Jan. 16, 2012
"I think the biggest thing that we have to do a good job of - I think we are progressing in a lot of areas - but our biggest concern as a staff is turnovers. I think we had 13, 14 and 15 in the last three games. We watched film on it again this morning as a team and staff. They are really unforced turnovers. So that's one area we have to get better at, taking care of the ball more than anything. We're putting ourselves in great positions to win games but we have costly turnovers in tough situations. So that's an area we have to get better in.
"I also think what Kenny and Jeronne and those guys are doing a really good job. Even before the addition of Jarnell, I thought those guys really asserted themselves against Florida and Mississippi State, against some of the best in the country at their respective positions. They're holding their own. It's good to see those guys play at that level and progress at the pace that they're at--it's fun to watch those guys do it on both ends of the floor.
"I think the next phase for us now is really competing and getting a win on the road. Is it do or die for us? No. I think we have the mental capacity to get it done but we have to take care of the basketball. I think we've been in tough situations, tough environments and tough games. Now we have to do a good job of really taking care of the ball, getting the ball where it's supposed to go. I thought we did a tremendous job of pounding the ball inside against Kentucky, but we have to stay consistent with that throughout the game--even if they're blocking shots. We've got to keep pounding the ball inside.
"I think the biggest plus for us as a staff right now is our team defense. We're finally starting to get to where we need to be in order to be a successful program, to be one of the better defensive teams in the country. One of our goals heading into the season was to hold teams under 40 percent from the field. We had 40.6, I think, in league play. Holding them under 30 percent from 3-point range and I think we're at 31 or 32 percent. Points: 60 or less in league play and I think we're at 61. So, we're making the necessary progress against three really good opponents. Now it's being consistent with that and keep putting forth that work ethic and getting into that mindset where we're trying to get stops every time down. I don't know if we have that mindset right now. I think we're a better defensive team, but we have to get that mindset where we hate for teams to score baskets against us. Once we get that mindset then we'll be making another step."
On Jarnell Stokes' debut
"I think the thing that helped Jarnell was who was on the floor with him. They did a good job of communicating and helping him through situations and making him understand. From a play standpoint, he didn't know a lot of them, even though he's very intelligent. We didn't put a lot in there. So it was kind of get the ball inside and have space. So I think it's a credit to the guys who were on the floor with him, to put him in good situations to make plays. And they really did a good job of talking to him on the defensive side of the ball. Kentucky put him in some situations where he had to make plays and make decisions and I thought our other guys did a good job of helping him out."
On whether Jarnell Stokes' minutes will increase
"I think so--as long as he's in good shape and understands what is expected on the defensive side of the ball, more than anything. With him, Jeronne, Kenny and those guys, you have guys you can throw the ball inside to and make plays. So you can be safe offensively if you don't know a lot of plays. But from a defensive standpoint it's hedging ball screens, rotating, switching different ball screens, helping recover--those are all different things he has to make adjustments to."
On how soon Stokes will be in "basketball shape"
"It's hard to say. I know he was winded early in the game, but I think the crowd and the adrenaline and atmosphere got him over the hump somewhat in that last game. But it's hard to say. We'll get him up and down the court. He got some work in yesterday. But we'll get him up and down the court as much as possible."
On hype surrounding Stokes
"We're not concerned as a program. We go about business as usual. This is a team and not a bunch of individuals. Even though my name is on the marquee, it's our program. It's a credit to the guys that are currently on the team - before he got here - to make the adjustments necessary for him to be successful. These are good guys and they want to be successful. They understand what it means bringing a new guy in. They've done a great job of really embracing him."
"The unfortunate thing about it is that it's not because the opposing team is applying great pressure. It's probably doing too much for certain guys. I thought we had some costly transition turnovers against Mississippi State. I thought Kentucky did a good job of knocking the ball out of a big guy's hand, especially in the second half. It's not really pinpointing one thing, it's just taking better care of the ball. If you're not a true ball handler, don't handle the ball as much."
On offensive energy and production
"We have to be a great defensive team in order to get where we are trying to go. We tried the 90 points and came up short. I think for us, we have to be a tremendous defensive team, and that's the way it will be as long as I'm a part of this program. On offense, you have to make shots, you work on your game and you get it inside and score the ball. You look at Kentucky. When you get into league play, if you're a good team and you execute what you're trying to do, you're not scoring a lot of baskets just coming down the floor into your offense. If you're a good team on both ends of the floor in league play, it comes down to grinding it out and getting stops and that's what Kentucky did to win the ballgame. Their individuals made plays. That's what it came down to. You have to be able to defend at a high level if you want to be one of the last teams standing.
On better defense in league play
"I think the lineup change had something to do with it. In order for us to be a champion, we have to defend. I think in Josh's case, he's a defender by nature. He's a guy who will be a good scorer but he's a defender more than anything. I think Renaldo just brings a different level of energy. But we haven't changed anything defensively. We're just doing the things we talk about, and I've said it before, I never thought defending could be that hard. It's just taking pride in shutting your guy down."
On scoring production from starters
"We don't go into a game and say, `This guy needs to score this amount of points.' If we're pounding the ball inside, we're getting production. I don't have a gauge on a guy--"OK, I need this guy to score 18 tonight.' We just need to put our guys into position to score. What they did the other night, which is a credit to our big guys--is that they started doubling our posts. So now we have to make plays out of a double team."
On whether strong post players make shooters more valuable
"If he consistently makes shots, yes. That's the biggest key. You have to be able to make them in big time situations."
On Calipari's remark that the Vols are an NCAA tournament team
"I guess I don't read a lot of anything. Like I told our guys from Florida up until now, are we're one of the 68 teams, I say yes. But you have to put a lot of work in and cover some ground. I would definitely say from the time we started league play I would say yes. But we have to consistently win games. But I don't get caught up in reading all of that."
On quick turnarounds
"They are young and fresh and will heal in time. They have a long time to be able to be healing. There are a lot of sacrifices. We took off Sunday--we take off once a week. But there are a lot of sacrifices when you start talking about being a great athlete and a great player. You give up some of the Thanksgivings, Christmases, holidays, if you want to be the best. And they chose to do it. It's part of the job. I didn't see my daughter's first birthday. I wasn't there. I missed a lot because of my job. But they aren't doing anything different than any of the best teams in the country."
"They're a talented team. They have really good guard play, their bigs are talented but young. They probably face up more than back to the basket. They are good shot blockers but they're young. They play well off the dribble, run a lot of ball screens for their guards. They got off to a real good start at Vanderbilt but came up short. But I thought they did a great job out of the gate.
On road struggles
"I've always approached games like it's the last game I'm going to play and I've got to do everything within my power to win this game. I never went into games thinking about a team's record. Look at our record. There is no margin of error for us. We have to go out and try to win a ballgame. Regardless of the opponent, I think we are playing better basketball now. We are playing better and that helps. This is the time when you want to start getting better."
On Renaldo Woolridge seeing more time at the three
"Yes he will. He has done a lot and plays with a lot of energy. He's played at the five and four and some at the three. That's not an easy thing to do. There are a lot of situations where we have a lot of different lineups out there. He'll still play some at the four but will slowly try to incorporate him into the three position. He has to readjust his mind to really defending at that position, chasing guys at the small forward position. That will be the biggest adjustment for him--guarding smaller guys off the dribble and chasing guys off ball screens."
On number of Kentucky fans in Thompson-Boling Arena last Saturday "It concerns me. We see 21,000 plus, we'd like to see 21,000 plus in Orange. Especially when you say you are going up against a rival. We have to do our job representing. If we're going to wear the Orange, let's represent the right way. If the upper bowl is packed is one thing, but when you have them in the lower bowl... Back when I played at Purdue, there was not a lot of red in the lower bowl when Indiana came to the gym. So we have to represent the right way. Now I'd like to see a lot of Orange when we go to Lexington. When you say you want to be the best, you have to approach it like the best."
On team's progress
"My gauge as a coach isn't necessarily winning or losing ball games. Obviously, I want to win every game. But I think the way the guys are playing and how they are competing--and also with guys like Jeronne and Kenny, when they realize they can play with the best in the country--then they take another step. Not only can I play well, but I can compete on the same level as the best. That's when you start making strides as a team and as a program. Regardless of how talented Jeronne and Kenny are, they hadn't played a lot of minutes. Now they are getting those minutes and have chances to go up against the best and start to think, `I can do this.' It takes it to another level."
On confidence in Kenny Hall
"I think in order for him to grow, he has to believe in me, too. It's a two-way street. I have to have trust in him and he has to trust me. When you keep pulling a guy and pulling a guy and he's second guessing himself. He's doubting himself and he can't grow. Part of growth is going through that fire and he did that. He got into foul trouble early in a lot of games, but he stuck with it. But my job is to stick with him because I see his future. A lot of times guys don't see their future. So as a coach, you have to put them in position to see what they can be if they work for it. I just gave him the opportunity to grow."