Lute Olson Press Conference Quotes

March 30, 2004

Opening Statement
Isaiah (Fox), by the way, is doing great and is cleared to play now.

I've gone through individual meetings with each of the players to talk about what I think they need to work on this spring and summer. They got started on the weights again yesterday, so we're (back to work).

In talking with the players, it was a matter of the things they need to work on, like Hassan (Adams) and his ball handling and passing. His perimeter shooting really came around great this year. With each of the guys there were definite things they need to do.

With Ivan (Radenovic), it's a matter of strength. From their freshman year to their sophomore year there is usually a huge difference because they understand what they need to work on in the spring and summer. I think they are varied when they get here in how much stronger the other guys are and how much the experience enters in. With Ivan, Mustafa (Shakur) and Kirk (Walters), it will be a totally different situation for them now.

Are you going to go forth with the idea that Andre is part of the team or not?
Andre goes home this weekend to visit with his parents. It's not a case of where we want this to carry on for a long period of time. We are going to ask him to make that decision in the next couple of weeks so that we can make the necessary plans if he's not going to be back.

He's probably 50-50. A week ago it was probably less than 50 percent staying. It's a case of where he'd probably go in the high teens maybe. I know that there are a lot of NBA people who feel he could be a top-five pick next year (2005). He needs to become a more consistent shooter and I think the additional year of maturity would make a big difference to him, but that's something they (Andre and his family) are going to have to decide on.

Is there a chance of where this is will turn out like Jason (Gardner, in 2001), where he gives it a try and comes back?
We just want to be fair to the other guys on the team. We feel that if Andre's gone, we need to take a look at that in terms of what we do. We still have one additional scholarship that we can give. We just want a strong idea in two weeks. If he says,' I'm more than likely coming back,' then we'll go with that. If it's still 50-50 at that point, then we've got a decision to make.

In fairness to him, he needs to go home and talk to his parents. By the time we get to Easter break, we'd like to where this is headed. I really want to know one way or the other if he's strongly thinking about going or he's strongly thinking about staying. I don't want it to be a toss-up at that point.

What were the attitudes from the players following your individual meetings?
It was obvious that there were really three problems: 1.) the youth on the team with two juniors and the rest freshmen or sophomores. 2.) The lack of depth was a huge problem because we didn't have the flexibility that we would want if someone wasn't doing their job we couldn't let them sit for a while. We didn't have a lot of flexibility in that way, and 3.) the team chemistry just didn't develop in the way we needed it to. By that I mean in people understanding their roles, or being a team leader.

But I feel very confident that Mustafa will take that role. He's been through the year now and he knows how critical that is and his teammates now know that he's been through a season. They'll be ready to accept that right away.

It seems as though you kept waiting for things to click during the season and they never did.
I'll tell you, I think the loss of Isaiah (Fox) was a bigger loss than what anyone expected because Isaiah's size and weight (were key). When we got pushed around by the more physical teams, Isaiah is a guy who is strong enough to hold his ground. We really missed that flexibility, especially when Channing (Frye) was in foul trouble. Ivan was so new to this that his game was up and down. I think that Isaiah would have been a consistent type of role player for us. That hurt us more than we knew. I knew it would be difficult, but it hurt up more than I thought. Plus, he would have surfaced as one of the leaders because of his personality and the respect the guys have for him.

With all of problems, do you think you could have done anything differently?
I don't know. In looking back on it as a staff, I don't know what we could have done differently. There were not a lot of options. The biggest problem was that we only had two juniors and no seniors with a lot of freshmen and sophomores. We needed maturity. We needed a leader. There wasn't much we could do there. We just didn't have the Walton-Gardner-Anderson combination that could just take over at the end of games.

Do you expect to see more of a different from Salim (Stoudamire) next season?
The thing that Salim needs to do is to become a consistent game-in and game-out performer. That doesn't mean a consistent game-in and game-out scorer. Salim can help in a lot of ways other than scoring. He can be a good passer. He is our best defender. In his growth, he just needs to recognize that he can help the team in a lot of different ways.

He was disappointed in his year, as I was. What I was disappointed in was the fact that he let his shooting effect how he viewed the game. You see him with 86 assists and just 61 turnovers. With an experienced guard, you would like to see those numbers get to two- or three-to-one, but those numbers are still pretty impressive. A lot of his turnovers came from over-penetration. That's something we are concerned with all of the time.

I think that Salim would tell you that his biggest disappointment was the fact that he wasn't more consistent. He's got to stop looking at scoring being the only measuring stick. If it's not your night shooting, then make it your night by shutting down the leading guy on the other team or by assisting on the boards or by becoming a passer. That's part of the growth that's needed.

If you fill one more scholarship, would it be to add depth?
Well, we would never recruit somebody to not be a contributor. Obviously, if Andre were to go, that's a big hole to fill so we would try to get the best player that we could get our hands on with as much maturity as we could come up with.

What are your biggest recruiting needs and how does that change if Andre leaves?
Look at who we have. Channing is (in 2004-05) a senior, Isaiah is a junior, we have Ivan as a sophomore, Kirk (Walters) as a sophomore, and Mohamed (Tangara) as a freshman. We have five guys in those two positions, so it (the primary need) would not be a big guy.

If we end up where we could take two (fill two scholarships for 2004-05), the second one could conceivably be someone that we felt would be a good redshirt possibility; someone that needs a year to develop.

Could you picture Kirk Walters making the kind of progress that someone like Stanford's Matt Haryasz made this season?
Yes, I think he's the same kind of athlete. He's got great hands. Much like when Matt started up there, there are things that need to develop confidence-wise. I think Kirk can do that. I think he's still growing, too. The key with him is getting his weight up. He's at 224 right now and we hope to have him at 240 by the time we start next season.

Are you kind of pulling for (Oklahoma State's) Eddie Sutton at the Final Four?
Eddie's a good guy. I'd love to see them win it. The other guys in it will have other opportunities. I'm sure in Eddie's case, there is a sense of urgency. I don't know how many of his guys are seniors, but I'm sure he feels that this is probably the best chance that he's had.

It will be interesting to see that Duke-Connecticut game. (The winner) will be higher than a kite and I can see that one being the focal point of those two teams and all of the sudden Georgia Tech or Oklahoma State sneaks up on them.

Have you spoken with Will Bynum since he left?
No, I haven't talked with him personally, but he does talk to Salim. All of the guys are excited for Will. The interesting thing is that he played about the same number of minutes as he did here as a sophomore.

He played really well. He hit a big-time lay-up in the Nevada game that was, I think, a difference maker. He's a player. The thing that's good for Will right now is that he's accepted the role as the guard coming off the bench. As a young guy here, that was not a role that was as palatable as it is right now.

Can you see the Pac-10 getting markedly better next year?
Yes. Next year, I think you'll see our league back up in the top five or six nationally. If you look across our league this year, something like half of the starters were either freshmen or sophomores, and 75 or 80 percent of the starters were juniors or younger. There is no question that the majority of talent in the Pac-10 was young, and we'll be better as a whole next season.

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