TitanCentral.com: What are the team's main challenges for the 2006-07 season?
Bob Burton: The two areas that need to be answered for us are one, our inside presence, both on offense and defense, because we don't have that Pape Sow.
The second question is depth along the perimeter. We have a lot of four/fives but we really don't have a lot of guards. That's why I want to change this offense a little bit where we can play two point guards and it won't make any difference. Put the best players out there.
Also, when we get into the half court offense, we can work more on them playing and penetrating and being unselfish. Making good plays instead of running offenses where you have to play this guy because he's a three or this guy because he's a four. We need to get our best guys on the floor. If it's four guards it's four guards.
One of my main concerns is how all these new guys are going to mesh together. We have very few returning guys and this goes along with team chemistry and hoping that they play well together.
TitanCentral.com: What goals, on the court, do you have for the team this year?
Bob Burton: Well, after last year's goals, I'm not a goal-guy anymore, I'll tell you that right now [laughs]. There was no one happier than me to see us ranked third in the first basketball magazine that came out.
My number one goal is, again, for us to play good defense. Obviously we have all the other goals: We want to win, go to the NCAA Tournament, etc. But I want these guys to focus on what we need to do to win and that is to be a real team, play together offensively and especially defensively.
A real emphasis will be rebounding because you don't have the big guy, you don't have Jamaal Brown or Pape. But remember, one of the best rebounders we've ever had was Hardy Asprilla who was leading the country in rebounds at 6'-5" and that's on a good day.
We should be okay on this the way we are going to play defensively with the ball pressure and we're going to front the post this year. Teams are really going to have to be able to handle the ball, at least that's our goal.
Offensively, we are very physical on the three and four spots. Frank Robinson is a tremendous rebounder and Scott Cutley is going to be a terror in there as well. Even though Scott is not that 6-8/9 guy he's extremely strong.
And Justin Burns can rebound, he's athletic and we'll see what KK (Kenneth Alexander) can do. He's athletic and gets up. Also Andrew Green, who's a big strong guy. I think it's going to be more the fight in them than the size.
TitanCentral.com: Let's talk about this years schedule. It's a lot more fan friendly with all the home games and nearby road games. Did you face the same problems as last year in terms of schedule opponents? What are some of the difficulties in scheduling teams?
Bob Burton: I don't think the general public understands how hard scheduling games are but we're really excited about this schedule. I understand the two openers are not really fan-friendly but there's a reason for that. Just getting some home games this year is exciting to us and I know next year we are going to upgrade it even more. You are going to see better teams and more name teams each year, that's our goal.
Athletic director Brian Quinn has a great plan to keep this schedule progressing. We might need a little more money in the future to bring teams in here. We are going to try to start a tournament here next year and do some of those things.
I think our program is going in that direction where we need to upgrade the schedule. The first few years, we were so down here, all we wanted to do was get a winning attitude. That was important because we had no recent tradition. All our tradition was 20 years ago.
I think our whole schedule is tough but my concern is this league. Last year we went 9-4 and had a poor league even though we finished strong. My goal for us this season is to have a great league year.
TitanCentral.com: On a similar topic, last year you made some comments that didn't sit over too well with Ben Howland and UCLA fans and you took some heat for that. Just how did the UCLA game come about? I didn't think UCLA would ever play us again after that fiasco.
Bob Burton: A guy told me a long time ago, "If you got to get into a cage with a gorilla, don't tease him." Unfortunately I went against this philosophy [laughs].
A lot of that was tongue-in-cheek as he's my best friend in Southern California. We talk probably 4 or 5 times a week...
There's two things I don't like about playing UCLA. One, I really wanted to spend some time and learn from him this year. He's one of the great defensive coaches in the country and now he won't talk to me because we're playing.
The other is I don't like playing friends. Even if you win, it's always a bad feeling. However, if we miraculously beat UCLA I'll let this one slide [laughs].
I think the only reason he scheduled us is because he can't stand waiting around and couldn't find anybody else to play him. We were going to play Arizona and then Arizona decided, for some reason, they didn't want to play us. Obviously we need guaranteed games to make money for our program and we were able to make the UCLA game happen.
It's a great road game for the fans, it's makes our program some money and it's great exposure in Southern California. UCLA has a chance to win the whole thing again, I really believe that. Losing Jordan Farmar was a big loss but Ben's such a great coach and they are so talented.
TitanCentral.com: Any chance in bringing our own refs to this game?
Bob Burton: I don't think so. I think it's going to be Ben, his wife and someone else. I think we'll see Pac-10 officials in this one.