Lute Olson Press Conference Quotes

March 9, 2004

Do you look at the conference tournament any differently this year since you now have three more chances to work out the kinks before the NCAA Tournament?
I don't feel any differently about the tournament. When you have a young team, additional games certainly are going to help, but having them out of school for a couple more days, I just don't see any purpose in it when you play 18 games against league opponents.

How important is playing in the conference tournament for Mustafa Shakur?
Well, it could be valuable that way. That is probably true with freshmen. It may be helpful, but I don't think that there are as many pluses as there are minuses.

How will you deal with the bench in playing three games in three days?
I hope that we will have to deal with playing three games now that we are there. There is no question that we have to use the bench. When one gets into the NCAA Tournament, generally speaking, you are going to go seven deep unless you have foul problems or injuries. It's a little different, however, if a team is fortunate to go three games in three days straight.

How did it help to use players like Kirk Walters in the ASU game yesterday?
I think it helped Kirk because we went to him in the first half when Channing (Frye) got into foul trouble, and we went to him in the second half fairly early. It continues to help Kirk whenever he gets the opportunity to get in the game. He has been playing very well in practice, and you can just see the confidence developing in him. His teammates really like him, and they are continuing to encourage him and build his confidence. He did a nice job yesterday; he was a big presence inside.

What was different about the way you played USC here at home compared to the first game in Los Angeles?
Desmon Farmer just went crazy in the Sports Arena. There were not a lot of those shots that were great shots, but he is that kind of player that if he is hitting, he can be falling out of the stands and hitting shots. Here at home, we defended him differently. Salim (Stoudamire) had him a lot of the time; guys that size will operate better against someone of similar size, but they have problems with smaller guys, so Salim will draw that assignment again.

It is almost like a home-court advantage for USC. They are very talented, and they have good experience with the Craven (Errick and Derrick) brothers and Farmer. Even though it is his first year, (Jeff) McMillan has practiced with them all year long. They also have (Rory) O'Neil who has played a lot for them. They are a better team, and they are only three miles off campus. We have to focus on the fact that we play USC on Thursday, and we are not even looking beyond that.

Is this a case where you really don't know what is going to happen in the Pac-10 Tournament?
At the start of the season, that was not really the case, but as teams have gathered experience, that gap in the conference really has lessened. That is what is unfortunate about the RPI stuff because it really isn't based on the last 18 games. That's why I think it's a problem for our league to play as many league games as we play.

With Washington beating Stanford last week, how important is momentum going into the Pac-10 Tournament?
Well, going into the tournament in general, there is no way that Washington could be kept out of the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA looks at how you done over your last 10 or 15 games, and I just don't see how they could be left out. They are young, and they have a lot of momentum coming into the Pac-10 Tournament, and additional games would be in their best interest.

What do you want to see out of the team this week?
We just need to play consistently on the defensive end of the court and take care of the ball. Offensively, we have shown a much better consistency there. We had 28 assists yesterday, and we had 10 turnovers, with five in each half. So at this point in the year, we have to be solid in all phases of the game. Our shooting percentage is good, our free throw percentage is great, but our turnovers have deviated too much for me to be comfortable with. Our work on the defensive boards has gotten better, but I what I want to see there is numbers out of all five of our guys that are on the court at one time. Instead of one or two rebounds here, we need to get up five rebounds or more per guy so we know that everyone is doing the job on the boards, which we are not yet.

How has Andre Iguodala progressed since he came into the program?
I think yesterday's stats would point that out; he was only three assists away from another triple-double. The guys really like playing with him. When he came here as a freshman, he really got to know Luke (Walton), and that was the type of player that he wanted to be. He wanted to be someone who could lead the team in assists and be in a position where he is leading us in assists, rebounds and steals. That is an indication that he is a well-rounded player, and he has only scratched the surface in my mind. He is someone that could be knocking down the door of a triple-double every time that he is out there. His turnovers haven't been that many, but he could still cut down on them. He also needs to be a more consistent offensive rebounder because he could be an awesome offensive rebounder.

Can winning the conference tournament help your seeding for the NCAA Tournament?
I don't know; that is out of our hands. We just need to come out and play as well as we can play. I think if we could win the (Pac-10) tournament, it would help us regain the season. If you don't have the regular-season championship, you could win the tournament championship, which certainly would be a feather in anyone's cap.

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