard it wasgoing to be. I just thought it built a lot of confidence in this team, andI think the coaching staff did a great job. Playing all (those big) games,the team has done a great job, and now it's tournament time.'
Q. Some believe you won't have the support of New Mexico's fans in The Pit.Is that a factor?
A. 'I hear the crowd's not going to be on our side, but I think we'veplayed through that in all the road games that we (had). So I think it'sjust like playing another road game, people saying things about you,heckling you... you just have to go out there and play.'
Forward Luke Walton
Q. Could there be a tendency to look past UC-Santa Barbara?
A. 'That's something (coach) tells us all season, because with the amountof big games we play, there's always going to be games that you tend tooverlook. So he hasn't really had to stress it that much now, because we'vedealt with that before. I think he knows that Jason (Gardner) and Ricky(Anderson) and myself have been here before, so we'll be able to help thefreshmen and be ready to play tomorrow.'
Q. Could you talk about your break-out season...
A. 'It took a while at the beginning of the year. I mean, I knew I could dothis but that wasn't my role my first two years here. When this yearstarted, it had been so long since that was my role that it took awhile toget adjusted. Then, having the confidence of the other guys on my team,confidence in myself and from the coaches helped a lot as well.'