Arizona Men’s Basketball
Head Coach Lute Olson Press Conference Quotes
April 5, 2005
In looking back at the year, I was really pleased with how the team progressed. There is no question that we were playing our best basketball at the end of the year. We had our bumps along the way, but when you look at each individual on the team, I think that Hassan (Adams) made great progress in his first year on the perimeter. He played great through the last 10 games with one exception.
Channing’s (Frye) game continued to improve and I really think he helped himself with where he will be picked in the (NBA) draft. As of this point, I don’t think Hassan will go (to the 2005 NBA Draft). We’ve been doing a lot of checking to see at what level he would go, and where I felt at the end of the year that it would probably be a done deal. I don’t think it is. I think the chances are far greater that he will be back.
I’m very happy for Salim (Stoudamire). I think it was more than just a basketball year for him. I’m hoping that will continue. I have no doubt in my mind that it will. I think it was a life-altering year for Salim..
In Mustafa (Shakur), so many people just see what he does in terms of scoring, but there is no question that he is one of the best guards at getting the ball down the court in a hurry that we’ve had. I think he gets it down even quicker than Jason Gardner did and it probably goes back to Jason Terry, as far as anyone who can get it down court as quickly, and how critical he was to our team despite what people who don’t know a lot about the game may think.
I think Ivan (Radenovic) from a year ago to now is a totally different. I think you will see that change continue ... the improvement from now to next year. I’m hoping that Chris Rodgers can make similar progress to what Salim made. He definitely has the ability to do that.
The freshman class was absolutely unbelievable for us in terms of their attitude. Next year with Daniel (Dillon), we are going to move him strictly to a wing spot with J.P. Prince coming in. J.P. is a true point. That will allow us to have Daniel do what he does best, which is get to the boards. He’ll be as good of a defender as we have.
Mohamed’s (Tangara) back seems to be much, much improved, and with the work this summer that he will continue to do on that, I would expect him to be completely healthy by next fall.
Bret (Brielmaier) made a lot of progress and put on about 25 pounds since he got here. With Kirk, his target goal for the fall is 250 (pounds). Isaiah’s (Fox) target goal is under 250.
The schedule next year will be very demanding again. We open a series with North Carolina that will be a CBS national game in January on the Saturday or Sunday that we play ASU on Wednesday. We play at Utah and the Maui Classic is without a doubt the best field ever. I doubt that they will ever be able to match it. There are six teams that have won an NCAA title in that tournament (Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan State) and Gonzaga isn’t bad either.
There are a lot of tough teams there (on the schedule). Virginia will be here and the field for the Fiesta Bowl Classic is not set because the tournament will be played Dec. 19-21 because we have to start Pac-10 play on the (Dec.) 29th and 31st. We open at Washington State and Washington.
How would you summarize the season from beginning to end?
I think they made great progress. I said that earlier. I think they made progress throughout the year. I think they were playing their best basketball at the end. An unfortunate loss, but anyone who was there saw that it was a slight homecourt advantage with 17,000 orange-clad fans. It took a team with great character to be in a position of where they could have won.
There were things about how we played not to lose instead of to win. Well, that’s a bunch of bull. We called a timeout with three minutes to go to tell them that you’re not attacking. Attack. You can’t be pressed and not attack. If they had been in that environment and seen what this team did in that environment, it was amazing. It was far and away the best 36 minutes we’ve played all year long under the most difficult conditions. We didn’t play anywhere where it was as much of a homecourt advantage as that was.
You’ve talked a bit about Hassan’s chances, but what have you heard about Channing and Salim’s NBA future?
What we are hearing on Channing is that there are teams that have picks in the 20s that are trying to trade up. He could end up in the teens, but a lot of that will also depend on what happens in Chicago. He Salim and Hassan will be invited to Chicago for the Pre-Draft camp.
You described Salim’s season as life altering. How will that effect him now?
What the pro people want to see is whether he can play the point guard position. There is flat out no question he can play it and I think he will show that in Chicago. The nice thing with him in a pre-draft camp is that he is in a guard position. Sometimes big guys get stuck with some guards that think that the only reason they are holding the pre-camp is to see them. By him being a guard, he’ll be able to show people what kind of a job he can do to make other people better. Everyone knows he can shoot. I think he’ll do very well there. As soon as the pro people see that he can play the point, I think it will make a huge difference in terms of where he’s picked.
Will your style of play change next year?
No. We know Ivan can shoot it. We know Kirk can shoot it. Mohamed will be a work in progress, but no one will go get the ball off the glass better than he does. No, the style won’t change.
Based on the expectations, did this team fully live up to your expectations?
That and more. There may not have been question marks in other people’s minds, but I had question marks. One was Channing and would he become the physical guy that we needed. Was he going to do a better job of getting open and presenting himself to passes.
This is why I hope that none of the players read the papers or listen to radio because sometimes I get the feeling that people think that they are machines that you take in and fill them with gas and they have no emotion. Hopefully, we get that message across.
Talk about getting 30 wins?
I never look ahead at the schedule and say that this is one that we could win. If someone would have said that you could go 7-2 in the league on the road, I don’t think that I would have thought that possible in terms of really being totally honest about it.
They played great. Did I think we could win the league? Yes, I always think we can win the league. As you recall back on (Pac-10) media day when they picked us over Washington. That’s hard to figure out when they beat us three times the year before and we lost Andre (Iguodala) and they had everyone back. OK, There must be some logic there, but it’s hard for me to find. I’m very proud of what the guys accomplished. To at least get the Pac-10 ring for them was certainly important.
Do you think the pros want to see in Hassan?
When I talked with Coach Rosborough and Josh (Pastner), we’ve just tried to touch base with as many (NBA people) as we can just to get an idea. I met with Hassan yesterday so that I as much information for him as I could have. They feel he made great progress this in terms of perimeter play. They still feel that he needs to handle the ball better...that he needs to develop a consistent outside shot and to continue to work on his mid-range game. There has not been one pro team that hasn’t said that he should come back. This system prepares guys for the next level and they just don’t feel that he is ready yet. He’d be taking a lot of chances. A year from now, he’d be one of the premier guys coming out.
Hassan loves it here. So it’s not a case of, “well I want to get out of here.” That’s not it at all. He would obviously be team captain next year. When we talked yesterday, he talked about how important Luke (Walton), Ricky (Anderson) and Jason (Gardner) have been to him, and he feels that he could be helpful to the young guys coming in.
Do you think he should test it?
Yes, I think that’s fine. The only negative to that would be if he went to Chicago and had a camp like Jason had when he was testing the waters (2001). That then would put some question marks in other people’s minds and would put more pressure on him next year. He’ll have to do on that what he feels he should do. I feel very confident right now that he will be back here (next year).
How excited are you about next year?
I’m very excited about it. These are really great young people. They are fun to coach. They are fun to be around. We had a barbecue last night early so we could have everyone together to watch the (national championship) game, though there were a number of them that had to get back for study sessions and other things.
We were on the road for five consecutive weeks. We were at the Washington schools (Feb. 24-26) and then at ASU (March 5), which we didn’t miss any class with that. But then the Pac-10 Tournament, Boise and Chicago. Boise was during Spring Break. They all have a lot of work to do, but the good thing is that they are all pretty much caught up. Thank goodness for Lisa Napoleon, the young lady who is our academic advisor. She is the best that I’ve seen. She goes on all of the road trips and really stays on top of things.
Are you still enjoying this as much as ever?
Yeah. The next few weeks are going to be really hectic, but that’s one of the great things about this job. It’s not the same thing all the time. It’s not like going to the job and doing the same thing every day. The season’s over, so now it’s recruiting, Pac-10 meetings and some appearances for the University. Then it’s camps and the month of July is recruiting. We’re going to get a week here or there where we can recharge. But it’s nice to have a job where you don’t feel like you have to recharge.
Can you comment on the opportunity for Rodney Tention?
I’m thrilled for Rodney. I really felt that last year he was ready and I was hoping that he’d get the USF (University of San Francisco) job because of having played there and been a captain for two years, and was on the first teams that came back after they dropped basketball. He had tremendous support from alumni up there. The key was that the athletic director wanted a head coach. Otherwise, I think that Rodney would have gotten that. But (former UA assistant) Jesse (Evans) did a great job. I think the job that Jesse did and the job that (former UA assistant and current Oregon State head coach) Jay John did really helped Rodney with LMU.
He’s ready. One of the things we try to do here with our assistants is to have them do everything that they would have to do as a head coach on and off the court.
If you have good people in your program, you are always going to be replacing people. The reason we get good people to replace the people that leave is because they’ve seen the opportunities that have been presented as a result of being involved with this program. We’ve never lost an assistant other than to a head coaching position. There aren’t a lot of places that that is the case.
I think Rodney is very ready. He has a great wife (Becky) who understands the responsibilities and the time involvement. It’s a good time for him. His boys are at the right age for this (Justice, 9; and Miles, 6). I think it will be a great opportunity. I think that he will be very successful because he’s recruited the West Coast in essence for us.
What is the process in replacing him and the interest of several former players?
Now we can officially list the opening. It has to be listed for a three-week time period, at which time we will start interviews after that. Obviously, Reggie (Geary, 1992-96) and Miles (Simon, 1994-98) will be two of the people that we’ll want to talk to about that.
You can’t officially hire someone until they have their degrees. Reggie gets his in May and Miles gets his in July. There will be a lot of qualified people are (interested). I already have a lot of things in my box in anticipation of this (vacancy). I can tell you right now that I would definitely favor one of our former players. They would have the edge.
Did the outcome of Monday’s game make you feel better or worse about things?
I’m happy for Roy Williams that the monkey’s off his back. Roy is not only one of the best coaches, but one of the classiest people in the country. Just look at what he’s accomplished over the last 10 years. There are a lot of people who feel very good about Roy getting that win.
What does Chris Rodgers need to improve for 2006?
As with most of the guys, he needs to be quicker with the shot...catch and shoot. Chris still has a little bit of carryover from high school of never taking a shot unless the ball is on the floor first. That restricts a player so much. You can see how in Salim’s case the defense had to be on him the second he caught the ball because of how quickly he got the shot off.
That’s what needs to happen with Chris because then you can use your fakes and use what we call the escape dribble. It’s a case of an escape dribble and a quick pull-up jumper. He has some of the same things he needs to work on. Plus, he’s going to be a senior. He needs to be a leader on and off the court. One of the strengths of our teams here has always been that the chemistry has been great; the guys are together off the court. He needs to improve the amount of time as senior that he is providing that type of leadership. Working on helping others pull together for the good of the team chemistry.
Monday when we got back (from Chicago), I met with the whole team and Tuesday and Wednesday, I met with all of them individually just to try to get them to focus on what a tremendous year it was. You can’t be dragging around with your nose down because of how things finished. Every school in the country with the exception of UNC finished the same way we did. Except that many of them finished a lot earlier than we did.
We had without a doubt the toughest game with an 11 seed (Utah State). UAB, the next game, they had knocked off some really good team through the years. Oklahoma State was a two seed and for good reason and then to have to play the No. 1 tam in the country with their home crowd. I just didn’t want them to look back on the year other than with a great deal of joy and the understanding of everything they’ve accomplished.
Kids are resilient. It’s not like they will ever forget that. It’s funny, I was talking to Hassan Adams, who was taking the loss as tough as anybody, and while I was talking to him about it being painful and it would continue to be painful, I got a phone call from Steve Kerr. I told Steve that Hassan and I were talking about the pain of that loss and he said, “You know coach, there is only one college game I think about. That’s when I had a bad shooting night in Kansas City (1988 Final Four, 2-13 FG).”
That’s unfortunate that that’s the thing that sticks in your mind, but I felt that along with this loss (to Illinois), the other two games I would put in this category were when we lost in the Final Four in 1988 when we were obviously the best team in the country and in 1989 when Vegas hit the shot when we were up two...a 28-footer by Anderson Hunt (68-67 loss to UNLV in 1989 NCAA West Regional semifinal). You never forget those. I’m sure that if you talked to Sean Elliott right now, that’s what he would talk about. One of the great things about athletics is that it teaches you that there are going to be tough times. It’s how well you pick yourself up that will pay dividends.
I think the guys responded well. They are already back doing individual drills and shooting and back in the weight room. They are excited about next year.