Lute Olson's Weekly Press Conference Quotes

March 4, 2003

On the Wildcats' Bay Area sweep:
'We really are very happy with the way our guys responded at California andStanford. Those were severe challenges, and I thought our guys showed greatpoise and great confidence in staying with what we were doing as a team.'

On sophomore guard Salim Stoudamire:
'I was happy to see that Salim (Stoudamire) was recognized as the player ofthe week. He certainly deserved that for his clutch play on the offensiveend, but the other thing that you sometimes forget is the kind of job thathe did defensively. With (Joe) Shipp, if you look at his numbers in thesecond half, the second half was not as good as the first half. I think thereason was that we had to sit Salim out a lot in the first half because offoul problems. At Stanford, you look at (Matt) Lottich, and he had a hardtime getting looks. When we ended up having problems with (Julius) Barnespenetrating so much, we had Salim move over to him, and he basically broughthim to a halt. Not only was Salim's offense outstanding in the two games atCal and Stanford, but his defense was every bit as critical.'

On winning the Pacific-10 Conference title:
'It's the first goal. I think it's a true test of how good a team is if youcan play 18 games and play half of them on the road. That's a real test.Now, we want to see what we can do about the NCAA Tournament.'

On Oregon State Head Coach Jay John:
'I think Jay (John) will get a great reception. I think people know howimportant he was to our program for the years that he was here. He is aTucson guy, he went to Salpointe, and he's a UA grad, so I would think thatpeople would give him a great welcome back.'

'He has done a great job, and the thing that he is really focused on istrying to bring back the tradition of Oregon State basketball. Their programhas been one of the very elite programs in the country through the years,and that's what he has been trying to focus on. It's fortunate that he camein with a senior-dominated team, with (Philip) Ricci, Brian Jackson andJimmie Haywood, which then allowed him to get this year started on a verypositive note. He knows that he needs to have a great recruiting year. Thereason I think that Jay is so good for that job is that it takes a guy that's going to get out and look under rocks and everywhere else that you have tofor players.'

On Oregon State senior forward Philip Ricci:
'He (Philip Ricci) is just a very efficient player. He is a really goodshooter; he can shoot it from 15 or 17 feet, and he can really power theball to the basket. He has great touch around the basket, and he has greathands.'

On Arizona's seniors (Jason Gardner, Luke Walton, Rick Anderson):
'I think you would have to look a long ways to find three guys who have beenmore important to this program. When you look at the numbers these guys haveput up, I'm not too sure that there have ever been three seniors who havescored more points, more assists, more rebounds and more wins. I think theyare over 100 wins in the years that they have played. Senior day is always atough day because you hate to see guys like that go on, but you're alsohappy to see them go on. They have done a great job of representing theprogram, and they have really been fabulous young people in representing theUniversity of Arizona. Those three seniors have really been outstanding, andit is going to be hard to say goodbye.'

'If I used one word to describe Jason (Gardner), that's winner. He doesn'tcare about stats or anything else; he just cares about the final score. LukeWalton makes everybody on the court better, and you would have to go a longways to find a guy that does the things that he does for his team both onand off the court. There is no question that we as a team are better when he's out there whether he's full speed or not. Ricky (Anderson) has added somuch to us because on the offensive boards, he does a great job of keepingballs alive. He does an excellent job on the defensive boards, and the factthat he can shoot the ball so well from outside has meant a lot to what wedo offensively. He really spreads the defense, and that opens up drivinglanes and opens up things in the middle.'

'Luke (Walton) and Jason (Gardner) are really close. They are really closeas a threesome. Off the court, Luke and Jason are best friends, and I thinkthat was important for Jason when Gilbert (Arenas) left and important forLuke when Richard (Jefferson) left. They both lost their best friends, butnow they've become best friends. Just going through four years of collegeand being the point guard, Jason has come out of his shell naturally thatway. It's been good for him to be around Luke because he is such a greatcommunicator.'

'It's tough because during the course of four or five years, you really getclose to these kids. While they are here, they think I'm awfully tough onthem, but once they are gone they usually will come back and talk about theaffect that the coaching staff had on them. As coaches, we are verydemanding of the players, and some guys do not always take that in the rightway. I've always said that the true test of what a kid gets out of theprogram is really shown probably five to 10 years after they have gonethrough the program.'

On senior forward Luke Walton:
'There were a lot of people who were not all that sold on Luke, but I wasnot one of them. I watched him from the time he played his freshman andsophomore years (in high school), and I just loved the fact that he was sucha team guy. You could even see that in his early years. He just understoodthe game, and he just made the people out there better. He was not a goodshooter, so he worked really hard at developing that skill. Defensively, theperson he reminded me of was Steve Kerr. People said he (Kerr) was not quickenough to defend, but no one could not get around him because he was just sosmart and a play ahead of the game. Luke is that same way. There was neverany question in my mind that he was going to be a really good player.'

'Prior to the time that he got hurt, he had really worked on cutting downturnovers. He is still having more of those than he should have, but he isan intuitive type passer. Sometimes he doesn't think about whom he'sthrowing it to because it's so quick. As a passer, in order to be a greatassist man, you really have to know your teammates, and know when and whereand what type of pass you need to throw. Luke needs to be on a team withfour guys that can really catch because you never know when it's coming.Luke has a way of instilling confidence in his teammates.'

On Arizona's chances for claiming the Pac-10 Conference's Most ValuablePlayer award:
'The biggest concern is the splitting of votes between the two (JasonGardner and Luke Walton). It may be that Jason was really outstandingagainst one team, and Luke (Walton) was outstanding against another team.Jason has had a great year for us. In my opinion, the most valuable playerin the league should come from the championship team because that is reallywhere it gets down to showing how valuable you are in helping the team winthe championship.'

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