Back then, in 1992, John Pelphrey attended the Southeastern Conference's basketball media days preceding his senior season at Kentucky. He wasn't so much worried about carefully choosing each word as he is now.
He "doesn't remember much" from that first media day experience as a 23-year-old. But nonetheless, his school of choice readied him for the media barrage he faced Wednesday.
"I'm accustomed to doing this," Pelphrey said. "When I first got to Kentucky, we had media every single day. I was 19 years old, and it just wasn't uncommon. I don't know if that's good or not for a 19-year-old. But it was every day. It was more opportunities for me to say something wrong.
"All that stuff has helped to prepare me for this."
Reporters from all over SEC country gathered around Pelphrey to get their first impressions of the man tabbed to lead the players they picked as Western Division favorites. The crowd at his table in the hotel ballroom didn't rank as the largest of the day. That distinction went to Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, who chatted flamboyantly as ever and showed up with an orange sport coat.
But Pelphrey never stopped talking Wednesday during the 45 minutes the SEC allotted for the print media. In fact, Pelphrey and Arkansas players Charles Thomas and Patrick Beverley stayed 10 minutes past their allocated time.
And, all the while, the former South Alabama coach seemed at ease, joking and laughing with those who sought to pry into every aspect of his work and personal life.
The question most repeated: How much pressure do you feel being picked to win a division title in just your first season? Pelphrey deflected that query as well as he did inbounds passes during his playing days at the front of Kentucky's press.
"I really don't (feel any)," Pelphrey said. "Maybe I will at some point in time. But that has no effect on me. I have my own expectations. I don't get caught up in somebody picking us first. That has no effect on any basketball game we play this season."
On the opposite side of the room, LSU coach John Brady playfully offered his own prediction. Pelphrey's opening season wouldn't be deemed a success in Brady's mind if the Razorbacks failed to fulfill the media's prediction.
"I think they deserve it," Brady said with a grin. "They have five starters back. They should be. They should be top 10 in the country."
Pelphrey stressed the importance of ignoring outside factors, such as, well, the projections of those in media. Right now, Pelphrey is far more concerned with changing the culture in Fayetteville.
He spoke of building team chemistry. He spoke of giving "loyal and incredible" Arkansas fans a basketball team they'd appreciate. And he spoke of narrowing focus.
Pelphrey said his daily message to the Hogs is simple: Forget about the past, though respect it. Forget about the future, though work hard for it. Just focus on the present.
"My dad always told me, 'The two most dangerous days are yesterday and tomorrow,'" Pelphrey said. "We're going to try to focus on today as much as possible. We can't do anything about yesterday and tomorrow's not here yet.
"We have to try and stay in the moment as much as possible."
Media Horde Nothing New For Pelphrey
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