2004 Pac-10 Men's Basketball Media Day Quotes

Nov. 4, 2004

LAX Hilton, Los Angeles --

Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen

'Thank you all very much for being here this morning. Our fall sports have started off really well for us and we expect men's basketball to do the same. I think this is going to be a very strong season. We have 39 of our starters back this season. We have a strong foundation and with our coaches, who I like very much as a group, will do very well this year. This will be a very strong year for our Conference. Good luck to all of our teams this season.

Arizona State head coach Rob Evans

Opening statements
'We are extremely excited this time of year. We are plenty healthy for the most part and we have had two weeks of intense practices. We need to do a better job offensively this season. All of our guys stayed this summer and got bigger and became more experienced and I feel very good about our basketball team. Ike (Diogu) is now a junior and has two years under his belt and is doing very well so far. He has gotten a lot bigger and stronger over the summer. I feel good about our guard position as well. I feel like we have a little bit of experience even though it is young experience, we are excited about our season to get started.'

On Ike (Diogu) not going to the NBA
'He is the most unique individual I have been around and a very deep person. He made the decision to come to Arizona State and no one makes decisions for him. We sat down and talked about him staying or leaving after last season and he told me he wanted to come back and play this season.'

On being picked to finish last in media poll
'Based on the way we finished last year, that would be my pick too. We will see how it plays out at the end of the season. This is a tough league to play in.'

Oregon State head coach Jay John

Opening statements
'I am very excited about our season. We are building a program and a foundation at Oregon State and with all of our guys back and some new recruits, it will certainly be a good season. When the kids learn to manage success, they learn to manage themselves better and we understand what needs to be done to win. I am excited about our season. It is a process, and we have more players that can play at the Pac-10 level than I did a year ago when I started.

On David Lucas
'Future looks fantastic for him. He had the injury in late September and tried to go with it and it just didn't happen. The best option was to get it fixed and go through the surgery and hopefully he's a fast healer. This is a situation that sets up opportunities to learn how to play without David (Lucas) and see how we do.

On Aleksander 'Sasa' Cuic
'Sasa is from Croatia. He has tremendous ball skills and understanding of the game real well. He is going to help us and he comes at a good time with David (Lucas) out. This gives him an opportunity to get some minutes and I am excited about him.

UCLA head coach Ben Howland

Opening statements
'We have had 16 practices thus far as we prepare for our first game. I have been pretty pleased with our practice intensity level. Our back court has been very good and I think that will be the strength of our team. Our front court is the concern and how we will compete in the Pac-10.

On exhibition game against Monterary Tech
'We were suppose to play University of Brazil but it became a problem with the NCAA so it was a quick change that happened three days ago.'

On importance of exhibition games
'It give everyone a chance to get some experience and it gives your team the chance to play against other players and former players. I would like to scrimmage against other teams like other conferences are doing.'

On Dijon Thompson
'The stitches are still in. He has been taped and has a pad he can wear on his hand but he's playing safe right now.'

On Arizona State's Ike Diogu
'He's really a good player. The thing for him was that last year every time he got the ball, he would get double-teamed. He is great around the basketball. He's very very good and I wish he was a Bruin.'

On exposure for the Pac-10
The bulk of the starters are returning and I think this is going to be very competitive as Arizona, Stanford and Washington as they return most of their starters. They are all going to be tough.

Washington State head coach Dick Bennett

Opening statements
'Good morning. I know that I am in the full swing of this coaching thing. Instead of going golfing, I watched a tape of basketball practice. I feel I am more dedicated this season. Players who return know what you are about and know the philosophy. But the second year comes with new recruits to learn the system and a tougher non-conference schedule. It may be over our head and we are on the road a lot playing teams like Oklahoma, BYU and Wyoming. It is always dangerous in a second year and there is no question in my mind that we will return as an elite status basketball conference. I do think we will be a better basketball team too.'

On the recruits
'We recruited six freshman. The most notable is a point guard, Derrick Low. Unfortunately he broke his foot and won't be back till Conference play. If we can build a nucleus, Washington State will be able to compete against anybody.'

On exhibition importance
'Exhibition games can be very helpful. We are only playing one this season and I also chose to have a scrimmage against Western Washington and we will do that before the exhibition game. I think it is good for everybody, especially with the exhibition teams. I think the scrimmage will be more beneficial because we can stop and talk about things.'

On Jeff Varem
'Jeff is one of the keys this season. He had a very fine Pac-10 season and was a key person in many of our wins. He heavily figured in our wins. He needs to smooth out the inconsistencies this year and have a very fine year and I think he is capable of that.'

USC head coach Henry Bibby

Opening statements
'Good afternoon. Every year I say I am very happy to be a part of this Conference, it is just such a great Conference to play in. This has been a great week for us at USC. We are excited to get this thing going.'

On Arena and recruiting
'Finally have this thing going and we have been somewhat outdated and now this will put us on the same level as other schools that we are recruiting against. It is going to boost our energy level and we will be able to go out and recruit on a national level. With football doing so well the last two years, it really puts our name out there and it is very positive for us.'

On exhibition game
'I know they are a very good team and have a great coach. My philosophy is just to go out and play a game. Who cares who we are playing, lets just go play some basketball and this will help us get ready for Pac-10 play.'

On Gregg Guenther
'Guenther brings a lot to our basketball team. The most important is his passion and love to win. He's a guy I can depend on and to get his full commitment is a plus for us. I think this year we can play small and be able to play small teams and also be able to play the big teams.

California head coach Ben Braun

Opening statement
'The big question that people ask us is, `How's life without Leon Powe?' Obviously we're going to miss Leon. But he's going to come back. He's doing well mentally, he's doing well physically. Our program is going to survive and take on the challenge of playing without our top scorer and top rebounder. But our players understand that, and we're going to go out and compete. We moved one of our guards from last year, Dominic McGuire, to a forward position, and in our first scrimmage he got 16 rebounds. So those are the kind of things we're going to have to do this year to make ends meet. The cupboard isn't bare at the post position, but in terms of experience, that's the question. These guys just have to make every practice count, and use that for experience.'

On how long Leon Powe will be out
We're planning on Leon being out for the season. Leon is pretty resigned to redshirting the season. If he could only come back a play a handful of games that wouldn't make sense. So we want Leon to rest and come back stronger next season.

On how he thinks his team will fare this season
I'm an optimist, our players are optimistic and we're all competitors. It's a challenge for us not to have our top two scorers and rebounders back from a year ago, but we believe we'll be competitive. Our goal is to be in the top half of the Pac-10. Those teams usually make the postseason. We're like any team that this season will lose their top scorer and top rebounder, it's just that we know it from day one. From day one it's going to put a premium on not wasting practice time and put an emphasis on every preseason game we play.

Oregon head coach Ernie Kent

Opening statement
'Every year the question is `What do you do losing a guy of the caliber of Freddy Jones, Luke Ridnour or Luke Jackson?' We have a saying that the system is bigger than any one coach and any one player. I think we have a chance to reload and be competitive. We're big. Our wings are extremely long and athletic, giving us an extremely strong group of wing guys as well. We shoot the ball extremely well. Aaron Brooks went for forty last night with eight three-pointers. We're a little better offensively than I thought we'd be heading into the year.'

On Malik Hairston
There has been so much said about Malik, at times I feel I should take the hype off of him. But at 17 he's a young man that's mature beyond his years. He can score, he's a tremendous rebounder, he can get into the lane and score, but his biggest aspect is his leadership. He is everything that he is billed to be so far. We're anxious to get him in front of people and see how he responds.

On the strength of the Conference
I think the conference will definitely be better this year. A lot tighter than a lot of you realize, because every team has done something to improve itself. I always say, `Go back and look at the NBA draft and it will tell you how good this conference is.' This is a very good conference in terms of what's showing up in the NBA draft.

On Aaron Brooks being a scorer
I thought Aaron had the ability to be a tremendous scorer when we recruited him. I thought being hurt last year helped him become a better shooter, because he was always on the side shooting. You're going to be impressed with his game, especially his quickness. I've never had a player with his quickness.

On what lineup he will use
We've not settled on a lineup yet, and I think the exhibition games will help us with that. I can see us starting a lineup with three freshman. I can also see us starting a lineup with two seven-footers. I think our speed and athleticism is enough on the perimeter that we can play that big lineup.

On what needs improving
Defensively we need to improve over last year. I think our really good teams have been good defensively. I think last year we were a very small team on the perimeter, whereas this year I think we're big on the perimeter. And being 12-13 (players) deep, that accountability is out there too.

On Bryce Taylor
So much has been said about Malik Hairston, and he was the steal of our recruiting class. But before we got him, Bryce Taylor was the steal of our recruiting class. So I think for us to have a player of that caliber get overshadowed right now, that's kind of a good thing. Bryce is a guy that is going to play a lot of basketball for us. Ridnour, Jackson and Jones were good players as freshmen, but they weren't as mature as the freshman in this group.

Arizona head coach Lute Olson

Opening statement
'We open our exhibition season on Sunday and we're very anxious for that to happen from a coaching standpoint but also from the players' standpoint. They're anxious to see some other faces. And from our coaching standpoint, we really won't know until we see them against somebody else.

On the talent level
If we get every one healthy I think that our talent base would be certainly comparable to teams that we've had. I wouldn't say that it's necessarily better, but it's certainly comparable.

On being picked first in the Conference by the media
I'm a little surprised by it. We lost three times last year to Washington. But I think it's a compliment to the program that we're being looked at in that position. The Conference is, in my opinion, the best that it's been in the 22 years that I've been here. I don't think there's a gimme game out there. I think the road schedule is extremely tough and I think anybody can beat you at home as well as on the road. It's certainly going to be an exciting league from the standpoint that there's so many good teams, so many experienced teams out there. I think that the league won't be decided until the final weekend, I wouldn't be surprised if the winning team has five losses.

On Ike Diogu
If you have to deal with him one-on-one you have a serious problem. I think he may be the best player I've seen at being able to rebound his own shot and draw fouls. He just has a great feel for the game. He puts you in a difficult situation because you know you can't guard him one-on-one, you have to bring help. Ike plays hard, he competes hard. It should be a great compliment to him that all of us have to use two people to get him stopped.

On chemistry
I think our chemistry will be good. Anytime you face a year where you don't have experienced leadership I think you're going to run into those kinds of problems. Going into last year, the number one concern I had was leadership. Walton, Anderson, and Gardner had been captains as juniors and seniors. But (this year) I think our chemistry will be good.

Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar

Opening statement
This is a different year for us. We have a team that has more upperclassmen and more experience. So going into this year we hope that will pay dividends for us. We don't have an easy non-conference schedule. It may come down to the end of the year to decide who is going to finish where in this conference.

On starting Pac-10 play 0-5 last season
During that 0-5 streak, we had done some good things. Unfortunately we would fall down 15 points every game and use every ounce of energy to come back and then fall short. Against Oregon State we were able to come back and win. We decided to do everything it took to win games. It wasn't as big of a turnaround as people might think. We had done some good things, just not for a 40 minute period.

On what has changed given the heightened expectations
We haven't tried to change a whole lot. We've just tried to make practices more difficult than the games, to prepare yourself for those situations. This group is the same group that lost a lot of ball games, so I think the fear of going back to poverty, if you will, helps us deal with any expectations. Last year we were 0-5, and everybody wondered if we could win another. It went on for 2 months, where guys had to step up. You do that for two months, you get to a point where you just go out and play and focus, and don't care who the opponent is.

On whether being picked to finish second means anything
We finished No. 2 somehow last year and we've got just about our entire team back. We know it doesn't mean anything if you don't produce. A lot of coaches will say it doesn't mean anything, it's preseason, it only matters how you finish. For us it doesn't mean anything as to how we're going to do, but it does mean something to our program. If people pick us to do well this year, that's just a compliment to our program. It could be worse, it could be like it was before when no one cared.

On the Pac-10 having a down year last year
The Pac-10, we take pride in being one of the top conferences in the country. I didn't think we were that down last year, we were just young. I think this year we will be a better conference. I'd be shocked if we didn't have more than three teams in the NCAA tournament this year.

On Nate Robinson
Nate has become a better perimeter shooter, I think his decision-making has become better. And if you can believe it, I think he's become more confident. Nate plays with a chip on his shoulder because of his size. You see the highlights of his athleticism, but what a lot of people don't' realize is his biggest strength is his ability to compete.

Stanford head coach Trent Johnson

Opening Statement
It's been interesting being back. There hasn't been a lot that's changed. I was very fortunate that I was there about five years ago. The biggest concern going into the season is how we adjust to our roles. I told the kids, let's not worry about the end of the year or the middle of the year, let's just work on getting better every day. When you have to replace the guys we lost, it's by committee. I think our biggest challenge is we have to defend the basketball and rebound the basketball.

On whether he feels pressure in replacing Mike Montgomery
No pressure whatsoever. I put a lot of pressure, a lot of expectations, on myself. I have a lot of responsibility here, just like I had a lot of responsibility being the head basketball coach at Nevada. I think you have to find a level of enjoyment. If you work hard everyday, come January there's no pressure. Being a heart surgeon, that's pressure. Being a basketball coach, that's not pressure.

On Chris Hernandez's leadership
Leadership has never been an issue at Stanford, just based on the caliber of kids. But in terms of what (Hernandez) brings - a level of intensity that's impressive, very good decision making, and if he's fouled he's a 90-95 percent free throw shooter. I'm very fortunate to have inherited a guy like Chris.