Pac-10 Men's Basketball Coaches Teleconference

Feb. 17, 2010

Listen to the Men's Basketball Coaches Teleconference



Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller 

Whats your team’s mental state right now after Oregon State and this tough stretch you've had these last couple of weeks? 
I think we are about the same, we have never really had a big picture these season, we’ve really tried to focus on almost daily improvement moving from one game to the next as you well know because of our non-conference season, both in terms of the difficult of it and the ups and downs, we were 6-6 through that.  We’ve never really put ourselves to far out there.  We’ve always seem to have been responding after a tough lose, a road lose, a tough home lose, sometimes we’ve really balance that out with a equally big win, sometimes a surprising win.  Really that’s been our season.  I don’t look at necessarily this week having any more despair attached to it, then when we lost our first game in Maui in November.

Do you guys have any more confidence after the way you handled ASU up in Tempe last time? Does that add anything for your guys on Sunday?
I would answer that the same way as the first question.  I think we were proud of our effort. It was a big win against a very good team, in an away environment in our conference. You know I think anytime you get a Pac-10 road win, you feel really good.  We’ve had three of them, some of our best basketball has been played in the Pac-10 on the road.  But its a different time now, Jamelle McMillan I think adds a lot to Arizona State’s team, he didn’t play in our first game.  They improved, we improved. The dynamics of teams change in a week, let a lone a few.  We have to obviously play at a very high level on Sunday to have a chance to be able to beat Arizona State.  

There has been a bit of coaching turnover in the Pac-10 in the past couple of years. How long does it take for the players to get to know the coach, and the coach to understand his players, and for a coach to put his stamp on a program? 
Each situation is different as you well know.  I think it depends on how successful that coach is going to be. The resources and the type of program that easy out, and sometimes the circumstances of change.  There are times where you watch a coaching change happen, and you have a veteran team, you have a very talented team, and the new coach comes in and doesn’t really have to go about bringing in a brand new recruiting class or upgrading the talent.  Then sometimes almost in a very unfair way, the new coach has to almost completely build his program, from ground zero, where he has to work on facilities and attendance and recruiting, so I think its a difficult question to parallel.  I would just tell you this from my perspective at Arizona, when we went to Maui, I can remember thinking,  it was I think our third game of the year, how awkward it was for me and our staff to travel with our team. You almost had the sense, that you have this group that is about to play in this college tournament and you don’t know anybody. I know that may sound awkward, but when you consider that school starts the beginning of September, and a tournament like that’s in the middle of November, the time you spent in September away from your team recruiting. Especially if you are a new staff, and then you start practice in the middle of October, what I am saying really holds true, in that you really don’t know each other.  I think it takes clearly a couple seasons.  I think it takes your freshman to get older, recruiting players and learning about them in the recruiting process.  I can also tell you this, that my last trip at Xavier,  when we were in Boston in the Sweet Sixteen, when we were traveling as a group I felt like I had known those guys for 10 years, and probably vice versa.  You know its just my eighth year there, that was a team that was old, so it clearly takes a couple seasons and I am sure our conference is experiencing some of that.  

Can you compare the level of play in the Pac-10 this season, to what you left at Xavier in the Atlantic-10 last year? 
Its pretty large, I think the Pac-10 is just a wonderful conference. The away venues, playing at Oregon, playing at Washington, they have great home courts.  Playing at UCLA in Pauley Pavilion, you just can tell the cities we are attached to, and the great traditions that we have across the board.  In Arizona, obviously being as long standing as any of them, I’ve really enjoyed it. I know this is a year where our conference is very young, a lot of turnover in coaches and players, but I have no doubt that here in the short term, you’ll see the Pac-10 come back in a big big way.  Its a Conference of 10 schools, its so unique in today’s world of college basketball.  You play every team twice.  Every time you play an opponent they have had the same number of off days as you. You have the travel partners, the tournament at the end in LA.  You know its an exciting conference to be in. 

I read your comments after the game against Oregon State.  The way your team played not withstanding, I wonder if you can comment on just, when Oregon State has it going, has got their game playing well, what makes them so difficult?  Is it their offense more than their defense or vice versa? Or is it just the whole package that’s just so awkward for teams? 
You know I think Craig Robinson and his staff do a really good job.  I talked after our game   and sometimes, what you say half of it is really printed and the other half is kinda tucked away.  One of the things I said after our game was I thought Oregon State really deserved to win.  They, on offense, were extremely patience.  They took a lot of shots near the end of the clock and you could see the wearing effect on our team, in particular some of our  younger players.  Where you know, its almost as if the mentality we took is ‘you mean to tell me you are going to make me stay in the stance for this long, thats not fair.’  And thats really to me where my frustration and really disappointment more than anything, that when they are that patient, you know you have to be disciplined, you have to have some toughness to you, you have to understand that the game is going to be played a little differently, and you are going to have to have that wear with all to stay with it for 40 minutes, knowing that a lot of things are going to happen at the end of the clock.  My team caved in, in a big way in that area.  When you have the ball on offense, it almost becomes a time of possession, where you know at times, you are baited into taking 3s.  If you take quick shots, and then you go back on defense, your defense starts to work against your offense and then your offense starts to work against your defense.  It becomes kind of a frustrating experience.  We did, we took some quicker shots against their zone. I think the one misleading stat of Oregon State is they are the very best at defending the 3 in our Conference.  You know I think that says a lot about how good their defense being that they are a zone defense.  We did not handle ourselves well.  Oregon State had a lot to do with it.  Clearly I think when you play them, it requires a tough mindedness to know that the game is going to feel a little different.  I think they have a true system.  Their offense compliments their defense and  I think their defenses really compliment the way they play offense.  They do a great job.”  

You’ve talked about how special and unique this Conference is and how every team gets to play everybody. How do you feel about expansion?  If the Conference were to grow a little bit bigger, obviously that wouldn’t be the case there. Do you have any thoughts on it yet?
You know I really don’t, I probably would be full of myself if I gave you a big answer knowing that I just got here.  I’m probably the one that least deserves to talk about it, I will only say this, when you consider the landscape of college basketball and college coaching its changed dramatically in the last decade, perhaps more than a lot of people realize, when you consider the amount of money that institutions make and Conferences are making with amazing TV deals, and BCS football, Conference championship games being played and television exposure across America, whether you like it or not, thats what its changed, and it really does seem like the Pac-10, with our new Commissioner, is really on board and understands really how important all that is to all of us as Pac-10 members.  

Arizona State Head Coach Herb Sendek

I know you weren’t real pleased with your team’s defense from that one stretch, and now it seems like you guys have gotten back to where you guys were before, is there any one thing that has changed that has made that possible?
Not really. You know I think our defense allowed us to stay in the neighborhood in two hard fought, tough games this weekend, but you know next game always requires a reset and Arizona, our next opponent, is an outstanding offensive team.  They didn’t have very trouble at all scoring against us in our first game.  

I think overall the last couple of years, you and UCLA are the only two Pac-10 teams with  winning road records in the Conference. Do you have any theories on why you guys have been a good road team?
I don’t have any theories. You know we’ve been able to win some games, we’ve also taken it on the chin as well on the road and you know we just try to play our next game.  

You’ve been in the league a few years now, and you have been able to compare whats going on this year with what we’ve seen in the past three or four years. Why are so many teams struggling do you think?  Why is it that so many clubs are around .500 or below? What are the factors here?

I don’t know that I would frame it that way to be honest with you.  I think, the league obviously was going to go through a transition.  We lost a lot of really talented players over the course of the last few years. The Pac-10 has lost more NBA players than any other league. So I think it was widely acknowledged that we were going to go through a transition, and there were some other variables that perhaps made that transition even more difficult.  There were some early season injuries, and having said all that, there were a lot of teams that you know, were trying to reestablish themselves, and we didn’t do particularly well on a relative basis on the non-conference.  But teams have gotten healthier as they have kind of found themselves. I think the level of play in our Conference right now, is a lot better than the non-conference would indicate and that we are being given credit on a national basis.  I think there are really good teams that right now, there is just tremendous balance in our league.  Everybody so far, has taken turns in beating each other.  

What do you attribute to the spike in Abbott’s numbers since maybe from New Year’s? It seems from a fair at least that he has really improved over the past six weeks or so.  
He has improved throughout his career. He has been a key player from us from the beginning, he is an everyday guy, he works hard, he is a great leader.  He stays with the ball set, and the guys who do that have the best chance for improvement, and he obviously is having a terrific season for it.  

With all of the success you have had in the Conference this year, the games against Arizona and Washington, do you see any common threads there, things that you guys didn’t do that normally you do do?
I assume you are referring to the game in Seattle that we lost and then the Arizona game at home. In both of those games, our opponents were just better than we were.  In both of those games, we really had it taken to us.  

Do you feel like you are a different team now than you were a month ago? Miller was talking about having McMillan back, he seems like it will make a big difference for you guys, do you feel that way? 
He is an important player for us.  He has been a starting guard for us, we rely on his leadership a great deal, and like any team really, when you have an injured player, you glad to have him back, at any time, but especially when he is a starter and a key player in your rotation. 

Sunday’s game, do you figure the way this series goes, anything can happen? What kind of game do you expect? 
I expect that we will have to be at our very best to be competitive, I mean at our place, Arizona is vastly superior, and we are going to have to be much better to be able to compete.  

Your team traditional has been know as the premier defensive team in the league, how hard is it to sell players these days on the idea that defense has to come first.  They have to absolutely shut down teams in order to win. Is that any harder than it used to be, it seems like kids are more offensive minded these days, trying to make highlight and so forth.
I thinks its individually driven. I think there are some guys that  buy into it immediately and understand it, and I think there are some guys that, not matter what you try to do, probably don’t have that same level of commitment on that end of the floor.  But I think it is individually driven.  There are guys who really get after their defense and really understand the value and there are guys who are probably more like pulling teeth.  


Being in the league a few years, how do you assess the change in defense from what USC was last year and how they are now under O’neill, and what they are able to do to be affective?
I think that both cases, last year and this year, they have excellent personnel to play terrific defense.  I think that the team is build and engineered to make it difficult for opponents to fool.  They are athletic, they are long, they really have been a difficult team to score against. 

It seems like there is a little bit of an uptake in Eric Boateng’s scoring numbers over the six games, are you attributing that to anything?  Are you looking for him more in the offense? 
He has always been an important part of our offense. I think he has put together some good games for us.  

Oregon Head Coach Ernie Kent

The tournament is still a few weeks off, but for teams at the bottom of the standings, do you think it is little easier to sell your guys on the possibility that you guys could actually win the Pac-10 tournament?
I think for any team in any league thats a valid point for anybody, but the way this Conference has been weekend to weekend, its certainly the case in this Conference this year.  But I think that year to year in any league thats always a selling point for coaches where they have their conference tournaments and things for the teams on the bottom.

Do you think the players might believe in it a little more, than they have in the past?
Definitely in the Pac-10.  The ebbs and flows in this one from weekend to weekend are incredible, in terms of what 2 wins can do for you in terms of your success or win so again going into the conference tournament and this tournament I feel like its wide open.  you know Cal is playing really good cause of their seniors are dominating and everything but outside of that, there really isn’t anybody who can say they can outright dominate somebody else.  That just hasn’t happened in this conference from weekend to weekend the consistency of it all, I should say, it just hasn’t been there.  

Taking a look around, how down do you think this league is?  People nationally are saying this league is way way down, and it hasn’t gotten the job done.  You have been around long enough, what do you see if you take an outsider’s look and put it into perspective?
The league has lost a lot of players the last couple of years, when it was at the top in the country in terms of talent and play and everything else.  Thats evident with guys that are sitting in the NBA right now.  The league is really young right now.  Thats where you have the inconsistency in the league and I think in time you call it being down, its really young, premature a little bit.  Its competitive because everyone’s got the same problem.  the problem with inconsistency and a lot of the problem has to do with the rosters and everything else.  I think if teams would have kept theirs players, and everybody would have stayed in the league and everything else, it would have been a very good league.  An excellent league because the consistency would have been better.  

Oregon State Head Coach Craig Robinson

There has been a lot of turnover of coaches in the conference. How long does it take to get the type of players you want to get them to play the way you want them to play?  You have had some ups and downs the last couple of years.  Are you at a point yet where you feel like you have what you really want?
No, I think it takes quite a bit of time, especially when you are trying to turn around a program that hit the depths that ours did.  If you are not doing it by sort of a whole sale get rid of everybody here, and then bring in a whole bunch of guys, it takes time.  Each year you can bring in three or four guys.  So if you are doing it that way, its going to take a little bit of time.  If you are coming in and you do sort of a whole sale clean out I would imagine you can do it faster than what we are trying to do, but I wouldn’t know cause I would not do that. 

The Conference has obviously lost a lot of terrific players the last couple of years,  and it seems like some of the problems are being ascribed to youth.  How much of it is just youth  and also how much of it is that the younger players may not be as good as the other players that left?
Well I can only speak really for my team, I think that we have a group of guys who were sort of 0-for the league the last couple of years and we are sorta trying to figure out how to win games.  I would imagine if I had the ability to recruit guys who could go to the NBA, I’d still have the ability to recruit guys who could go to the NBA.  So, I don’t think the young guys who are in this league are worse if thats what you are trying to allude to.  I just think the players in the league are just young.  

If you were making a case before the NCAA Basketball Committee that the league is better now than it was say 2 months ago when it was really struggling against non-league competition, what would you say? 
Thats a good question.  You know what I see is I see a maturation of all the teams in the league and I would point to the number of close games.  It just feels like to me that from where we sit that we are in every game, and I think thats cause we are maturing as a team and getting better as a team.  But everyone can make that argument.  I would love to say if you threw in a non-conference game against a top 25 team, a lot of teams in our league would win that game now.  

USC Head Coach Kevin O’Neill

What has been the team’s biggest improvement since you have been in the conference?
I think our best attribute is we kind of hang in there and play hard. I am not sure we’ve really improved tremendously. I think we’ve been pretty consistent in our effort. I guess the biggest improvement probably would be the play of Leonard Washington off the bench.  He’s played much better in the Conference season than he did going into the Conference. So, I’ve been pleased with what he has done,  and then Donte Smith’s given us a lift in the last game.  Our biggest improvement would probably be our bench play.  

As the season winds down, and post season play begins to dominate the mentality and conversation and discussions, how does your team handle that knowing that your not going to be going to post season? 
I guess that remains to be seen.  We have handled it pretty well so far. We’ve just talked about playing hard all the time and doing your job and doing what you are supposed to do, representing the university.  Thus far our guys have done that.  It will be really interesting to see how we finish out, but I think they will continue to play hard.  

It seemed like UCLA really kinda beat you guys up on the boards, how do you see yourself matching up with the Cougs on Saturday? 
They killed us on the boards.  First time we really been out rebounded that badly.  I think thats what it is. Have the Cougs coming over here playing really really hard.  You know we had a 15 point lead on Washington State and lost it here at home. We know its going to be a hard game.  What we got to do is make sure we do a better game with their point guard, and do a better job of housing a position to play consistently down the stretch which we didn’t do last game. 

Donte Smith sure looked good coming off your bench, do you see him getting more playing time?
Donte Smith, it depends on the game.  Some games he plays better than others. So he’ll get a chance and we’ll see how he does with his minutes.  If he plays well, he’ll get more.  

Do you think your team is going to have a lot of momentum coming of that nice win over the Bruins? 
We better have.  You know, Washington is playing great at home.  We know its going to be a challenging game.  We know they’ve won 5 out of 6, so we’ll have to play our best game to have a chance to win.  

Not asking you to divulge any trade secrets here, but anything that Marcus Johnson did in the last game against Washington to really shut down Quincy Pondexter there? 

I think he did a good job of fronting him in the post and then we did a good job of you know stopping the cord of some other guys and making it look better running.  I mean there are no secrets.  We gonna play the same way.  We always play the same way.  We play man-to-man, so we’ll play the same way we did last game.  But you know he is not going to be able to obviously hold him like he did the last game, thats impossible to do, but we want to make every catch and every touch and every possession hard for him because, if you are not at your best, that guy he’ll rack up some numbers on ya.  So we gotta do a good job like we did the last game.  

Anything you can see as to why Washington is a different team at home than they are on the road?
I think everybody is.  I mean you look at the league, everybody’s been different. We’ve only won one road game over at UCLA, we’ve got four left to go.  We’ve had our chances in road games.  I think Washington is like everybody else.  Everybody’s a little bit better on their our court than they are away from home.  

I know WSU is a little but away, but they have seemed to have an interesting season so far. Even last week they were up double digits at halftime and they wound up losing both times.  Is that a function of a young team?  Or what do you make if them from what you have seen this year?
They have got two premier players.  Their point guard and Clay Thompson to be a both premier players.  They’ve got really good solid role players, they are a little young, so I think those things probably happen to you occasionally. I think thats why, young teams for the most part, play a little up and down.  But to me they’re a talented team thats you know obviously will try to beat anybody any time. 

Washington State Head Coach Ken Bone

Against UCLA the first time your shots weren’t falling, how are you going to to get guys in more comfortable positions
“Our shots didn’t fall and I felt that we didn’t take great shots, not that we have played a game this year where we have taken all great shots. I felt there was a number of possessions where our shot selection was very questionable. That’s a credit to UCLA’s defense. Ben [Howland] has done a good job over the years with his teams defensively and this year he has made the switch to playing zone, but they have done a good job of teaching those kids how to play zone. They have great length and they have affected many teams with the zone and they affected us that day.”

With UCLA possibly playing zone, will FR F Brock Motum play more with his shooting ability
“He could be. He is one of those guys that’s capable of making shots from the perimeter. He does have a chance to get in there and play on Thursday.”

General attitude of the team after being swept last weekend
“I think it’s good. We had a good workout yesterday. It was high energy. Attitudes were good. I think we were disappointed that we lost, especially both games and the way we lost, especially the Stanford game where we were really in control of it and we ended up losing. But to turnaround two days later and play the best team in the Conference as of this date. But to play them on their home court and go out and play the way we did was pretty impressive and I think the guys bounced back pretty quick. They bounced back a lot better than coaches do, I know that.”

On UCLA winning 16-straight games in Pullman, Wash.
“I was not aware that UCLA has won 16-straight games up here. They must have a good team. In regards to travel, it is difficult compared to the other schools. I think a lot of it has to do with that UCLA has been a great program and I’m sure that they have won a lot of different places, but 16 in a row. I’m pretty sure they will be coming in confident.”

The common thread of no lead being safe in the Pac-10 this season
“To me the common thread is youth. It’s a young Conference and I think sometimes that youth catches up to team especially down the stretch of games. That’s the only thing I can put my thumb on. We have been in that situation a number of times. We have been in the situation on the flip-side too where we have been down double-digits and have come back and won. It’s pretty much across the board in the Pac-10 because it has happened numerous times. One thing again, I would guess, has to do with youth and the other is California is really good and there are so other good team, but there is no one that is standing out in a dominating way that you just can’t come back and beat. Everybody is venerable I guess.”

How Portland State, the team he had last season, how they would do in the Pac-10 this year
“Not very good. They would have won a couple games, but there’s definitely a difference in the level of play. There’s a difference between the Big Sky and the Pac-10.”

What USC does defensively to be effective 
“One, they are very quick. They are strong. They are athletic. And I think Coach [Kevin] O’Neill does a great job in a lot of ways, but does an outstanding job on defense. And it looks like every possession is important to them.”

Is it hard to get guys to buy into defense in this day and age
“I do a little bit, but for the most part you get what you emphasize. For instance, I have not done a great job on emphasizing defense, but I thought I did a better job early on. We have tried to make it more important the next couple weeks. I think we have seen the results. I thought we had a good defensive game against Arizona, but I think if you look at the teams like Washington, Arizona State and USC, those three teams definitely have an emphasize on defense, and yet they all can score. Washington scores points. Arizona State knows how to manufacture points and get good shots and make them. USC, they can score too, but I think there is a strong emphasize on defense. I really believe it goes back to what you preach.”

What you take from losing double-digit leads to both Stanford and California
“Well, there’s a lot of things that run through my mind. To put my finger on one thing, I guess it would be the technical I received at Cal. I don’t know if it was an 18-point technical, but I think it really hurt our situation in that game and at that time. It was a foul on our guy then it was a technical then they got the free throws for that. They got the free throws for the T, then they got the ball out and it kind of snow-balled from there and that really hurt us.”

Stanford Head Coach Johnny Dawkins 

Status of FR G Gabe Harris 
He’s starting to work out some now. We hope to have him available sometime this weekend. He still has to get through some practice and the continuous rehab.”

California Head Coach Mike Montgomery

On being in first-place with four losses
“People sitting in New York are wondering about the Syracuse loss at the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament where we had one of our key players injured. We have played a very very tough schedule. We have lost four games to teams ranked in the top 12, on the road. In all those instances, we have had players injured who are key players. We don’t have great depth. We are happy to be where we are and there was probably a couple of games we could of have that we let get away from us. We have three losses in Conference that we all lost in the last minute. At Stanford I had a host of big guys. We played a lot in the paint and we did have some classic matchups. This a whole new deal and a whole different set of circumstances and we are just trying to do the best job we can.”

On being predicted on the only Pac-10 team in the tournament and being a No. 12 seed
“Well you know, I’m not really worried about mocked drafts. The Pac-10 has taken a pretty good beating and people got on the bandwagon that we weren’t really good. That’s been kind of the theme consistently. I don’t know if most of those people have payed close attention.But if we can win the Confernce, which would be a tremendous accomplishment for us, whatever happens happens. I’m not going to worry too much about that. The NCAA talk always dominates, and it’s always have. We have kids trying to compete. We haven’t won a championship here for 50 years. So I think that would be a worthy goal, but it will be very difficult even at this stage with five games left.”

Something about the Pac-10 situation that seems unfair
“I think we lost some games early. People generally look at the Pac-10 that are not knowledgeable. First off, we are not on national television per say. Not everybody can watch us every time they turn on a game so you kind of have to seek us out. I think a lot people view the Pac-10 as Arizona and UCLA, the two teams that for most of the years dominated. Have to throw in a plug for Stanford because we were in that mix for a number of years as well. When UCLA’s not good, I think people just tend to disregard the league because of their name and what they have been. They aren’t as good this year. A lot of the losses early were to teams that we probably shouldn’t have lost too. Some of those games, people had different sets of circumstances in terms of players available to them. It’s very competitive from what I can see right now. I think it’s good basketball. I’m not going to sit here and concern myself with what other people’s perception is.”

What JR C Markhuri Sander-Frison brings to the team 
“He brings a physical dimension that we haven’t had. He’s not anywhere close to being 100 percent. His back has been some problems and he has missed some time with that. We have just had a hard time getting him close to 100 percent. He got very very sick in November and December and lost some time there. He gives us a big guy. He is a very good teammate. He talks and he’s big inside and takes up space. He gives us a little bit of s physical presence that we don’t have. We have been really pleased with him. It’s unfortunate that he hasn’t been healthy.”

Did Markhuri Sander-Frison chose California because of Cal assistant coach Jay John
“Jay certainly knew about him. We were looking around and trying to find someone that would fit into a situation. We looked all around for somebody we could get and found Markhuri. The Pac-10 was of interest to him. I don’t know what his other offers were or what other things he had to consider, but certainly Jay knew about him and had seen him in high school.”

On what he credits to an 11-point comeback against Washington State last weekend
“We played a little bit harder in the second half then we did in the first half. We had a letdown after a very very emotional game against Washington on Thursday night. We had a letdown and that’s something we have dealt with all

year long in terms of being able to sustain a high level of intensity. We’re not very big. We’re not very physical. So we have to play hard. In the first half, we allowed Washington State to come out and be in charge. They shot open shots without us being up into them. You can’t do that with a guy like Klay Thompson. He had something like 23 points at the half. We just did a better job of playing hard in the second half and getting after it like we have to do.” 

Does the experience you have have anything to do with the comeback
“No. We should have had it from the get go. I think Washington State has done an excellent job. They have played hard every game and they have been in a lot games. In the second half it had to do with kids knowing what they had to do and having the confidence to do it. Probably shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place.”

What tells you that the league is better now than it was two months ago
“Well, if you look at every team, ourselves included, you have some additions to rosters and some health issues. Everybody seemed to have some kids that were not available to them early on. We lost Theo Robertson for six games. We lost Jorge [Gutierrez] for six games. We lost Markhuri [Sander-Frison]. For us, we didn’t have our roster. If you look at [Mike] Gerrity joining USC at a time when I think [Alex] Stephenson was down. Several teams had players down with keys injuries. Arizona State, the name is going to escape me, but [Ty] Abbott. the league’s not as deep as it has been that’s for sure. USC not having a point guard, us not having some key guys, Stanford has lost a whole bunch of guys. It’s been difficult. I think when everyone started getting their rosters back we became that much more competitive. Does that mean we are top 10 teams? No. It just means it’s just more competitive and better basketball.”

Why don’t more teams play zone and have more teams been playing zone the last two year
“I think part of it has to deal with kids leaving early. By that, I mean it takes a couple years of having kids in your program before they really understand how to play good man-to-man. If your not getting that then your trying to teach young kids. Freshmen get screened there’s no question. There not as good in defense man. Zone is a little bit easier to give them the principles. A lot of teams don’t play well against zone. Sometimes you can sneak some wins out by playing zone. You spend a lot of time working on your man because you have to. Zone is pretty much two or three things you are going to do. You have seen more zone and guys with length. We are starting to see some specialty zones that we haven’t seen in the past. Having size at the top of the zone makes a huge difference. Other reasons why we haven’t zoned at all is because Jerome [Randle] is 5-8. It’s very difficult in the zone because he has to be way closer to everybody to be a presence. It makes it more difficult. That’s the thing that impressed so much about Syracuse. They could be a half step late or half step off and still change shots because they were so long. It makes passing lanes more difficult. It makes your rebounding more efficient out of the zone. It really allows the zone to extend a little bit.”

Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar

On Washington State having some bad luck this season
“I thought Washington State lost a lot in [Aron] Baynes and [Taylor] Rochestie. I was actually surprised that they did so well this year in terms of who is back. Coach [Ken] Bone does a great job and has his guys winning some games. I think sometimes they have overachieved in some areas. When they don’t get things done I think people are a little concerned. I think they have done better than people have given them credit for.”

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland

The approach to playing Washington State this week
“We are playing a little more man than we did the last time. There obviously a really talented group. They had Stanford down 18 points and ended up losing by two in an unbelievable comeback by Stanford. Had the first place team [California] down by 11 points. They have very difficult matchup problems. I think [Klay] Thompson is a really special player. Obviously [Reggie] Moore is one of the better freshmen in the league. They are starting Nikola [Koprivica] now which gives them four guards. For us, trying to matchup with them will be difficult. Number two, we are coming off two losses in a row so we have our backs against the wall here. We have to come out and really execute and take care of the basketball.” 

With losing a couple of freshmen who entered the draft, has that changed the way you recruit
“Not really. I mean you don’t know. The only guy for sure that I thought we would lose after his freshman year was Kevin [Love] because he had size. It’s just hard. You still want to recruit the best players you can get that fit the institution on the academic side, the social side, but it definitely makes it hard to plan because you don’t know how long your going to have certain players. We have lost four kids early the last two years. Not only are you losing your best players, your losing your future leaders. It makes it doubly difficult in terms of leadership.”

With the loss of those players does that have to do with the struggles this season
“Yeah, that’s definitely part of it, but not all of it. We’re ultimately, whether we lose those guys are not, responsible for building a good team. We have really struggled in that respect this year.”

When recruiting, do players say they are only going to play for one year.
No. I think a lot of kids go into it thinking like that. Everybody has a dream about getting to the NBA, that’s normal. How many of them really want to get out after one year? I really don’t know that.”

Does the one-and-done rule hurt college basketball
“Yeah, I don’t know that. You have kids that would have normally gone to the pros that are now in college for at least a year.  It makes it more difficult for that particular team. In terms of television, I’m sure if you ask ESPN or Fox and CBS they would say, ‘no it hasn’t hurt us.’ We haven’t had a Dwight Howard or LeBron James that have played in college for just one year then gone on. What it hurts is the particular program because you don’t know when guys are going to leave. In football for example you know your going to have him for three years. Every year there are four or five guys that you say they are done after one year. That’s not many guys when you look at it. I don’t think it’s that gut and dry, maybe I am being naive.”

Progress of FR F Reeves Nelson
“Reeves has done a good job for us. To be honest, being a freshman he has played a lot of minutes. He is our second leading rebounder behind FR F Tyler Honeycutt. So are two leading rebounders are freshmen. Reeves, I think, will continue to get better and better as he continues to grow. 

On SR F Nikola Dragovic struggles of shooting the ball
“Last year, he didn’t have a good shooting percentage during the non-conference. He really came on during the Conference season. He had been shooting well from three and overall until the last three or four games, then he kind of hit a slump.”

What beating Washington did for the team’s confidence
“That was a big win. Obviously the way we won it. After taking a lead late and allowing a coast-to-coast lay up that put us down, then Mustafa [Abdul-Hamid] hit that three for an amazing finish. I have said all along, I think they are a very good team. The Husky win was a big win for us.”

What he expects the atmosphere to be like with ESPN televising the game
“They have had a great atmosphere the last two or three years because they have had some good teams. It’s a tough place to play because it is very loud. It doesn’t look like it holds 10,000 [people], but it does. It gets really really loud in there. They play great at home and I’m sure it will add to the atmosphere that much more with ESPN being there. They will really want to showcase their home court.”

With a young team that is struggling, are you looking forward to this game
“I’m not even thinking about that game, to be honest with you. All I am thinking about is Washington State right now. I really haven’t given it a great deal of thought. It’s good for the Conference when we get College Gameday. ESPN doing one of the Conference games, I think is great for the Pac-10.”

The job USC head coach Kevin O’Neill with the team’s defense
“I think it’s very similar. Both teams played a pack it in kind of style, you know three-point and in. Tim [Floyd] was an outstanding defensive coach, which as is Kevin [O’Neill]. That’s been true with the both of them and the other jobs that they have had, whether it was in the NBA or college. There team this year, one big advantage they have is they have veteran guys. When you look at at a fifth-year player, a sixth-year player and two seniors in the back court. They are strong and physical.”

Is it tough to sell defense to players this days
“If you look at all the teams that are having successful years, your selling defense and your selling winning. It’s one in the same. I think kids want to win and be successful. You can still be a very good offensive team and have highlights by playing good defense. A lot of teams create highlights off of their defense by forcing turnovers and getting out on the open floor.”

On if his team is using zone more this year
“We are using zone this year. I think it fits better for our personnel. We don’t have the quickness to be able to impose our will defensively and we have played a more pack it in zone defense. The coach over at Arizona State Herb Sendek has played all zone the last four or five years, four years I think it is. Other than that, I would say most of the teams in our league in general play man. I think a few teams will play a few possessions of zone, but primarily the rest of the league is man.”

Why isn’t zone a primary defense
“You are going to give up an open shot. Syracuse coach Jim [Boeheim] has had unbelievable success with his zone for 30-plus years. He recruits to it. They want to get length,good size and field goal defense and the ability to fast break out of it. That’s what he has had a lot of success with. In terms of why people don’t, a lot of people do. You look at the all the conferences and a number of teams use it when it’s good. I think if you are a really good man-to-man team you are not going to give up a lot of uncontested shots.”


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