Explosive, quick, playing better, defending better. I thought during our game up there, there was a weird feel over the course of game. Any time a team can beat UCLA, that says enough.
On whether winning the Pac-10 is a goal:
Again, I don't pay attention to that. I just worry about the next game, the next practice. That question's asked on a national level three, four times a day and I never have answered.
On why winning the Pac-10 isn't an explicit goal, when other coaches will set such targets:
Number one, everyone's goal is like that until they're mathematically out. For me personally, there are too many things that could happen, too many intangibles, injuries, those type of things. Lose a guy here or there, it causes a bad matchup and then you lose a game. I tend to be a realist.
And then it is competition. You have to respect competition. You have to respect the way the game is supposed to be played. I think you look at it like that. My experience being an assistant coach and a player years ago, I have a tendency to stay on an even keel. There are some guys who are light years above us all, and maybe they can make predictions and all that.
What he'll remember about Fred Washington:
You know, Fred, just every day comes to play. A winner. For me, I look at what he goes through just to get himself prepared to play and practice and that's special.
I can get ready to play and move better and faster than he can. [Smiles.] That's not trying to make fun of him, it's just an appreciation for that, for me, he's a guy I worry about his health ten years down the line. That's what I remember about Fred, and yes he's stubborn, he speaks his mind in a good way.
What he'll remember about Taj Finger:
Passionate. Competes. Selfless. Just the ultimate team guy.
On whether he's been able to relate to previous players as well as he has with Finger:
[Pauses. Looks down.] A handful. A handful.
He's improved from spring. He's knocking down shots on the offensive end; he's just taking his time. He's making sure guys are doing the right thing on and off the court. He's enjoying playing and being with this team. The biggest compliment for me is when you're voted for captain, and that speaks volumes about Taj.
On Finger saying he learned from Chris Hernandez:
A lot of us did. But that's Taj though. But he had quality leaders coming in here, Chris coming in here. Taj is right up there with best of them.
On Kenny Brown:
Kenny, he's another one. So easy going. Such a high basketball IQ. He's a kid who walked on – we were going to give him scholarship after this year. He said ‘You don't need to,' and I said ‘Yes I do," and then he gets accepted to dental school… And just being ready to play, contribute, unbelievable. I don't necessarily go there with guys like that all the time. It's just so rare in this day and age to be around guys like Taj, Kenny, Fred. In a situation with a coaching change and personality differences and going through that, especially Taj, Fred, Peter, Kenny what they went through sophomore year and the expectations put on this group. Make no mistake: it's a compliment to them, their high character and their understanding of the importance of team.
On what he'll remember about Peter Prowitt:
Peter, I probably feel for Peter as much as anyone. It seems like he's always been hurt, always been something. There's been a lot of emotional times between Peter and myself, but he's always managed to stay the course and continue on as much as possible. Talk about guy being snakebit as much as possible, it's Peter Prowitt. That's the thing I'm talk about in terms of injuries and intangibles. But what he is as a person and human being way outweighs the basketball. It's the one guy…it's hard. Most guys got themselves on the floor in a position where they can play. Peter hadn't. [Pause.] But we all have a role.
The tenor of this week's presser was markedly different than previous weeks'. With Senior Day this Saturday, we'd been given all the seniors to interview, and so our conversation with Johnson centered upon them. And while he values his privacy, you couldn't help but notice that he was emotional thinking about the seniors – he spoke more softly, more slowly, paused more, looked down more. I close by asking about whether he thinks about former players and whether he's going to miss these guys:
I try not to go there just because I'm very private and its very personal,
the relationships I have with my players. But the caliber of the kids, the
caliber of their personalities. There are four high-caliber guys. I've always
been one to try to separate my feelings for them in terms of what's best for
team and what's best for them and their development as players. I tend to
reflect when it's all said and done. Right now, we still have games to play and
jobs to do.
Coming this afternoon, a two-part look at the seniors from the press conference...
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