Lute Olson Press Conference Quotes

Oct. 21, 2003

Opening Statement
Well, I'm really happy to be back and face all of the intelligent questions again (laughs). The offseason (without you) was very difficult, but I weathered the storm. So I'm back.

We've only had Saturday and Monday to work, but we're pleased with the effort on the court. We've got guys who play hard and it seems like a group that's going to be a closely-knit unit again. It's a little different going out there now without the proven leadership we had last year with Ricky (Anderson), Luke (Walton) and Jason (Gardner). They had been the leaders the year before with no seniors, so we knew we would have great leadership. This year we're still wondering where the leadership's going to come from. That's a big question, but generally speaking, that develops as you go.

We don't have a lot of size out there. It's going to be a case of where we'd better be quick. We have some good athletes and we're going to have to rely on that probably more than we ever have in terms of quickness.

They've been a very enthusiastic and hard-working group to this point. That's encouraging. I think they are winners. We hope that we can put things together well enough to be successful.

You mentioned potential leaders like Isaiah (Fox) or Andre (Iguodala). Can you speak to that aspect?
We have three juniors in Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire, who are two-year starters, and when Channing wasn't starting Isaiah was in there, so we've got three guys in that class that will hopefully continue to develop as we go. I think that Hassan (Adams) and Andre are certainly capable of a lot of help in that area because they are good players and good communicators. It's probably going to be a case of leadership by committee rather than one or two individuals.

Speak to the development of Channing Frye:
Channing has made great progress from a guy that wasn't looked at as a tremendous prospect by a lot of people. He is a hard worker who is very coachable. He's up to 250 now and still continuing to learn. He's much more aggressive with the ball. He's had a good summer of development with his individual skills.

I've heard where he's been rated in a number of magazines. I'm generally not very impressed by that. I like to make my own decisions based on what I've seen. When you look at where he was when he came in as a freshman, I think he's made great progress and have no reason to believe that it won't continue.

He has nice touch on his jump hooks and facing up. That's given us good flexibility in the past when we face big centers that don't like to defend out (on the court). We feel confident we can step him out and make people play him.

Every year has been a year in which he has developed. I think everything he does this year will be better than what he did last year. We're going to try to do some things offensively to get the ball in his hands more. When you look at his statistics, he's a 60 percent shooter, so we should get him the ball more often.

Please talk about Salim Stoudamire's development from last year to now in terms of being a team leader.
Just based on the reaction of players to him, he's matured, grown up, and is taking the challenge of being the leader of this team. I hope that happens. With leadership, you need to be on that consistent level. You can't be up and down, which usually happens with freshmen and sophomores. Now he's an upperclassman and a lot of the things you communicate are not necessarily verbal. I think the single biggest problem for him to understand is that if he's verbalizing with his appearance, the four guys that are with him need to feel like he's being positive and consistent with what he is doing.

He knows what he needs to do, but he can play. I said a year ago that he is the best shooter we've had since Steve Kerr, and he's gotten better. Now, it's just a matter of movement without the ball and being patient for the shot to present itself. I think Salim very much wants to be one of the leaders. I'm also convinced that he's going to work hard to gain the confidence of the coaching staff and his teammates.

Matt Brase (Olson's grandson and a member of the 2003-04 squad) said earlier that it's fun to be out there together, but a little different at times. How has it been for you?
Somebody told me that Matt said I was a nice guy. That sort of ruins you image immediately (laughter)...kind and all that sort of stuff, but he was talking about off the court with that.

He had some opportunities in Division II and lower Division I, but he loves Tucson and since he was two years old, has always been a Cats fan. I don't think he has thoughts of being a star. When we talked about it, I said there probably weren't going to be a lot of minutes. I know he's got a great attitude and work ethic and he's done a nice job. I'll work hard to change his opinion of what I'm like on the court (laughs).

Isaiah Fox said that some of the players thought you might come back to practice and be a little nicer to the guys than in the past (due to his April wedding), but you weren't...
That's nice, I'm happy to hear that (laughs). My job on the court isn't to be nice. It's to make them better. I think the athletes still want direction. I think they want you to be demanding. I think they want discipline. It's more difficult for us because it doesn't exist in some of the other areas of their lives. I'll be very nice and kind to them whenever we're off the court.

It's a dictatorship on the court. The best way to stay out of difficulty is to play as hard as you can play. The first step in learning is listening. It's interesting as you go through the years with kids that are now young men ... I don't think I was ever harder on anybody than Tom Tolbert (1986-88). I'd say right now he's probably as good as a friend as I've had. Why? Because I was hard on him. If you want somebody to not be happy in 10 years, then overlook shortcomings and don't force them to be as good as they should be. I hope I never get to the point where they say I am a nice guy on the court. If I am, I'll be looking for another job.

What are your early impressions of Mustafa Shakur?
You can see why we said he's a Jason Terry look-alike and has the ability to get the ball down the court like Jason used to. You thought Jason was going full speed and all of the sudden he put it into overdrive and Mustafa is sort of the same way. He is a great kid with a tremendous team attitude - just like Jason.

He just wants to win. He's going to make people on the floor better because of his presence. He has tremendous work ethic and wants to be as good as he can be. Defensively he is a pest. He has good lateral movement and is long. When you have a kid with ability and a great attitude, like Mustafa has, he's going to be a very good player.

How do you prepare Mustafa to contribute immediately as a freshman?
The great thing about Mustafa is that last year when we were recruiting him, he never asked, 'How many minutes will I get? Can I start?' He's not that kind of kid. He wants to prove what needs to be proven on the court. He doesn't expect anything for nothing.

All he cares about is winning. He'll do whatever he's asked to do. If I said, 'Don't shoot it for six games.' He wouldn't shoot it for six games. That's just the kind of kid he is.

You've had good luck with freshmen point guards like Mike Bibby and Jason Gardner. Do you have the same kind of expectations for Mustafa?
Again we are only two days into practice, so there is still a lot to be seen. I know how quick he is and I know what kind of attitude he has. He has a great disposition...he's not an up-and-down kind of kid. Guys love to play with him because they know if they'll run the court, he will get them the ball.

Comment on Chris Rodgers from a freshman to sophomore.
Chris was always checking to see whether there was air in the ball (laughs). That's not a very popular thing with our guards. We want to find out if there is air in the ball when you pass it, not when you dribble. Chris knows that it was a problem and has worked at that. He's a lot better player right now than he was last spring. From a maturity standpoint, I think he's grown a lot.

The nice thing with Chris is that he can defend, pretty much, anybody and he can play any of the three perimeter spots. His goal is to be a point guard. He's made a lot of progress in that regard and still has some progress to make. I'm happy with what's happened with Chris from the end of last season until now.

How has the four guys on the perimeter set-up gone so far?
Oh, we're at midseason form already (laughs). There will be times where we have two big guys in and times where we have four perimeter guys in ... that's been one of the challenges we've faced as a staff. How can we do this without creating confusion with our guys? We'll be fine. We have guys that can create match-up problems. We'll try to force that. We need to score more in transition than we've ever scored in order to be successful

It's not often a walk-on makes a lot of commotion, but Beau Muhlbach sure did the other day.
I think he can average 36, 38 for us (laughter). You can tell by talking to him that he's just a very nice young man. On the court he is a competitor. We saw that a couple summers ago when he was here for camp. I don't think it was a case of where we would have recruited him and offered him a scholarship if we had felt like he could play like he played the other night (36 points on 15-of-22 shooting). One night does not make a season. On the other hand, the players have been telling us that during pick-up games Beau has played well.

If you go back and look at the tapes from the scrimmage, you'd probably be as impressed with the way he defended. He was the one that was chasing Salim around a lot of the time. His teammates wouldn't have let him draw that assignment if they didn't think he couldn't defend. He's just a good kid. We'll find out a whole lot more in the next few weeks.

Defensively, is this potentially a good team?
I think it can be very good. We are going to have to be very good. Defense, through the years, has created a lot of our offense and this year it has to create even more.

We're quicker this year because last year's forwards were 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-9 in Luke and Ricky. Channing is quicker than last year...he should be if we're doing our job. Based on last year, would you say that Hassan and Andre are quicker than Luke and Ricky? Yes. Can either of them shoot like Ricky did? I'm not sure. They were experienced, fifth-year seniors.

We will be very quick. We'll be very quick up and down the court. We'll be quicker up and down the court than we were last year by a lot.

Last year it almost seemed like you had too many guys. This season maybe you have two few. Which way is more comfortable?
Would I rather have too many or too few? My answer is that I'd rather have too many. We have to stay injury free. We certainly can't have Salim go through what he went through last year. It's scary. It's just like it was in 2002 with three juniors and five freshmen.

I don't know anymore how you can have any expectations from one year to the next. How may of the guys we have on the squad here could have an opportunity at the end of the year? Ideally, what I'd like to have are 10 or 11 guys who can play and two or three walk-ons who are happy to be a part of it. Out of the 11 who can play, probably one or two who are redshirting. That's the most difficult thing that faces us as coaches is trying to predict the future as far as what's going to happen with your numbers.

We never try to be in a position to sign too many, but it's uncomfortable to have too few to where injuries can really effect how the team does.

Have you seen Andre Iguodala incorporate some of Luke Walton's game into his own?
Andre's strength is facing up. He is a very unselfish player. He wants to be the type of passer for us that Luke Walton was. He sees the floor really well. He just needs to make sure he is under control and does not try to make a difficult pass.

This was one of the things that Andre talked about last year. One of his goals as a player was to be a great passer. For that to be one of his goals, it also tells you a lot about him. He's not into whether he scores a lot of points. He just wants to win.

There is no question he is going to be a really outstanding passer. Good passes, to me, are the ones that are completed. He has everything you need to be a great passer. He's 6-foot-6, he's long, he has great peripheral vision and he understands the game. Now he only needs the experience to go with that.

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