Jan. 24, 2005
As far as the road trip we just finished, any time you can sweep on the road in this conference, it’s a special feat. I think that’s really true now. When you look at the league, I defy any one to say that there is at least one gimme on those trips. I don’t think that’s true.
We’ve gotten two of the really difficult road trips out of the way with Cal and Stanford and the two Oregon schools, and to win three out of four is a special feat.
I’m very happy with the way our guys responded on Saturday. Sometimes you have a huge game like we did on Thursday night, and what happens to you Saturday night is like what happened to Oregon. I’m not taking anything away from what ASU did, but that was a flat Oregon team on Saturday. It’s hard when you are on the road to make sure that you are on top of your game on both days.
We got tremendous help from our bench on Saturday. Does that surprise me? Not at all. I think I’ve told you that all along. Our freshmen learn more in a practice situation than a lot of the freshmen starters in this league because they have games twice a week. These guys fight for their lives every day in a practice situation. It did not surprise me.
I’ve said this about Jawann McClellan. All he needs is a breakout game. He’s been practicing extremely well. There is no question, I think it’s helped his confidence and it’s helped Jesus’ (Verdejo) confidence. We didn’t have the opportunity to use Daniel Dillon a whole lot, but as you know at Marquette, he played like a veteran. Bret Brielmaier played like a veteran at Marquette. Kirk Walters is not in that class any more. He’s now a sophomore. His improvement is marked and I think you’ll find the same thing, once you get an opportunity to see Mohamed (Tangara) next year. We’re very pleased with the development of our younger guys.
When we were down 15 in the first half Saturday (at Oregon State), there was no sense of panic on their part. They went in and did their job and I was very pleased with them.
As far as Washington is concerned, they are playing lights out right now. They have great depth. Without a doubt, the most athletic team in the conference with us being second. They have great quickness. We have better size. It’s going to be a great game.
Much has been made of the fact that they beat us three times a year ago. I think if you remember, Salim Stoudamire did not play in the game here a year ago. We expect that he will make a little bit of a difference.
Nate Robinson is their heart and soul, but probably the best player on their team right now is Tre Simmons in terms of the guy who has been the most consistent day-in and day-out. We’ll have our hands full and so will they. I’m sure it will be a great game.
Does the fact that they beat you three times last year still eat at you?
Any losses we’ve had in my 47 or 48 years has eaten away at me, not any more than any other loss.
What do they that makes it so difficult to overcome?
Depth. (Last year) We got in foul trouble and we couldn’t go to our bench to get the help. It wasn’t exactly like they blew us out. The game up there went right to the wire...all three of the games, basically, went to the wire.
The conditions now are different now than it’s been in the past. They are now the hunted rather than the hunter and that makes a huge difference. We’ve been used to being the hunted ever since 1985-86.
I love it. Our players know that when they come here...you stick an Arizona jersey on your chest and you are never going to get anybody’s second effort. It’s going to be an “A” game. Everybody’s going to come in excited about it. Probably the best evidence of that is that was Oregon State being sold out (Saturday). How long has it been since they’ve been sold out?
We’re used to that. In Washington’s situation, it won’t affect this one, because this one they know what it’s all about. But I think if you ask (UW) Coach (Lorenzo) Romar, there have been some games where they haven’t recognized how much they are being hunted now that they are considered one of the top teams in the league.
Do you sense around town lately that there is a sense of you gotta get Washington?
Well, I haven’t been around town much (laughs). A person would have to be really out of it if they don’t realize that this is a big game. That would be true up there as well as here and throughout the conference. It will be a focal game nationally, too.
But you are one of those people who don’t get too emotional...
The biggest thing that you could do is to hype the game so much that your players go out tight. The key thing from our standpoint is that we just go out and play and have fun playing. If you give it your best shot, what else can you do? That’s what we want...to give it your best shot.
A lot of things that (UCLA) Coach (John) Wooden has said through the years that has really been meaningful to me, but one of the things he always talked about was that a peak was always followed by a valley. You’d better stay emotionally on one level, because if you get too high, then you are going to have a very deep valley.
You’ve seen it here in the past that the team that plays here on Thursday night sometimes doesn’t play as well on Saturday. We know we’re going to get everybody’s best game. We’re proud of that. That’s the reason most of these guys are here.
Does Washington strike you as the same team as last year?
They are much better. They have great coaches. They obviously have great work ethic. They play as hard as anybody, so there is no way in the world that they aren’t better right now than they were a year ago. Experience at this level is very important.
Does it surprise you the way that Tre Simmons has emerged?
He’s always been a really good athlete. He’s probably shooting the ball better than what we expected right now. He’s a real load right now inside and out. Hassan Adams will draw the assignment. When he’s not in, Chris Rodgers will get him.