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Coaches Talk About Fiesta Bowl Classic
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: June 22, 2004
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University of Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried

"If you look around the country, this is definitely one of the most competitive holiday tournaments being played. We are very happy to be here and excited about playing a couple of quality teams.

"Just being in this building brings back a lot of memories after being an assistant at UCLA for seven years. I was sitting on the bench out there when Arizona had won something like 78 games and we (UCLA) broke the streak. I also remember in 1995, the year we won the (NCAA) title, coming in here and playing very well. There is such a great atmosphere around here, with a lot of strong interest in the community, as well. I have been a part of a lot of great games in here.

"Looking around the country, I think we are the youngest team around. I don't know of anyone else who is starting four freshmen right now. I think there are very few of the stars who play their senior seasons of college ball because of the NBA and things like that.


On Arizona head coach Lute Olson:
"We know how good his teams are, how good they are fundamentally and things like that. When I came to Alabama, we looked at schools that we wanted to emulate and Arizona is definitely one of them. They really built basketball from the ground up into a power around the nation.

"There are a lot of assistants (around the country) who are excited about taking a big job somewhere, even though that may not be the best job for them. People told me I could get a bigger job than I had at Murray State, but that was a great place for me. I was very fortunate at Murray. At Alabama, we have a very similar situation to the won at UCLA in Jim's (Harrick) first year. They had only been to the NCAA tournament two times in the previous seven years, so there was a lot of work to do. My whole run has been awesome.

On the loss of post player Jeremy Hays:
"He was the one player this year who we really didn't need to lose. With his experience, he was going to be a big asset to the youth around him. I think he is a good pro prospect, and is going to be coming back for a fifth year of eligibility."

University of Delaware head coach Mike Brey

"This is a little like the atmosphere around the NCAA Tournament for the players. Of course, you don't have mariachi bands meeting you at the airport when you get off the plane. But Alabama is the kind of team that we see in the first round of the tournament, a good team from a good conference. We just have not had a lot of luck against teams like that in the first round of the tournament. However, we have six seniors on the team who have experienced a lot of success, and we are very excited to play an SEC team.

"I know Alabama well, although you can't get to know them too well because they have so many new players on the court. They are a very young team, and I think the injury to (Jeremy) Hays was devastating to them. I think the biggest difference you see in them and teams in their league, compared to our league is the athleticism. They are a great team and very talented. That is the biggest problem we have had adjusting in NCAA games, though, the athleticism.

"We know that we have to go out there and win a good game like this against a quality team. Our league has not proven itself enough yet to be able to get two teams into the NCAA Tournament. We have to win our conference tournament to get the at-large bid. In the past two years, though, we have placed a second team into the NIT Tournament, something we are very proud of. We play the regular season to earn the highest seed possible in the tournament. Then, we go into the postseason to get a bid to the tournament."

University of Arizona head coach Lute Olson

On Robertas Javtokas' departure:
"Robertas will not be with us. He will be heading back to Lithuania and has been offered a contract with the Division I league, the top level league out there. I think some of this comes from the frustration with his classes and the language barrier he has encountered there. He feels that it will be easier to just head back and play professionally there. This will be effective immediately. As far as the immediate effect on us, I don't think there is going to be a whole lot. It will mean that Justin Wessel and Luke Walton will be the first two options (in the post) after the starters, like they have been to this point.

"UNC-Wilmington is a very good three-point shooting team. They like to run the half-court game and use a lot of the clock, then they are going to be looking for the three-point shot. They also have solid inside play. In the Florida game, they played a lot of half-court offense and were pretty successful with it for a while. In the second half, though, Florida's depth really got to them with the pressure they (Florida) was able to put on.

"We need to do a much, much better job in our half-court execution than we did against New Mexico. Our shot selection against New Mexico was horrendous. We forced a lot of shots and did not get the ball to the proper people. It was a very disappointing game on our part. It was even more disturbing after watching the game on tape than it was in person. Our perimeter people got eaten alive, and they gave up 53 of the 70 points. Our goal was to keep Lamont Long's (shooting) percentage down, and we held him to about 7-of-20. It was their other guards who killed us with their percentages.

"The only really positive thing recently has been the play of Loren Woods in the post. He has become much more consistent. He is getting down and battling for position much better. His efforts as a team leader have also been much improved. Since the Michigan State game, he is the only one who has had a lot of upward mode.

"It is always a constant learning process, and it has to be consistent one. The last three games are learning experiences, and now we need to crank it up. Anytime there is a loss (before Christmas break), and unfortunately there have been a number of them in the past years, it kind of spoils things."

UNC-Wilmington head coach Jerry Wainwright

"I feel that I speak for our university as a whole when I say that it is not only a pleasure, but a priviledge to be invited to play in this tournament. This tournament has become the No. 1 holiday tournament of its kind in the past number of years. I was here as an assistant with Wake Forest a number of years ago, and the tournament hosts are just as gracious and classy now as they were then. Some of our kids from the smaller towns were kind of scared when the got off the plane and heard the mariachis. I think they thought there was a revolution or something going on. They are already scared by Y2K, so they did not know what was going on.

"We are going to play as hard as anybody in this tournament. We don't have a margin of error (playing Arizona). We need to treat each possession separately. Arizona has the size and the speed that they can erase a lot of their mistakes. We have to control what we are capable of controlling.

"In the past we've been a team that will grind and go to a delay offense. This year, our team does not have to do that, though. We do not have to play slow down ball, but at the same time we can't give up a lot of second, and we have to slow the fast break.

"I have been fortunate to know Coach Olson for a long time. He is a classy guy and runs a classy program. I believe this is the most talented team, not only in his tenure here, but maybe in the nation this year. If they stay together in the next couple of years, they could achieve as much as any Arizona team has in the past, maybe what any team in the nation has."

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