Feb. 6, 2012
"We had a great crowd again on Saturday; it was exciting. It's fun to be a part of this when you have that type of atmosphere. Trae (Golden) played well - 16 points, six rebounds and five assists. But more importantly, he did a good job of running the team on both ends of the floor. It was his best job all season of really directing traffic and letting the other players know what was going on. That went well. Cam Tatum is closing in on 1,000 points, but the biggest key for him is staying encouraged and staying positive and continuing to work on his shots even though they are not falling on the level he would like. But he is confident and he continues to work on it, so that is always a good sign. We had our turnovers down - 10 this game, six in the first half and four in the second half. A total of four isn't bad. A goal for our team is to get our turnovers down and our assists up from this point on to the end of the season. That will be a big key for us, whether we are playing at home or on the road, to really take care of the ball. We have to improve our offensive numbers. We had a good day on Saturday offensively; we have to continue to improve those offensive numbers. It's just a matter of spacing and knocking some shots down and getting a level of confidence, but that will come."
On South Carolina
"The team is competing. They had a tough one against Kentucky, but they played hard. They run the matchup zone and they will play some man, but probably 65-70 percent will be in matchup zone. They will trap some at the top and they will trap in the corners. It's a team that is hungry."
On the possibility of Golden starting against South Carolina
"If he continues to work hard in practice, I think so. For me, it wasn't trying to send a message to Trae. I'm not big in trying to prove a point with a young man, because he is part of our team and our family. But I need to see Trae play hard on both ends of the floor. If you are winded, that is one thing. But you have to put forth a better effort and he did that last game. He has to be more consistent. When it is all said and done, if he continues to work to exhaustion and push himself to be the best, he has a chance to be one of the best guards in the league when it is all said and done."
On what goes into determining minutes that players play
"More in that case - playing hard, timing, it might be situations. Renaldo's case against Kentucky, he made some shots. I don't think it is a case of anything in particular. It was more matchups in this particular game, running matchup zone and Renaldo being a small forward, having to chase those guys on the perimeter. He played tough and the way our big guys are playing it was tough to put him at forward and not the three when he went into the game. When you play him at small forward, it is about the right matchups against Renaldo. It wasn't about him playing bad, but just chasing those guards off those down screens would have been tough for him."
On Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes still learning to play together
"Well more than anything, Stokes is learning to play with Jeronne. Jeronne is feeding him; he is educating him. It is a lot of stuff Stokes is learning on the fly. Georgia ran a couple of different schemes at him when he was on the defensive side of the ball he had some good looks, cross-screens, down-screens, which I would do the same thing when you have a guy who is inexperienced as far as reps under his belt. He did a good job of making adjustments. We tried to get him out as soon as possible to draw them (the situations) on the board to let him see it in case it happens again. I think it is more Jeronne is doing a good job of teaching him and showing him the way. But also you have to give Kenny Hall credit. He does a better job than I thought as far as his communication on the floor and really helping guys."
On goals for the team at this point in the season
"Just working hard one day at a time. You have to keep plugging. As a coach, you are all of a sudden halfway through and you try and set some goals. You might have small goals of trying to win your home games, that sort of thing, but for us it is to continue to play hard and play together as a team and all those goals will fall in place."
On the team's attitude
"They have done a good job. These are good guys. More than anything, it is about them trying to learn and find a way with a new coach, a new style - but also guys playing a lot of minutes. You're talking about guys who went from five, six, seven, eight minutes, if they played, to 25 to 30-plus minutes a night, but with a new team. It's not a case of having three returning starters and you're trying to gel a couple of guys; you're trying to find your way as a unit. And also for me as a coach trying to get a feel for these guys and what I expect certain guys are capable of doing through watching game film and practice, and all the sudden it might not be that case when we get into game situations. So as a coach, you also have to make those adjustments. But from a character standpoint, these guys have been great. They bring the hard hat to practice and they want to get better. And they get along; that is the biggest key."
On South Carolina head coach Darrin Horn talking about Tennessee playing tremendous defense
"I thank him for that, but our guys are getting it. I still don't think we are where we'll eventually be when it's all said and done. I think so this season; I'm not talking about next year. I think we can be one of the best defensive teams in the country this season. Our guys more than anything are starting to feel the results of playing at a high level when people say you play hard and compete. I told our guys that more than anything, that is a compliment. When people say you have a toughness level and you play hard, that's the ultimate compliment. When I watch teams and I gauge just as fan, I notice how hard teams play. If you play hard you have a chance. Obviously, you plug in personnel and from that standpoint offense comes and goes. But if you play hard, you have a chance to be successful. And when you rebound the basketball and you take care of the ball, those are the areas we have to continue to improve upon."
On South Carolina's Bruce Ellington
"More than anything he has a level of toughness to him, and not just because he plays football. He's a tough kid. If you watch how hard he goes, he's physical, he's not afraid of any situation, he'll attack the rim, he shoots the ball from the perimeter, he's a tough defender and he's a leader for those guys more than anything. And right now they're just making the adjustments of getting him out there full-time because it's tough when you have a rotation and all of a sudden here's a guy you plug in - even though he's probably one of your better players if not your best player. You're plugging him in and it's still an adjustment. Those guys are just trying to find their way and trying to find their way in one of the toughest leagues in the country."
On how hard South Carolina played at Florida
"Oh, yeah, they competed. They played hard. When you're fighting for your life so to speak when it comes to basketball, that's how you should play. You're trying to win a ballgame. And like I said to our guys, everybody's a part of this SEC so you have a right to win a game. Nobody is exempt from trying to win a game. They want to win just like anybody else and they'll come with their heart. Darrin gets his guys to play hard. Unfortunately, they've come up short in some games but they'll compete."
On if Tennessee is fighting for postseason basketball opportunities
"We're just fighting to be a good team. If you do what you're supposed to, the postseason will come. We're fighting to be a good team."
On fan and media concerns with the starting five
"I'm consumed with this team. My job is to coach this team, not get caught in the periphery of what people think. That's not how I make decisions. Based on the personnel and my staff, we make decisions and we move forward. Outside of that, I don't get consumed with it."
On other possible lineup changes
"We'll see. If they continue to push forward, we'll be OK. If not, we'll see."
On the benefits of Skylar McBee playing point guard
"He's probably the second-best option as far as running the point on our team at this point. He's sound, he'll do the right things with the ball, he's not careless with the ball, he'll make the right decisions, he's safe, more than anything - which is what you want."
On if playing point guard changes McBee's offensive capabilities
"I don't think so. Because once our point guard brings it up and passes it, we run a motion offense so it doesn't matter where he is on the floor. Spacing, which we teach, penetrating and pitching - it really comes down to reading a defense."
On the team's success defending the 3-point shot
"We do believe in defending, period - just getting guys off the 3-point line. If you look around the country and you study and scout, not many guys can make plays off the bounce consistently. If you get them off the 3-point line with your help defense, your recovery defense, you force guys to make plays, multiple plays. You don't want guys getting relaxed. We did a poor job in the first 5-10 minutes against Georgia in guarding that 3-point line, and that was some of our breakdown of ball-screen defense as well. But you want to get guys off that line and make them make plays or make the extra pass, and not many teams and not many players can do that."
On goals for the team's 3-point defense
"Under 30 percent. That's the goal at the 3-point line. Under 30 percent. Really contest shots, more than anything, but you want to keep them under 30 percent."
On South Carolina's matchup zone
"With a matchup zone, you give it some zone offensive looks but more than anything you still run your motion offense, you run your set plays because it's constantly moving. It's not a set where you might have a big guy out on the perimeter in one of those guard positions because of how the offense might be aligned. So you just run your offense, execute your offense and don't get consumed with it."
On how a team bounces back from a decisive loss
"I've seen both. I've seen both of in a case where the confidence drops because a guy might be taken out of the starting lineup or the coach might have gotten on a guy pretty tough and he didn't bounce back the next game. But I've seen guys come back hungry, excited about an opportunity to win a game. Because all it takes is one time to get a win and you get your head up. It's amazing how the brain works and the mind works from a standpoint of the level of confidence. All it takes is one game."
On how Maymon has fit so well into this team's plans
"For Jeronne, he's probably at 75 or 80 percent of where he will be when it's all said and done. He continues to get better. We'll use him more as we go, especially into next season - being more on the perimeter, handling the ball, making decisions, even though he's good at that and continues to get better at making decisions with the ball because he's one of our best guys at that. But not being careless with his passes. But when it's all said and done, he has a chance to be one of the best because of his ability to go inside, outside, attack the rim, putting pressure on the defense. And when he's shooting those free throws at 75-percent plus, he's just too tough to guard."
On where Maymon needs to improve the most
"The 3-point shot at the top of the key. That's a shot because of how we play with the high-low offense, the motion offense, the ball-screen offense - that 3-point shot at the top of the key. Now you can really stretch the defense and do some of the things we like to do. That's the biggest key. And he works on it, but it's just a matter of him having the confidence and feeling good about it. I know when I was in college, I worked on that shot for two years and then really didn't start shooting it until my third year. It's just the confidence in shooting it more than anything because he had good form on it. It's just him feeling good about it.