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Fiesta Bowl Classic Pre-Tournament Press Conference Quotes
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 12/19/2005
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Western Kentucky Head Coach Darrin Horn

 

Opening Statement:

 “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 Arizona. So for us, it was more about that than anything else. Now that we’re here, we’ll take it as a positive and look at it as an NCAA Tournament-style format where if you win you have to come back and play two days later.”

 

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 Kansas and Kentucky. We rank in the Top 10 in about five or six NCAA categories for winning. So, we don’t feel like we take a backseat to anybody. I don’t think they play with a chip on their shoulder from that standpoint. I do think they are guys that think they can play with anybody in the country and want to prove that every night on the court.”

 

More on Winchester and Lee:

 “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 Louisville and Kentucky. We’re far enough away and we have enough of our own tradition that we stand alone. There are WKU basketball fans and a WKU following. That’s something else a little bit unique about our situation. A lot of schools similar to us don’t have that kind of following, and we really do.”

 

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

 

Opening Statement:

“We are very excited to be here in Tucson and be apart of this Fiesta Bowl Classic. The people have treated us great. We’ve heard throughout the years about how great of a tournament this is and we’re fortunate to be a part of it. I want to thank Coach Olson for doing that. I played for Coach Olson, of course, so this means a lot to me to come here to Tucson for the first time and see things first-hand as to what he’s developed here and the legacy he is providing. It will be fun to see him and his family. I’m looking forward to the ball games.”

 

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 University of Iowa because of Coach Olson in a large degree because I was impressed with the way he was coaching that team when I was coming out of high school. I learned a lot of my philosophies about basketball from him and, certainly, have followed his programs through the years.”

 

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 USA:

 “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 Orlando?

“There are new people coming into the city all the time. It’s growing just like this area [Tucson] is growing. Our school is only 45 years old. Our alumni base and people following our program are very young. So, we’re just now trying to build that alumni base and that support in the community. But we’ve got about 80,000 alums in the Orlando area now. So if our success can continue, I think that awareness and support will continue to grow too.

 

What are your thoughts on Western Kentucky?

 “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 Iowa?

 “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 Arizona, he has given them a lot more freedom and utilized their talents in a lot different ways than what he was doing back when I played for him. I think that is the sign of a great coach in that he adjusts and adapts and yet maintains his core values and his base of fundamentals.”

 

“It was the first Final Four at Iowa in a while I think they went before in 1955 and 1956. It was a great team. We had a couple outstanding players. Ronnie Lester was the key to that team and hurt his knee early in the year and was out for a month or month and a half. So we had to weather that storm. Then Ronnie came back early in the Big 10 season or in the middle of it and we went on a great roll at the end.

 

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 Georgetown to go to the Final Four and I was scrambling around and didn’t hear the game or anything. So I get back home and there are 15,000 fans in the field house and the team comes in on the bus. It was just an unbelievable experience. I really didn’t get the chance to enjoy it with the team because I was out doing other stuff. I was back for the celebration, so that was really the first time I was got to get a feel of everything.”

 

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 in the championship game. You know that is a real easy game here in McKale. They hardly ever win in McKale, right (smiles)?”

 

 

Arizona Head Coach Lute Olson

 

Opening Statement:

“Obviously, this is a quick turnaround for us. We got home late last night. Sam Houston State really spreads the court with a lot of cuts and a lot of things that will involve communication for us. They have played very well to this point. Obviously, the big one for them was winning at Missouri (80-77 on Nov. 14). They have some very good athletes. (Ryan) Bright is a problem in terms of him doing a lot of things. I think he was the Player of the Year in their conference last year. So, we’ll match Hassan (Adams) with him. We just had our staff meeting and we’ll put together a scout team and try to be as well prepared as we can be for them.

 

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 Utah:

“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 Spokane on the 28th and play at the Civic Arena ?- the same place we have placed in the past when the game has been during the break.

 

We said that we felt we really needed these games for momentum. I think people underestimate how good Northern (Arizona) is and how good St. Mary’s is. Those were good tests for us. Utah had won 21 in a row (on its home court) and 37 in a row if you took non-conference games. This was not easy. It’s never an easy place to play. I thought we totally took the crowd out of it after the run we had. They were having a hard time getting shots off, having to work right down to the final seconds of the possession. I think we showed what we’re capable of if everyone is on the same page.”

  

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 New York tournaments does now. They know they can’t draw top caliber teams in otherwise. What we’ve tried to do is look at teams that may not have the names, but are really good teams. In 2003, people were rousing about the people coming into the tournament, yet out of the 64 teams in the NCAA tournament, four of them were in this tournament (Arizona, Valparaiso, Liberty and Louisiana-Lafayette). I think Sam Houston State is a team on the way up. Central Florida almost beat Connecticut in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year. And Kirk Speraw (UCF head coach) played for me at Iowa. We are having the guys from the 1980 Final Four team at Iowa in for the game tomorrow night. We’ll have them at our house along with the coaches from the other three teams. But that helped us get Kirk Speraw come with Central Florida. And Western Kentucky is one of those teams that is always good. They just aren’t a team that gets a lot of exposure. They get more than some others, though, because they have had really good teams through the years. I think it will be a competitive tournament again.”

 

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 (Utah and Houston), we played great teams in Maui (Kansas, Connecticut, Michigan State) and, if you notice, Virginia has played very well since they were here. I think our preparation has been good. It’s not about who we play now, it’s about how we play. That’s the thing we’ll try to get really target. We can effect how the other team plays with our defense, but we need to make sure that every possession we get the ball that we get a good shot. Other than the Houston game, we have actually done a pretty good job of taking care of the basketball. No matter who we have played, we have caused people problems with creating turnovers. What we want to get out of this is to continue to play as well as we can play and iron out the things that need to be ironed out.”

 

Talk about the members of your 1980 Final Four team at Iowa coming into town:

“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 Iowa and they have a couple games coming up. So, he has to be there for that. Steve Krafcisin, who was a starter, now coaches at Northern Iowa Community College and has games to coach. He won’t make it, but pretty much everyone else will.”

 

Did you and Central Florida Coach Kirk Speraw talk about getting his team to come out here? 

“What happened was that we had Ohio State coming and then when the dates changed they couldn’t make it. So we were looking for a team to come in. I think the deciding thing with Kirk was that we were having the Iowa team in, which gave him a good chance to come in and play in a good tournament plus a lot of people he knows. Last year, when they (Iowa) had the 25th anniversary reunion of that team, they had it on the same day we played UCLA, so there was no way I could be back there. When I talked with the guys (from the 1980 team), I said ?'let’s see how many can come out here and we’ll have our own reunion’. It’s the only Iowa team that has been to the Final Four in 50 years. So, it’s a big deal. We’re anxious to see all of them.”

 

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 Iowa, came over a day early and walked with me today. He was telling Christine about how demanding I was on him and on his teammates. He said sometimes you have to grow up a little bit and then realize what you learned was a valuable life lesson. He has two kids now and feels a lot of the things he felt were unreasonable at the time are things that, right now, he is trying to teach his kids. But that’s our job as coaches to make them as good as they can be and not accept less than their best. Sometimes they don’t realize what their best is until after they leave. Listen to Andre (Iguodala) now talk about his sophomore year. I told him then it would probably be best then if he left because you can’t teach somebody anything once they know it all. It’s interesting, after he practiced a while with Philadelphia he called and said, ?'I can’t thank you enough for what I learned at Arizona. There has been nothing here that I didn’t know coming in.’ They have all been that way. Ask (Tom) Tolbert about how it was when he was here. Or Sean Elliott. Any of them. But that’s our job. Kirk has a short memory. He’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, I believe (smiles).”

 

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.”

 

 

Sam Houston State Head Coach Bob Marlin

 

Opening Statement

“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 Arizona are first-class.  We’re excited about playing ?- we’ve been off for exams for a week, so we’re looking forward to playing.  We’re not looking forward to playing Arizona after what they did to Utah yesterday, but our guys will come out and compete hard.  Hopefully, we’ll put on a good show.”

 

How do you fell about having nine days off?

“It’s been a long break.  We did not play well against Houston then went into exams.  We took a couple of days off to get into books without practice, but have practiced the last six days.  Practices haven’t been as crisp as I would like them to be, partly because of exams and partly because the weather has turned and it’s not as quite as nice as it how here.  But, we’re excited about coming back and playing ?- hopefully, the layoff will not hurt us.”

 

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 Missouri and had 21 at Drexel, but has had a couple of down games since then.  He’s a young player ?- a sophomore ?- who is very important to our team.”

 

Will Arizona’s shooting change the way you play defense?

“From what I’ve seen of Arizona so far, they don’t shoot the ball like some of their previous teams.  I think they shot the ball a lot better at Utah.  We may play some zone, it’s in our playbook, but would rather not do that unless we need to.  We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.  We’ll do whatever we can to give our group the best chance to compete.”

 

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 Arizona and the success that they’ve had.  They’re excited.  Our guys know that it is a prestigious tournament, and that the people out here do a great job of running it.  It’s obviously a thrill for some of these guys to play in this environment.”

 

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 Missouri game gave your team a boost in confidence, and has it carried over?

“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 Missouri game definitely gave us some momentum, and we also had a nice win at New Mexico State that really gave us a lot of confidence.  The biggest thing those games have done, was we fell behind and continued to play to come back and win ?- we had a chance to pack it in, but the guys kept playing and fought through adversity.  For a young team with only one senior, that’s important.”

 

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 Texas College and missed a couple of games.  He only played four minutes against Houston and could not move.  He looked good in practice a couple of days this week, but then tweaked it.  We obviously need him.  He’s a fifth-year senior who started 10 games for our NCAA Tournament team in 2002-03.” 

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