Feb. 20, 2012
"Decent week; came up short at Alabama. You obviously have to give those guys credit. They played hard. Those big guys who came in gave them key minutes. Their guards played really well. Trevor Releford, when he came in, really controlled the game. They did a really good job of fighting to stay alive. You've got to give Coach (Anthony) Grant and his staff a tremendous amount of credit.
"For our team, like I told the guys, (it's) one game. I look forward to trying to do everything in our power to beat Ole Miss, which is a very talented team, a very athletic team, a well-coached team, a physical team. They are the best rebounding team in the league, so it will be a tough match up for us."
On the team's ball-handling and shooting at Alabama
"It is just a case of, when you watch film, we were 4-of-20 from three. We missed about 12 really good looks from three - that's part of it. When you miss those shots, they were good shots; it wasn't like they were forced shots. When you miss those shots, that is part of the game. We didn't do a very good job of handling the press, especially the second half. We work on dribbling up the court and back and that crossover, making moves; we do it every day against any press. We didn't do a good job of handling the press. We weren't in the right rotations. In the second half, we weren't aggressive as far as attacking the rim against their press. But you have to give those guys credit in making the next rotation. We did do a very good job of handling, especially our best two guys, as far as handing the ball - Trae (Golden) and Jeronne (Maymon). When those two guys are not handling it well, it's going to be a long night."
On Jarnell Stokes adjusting to SEC competition
"I do not know if he is adjusting to the competition because he is physical enough to go against the competition. More than anything, it's just adjusting to the pace and our system because it changes game to game - even though the bulk of our offense and defense in practice is still the same. But then when you start scheming against a team, that might change a little bit. So now is a different adjustment for him as opposed to going through that in August, September, October, November, now he's actually going through it from game to game. In his mind he is saying, `I thought this was it.' Now all of a sudden here's another adjustment and that is not an easy thing to do. But it is also learning the system. So for him it is the system of what we teach and what we preach as opposed to the competition."
On Maymon reaching is full potential
"He is getting there. We went back and forth yesterday talking on the phone. For him it is just the next step. I actually watched Draymond Green at Michigan State, because I had him at the World University Games, he is a very talented player. He and Jeronne are very similar. I think right now he has a better shot from the perimeter than Jeronne and I think Jeronne is probably better defending other areas. They are very similar. The only key right now is Draymond has a better stroke from the 3-point line."
On how Maymon will get to his fullest potential
"Really I want Jeronne to be Jeronne Maymon. I think he can be great at being that. But I have talked to him about expanding his game from the 3-point line since Day 1, just really improving his 3-point shot because he is a good ball-handler he can take big guys and can take guards off the dribble. But now it is about taking care of the basketball more than anything. Because he can make good decisions, but just not turning the ball over. I have said since day one that the next phase for his game is really knocking that 3-point shot down. He doesn't have to shoot five or six a game, just one or two, loosen up the defense. Also going off the dribble and making plays, because he has a variety of moves, facing up, backing guys down. He is a good basketball player."
On evidence Maymon can hit 3-pointers
"Oh, yes. He knocks it down in practice. But he plays to his strengths. It took me three years of college to really feel confident on knocking 3-point shots down and shooting consistently. It is a confident level for him and what he feels. It is not like I'm forcing him to take and make shots. It's when he feels comfortable shooting the ball. We will spend a lot of time this spring and summer getting his shot down from the 3-point line. If he can knock that top of the key three down with his ability to go off the dribble, he will be tough to defend. He is tough now."
On the team's improvement during the SEC season
"I just think time; consistently working on the things it takes to be a good team. Our approach is the same stuff we preach on defense; the guys just finally figured it out. We are on pace to be one of the best, in Tennessee history, to hold teams to a defensive scoring percentage in SEC play. It is consistently doing the things we preach every day. I think the guys, I wouldn't really saying buying in, but believing and understanding the importance of defending at a high level. You can still play offense, you can still score, you can still shoot the ball, you can still play offensively, but you have to be able to defend at a high level. The best team in the country is one of the best defensive teams in the country right now. They don't average 90 points a game, but they defend at a high level."
On the offense's play affecting the defense
"When watching film, we didn't defend well at all. That is the great thing about our guys - they understand it before I say it. I didn't have to say it after the game; they didn't feel like we defended well. Those are the strides we have made as a team. There was a lot of breakdown from our standpoint finishing box outs, chasing rebounds, rotating on drives. We did a poor job defending. We are still working toward being an elite defensive team, and I don't think we are there yet."
On Golden's performance at Alabama
"He didn't play bad against Alabama; the turnovers were bad. What I talked to him about more than anything was that was the first game, outside of those four that we won, that he wasn't as vocal on both ends of the floor. Not necessarily his production on the floor but he wasn't as vocal as we needed him to be and that he's been in the past four games."
On players being accountable for themselves
"Not necessarily for sound bites. If you truly believe that you and you feel that, that is one thing. Not necessarily for the media to write in the paper. I was never one to beat myself over a loss. I know what I did wrong; I don't have to speak about it all day long. Just work toward getting better. I didn't feel like talking after a loss anyway. In Trae's case, he understands that. It's just carrying out the assignments. It doesn't necessarily need to be talked about; it's understood. You know you played bad, or your felt like you played bad. Just deal with it and keep moving."
On being satisfied before the year with a tie for fourth at this point in the season
"Oh, with a doubt because there were so many unknowns. Now don't get me wrong, if we had returned this season with Scotty (Hopson) and Tobias (Harris) - because they had the potential to come back to school - I'd say let's fight to be the best team in this league. Because you knew what you brought back; you had a core group of guys who you could build around.
"But the in the case where you don't have any proven stars, so to speak, and guys are trying to find their way, it's hard to go into the season and say, `Let's finish first in this league.' You don't know what you have. It's not like I've been here five years as a coach and I say, `Well, we've got good freshmen coming in.' I don't know what we have. Because we've put ourselves in a position, I would take it any day of the week. But I still feel there were games we lost that we could have won because of the progress our guys made. I keep going back to Austin Peay - we weren't a very good team, and the best team won that night on our floor. But we're a better team now."
On the philosophy of not wanting to lead the league in steals because it takes too much gambling on defense
"I've always been that way. Even when I was a defensive stopper at Purdue, I never got steals. I was probably last on the team in steals and shots blocked. It was all about positioning on defense. Missed shots and bad shots, I considered those turnovers when I defended, and I've always been that way. I don't want to lead the league in steals because you're gambling, you're getting yourself out of position - unless that's your style. If that's your style, that's fine. But for me, I want to be solid defensively. When we get 16 or 17 turnovers forced because of great pressure, those guys are turning the ball over. But I don't want a guy leading the league in steals unless he's really good at it because of his positioning."
"Length, athleticism, quickness. They are one of the few teams that can switch five different ways on the perimeter. Jarvis Summers is a 6-3 point guard, a freshman and a really good player. After that, 6-4, 6-8, 6-9, 6-7 - so they can switch five different ways. You have to do a really good job of cutting and moving and having space, and then using your dribble. And if they play in a zone, you have to be able to pass-fake and get into that lane because they have such great length in a zone. They're one of the few teams that you really have to be able to cut and move and have space, because they can switch. Jarvis Summers, a 6-3 point guard, can defend down on the post because he's a tough kid."
On Reginald Buckner being one of the league's top shot-blockers
"He does a really good job. He has good balance, good pace, so probably the second-best (in the league) from the standpoint of blocking shots behind (Kentucky's) Anthony Davis. And he has a good physical frame to him. He does a good job of playing post defense as well."
On seeing more zone from Mississippi
"When you watch them on film, they kind of play what works. If the zone is working, they'll stick with it. If their man is working, they'll stick with that as well. But for us, we're a little bit better at home against the zone with our cutting and moving, and also having confidence to take and make shots."
On Jordan McRae's status
"He's fine. He rehabbed and should be ready to go for practice."
On McRae's progression this season
"He's done a good job of getting better. We need him to be confident to score, making and taking good shots, being aggressive, not necessarily settling for a lot of perimeter shots but also attacking off the dribble. You know, cutting through the lane. Not necessarily posting up but getting around the rim and making plays, going to the offensive glass - because he has a variety of moves. He's gotten a lot better. But his approach in practice has gotten better so that's why he's better."
On McRae taking pride on defense and not letting his offense affect the rest of his game
"He's smart enough to say it. No, he's done a good job. He has. It takes time. He's a guy who's been built to score all his life. His ability to defend is blocking shots and gambling and trying to get steals. For us, we need him to be strong and fight through ball screens, to be tough, to rebound. And he's done a good job rebounding. It's just him really taking pride in doing those things because it's not like he didn't have the ability to do it. It's just a matter of him doing it and understanding that in order for him to play, this is what he has to do."
On Yemi Makanjuola's play in the absence of Hall
"I wasn't really disappointed. I put half of that on me as a coach. Your job as a coach is to have your guys ready to play. So to Yemi's defense, I didn't have him ready to play. He's a tough kid - he's always been tough. It wasn't like he was afraid of the atmosphere. I didn't have him ready to play, as well as Dwight (Miller). That's more me than those guys because they come with the hard hat in practice and I have to have those guys ready to compete in game situations. I didn't do a good job of that. So, no; That's more me than him."
On Mississippi's Jelan Kendrick
"He's talented. At his size or handling the ball on the point, good length, good quickness, can make shots. You've got a guy 6-5 or probably 6-6 running the point. When he's out there, they're even tougher, and they also play him off the ball as well - another matchup problem."
On how many SEC teams will land in the NCAA tournament
"Right now, you would probably say on paper maybe five, six. The guys, just on paper and I haven't done a lot of homework with RPIs and all that, you've got Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt. Alabama is one of those teams, and Mississippi State - so there are five bona fides regardless of what happens unless somebody falls completely on their face. There are five legit, and outside of that you've got other teams hovering in there if they can win some games down the stretch and also play well in the tournament.
On Tennessee being one of those teams hovering
"I think so, if we're consistently doing what we need to do. But it's one game at a time. We've got a ways to go. It's finishing strong and also winning games in the tournament."
On the importance of playing in postseason to build toward next year
"More than anything, it's important to continue to play games. And if you don't, you continue to practice and get better. For our guys, just to continue to play games and continue to get better. Those were one of the things that helped us at Missouri State. We won the CIT (2010 CollegeInsider.com) tournament and the next year won the league, because it helps you continue to grow and get better.
"It's amazing how when you finish your last game with a win - and that rarely happens, maybe for about one or two teams - but you finish your last game with a win and you go into next season with momentum. It really helped us.