Coach's Corner: Olson on Gonzaga

SALT LAKE CITY - One day after Arizona downed Vermont 80-51, Head Coach Lute Olson answered questions from the media about the team's upcoming match-up with Gonzaga. Gonzaga's inside-outside abilities present Arizona with a tough challenge in their second game of the NCAA Tournament.

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Question: What impact does Rick Anderson have on the team, both on the court and off?
Lute Olson:
"He's our best offensive rebounder; he really has a knack for getting to the ball. He's important to our offense, both inside and out. He shoots well. Personality-wise, he's a free spirit, a great guy with a great personality. He loves life. He thinks I get on him more than anyone else and I tell him he needs getting on more than anyone else. He's very out-going as a person."

Question: What impresses you most about Gonzaga?
Lute Olson:
"I'm impressed by their inside-outside game. They go inside more, seems like every time down the court they pound it inside. Then, looking at the percentage they shoot on three-pointers, all of their perimeter players can knock shots down. They make you guard them on the perimeter. And they do a great job in transition; their big guys sprint the floor. They are as good as any #1 or #2 seed playing."

Question: How focused is the team at this point in the season?
Lute Olson:
"This team has been that way all season, focused with goals they've set. They haven't deviated from that. I credit that to the seniors. They've been to the NCAA, they've been to the Finals. Their focus is to keep on playing."

Question: What does Blake Stepp bring to the court for Gonzaga?
Lute Olson:
"Stepp is difficult to guard because of his size, his quickness. He's strong off the dribble. He's able to catch and shoot threes. He's difficult to stop in the open court because he uses other players as screens. But, Salim has been voted by his teammates two straight seasons as our best defensive player. He reacts to a challenge and relishes those."

Question: How does the personality of this team compare with the personalities of teams in the past?
Lute Olson:
"I think that each is pretty much their own team. But there are some similarities with 1997; Luke is the leader like Miles Simon. There are other similarities also in terms of personalities as well."

Question: What do you think of Gonzaga's continued success since their 1995 NCAA debut?
Lute Olson:
"The key is their recruiting, finding guys and working hard too and staying with them. They have a knack for finding a guy who two years down the line will be a really good player. They get them in the weight room, they develop them on the court. They get people who are not high-profile players and two years from now, they're good players. Stepp is probably an exception due to Mark Few's relationship with his dad. And Dickau was a transfer from Washington, perhaps looking for freedom for his guard play. But they are non-high profile guys who became outstanding players."

Question: What team in the PAC-10 is Gonzaga comparable to ?
Lute Olson: "They are probably most similar to Stanford in our Conference, the way they pound it in."

Question: How do the longer time outs and delays that occur in the tournament effect the play?
Lute Olson:
"The timeouts are long, but you know that. CBS is paying a lot of money so they need to allow for commercials. It does allow you to go with your top people more. You can get a guy out before a timeout and sit for a couple of minutes and he's ready to go back in after the timeout. It has an effect on the rhythm of the game."

Question: Have you had a chance to seriously talk with Gonzaga about playing them during the regular season?
Lute Olson:
"We have 19 sports at Arizona. We're (the basketball program) a main money maker. We can't afford to go away much. That's the problem with the Gonzaga's scheduling high profile teams such as ourselves, even if it is two-for-one."

Question: What do you think about the close games that we have seen in the tournament so far, such as Duke's and Kansas' first round games?
Lute Olson: "There's a lot of parity. If a top team has a poor shooting night and someone gets a hot hand, strange things can happen."

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