KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Head coach Rick Barnes met with reporters on Monday at the Ray & Lucy Hand Digital Studio, discussing the Vols' recent road trip and Wednesday's home game against Ole Miss (6:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network).
A full video replay of the press conference can be viewed above while the full transcript of his comments can be found below.
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes
(On how momentum impacts the end of games)
"Well, I think momentum is a big part of basketball. I think it’s a big part of sports. I just got through with (the SEC coaches teleconference), and I mentioned that (momentum) was a big part of the Super Bowl last night—one team had it early, one team got it late. And the question, what goes into it to change it. Sometimes immaturity has something to do with it. When you get out to a big lead and you think, 'Hey, this game is over and this team’s not ready to play.' Bad shots, turnovers can flip it around real quick where you get careless. You get a lead and you think, ‘Well, I can go take some chances here,’ and the next thing you know, that happens. And fouls, officials can factor into it sometimes. There are a lot of things that can factor into turning games around, but it goes back to being focused and understanding it is a 40-minute game. The question really should be what do you do to flip it back, and if you don’t get aggressive and play to win as opposed to playing and hoping the game gets over with and you’re on top, you’re not going to flip it back. You’ve got to get aggressive because that is normally what has happened—one team is up, things are going well, they’re playing well, aggressive, then the other team turns it back and you flip it back. But there’s a lot of things that go into it, and I look back and everything I’ve just said to you I’ve seen happen in our games. We were immature, we’ve taken bad shots, we’ve turned it over, referees have gotten involved at times -- and it’s tough on them, too. They’re trying to stay in the game, and I think it’s tough on officials. When a team’s up big and another team starts coming back and the game starts changing, now you’ve got games going on within a game, where it could be free-flowing to where it gets physical. So there are a lot of factors that go into it, and you just have to try to control the ones that you can control, and sometimes you get a bad bounce here or there that affects it. That’s why you play 40 minutes."
(On what he tells the team when a lead is slipping away)
"Well, I think you tell them what it is. You can feel it. I mean, if you’re there and you’re in the game, you see body languages change -- you know the body languages of your team -- and then you talk about what you’re not doing. Obviously, the other day, we were running well in the first half. You can’t run well if you’re getting called for fouls or you’re fouling and getting called for fouls. You can’t. You know, there’s no flow to the game. So, there’s where the game changes you. You have to say, ‘Hey, this is where the game is being played now, and this is what we have to do, and this is what we need to do.” Then, you’ve got to make shots. Robert (Hubbs) had a tough game. He missed a couple of the shots he usually makes, and that’s part of the game, too. I think our guys know we’re going to try to tell them what’s going on. But also sometimes you’re trying to get them mentally to snap out of it and realize that regardless of what’s going on with officials or around the court and that stuff, you’ve got to lock in to what’s happening between the lines and do your job."
(On who he thinks played well against Mississippi State)
"I thought Jordan Bone did some things well. I don’t know why he misses some of the layups (he misses). He’s missing just uncontested layups. I thought he did some good things, I do. I mean, I could see some things there. I have the stats here in front of me, and again, right off the top, I keep thinking of the fact that we gave up 21 offensive rebounds. I didn’t think we were doing our work early in the post, you know, because they were just trying to pound the ball there. (We gave up) 21 offensive rebounds, and that’s just-- everybody’s involved in that because, when they’re pounding the ball in there, there’s a lot of loose-ball rebounds that you have to come up with and loose balls you need to get. But if I had to pick one guy that I thought looked like he was pretty engaged, you know, Kyle (Alexander) keeps doing the things that he does. I mean, Kyle has gotten better over the last three or four games, but we just need consistency out of the other guys."
(On Robert Hubbs’ performance against Mississippi State)
"He’s fighting through some injuries but he still wants to win and you have days like that. We need Robert Hubbs—there’s no doubt about that. He’s playing great basketball, but we need other guys who can do things, too. Robert and Grant Williams are really the two guys that we want to play through as much as we can. The ball is not getting to them enough late in the shot clock. I think too many guys are trying to do things with the ball as opposed to getting them the ball. Robert is doing everything that he can, and nobody was more down than him after the game. There’s no doubt that he is one of our leaders that we need, but I think that it is up to the other guys to understand that they need to step up."
(On if there is any concern about Tennessee being able to bounce back after the loss)
"I think you are always concerned about the unknown. The fact is that there is a lot of basketball still left to be played coming down the stretch, (and it) is going to separate teams. Even if we would have won the game on Saturday I would not be any less concerned for Wednesday’s game because I know how badly we got beat at Ole Miss. Regardless of where you are, I do not think that coaches are ever not concerned about where their team might be mentally. Physically, I think we are okay at the moment, but we’ll just have to wait and see."
(On Jordan Bone’s ability to step up)
"We expect to see him get better game after game. He missed those nine games (due to a foot injury early in the season), but he has played enough games now that he should be well on his way to understanding what it takes to win. I still think he is learning situational basketball, but he is getting better, there’s no doubt about that. He has been making a much better effort, not consistent enough, but he is trying to do more in terms of playing defense. He’s a player that has pretty much always had the ball in his hand on the offensive end, and when he does not have it, he just waits until it comes back to him as opposed to doing what he needs to be doing away from the ball."
(On what stands out about Ole Miss)
"I think Ole Miss is playing as well as anyone else in the league right now. They were impressive with what they did against Vanderbilt (on Saturday). People might think that we had that game in control, but if you go back and look, they controlled 31 minutes of that game in Oxford. They had nine minutes where they were not very good, but otherwise, 31 minutes of that game they controlled it. I think as a team they know what they are looking for. Terence Davis is playing terrific. Since our game, they have settled into Breein Tyree, he hurt us big time. I do not know if I have coached in a game where three guys almost had a double-double. When you have 50 total rebounds and three guys got 30 of them, that is impressive."
(On if he thought the players were tired in the second half)
"You know what, I thought about that. But we didn’t look tired at the start of the game. I thought that the game was physical. It was a game of two halves. We ran well, got what we wanted in transition. But then we started fouling so much, because they just came down and they were playing within 15 feet of the basket for the most part. Putting the ball in there, and we were fouling. How many free throws did they shoot? I don’t even remember, but we just fouled, fouled, fouled. There was no flow to the game at all in the second half. I think we got up, we got knocked back on our heels, and I think that we didn’t respond. I think anxiety can make you look tired. I think it can make you look like you’re not sure, and I felt the anxiety from our team, in terms of-- you can feel it. I think that can drain you as a player if you’re not tough enough to stay locked-in and focus on what you’ve got to get done."
(On learning from the first game against Ole Miss)
"I don’t think there’s any question. When you’re playing good basketball, you’re going to win the rebounding side of it. You’re going to take care of the ball better. I think it goes back-- we’d been rebounding the ball really well. We didn’t do as good of a job on the defensive end. I didn’t think we were very good with ball pressure. I thought, in the loss Saturday, we didn’t really fight Mississippi State, in terms of making it difficult for them to pass the ball where they wanted to pass it. We had moments where we looked really good. It goes back to understanding you have to play for 40 minutes, regardless. Everybody thinks that’s coaches' talk, but it’s the truth. Big leads, early, don’t matter as much. Again, like I said earlier, I can think about two or three different shots, when we were up in the first half, that were bad shots, and they go down and score. Three possessions where you come up empty because of turnovers or bad shots, and they go down and get easy looks at it. It can flip that easily. We’ve got to be tougher. I said after the game, when you look at rebounding, you can talk technique a lot, but it still gets down to toughness."
(On the flagrant foul called on Admiral Schofield against Mississippi State)
"I think, in a situation like that, if you’re going to go to the monitor and look, in a situation like that, because they put a rule in if somebody gets hit in the face or something. If somebody puts their hand on your hip and pushes you back, I mean, if I hit you in the stomach, I can guarantee your head is going to come towards me. I guarantee that’s going to happen. My deal is, if you’re going to go to the monitor, and they say, 'Well, we can’t go and call a foul,' but they call a flagrant foul or something like that. I think it should be like that in any sport. If you go to the monitor, just get it right. If a guy does end up getting hit in the face, because somebody fouled first and the referee missed it, (they need to get it right).
"They talk about hand-checking a lot. They use the term 'hot stove.' You put your hand on, pull it off. If you ever put your hand on a really hot burner, it gets off pretty quick. But when you put it there, and you push at me, I can put it there pretty hard, too, if I wanted to. So, I can reach in one time, push a guy, get my hand off, and I can distort his body pretty easily. I do know there was a hand-check involved in Admiral’s (Schofield) play. Admiral, by rule, hit him up top. By rule, there’s nothing they can do but do what they did. I think anytime you go to the monitor, you ought to say, 'We’re just going to get it right.' Period. But that’s not what the rulebook says. The rulebook says, if you hit somebody above the shoulder, it’s a Flagrant 1.
"Officiating is a tough job. I think our officials, in the country, are going to get better because I really believe in what (SEC Coordinator of Men's Basketball Officials) Mark Whitehead is doing, Curtis Shaw (at the Big 12). You go to other leagues around the country, and as coaches, you know there are a lot of young guys coming in that we’re going to have to give a chance to. Just like I make mistakes, just like players make mistakes, we’re going to have to let referees make some mistakes. You just hope that they don’t make them at the wrong time, and that happens. It can happen a lot. What you hope, more than anything-- I talk about players not letting a crowd bother them. What you hate more than anything is when officials are trying to even up fouls, just to make it look good at the end. That’s what you really hate, and that can happen starting in the first half. I actually thought, in the Mississippi State game, the momentum of that game started changing in the last two minutes of the first half, when we had an 18 to 19 point lead. There are some things I would question about it.
"I believe our league is so much better than people think it is, from the perception out there. Mark Whitehead is going to do an unbelievable job -- and he already has -- with the officials. We send in clips after every game because I want officials to look at them and I know how much watching film helps me as a coach. It helps our players a lot. I just hope officials look at it. I just think we all have to want to get better. I’ve got to be a better coach today than I was Saturday. I think our players have got to want to get better. You can always get better. There’s a lot more that goes into all of this than people might think. I watched that game last night. I feel sick for Atlanta today. On the other hand, you can imagine what New England feels like. But the fact is, it was a 65 to 70 minute game. Two great teams went at it. I’m sure when they go back and look at it, I’m sure they’re going to look at it and go, 'That holding here, that big play here ...' Sometimes those plays can change it, the momentum. We’re not playing a game of perfect in any way. When you lose, though, all of that is magnified. When you’re on the back-end of a game, you look at officiating and things, but I hope we’re consistent with what we do. Win or lose, we’re going to do the same thing after each game, in terms of working with Mark Whitehead and his staff, because I want to see us have the best officials in the country."
(On his relationship with the conference office as it relates to officiating)
"It wasn’t a goaltend (at Mississippi State). It was a big play. Instead of being down four, we were down two. Then we got called for a charge on the other end, and he was in the circle. My dialog with Mark (Whitehead) has been great. I have known him for a long time. He is a great official. I think it is one of the great things our commissioner did was get him. I think it is probably as big commitment to our basketball league as you can do, because the games are so hard fought. When you think of a basketball game being a five- or six-point game, that is a two possession game. Mark has been great in terms of him calling me back. I want to help him because I know he cares about the game of basketball. I think what coaches want from officials is accountability, and I think that is what he wants and that is what we all want. I do think for the most part, they aren’t doing it for the money. It is great money for them, but they have to have the love to do it because it isn’t an easy job. It is a fast game. Just like the goaltend, it is really close. I see why it could be called, but I think Mark would tell you that you have to be right on those. I don’t think the guy in the circle should ever be missed. Other guys should be looking at that, not only the one who is making the call. You are going to get tough breaks here and there. It always seems like you get the toughest win when the momentum is not going. You always feel like the team that is being more aggressive and coming back gets the calls. One thing you hope is that you get officials who do not get caught up in crowds. I can tell you the best ones don’t. You can see that it does happen sometimes with younger guys. I would like to think that I am a better coach now than I was 30 years ago because I would get emotional about a lot of things. You just learn more. I continue to learn about this game, and I think these officials would do the same thing."
(On the team's mentality coming off a tough road loss)
"Well, when you say difficult loss, Mississippi State is 5-5 in the league, too. They have won 14 games. I think they have won more games than we have won. One reason why it's more difficult is because we expect to win now. In the past, I do not think people thought we would win. That is why it is difficult. It is not like we got beat by a bad team. What makes it difficult is that we are expected to win every time we go on the floor now. I like to think our players think that. If they do believe that, I think they are going to have to learn that it's hard. It's supposed to be hard, it's not supposed to be easy. Now the question is, will they embrace that, and will they realize that now you have to play and play for 40 minutes. Again, it's not like we got beat by a bad team. We expect to win and now we have to do it. I can assure you that Ole Miss is going to come Wednesday expecting to win too. I can assure you that Georgia is going to do the same thing. We have to have the mindset that it is going to be a real hard fought game if we expect to win. We are going to have to really play well, and going to have to play really hard."
(On how the SEC has been trying to bring in different people and if he thinks it has been working)
“I do. Again, (SEC Special Advisor to the Commissioner for Men's Basketball) Mike Tranghese sitting in our coaches meeting with the coaches. I heard many coaches say that it was the best dialog they have ever had. Mike has been around for a long time. I thought it was a great move by our commissioner to bring him in. There is no doubt that our officiating is better this year. Will it ever be perfect? I think we all want it to be but I don’t think it could ever be perfect. It is better. I think the perception of our league still is not what it should be. Someone asked me on a conference interview if I thought that going 5-5 in the SEC/Big12 Challenge helped our league and I do not read enough to know that. Someone said to me the other day that we were in the last four out and the first four in were Georgia Tech and Kansas State. They asked me how I felt, and I said, 'Well, right now, I do not feel anything.' It doesn’t mean anything, but now if they ended up like that at the end of the year, I would probably have some pretty strong feelings. I do think that head-to-head competition matters at some point in time. I just think that you have to win basketball games. Even the committee, it will be interesting, every year they have to explain why. I thought that last year South Carolina should have been in. I really do. I really thought that last year at the end of the year that Andy (Kennedy)’s team, Ole Miss, was playing better than anyone else we have played. I have sat in on Big 12 meetings and we talked about how we have to make sure that Fran Fraschilla, Brent Musburger, and whoever is doing the game are talking our leagues up to the network games. We talked about it this year in the SEC -- we need a voice, and everyone seems to think that it's important, because people listen. I would like to think that the committee is above that, that they are not going to let talking heads on TV tell them how good this league is or how bad it is, or this league is better than it is because there are some leagues that have perceptions right now that might be a little bit better than they really are as a league. I like to think that, again, the committee is well-versed enough through all of the talking heads. I guess people listen to them. You would like to think that they don’t. I think people do, and I think it’s out there, because there is no way you are doing some of these games. If Florida is the 25th best team in the country, then this league is brutal. They are playing like a top-10 team right now. There is not a top team in the country that would want to play them right now. If a team is good enough to be in the top-10 than they ought to be up there. I have never been one to rank teams because I do not keep up enough with other teams. I worry about my own team and what we have to do. In the end, I hope that we win enough games and the committee is going to do the right thing. I do think, again, that our league is much better. I do know that it is heading in the right direction because of what the commissioner has done and his commitment to basketball and where we’re going. We are not a year away, I can tell you that."