SEC MEDIA DAYS: Soundbites to Remember

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -The reporter in the ballroom of the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel during Wednesday's first of two Southeastern Conference Basketball Media Days looked a bit frumpy and frazzled, but dead-serious.

"Coach, do you think SEC coaches downplay their teams because there's so much pressure on them?" he asked.

"I don't know anything about that," said Alabama coach Mark Gottfried with a gleam in his eyes and smirk on his face.

"All I know is we won't be any good."

Of course, Gottfried's team, which returns almost intact, rebounded from a 17-12 regular season to make an Elite Eight NCAA Tournament run last March.

Ah, Media Days. Preseason basketball talk during in-season football statements.

Lots of stupid questions, often stupid answers.

But it's a great time for SEC coaches, players and reporters to make nice-nice.

And, if you play it just right, a dandy setting in which to grab some killer lines.

Here's the setup (for the men): In two-hour increments, three different coaches and one or two of their players meet the media twice a day.

On Wednesday, the lineup was Gottfried with the Tide's Earnest Shelton and Kennedy Winston, Florida coach Billy Donovan and forward David Lee, Georgia's Dennis Felton with Steve Newman, Kentucky's Tubby Smith with forward Chuck Hayes, Ole Miss' Rod Barnes with two guys nobody outside of Oxford knew and Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson with forward Brandon Crump and guard Scooter McFadgon.

On Thursday, Arkansas coach Stan Heath and hot-shots Ronnie Brewer and Jonathon Modica joined the rest of the SEC's coaches and some of their players.

Reporters bounce from table to table as coaches patiently (usually) repeat many of their same answers.

Wednesday, we gathered loads of info for future takeout stories, but also dug up some funny gems.

Asked about his team being picked to "win it all," Florida's Donovan, decked out in a spiffy blue-plaid sportcoat, almost fell from his chair.

"Who picked us to win it all?" Donovan asked.

The reporter shrugged, then mumbled something about the SEC, not the NCAA.

"Look, we have three guys (Lee, Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson) who are really good players," Donovan said. "But we had the same three guys last year, too."

Last season, Florida finished 20-11 and with a stunning first-round loss against Manhattan in the NCAA's East Rutherford, N.J., Regional.

OK, how's the team chemistry brewing?

"Our team chemistry is great right now," Donovan said. "But it's always great this time of year.

"Shoot, I've got 13 guys who think they're going to play (an average of) 40 minutes!

"Ask me again in a month or so."

Kentucky's Hayes was asked by a Florida reporter why the Wildcats seem to have the Gators' number.

Decked out in a black shirt, striped tie and double-wide earrings, Hayes laughed and said he wasn't going there.

"Why not?" the reporter asked.

"See, I understand where that's coming from," Hayes said.

Told the reporter didn't live in Gainesville, Hayes just shook his head.

"But I understand where that's coming from," he said.

Back to Gottfried, a smart move on Wednesday. You probably don't picture him as a comedian, but this setting brings up the slap-stick in most of these guys, none more so than Gottfried.

Newish, but older assistants who once were head coaches were a hot topic for discussion. Gottfried talked about second-year man Tom Asbury. Gottfried spoke of Asbury's impressive record as the head coach at Pepperdine (125-59 from 1988-94), but downplayed the old guy angle.

"So it's different than just adding a guy with gray hair," Gottfried said. "That's not always the answer. You know, sometimes you hear, 'Well, you've got to get older guys.'

"Well, I can pull one of them out of the crowd.

"But that doesn't mean they're going to help our team."

Let the games begin.

Or have they already?

AllWildcats Top Stories