Lute Olson Teleconference Quotes
Jan. 24, 2002
'I just had an opportunity to watch some of UConn's tapes of some of the games they've played. They are a very impressive team in terms of their quickness, and their aggressiveness to the boards. They have a lot of very good ball handlers that create a lot of one-on-one opportunities that everyone has had problems dealing with. As far as our team is concerned, right now I think our biggest problem is going to be matching up with the quickness that Connecticut has up and down the court. But, we have a day to recover from a difficult game last night where we got outplayed in every phase of the game. With UConn's game against St. John's, they look like they were very fresh and very aggressive.'
Thoughts on last night's game at Arizona State:
'ASU certainly had a lot more energy, they were much quicker than we were. I thought the only player that we had that played the way he's capable of playing was Luke Walton. We got pretty much beat up in all the other spots.'
What are your thoughts on Luke Walton and his play this year?
'He (Walton) knows how to play and he competes pretty hard all the time. He's the guy who makes a lot of things happen for us. He is, without a doubt, the most vocal leader that we have on the floor. His strength is that he plays all facets of the game, he's a good solid rebounder. He finds the open man well and his shooting has gotten to the point now where he's a doing better job of being quicker and more explosive on the jump. He's playing very well.'
'I've made the statement that losing Michael Wright was certainly a difficult loss for us. But I felt that once Luke (Walton) was given the same number of minutes that Richard Jefferson and Mike (Wright) gave us a year ago that I thought that Luke would be every bit as much of a factor for us as either of those two were. He's sort of a combination of the two guys, but I felt all along he was going to have a great year once he got the opportunity to be the starter and be in there for 30-some minutes where in the past it's been about 20 minutes and that's been about it. He has stepped up like I expected he would.'
What is the rationale behind playing a tough non-conference opponent at this point of the season?
'We generally play a game in the first round (of round-robin play in the Pac-10) like we're doing now. Most of them are made-for-TV games. I guess the thinking is to see good teams from other areas of the country during the first round. I don't like to play them in the second round because at that point I think they need rest and maybe with our situation right now we may be better off without a game on Saturday where we could get a chance to get our legs back after a tough schedule to this point and a tough series with the Los Angeles schools last week. But that's the thinking, to play somebody outside the league that's a very good team and normally it's been a television exposure game.'
Could you comment on the development of Isaiah Fox and Dennis Latimore?
'Isaiah (Fox) started for us earlier and then Channing Frye came on and has taken that spot over. But we've seen some very positive things out of Isaiah the last couple of weeks and I thought he competed hard last night. Dennis (Latimore) is our best jumper in a crowd. He's still adjusting to this level of competition, having played in a small-school environment in high school. But I think both of them are making good progress. Over the last couple of weeks, I'd say that Isaiah has stepped up to give us more of what he was giving us earlier in the year.'
What can be done regarding the team's slow starts?
'We have not, other than USC, we really have not been a good starting team. I don't know if we're going to have make changes to get that solved or what. But we obviously can't come out and get ourselves in a hole like what we've been doing. We have to find a solution to that certainly and we're currently taking a look at what our productivity has been out of each of the spots in the first half compared to the second half and it may be that a change is going to have to be made.'
'This was the topic of conversation with the players and with the staff and the players and the players among themselves that they needed to come out and be aggressive from the start. But I think last night was more of a case of what ASU did than what we did. They played extremely well which they really have in terms of our preparing for the game. We had the Oregon tape and USC and UCLA, they won one of those three, but they could very well have won all three of them had they shot free throws and not had the incident with the T for the fans throwing stuff on the court. They've played really well and frankly they should play very well. They're a veteran team. Millage was a huge factor for them because last year I didn't feel they had a guard that could really break you down the way Millage is able to now.'
Do you think that freshmen generally hit a wall at this point of the season?
'I don't know, we've never had to play this many freshmen. I don't think so, I don't see walls in practice. I think up until last night Channing (Frye) and Salim (Stoudamire) have been as consistent as pretty much anyone over the last month. We've never been in a situation where there have been that many freshmen where you'd take notice of that. I don't think it's a case of hitting a wall. I don't know that a lot of freshmen get that much playing time where they're going to hit walls. So it's not really anything that I could comment on because I haven't noticed that.'
What can Rick Anderson do to improve his performance?
'He (Rick Anderson) has got to move better without the ball. He's got to put more energy into the game at both ends. At this point, I don't think that he's going as hard and staying as focused as he needs to be.'
What can you say about this year's UConn squad?
'They're very quick and very aggressive. To me, they look like a better team than last year. The guys they had a year ago are still there for the most part. They are very, very tough on the offensive glass and they get out and run, probably as well as anybody we've played.'
'There are impressive things I think that you could pick out about any one of them. But the one that stands out is (Caron) Butler, leading scorer, second-leading rebounder. He's very active, very quick, great timing and a great jumper. He'll be a real problem. The two inside guys, (Johnnie) Selvie and (Emeka) Okafor, are both very, very good rebounders and very aggressive rebounders. Okafor on the offensive boards has been outstanding. They've got a great combination because they've got an excellent three-point shooter in (Tony) Robertson. (Ben) Gordon has shot the ball very well from three and then they have a tremendous penetrator in (Taliek) Brown. He really puts maximum pressure on trying to keep him out of the lane and that's been a problem for us.'
What were your thoughts on last year's game?
'It was a great game from the standpoint of the atmosphere and the energy that both teams played with. In my opinion, they're better right now than they were last year.'
Do you look at this game as a chance to make a statement nationally?
'I think we need to play well and do the job in the conference. What effect the league has had on the national competition has pretty much been established at this point.'
What has this season been like in dealing with so much inexperience?
'It's been frustrating at times because it just seems like we're just having to repeat, repeat, repeat. You expect that with the youth. The thing that has made it palatable is that it's a very-closely knit group of kids, there's a lot of chemistry that's good. They really have a good attitude about the team and what the team needs to do to be successful. It's been a plus and a minus. The minus has been, with all the inexperience, it seems like you're beating your head against a wall sometimes. But when you're faced, there isn't any other way to get the experience other than having to go through it for them.'
What is the main difference in the way the team played at the start of the year compared with now?
'I think the primary difference was a case where the three juniors were carrying us and then the freshmen were lending help. In different games, different guys would step up and provide the support. Right now, we haven't been getting the consistency out of all three juniors that we need to have.'
TOMORROW | 7:00pm PTLive