Western Kentucky Head Coach Darrin Horn
“We’re very pleased to be here. This is a first-class event. It’s a tournament field that has some excellent basketball teams and has the possibility of producing two days of great basketball.”
Tournaments like these are often scheduled for the home team, hopefully, to win two games. How do you approach this as a visiting team?
“Our problem at WKU is scheduling. We only play 14 league games, which leaves us 13 non-conference games to schedule and no one wants to come to our place. The last few years our winning percentage is pretty impressive. So, this tournament provided us an opportunity to knock two games off our non-conference schedule and be in a situation to maybe play a team that helps your RPI such as
Talk about the play of guards Anthony Winchester and Courtney Lee
“They are guys that have really developed since they have gotten to college. Anthony has been a real beneficiary of our style of play and his ability to shoot the basketball. They are guys that got overlooked for whatever reason, but I wouldn’t trade them for any two guards in the nation.
Are they late bloomers?
I think so, a little bit. I think, too, sometimes the recruiting circus is created by fanfare and ratings and how many AAU tournaments you’ve played in. These are guys that weren’t caught up in that or a big part of that, so they maybe flew under the radar a little bit.”
Do your players come here with a chip on their shoulder?
“I don’t think so. We feel like we’re a pretty good basketball program. There are only two other schools in the country that have won more conference championships than us, and they are
and Lee: Winchester
“Anthony is, to use a clich?©, a ?'throw back’. He’s just a basketball player. He’s a guy that can do a little bit of everything. He can really shoot the basketball. He’s got terrific toughness and can play inside and outside. He’ll hurt you in a variety of ways. Courtney is a very athletic, slashing kind of guard. He can really go get his own shot and score the basketball. He’s got the potential to be an excellent rebounder and defender as well. He’s a guy that impacts the game on both sides of the ball in a lot of different ways. When you look at his statistics after the game, he’s got the rebounds and steals, and we chart deflections defensively and he’s always a guy at the top of that list.”
Talk about being a former WKU player and now the head coach of the program:
“When I was playing at WKU, we were in four postseasons, three NCAA tournaments, ranked in the Top 25 twice, a Sweet Sixteen and a Round of 32. There are a lot of so-called ?'BCS’ schools that can’t claim that. In fact, probably half of them in every conference can’t claim that. So I just felt like it was an opportunity for me to get back home but also for a young head coach ?- at the time I was the second youngest head coach in Division I basketball ?- to have the opportunity to get a job at what I think is a big-time basketball school in terms of the level of basketball we play. It’s a unique situation. Usually, you end up with a really bad job and it’s opened up for a reason or it’s hard to get a good one at all. I think this is a phenomenal job and it was an awesome opportunity for me at a young age.”
Would you consider moving onto a “bigger” program or do you feel a strong allegiance to WKU?
“I didn’t take this job to get the next job. I think I’m a little different from that standpoint. I’m from WKU and my goal is to be a school like Gonzaga that may not be in a BCS conference, but is a nationally recognized program on a yearly basis. I think we have the potential to do that. We’ve got unbelievable administration that is committed. Our facility is second to none in the country. We just put $32 million into it. We’ve got luxury suites, jumbo-trons, players lounge, auxiliary gyms, weight room ?- the whole deal. We’ve got great support. It’s a basketball town. The tradition is phenomenal. We’re unlike a lot of other schools in states where you have powerhouses like
What is your evaluation of how your team has played this year?
“Not very good, quite honestly. We got a lot of preseason hype because we have three starters back, all of which are good players. But outside of that, no one has returned for us that had produced a lot. Lee, who is an excellent player, is still just a sophomore. He has to deal with a lot of things sophomore players deal with in terms of consistency in some areas. I just think that we are still finding our way. We’re not very tough. We don’t rebound the basketball very well and we don’t take care of it very well. I don’t know how you can be a good basketball team if you aren’t doing those things much better than we are now.”
Central Florida Head Coach Kirk Speraw
“We are very excited to be here in
What has your relationship with Coach Olson been like over the years?
“We have stayed in touch, certainly, both being in the coaching ranks. I picked the
Talk about coaching at UCF for 13 years:
“We were fortunate. We went to a program that had never won at the at the I-A level, a Division II program that moved to Division I. Prior to our staff getting there, they had never had a winning season. We won that first year and got to the NCAA Tournament and had some tough years right after that. But we moved forward with the program. I look at the program in the long view, not just the short view looking for something else down the road. We’re the eighth largest university in the country. We have moved into the Conference USA. We’re putting together the facilities. We’ve got a $350 million building project that includes a new convocation center for us. We’re putting in a new on-campus football stadium with 45,000 seats. There is no reason to move on. In the long view this was a job I thought we could really build and move onto the national scene. I think we are finally getting some of the facilities in order to where we can move into a Top 35, 40 50-type program.”
On the transition into Conference
“We had been working on moving into the conference for a number of years. It was the goal of the University and we wanted to get our football program into it. Our football program used to be in the Mid-American Conference. We [basketball program] used to be in the Atlantic Sun Conference. To get all our sports in the same conference and move ourselves into a position to be associated with a more national level of competition was a long-term goal for our athletic department. We had been working on it for a number of years.”
Do you feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to build your program?
“I think it takes a while to establish a solid foundation of things. I think a lot of universities make the wrong decision where they go three or four years and something doesn’t happen even when the coach is just starting to turn the corner and get the program moving in the right direction they make a change and start over from scratch. I think you see a lot of rotation at certain universities because they don’t allow a foundation to build over the long term. But that’s something we’ve been successful at. Our baseball coach has been there for 20-some years and he has one of the best programs in the nation. We think we are starting to do some good things in basketball.”
How have you worked to change the perception of the program?
“It’s hard to change perception. It takes success over long periods of time. We’re averaging over 21 wins per season over the last four years. But who really knows that? We’ve been the to the NCAA tournament four times since we’ve been here and we’ve been in the conference championship seven times in the 11 tournaments we have played since we’ve been there, winning four of the seven championship games. I think it’s a matter of changing perception over a course of time. We’ve had to fight that locally. Sometimes there are people nationally that have a better opinion of our program than what some of our local people know.”
What is it like being in
“There are new people coming into the city all the time. It’s growing just like this area [
What are your thoughts on
“I am thoroughly impressed with WKU. I’ve watched a lot of teams so far this year on tape that we’re going to play and there is not anybody that plays harder than the WKU guys. They are relentless. They are active on defense and fly around. They are an awfully good team.”
Do you see similarities between Olson’s team now and when you played for him at
“Well, he is just so sound in his approach and the way he treats people in a first-class way. He was always very fundamental in his approach to practice and what he is doing. I found it interesting over the years that the way he coached us back then in the late 1970s and in 1980 is different than what he is doing now. He was very structured. Very deliberate with us. And now that he’s been able to recruit the players he has throughout the years at
“It was the first Final Four at
The thing that was memorable to me for that year was we had an assistant coach, Tony McAndrews, who crashed in a plane on a recruiting trip. Coach asked the NCAA and I was able to go out and recruit and see some of the players we were recruiting at that point in time. That was great experience for me, but I never got to attend any of the tournament games leading up to the Final Four because I was always the guy going to see this player or that player. We beat
Talk about Coach Olson then and now:
“He hasn’t changed much and he hasn’t aged much. He is one of those eternally young people that is very active. He’s as intense now as he was then. He probably feels the same way about officiating now as he did then (laughs). He’s got things going pretty well around here right now. He’s always had great assistant coaches that work very hard. Coach Roz (Jim Rosborough) has been with him so long. I’ll say one thing about Coach Olson, it’s interesting because the only time I really get in touch with him is on the recruiting trail in July if we cross paths, but he’s one of the few high-major head coaches that is out there just working it hard. He works July as hard as anyone in the country but that’s why he is so successful at getting the players and talent that he does.”
These tournaments are often set up favorably for the home team. How do you approach these games?
“I’m a realist. I know how these tournaments work. It’s going to be a great opportunity for us. I think we’ve got a tough matchup with WKU in the first round. Then, of course, the winner will most likely play
Arizona Head Coach Lute Olson
“Obviously, this is a quick turnaround for us. We got home late last night.
As far as our game yesterday, the defense really dictated the whole game for us. As it has been pretty much all year long, our defense will be consistent. Yesterday our defense was very good. We created a lot of turnovers and a lot of easy baskets that ignited the runs that we had.”
Talk about the team’s improved shooting against
“The whole thing I’ve said all along is shot selection. There were very few shots that were taken yesterday that shouldn’t have been taken. We’ll shoot the ball well if we take the shots that we should take. A lot of it has been confidence. But if you’re shooting bad shots and shooting a low percentage, you’re going to have a hard time developing any confidence. But, we saw this last week in practice. I felt we were on the verge of really breaking out because we shot the ball well, moved the ball well and got good looks. I thought we did that yesterday, too. We penetrated a lot more. We penetrated and pulled up and used our mid-range game. As a result, we shot the ball the well. This should not be a bad shooting team. It’s just been a bad shot selection team. But I think we’re getting the idea.”
Do you feel this team has started to turn the corner?
“We’ve seen this happening in the practice situation as I’ve said. We’ve done a better job of moving without the ball. We’ve done a better job of selecting our shots. What you see in practice, you’re going to eventually see in a game situation. I thought we saw it Saturday, plus our defense was very good. The communication, right now, is certainly better than it was. It doesn’t mean we still don’t have a ways to go, but it’s gotten a lot better. We’re getting more people talking. In the type of defense we play, there has to be communication, otherwise if you assume the other guy knows what you’re doing, why you’re going to have breakdowns. We had very few breakdowns yesterday.”
Talk about the week off after these games before starting Pac-10 play:
“Over Christmas we normally take that break anyways. We’ll play Monday and Wednesday, and then practice Thursday morning. Then they (players) will go home for Christmas. Then, we’ll have them report back on the 26th for an eight o’clock practice at night, as we usually do so it doesn’t interfere with their Christmas Day. That will give us Thursday time to intro what we will be doing in connection with Washington State, and then we will come back and have the 26th and 27th and then fly out the 28th and work out in
We said that we felt we really needed these games for momentum. I think people underestimate how good Northern (
Usually this tournament is held after Christmas. How does this affect your preparation?
“It’s different. The reason we haven’t had this in the last two years is because we have played ASU in our first conference game. Everyone else has had to start with two games in late December. We’ve been able to start on the weekend in January by playing ASU. The others have had to put up with it for some. It’s because of the Pac-10 tournament. Obviously, the tournament is still here for another two years. We have to do something about this. The coaches have been pushing for a 16-game league schedule. Unfortunately, most of what we recommend falls on deaf ears. To me, it’s ridiculous to start the league season before January 1st. It took us however many years to get all 10 teams into the tournament, so now that we have that maybe we can talk some sense as far as cutting this down to 16 games so teams don’t have to do this and will be able to participate in holiday tournaments.
“It’s difficult for us in that four of the first six games are on the road. On the other hand we get some of the games out of the way before class starts again. It will be fine. We will We will have the normal amount of preparation we would have any other time. Normally, we have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and this time we’ll have the 26th, 27th and 28th. It will be like our regular preparation for the league.”
Do you have a lot of teams that line up to come to this tournament?
“You’re going to have a hard time getting the major-major programs because most of the major programs are in a similar situation to what we’re in where football and basketball have to provide the financing for the rest of the sports. Top level teams can’t afford to give up two games. We could play this as a double-header the first night and then bring three new teams two nights later like one of the
What do you hope to get out of these games?
“I remember a couple years ago we played (former UA assistant coach) Jesse Evans’ team from Louisiana-Lafayette, and that baby went right to the final minute. We’ve had some very competitive games in here. The whole purpose of our non-conference schedule is to prepare us for the league. We played in two difficult places to play (
Talk about the members of your 1980 Final Four team at
“Well, we just got a call from Ronnie Lester about three days ago and he’s not going to be able to make it. He’s the assistant general manager of the Lakers and he has to be somewhere to watch some players that they are interested in drafting at the end of the year. So he won’t be here. Bobby Hansen does color for
Did you and Central Florida Coach Kirk Speraw talk about getting his team to come out here?
“What happened was that we had
Kirk Speraw said that you’re recent teams have more freedom than the teams did back when he played under you in the late 1970s. Is that true?
“Ask the current players if that is true (smiles). No, I have not changed as long as they are working to be the best they can be. My job is to make them as good as they can be. It’s about how people play in a team environment. Kirk probably doesn’t have a good memory at this point. Vince Brookins, one of the starters on that team at
Do you think he meant more that the style of pay has changed over the years? You probably didn’t have a lot of players like Hassan Adams.
“No, we didn’t. But Bobby Hansen played in the pros a lot of years. Ronnie Lester was probably the best point guard, maybe, that I’ve ever coached. But we had a couple big guys inside. We really, at that point, weren’t playing with three guards. We were playing with more of the standard ?'3’-man and two inside guys. It depends on what their abilities are. What’s good for one is not necessarily good for the other. That’s all apart of what has been occurring all year long is getting people to accept their roles based on their abilities.”
“Our group is excited about being here at the Fiesta Bowl Tournament. We’ve heard a lot of great things about it. The people at
How do you fell about having nine days off?
“It’s been a long break. We did not play well against
For those that haven’t seen you, what style do you play?
“We’ve got a good group of guys who play really hard, they are trying really hard. We’re not the most physically talented team or the biggest team that I’ve coached, but we have some toughness. We’ve had a couple of good wins so far this season, both on the road and at home, so hopefully we can continue to grow as a team. We play mostly man-to-man defense, but we’re not where we need to be there for sure ?- we’ve had some really good defensive teams in the past, but have a ways to go. Offensively we’ll try to score in transition if we can, if not we’ll look for the best available shot for our team. We do have some guys who can shoot the basketball, and will have to shoot extremely well for us to have a chance to win tomorrow night.
On Ryan Bright:
“He does just about everything. He’s a young player who is very gifted with the ball. Sometimes he tries to do too much and gets himself in a little bit of trouble, but he’s very good handling the ball and passing the ball. He sees the court well, and he’s a good three-point shooter too. He’s a big reason we have gotten off to a pretty good start this season. He came right out of the gate with 28 points at
“From what I’ve seen of
Is it a big deal for your program to be in event like this against a team that is always highly regarded?
“Yes it is. We’ve talked about it, we have a lot of respect for coach Olson and this program. Our guys are familiar with
What do you hope your team takes away from this tournament?
“Well, we’d like to get a win or two. We want to play up to our level, which is something we always worry about, not whether we win or lose. If you play well over time, wins and losses will take care of itself. We want to improve as a team, and try to get better each and every time out. You’ve got three major conferences represented here, so we’ll try to do our best to represent the Southland (Conference).”
Do you feel the
“Obviously it’s good to win your first game, especially on the road in that environment. We’ve won some big games over the past few years against larger schools, so our guys feel like they can compete every time out. They know what it takes to win. Whether we can get that done execution-wise is another story on a game-to-game basis. That
Is Chris Jordan okay?
“He wasn’t very good today. We thought that he would be well for the tournament, but he’s not. Unfortunately, he was injured in the first half of our game against