Coach's Corner: Cats vs. OSU

Two coaching legends will square off in Chicago on Thursday, but Lute Olson is less concerned with Eddie Sutton and more focused on his own squad.

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Opening comments:

"We are very pleased right now to be going on to the Sweet 16. We are also pleased with how our team is playing right now. I think we're playing the best that we have played. It was a good opportunity in Boise for us to face two different types of teams. We feel that we are ready to go and we have as good a chance as anybody of continuing on. When you get to the Sweet 16 there are no teams that can't play anymore. They are all there for a reason.

With our match up with Oklahoma State, I think it will be a match up of two outstanding teams, two outstanding defensive teams. I think from an offensive standpoint. I think both teams will match up well with the other team. Oklahoma State is a man-to-man team, which is different from what we saw in both the games this last weekend. We have a pretty good handle on what we're going to face. We have a lot of tapes and we feel like we'll prepared for what they do. It's not the case of what they do at Oklahoma State, it's the things they do, and they do them very well."

On confidence level after first and second rounds: "I think winning in the tournament helps every time. I think the guys become more confident of their ability to compete. I'm sure Eddie (Sutton) feels the same way with his team."

On the maturity of Oklahoma State:

"On the other hand, we have Hassan (Adams) who is a junior, the two seniors who have started since they were freshmen, and Mustafa (Shakur) who has been a starter all along at the point position. We feel we have good experience there. Even though Ivan (Radenovic) is just a sophomore, he has had a lot of international experience. I really don't feel like there is a big advantage from the maturity standpoint for them over us."

On coaching against Eddie Sutton:

"We've had our teams play against one another before. The thing with playing against Eddie's teams is that you know they are going to be fundamentally very sound. I think this team probably runs more than some of the teams he's had in the past. Their half court offense is still the thing that he's been doing for a long time and been doing well."

On the early upsets in the tournament:

"I felt last year was a case also the same type of thing. The games were more closely contested last year than any other year I can remember. This year is seems like practically every game is going down to the wire. It matters who executes best in the last three minutes. This is happening as a result of really top-level teams losing players to the NBA and other teams having fourth and fifth year seniors. What happened last year and what is happening this year, I think is going to continue to occur at least until as there gets to be an age limit as when players can go to the NBA."

On the importance of Chris Rodgers' defensive play:

"We always know with Chris that if we put him in he's going to do a great job defensively. With his offense, I think he's much more willing to take the shots that should be taken. We are seeing fewer times when shots are taken that shouldn't be taken because that's the quickest way for him to get out of the game and he knows that. What I was really pleased about against UAB was the help he gave us on the boards too. That is something that has been inconsistent with him. As good as his defense is, his rebounding has not been consistently good. Against UAB he got some big times rebounds for us.

"He'll get more minutes for us if he concentrates on doing the things that he does well. His shooting rhythm has come back. I felt last week in practice he really shot the ball well."

On the recent play of Salim Stoudamire:

"With Salim, the worst thing about him is that he's a perfectionist and you can't play this game and be perfect. You can work on being perfect. In the past, if he has doesn't really well, he's let it affect how he plays. He's going out more with the idea of go out and play to have fun, and don't worry about things. I just think it's been a great thing for him over the last year. He slipped up a little bit there in December when we had to sit him out for a game. From last March to now has been as big of a change in him than I've seen in anyone."

On Salim being a natural shooter from the beginning:

"There was never any question about his ability to shoot. The problem was that if he started out and didn't hit them, you could just cross him off the list because he would be worried about an air ball or shots that have gone in and out. Some people said that I was surprised that he could take the ball to the basket so well, but he's a good jumper, he's a good athlete and he's strong. The biggest problem that he faces when he tries to take the ball to the basket is that there are times when he should have pulled up. He's doing a good job now of learning to take that short jump shot as opposed to always going all the way to the basket. It's been a natural transition in his game, just as it is with most guards who come out of high school. They basically have the three-point shot and the lay-in and nothing in between. All of the guards that we've had have that problem in the first year or so and they usually get it straightened out."

On the importance of depth:

"It was great in the UAB game. Their tradition is to wear teams down. I think in the end, they were the team that was worn down rather than us. Kirk had a great game. I thought Chris was outstanding. Jawann (McClellan) played well, not as well as he's played in some of the recent games. We feel very confident with our bench. You don't count on getting guys in foul trouble, but we have guys that we can go to that can fill in very well. In Kirk's instance, he was playing so well that we wanted to keep him in as long as we could for his confidence. That was a great opportunity for Kirk and I think he'll be that much more confident the next time he plays.

"You never know when you're going to get into foul trouble. You never know when someone is going to turn an ankle. You don't know what's going to happen. I feel comfortable that we have enough depth that we can handle it. Salim was really limited on Thursday because of the asthma, then we had Channing in foul trouble, we had Hassan was in some foul trouble, but we were able to cover well."

On the advancement of Kirk Walters this season:

"It's just a matter of getting him game minutes. Last year he didn't get game minutes at critical times. He's so much better than he was a year ago; it's not even close. I think it's going to pay off for him and us that he came out of the red-shirt. This summer will be very productive for him."

Comparing his coaching style to that of Eddie Sutton:

"I think from a defensive stand point, both us are aware that defense wins. I think we've always been more wide open on the offensive end than they have. I think this team for him is a little for team for him in that if you look at his top scorers, they are more like perimeter type scorers than they are inside guys."

On legacy of Salim and Channing:

"They both have won over 100 games in their four years and that is certainly something that will keep their legacy up there. If I had had black hair coming in, Salim would be given the most credit for turning it gray(laughs). Salim now has become our all-time leading three-point shots made. No one will replace him in the defensive category, I think since I've been here he has been the best defender for four consecutive years. I talked to Dick Vitale today and I had sent him some tapes; he said he didn't realize that that guy was that good of a defender. I think that's true of people in the west too; I don't think they have an idea of how good he is defensively.

"With Channing, he is now second all-time shot blocker and second in rebounds. Overall in his career, I think Channing is one of, if not the, best big-man free-throw shooter.

"I think if you look back at when we signed Salim, I thought he would be the best shooter here since Steve Kerr. What he has been able to do scoring wise has not been a surprise. I have been most please with the way he defends; he is a tough, hardnosed defender. There are not very many teams where the top offensive guy is assigned to one of the toughest, or the toughest defensive assignment on a perimeter guy. We've had him guard everything from point guards to three-men.

"I'm not sure if anybody has worked as hard on their shooting as Salim has. Shooting is a hand-eye coordination thing. He has the quickness and athleticism so that he can get the shot off quickly. When Steve Kerr came here there was a lot of work to be done with him because he shot the ball down low. We had to work very hard at getting the ball of quickly because he didn't have the athleticism that Salim has."

On Salim's mentality:

"I think it all goes to having fun and enjoying playing. His leadership both on and off the court has been great. He is so much more vocal now than he ever was until the last year. Even more and more throughout the year you see him communicating with his teammates on the floor and having great leadership. He is doing it now in a positive way."

On the Pac-10's showing the NCAA's:

"I think the Pac-10 is doing pretty well. I think we both have a good shot at moving on. I think people are starting to realize that Washington is a pretty good team. We talk about us being under the radar screen this year, Washington has always been under the radar."

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