Feb. 3, 2014
"We have come off a good week. I think our guys did a good job on both team against the zone. We see quite a bit of zone and will see some against Vandy. I thought our guys did a good job moving the ball against the zone. We have to do a little better job dribble penetrating in the zone. I thought our bigs did a solid job posting, flashing and making shots. Josh (Richardson) is shooting well against the zone. That is his game. He is able to spot it and take shots. He is shooting it well and I think with Jordan (McRae) and those three-point shots he has really become a catch and shoot guy against the zone. He knows where his shots are coming from. He is taking advantage and shooting with confidence. Hopefully we can get him to shoot a little more against the zone because he is shooting it well. Jarnell (Stokes) is playing well. As well as any big guy in the country as far as I am concerned with his toughness, his demeanor and approach and his ability to rebound the basketball. He continues to get better at getting defensive rebounds. I think that is the next phase for his game. He is demanding the ball more around the rim whether he is facing up or posting up. Jeronne (Maymon) is doing what he has been doing for a long time rebounding, facilitating, defending, competing. Guys are playing well. Darius (Thompson) has done a good job of starting role taking care of the basketball but also looking for his offense. He is a guy recruited from high school that can make shots and score the ball, but now he is looking for his offense which is good. Overall it was a good week now we have to continue to push forward. It is a very talented Vandy team even though they don't have a lot of guys, but is a talented, well coached team. It is a team that will execute and run the offense, mix it up. We have our work cut out for us."
(On Darius Thompson's defense) "Every freshman goes at their own pace, time and grow. I think with Darius he is a guy that works extremely hard. He comes in and works on his game. He is one of a few guys that I have ever been around that comes in for an individual workout with defense. You rarely see it. He and Coach Webster spend a lot of time on that. Like I said that is something you really don't see all the time, but he wants to be a good player. I should say he wants to be a great player because he puts the time into it. He continues to grow and get better. I think it helps him to be around veteran guys. His defense is not bad. He is obviously a lot better in the zone because he knows how to probe the defense. He has long arms, gets steals and he gets in and out of the passing lanes. He has a good feel."
(On having a starting spark with Darius Thompson on the starting line up) "It is one of those things that I don't think the guys mind if it is him or Antonio (Barton). It was just something I felt like we needed to do as a team. It is never easy, but one thing about it is he is a pass first guy. Antonio does a good job at making shots but Darius is a pass guy, so you can probably run a little bit faster in transition. It is also a down side for me with Darius because he needs to look to score a little bit more, but he does a good job with finding guys. I do think when he is looking to score it opens it up for everybody else. He has been at that position his whole life so he understands it."
(On why they went to the 1-3-1 zone against Alabama) "Every year the first week of practice we work on our 2-3 zone. We have a press back for our 2-3 zone that we do. We did it a lot more last year, so we always work on our zone. We work on ourselves. I just think with a 2-3 zone there are gaps and opportunities to get shots. You know where you are getting your looks. It is just a matter of making shots. As a staff I just said hey guys I don't like playing a 2-3 zone, not that I hate it but I just don't like it. I feel like there are so many more opportunities to score if you can make shots and flash. It is tough so I thought we needed to find a defense where you can't get direct passes. You have to make decisions and can't run nine or ten plays against. I think the 1-3-1 helped us even though it had gaps in it because they didn't expect it plus you have length. I think that helps you. We have been working on it for three weeks. I thought it was a great opportunity because what they did in the second half. I thought they did a great job putting their head down and getting to the rim. It was just to give them a different look. With the pace it was going no telling what the outcome would have been. I just thought we had to change it up and keep the guys out of the lane."
(On Vanderbilt playing well with seven scholarship players) "I think the plus side about having seven guys is you know you're getting your shots, more momentum, getting more minutes, don't have to worry about looking over my shoulder, getting taken out of the game, it's all those things as a ball player that you look forward to. So you have fresh legs, you're making shots, you're in the game, you can run your offense, you can play your defense and you're fine. I think where it comes in to play is those guys, you take the legs from those guys when you pressure them and when you are moving them - they get fatigued late in games, but they still have personnel, they just don't have as much as they have, but they still have the personnel to be successful. They have proven that."
(On knocking down shots early in the game) "I think it helps a great deal. For us, as a player, I used to like playing against a zone especially when I was able to shoot the ball because I knew I was getting my shots because you can pick and choose your spots and I think the same thing for Jordan and Josh, Josh is probably a better shooter against the zone because he knows he is getting his shots, he can catch and shoot it, and with Jordan - now he doesn't have to feel the pressure of guys bumping him, banging him the whole night, now he knows that he is getting a shot in, you can design something so he can get his shot, and then when those guys are making shots, it stretches you out, now you can get it inside to the big guys. I just think it helps, but again the thing that I've talked to our guys about, try to hang your hat on defending, rebounding, playing hard because some nights the shots don't fall and the body language has to stay the same when the shots don't fall."
(On Darius Thompson going back home) "You never know the way he looks. I mean, you never know the concerns or affect him, he just keeps the same demeanor, same approach, and I think it is a great thing for him. Well, again when you got experienced guys around you that allow you to play the comfort level, I think he will be fine because again he is not the focal point for what we do offensively but he makes great decisions with the ball and he gets the ball where it needs to go so I don't think, it's not as if he is going in as a 20-point game scorer, where then they have to shut him down so he doesn't have to worry about that type of pressure, all he has to do is play his game."
(On improving against the zone) "I think so because again, the game obviously before Ole Miss we didn't play well and again, I just wasn't so upset, obviously lose a game, I was more upset where we just didn't play at a level we needed to play, not necessarily missing shots, I figured the shots would fall, I mean I wasn't worried about that because these guys spend hours - Jordan, Jarnell, Quinton, all those guys in the gym this morning so they put the time into getting shots up so that wasn't my biggest concern, I knew the shots would fall but again some nights they won't fall especially when you are on the road and you got to be able to make plays, make decisions, we got to get better dribble penetrating the zone because those shots present themselves and all of a sudden you shooting them, you shooting them, at the Alabama game I think after that first or second timeout I told the guys, I know the shots we have to be to get the ball inside with the posts being able to dribble and not settle for so many 3-point shots because they did present themselves."
(On the turnovers) "Well, I just think, really we spend so much time in that area, but what I think we have to do as a staff - you have to look back, you have to go over the things you need to get better, spend more time on so we sort of spend a little bit more time on the basic ball handling, jump stop drills then we would normally do - say you normally spend five minutes on them, we would probably spend 15, just ok, we need to go over this a little bit more and the same way with other things we need to do, probably with the press offense, probably spend a little more time than we normally would and the guys did a good job against it, but sometimes you don't like to do it because it takes away from other things you need to work on but if you have to do it, you have to do it."
(On two-point shooting against Alabama) "I think more in the second half, they went to a man. That's what we work against all the time. Now, we can spread you out, we can make plays, use the dribble, you can go inside to Jarnell [Stokes]. I think it was more of their man defense as opposed to their zone. They didn't play as much zone in the second half down the stretch. They stuck with a lot of man."
(On Jordan McRae's three-point shooting) "I think he's really improved, but again, he's a better catch-and-shoot guy than he gets credit for. Then, also when he allows himself to be, he wants to put the ball on the floor and make plays. He's a good catch-and-shoot guy, then when you playing him against the zone, he's playing against it. Now he knows where the shots are coming from. It's the same thing, when we played Arkansas here in the second half, they went to some zone, he passed up opportunities shooting those leaners and floaters off balance, then when he settled down, and he went straight up and down and he made shots. The same thing against Ole Miss, early in the second half, the leaners and floaters didn't fall, catch-and-shoot, he made shots, and again, if you play him in a zone, he knows where he's getting his shots from and now he doesn't have to worry about the physical banging and taking a toll on his body."
"I don't think he gets phased by it, because he knows he's going to shoot the ball and that's his job to shoot it. Just like those games I've talked about, what happens is, if he misses a couple, now he wants to drive and he's hanging in the air, and he's off-balance, as opposed to one or two dribble catching and shooting. I just said, the three-point shot is there. You still have to take it. You have to take that shot. It's presenting itself and he did a good job with that. You can't pass up opportunities, because if you continue to pass them up, now the lane gets smaller for the big guys to operate."
(On turning points throughout the season) "Not for me. It stays the same for me. You get back to work. You figure out what you need to do to get better at. You need to tweak some things- you do it. The one thing about the system, the scouting report- those things will help us be in ball games. If you listen to it and you do it, you have a chance to win the game. My approach doesn't change."
(On Rod Odom) "He's 6-feet 9-inches. He can catch and shoot. He has some physical-ness to him. They put him in positions, where if you have a traditional big guy defending- that's tough, because you're not used to being in those spots. He plays the three position, so you should be able to identify him a little bit more. Watching film, I don't understand how he gets open so much. Hopefully I'm not saying that after we play them, but it's amazing how he's so open with the way he shoots the ball, but he's a guy that's really improved his shot at 6-feet 9-inches. He knows how to come off screens. He sets screens and run-off. If you have your traditional bigger guy defending him, it's probably a tough thing to do. We'll have to put a guard on him and make plays."
(On Nicodemus Christoper) "Nicky has done a great job for us- a guy that really studies his craft. It's not just about weight lifting. He's watching film, the way guys eat. He prepares for our meals for our guys on the road, home games, makes sure the guys are eating the right way on campus. Individual workouts, different types of workouts for each individual player, but a guy that just really studies and puts time into it. He's really good at it. He does a great job in preparing and getting guys ready. He knows when he's a heavy day to lift weight. I don't have to tell him we need to be light on the legs. He understands all that and I think he's one of the best out there."
(On the importance of Wednesday for Tennessee Athletics) "I think for Butch and those guys it is great, they have done a great job recruiting. Their relentless approach is really paying off, hopefully get to the finish line, it pays off for those guys. Just the work that they put in. But in most cases when you put the work in the results will follow. This is also one of the best college football places in America so you have your opportunities, guys still want to play here, there have been some bumps in the road but guys still want to play here. It is an elite place, an elite league. Those guys continue to do a great job. But for us it is a ball game against a rival opponent, it should be a tremendous atmosphere. For us it is one game at a time, we are trying to win a ball game."
(On being success in February) "A lot of praying, but really, I joke when I say that but it is in all sincerity. Because nothing really changes, we continue to get better and better as a team and as a program, you have to stick to the script. Matter of fact, I talked to Tony Bennett this morning, just talking about different things, we got a chance to know each other with the Olympic team years ago. The way we played, those guys, they didn't change one thing. You are who you are and you are getting better at it. It is more the players understanding, this is what we need to do to be successful. This is what it is going to take to be there. Let's get it done. I think that is the biggest key. But other than that, I haven't changed a thing."
(On tweaking plays) "We always tweak. We will tweak certain things because I don't think you can change. For example, the 1-3-1, we just didn't put that in the day of the game. That has been put in for a while, that has been studied as a staff before the season even started. But if we did it earlier in the season it was more like if we go against this. Sometimes you present it, I present it to the guys, `just in case we see this in a game.' Just to see how it feels. I just felt like that was the one defense where you couldn't come down and just make a direct pass. But we spend time on it. I am a guy who doesn't mind change, only if it is right. I am not going to change something just for it to be changed. I am who I am. That is what it is. We tweak plays. You might see a play that you have probably seen 50 times then all of a sudden just a minor change. We might move this guy in that spot. I never do anything with our players during a game if we haven't practiced it. I want those guys to understand this is what we are doing and feel good about doing it."
(On making adjustments on offense) "I think one of the things you have to do as a coach is you have to assess your talent. You have to make decisions. I don't hate the zone like that, like it is the worst thing in the world. You have the number one team in the country plays zone. It is just what you do. You are who you are and whatever that is. If you are constantly changing who you are every other week than who are you at the end of the day? If you see it and it happens in a game then there was time spent on it. It wasn't a case of just trying something new. I think our guys like doing it. I know Jordan likes it. You have to put your guys in position to be successful."
(On Vanderbilt's players playing majority of the game) "Only in high school, if I am not mistaken my senior year of college I played 28 minutes and I thought I played the whole game. If you look at Syracuse's personnel, they might have guys that hover around there, it just depends on your style of play. If you are pressing the whole game, you are running and jumping that is probably a tough style of play for 39 or 40 minutes. With the way they play, they are efficient on both ends of the floor, they grind you out defensively. So I don't think it is tough for their guys as long as they stay out of foul trouble."