Nov. 13, 2001
Q. Why do you think there are so few top centers in college basketball these days?
A. Because the pro draft has taken them all. If you look at the high school kids they've taken - anybody that's big that is talented has been taken in the draft early on. It's slowly but surely siphoned the Bill Walton's, and the Kareem's out of the college game. I can remember way back when they called me about Greg Butler, and I said that he was the best player on our team, and they said they needed big guys too. It's primarily been the fact that they have just siphoned them all off slowly but surely out of the college game. And once you start the process, then you take the better ones and the next year when you're going to draft big guys again then you're going to take the next group, which may not be very good, but they're the best available - it's the same with recruiting.
Q. Could you address opening the season in The Pitt at New Mexico with four new starters?
A. Well, we don't know how [the players] are going to react to it. The excitement of their crowd could get our adrenaline going in some ways, but what you don't know is how they're going to react to adversity - a call, a run that New Mexico makes or an obvious mistake on our part like a missed dunk or a missed open shot. How that effects your ability to stay together and stay tough, those are the kinds of things we have to answer. I think, probably, we would be better suited to have a test or two under our belt before we went to this particular game, but that's just not the way the schedule fell. We'll find something out pretty quickly because that is notorious as one of the toughest places in the country to play.
Q. What have you learned about the team since practices started a few weeks ago and are you prepared to be starting the season in a couple of days?
A. We just have to play games to learn. We've got to play games, make the mistakes that we're going to make and then come back, look at tape and say - see now this is what we have to do. That's the way you learn, you learn in games. You can talk all you want in practice and then there is just going to be this point where they have just taken it as far as they can. I think we're ready for the game. I would have liked to have a better test in the exhibition games, particularly the second one. I think Athletes in Action was a good team, but it would have been nice if we could have taken it one step further in the exhibition before going to this because we really didn't get much in our second exhibition. You just hope that the learning process doesn't involve too many bumps, but certainly we're going to have some and we're going to have to see how we react to those.
Q. How will this team compare to the one from two years ago when Mark Madsen was the only returning starter?
A. Mark was such a tremendous leader in terms of work ethic and passing that along to the other kids, I don't know that we've necessarily got that. Maybe there could be some comparisons drawn, I don't know. I think we had some really good players waiting in the wings that were ready to go and were more fundamentally sound. Casey [Jacobsen] came in and immediately seized the day with his desire to excel. I don't know that we've got those characteristics. We have some talent on this team, it's just a matter of getting everyone on the same page and understanding what it takes to win. I don't think there is a valid comparison except that we lost some key players.
Q. Can you comment on freshman Josh Childress?
A. He is kind of a glider, he's not like guys who are pounders and bangers, he glides around. He's got long arms, can certainly play above the rim, he's got a good touch. He needs to get more physical. Obviously, the physical part of the game is something he's not really comfortable with right now and that could be a factor for him until he learns to deal with getting bounced around a little bit. The effort and intensity you need to play with on defense in this league is something he will need to learn as well. Certainly, I like his starting point in terms of his abilities to make plays, it looks really easy for him - and that is always a good sign when you see a kid who just moves around the court so easily.
Q. What are your thoughts on Purdue and have you looked ahead on your schedule?
A. No, we're really in a process of putting our team together and figure out what we're going to do. We haven't even looked that much at New Mexico - my assistants have in terms of breaking stuff down, but as far as our team, we're just trying to get our team prepared to play against different things that we might face. We've liked these types of games [like the Wooden Classic]. This is probably the furthest thing from neutral when you have Purdue in Indianapolis because of the interest in basketball in that state and the proximity to West Lafayette. It should be a good game and it's a great facility and a great basketball community.
Q. Do you have any personal ties with Coach John Wooden and has he impacted you?
A. Well, I think he's impacted everybody. Guys my age were coaching back when UCLA was in its heyday. The truth of the matter is that it goes deeper than that because both of my parents went to UCLA and my dad was working at UCLA when Wooden came there. We followed them before they were good and then everybody, especially on the West Coast, who liked basketball was captivated and taken with Wooden's success with the National Championships and watching their team. Particularly with guys my age from the West Coast, he had a tremendous influence.
Q. Do you think people will try to contain Casey Jacobsen or let him score and try to shut down the rest of the offense?
A. Casey needs to get his, but I think you need to do something to minimize him because he's capable of 40 points. You might put your best defender on him and say - do the best you can and tell the other guys they have to do their jobs too. Running a second guy or making your defense weaker is not the answer. I think that will be a real test for Casey, like last night. He had seven assists and that part of his game could really flourish if they try to do that. Now all of a sudden, Casey is still going to get his and now you've allowed others to be better. I do think people will be well aware of Casey and want to see if others can beat him.
Q. Does playing New Mexico, with a strong perimeter game, give you an immediate answer about who will be able to step up?
A. Well, New Mexico's perimeter is very good, very quick and they were good last year and they have the same group back plus some. They play a style that is very aggressive, very quick with some really good guys off the bench. That will be a test for us, that's a test for anyone regardless. They caused us a great deal of difficulty last year with the same group. We're just going to have to be smart with it and make sure that we help each other without over-committing to help. It's going to be difficult, no question.
Q. Can you comment on how Stanford fits into the Pac-10 picture as well as the national picture?
A. We're going to have our work cut out for us in the Pac-10. The Pac-10 is really strong. There are a lot of teams that have a lot of returning players coming back who are very hungry to get in the top half of this league. It's going to be a real challenge to do that. At the same time, there could be two to five teams that could be nationally prominent and we would hope to be one of those teams. The whole thing with that is a little bit of a game in that if you lose some games early, people forget about you even though you could be good in January or February. We're not too concerned with that. We're going ot have our work cut out for us in the Pac-10. It's going to be really competitive. We're three-time Pac-10 Champions and we're not just going to lay down and let someone take that without earning it. At the same time, we realize that there is the potential to finish down the pack is certainly there if we don't improve.
Q. How will the return of Teyo Johnson affect everything in January?
A. He's certainly a returning player that right now we could use just based on experience inside. He gives us another dimension inside athletically, but we knew all the way along that football might be in a bowl game and now we know for sure that we won't get him until January. He'll help us, he'll give us depth. If we have problems at that point at the post, then we think he'll give it a lift.
Q. What's the origin of the New Mexico game being played at this point in the season - did you try to schedule games before this one?
A. When we started to put our schedule together two years ago we anticipated that we would have Jason [Collins], so we started projecting that. Then you look for a date and we have to take two weeks off in the middle of our schedule - we don't play from December 1st to the 15th, we had to fit Long Beach in some place, we had to get our tournament in, you have women's volleyball here and women's basketball, so you're not left with a lot of opportunities or dates on which to play.