The 2007-2008 Pac-10 Pre-Season Media Poll:
1) UCLA (33) 339
2) Washington State (1) 273
3) Oregon 240
4) Arizona 238
5) Stanford 205
6) USC 184
7) California 140
8) Washington 132
9) Arizona State 81
10) Oregon State 38
Each head coach made comments and took questions.
Herb Sendek, Arizona State
Opening Remarks: "Sitting in our Conference coaches' meeting this morning and then listening to Commissioner Hansen, you can't help but shake your head because there is no easy game in sight. We're about to embark on another great Pac-10 season. Last season, for much of the year, we were ranked as the No. 1 conference in the nation, and I think we are picking up right where we left off. Right now we have some very healthy competition in practice. Guys are really working to fill out their roles. I don't know that everyone will retain their starting role from last season because we've improved our depth and we do have some healthy competition for those starting roles."
On Jeff Pendergraph: "Jeff had an all-Conference sophomore season. He continues to work hard to improve. He is extremely coachable. Last year we asked Jeff to do everything, but hopefully this year we can get him additional help. He is a real gentleman. He is articulate, he is intelligent and a pleasure to coach."
On judging his success in his second year: "There are always several benchmarks to judge success. Last season I thought we were enormously successful, not in terms of wins and losses, but in other areas. We were tremendously successful in terms of resilience and perseverance. We'll continue to honor the process of getting better, focusing on the things we can control. We have to improve leaps and bounds because night in and night out we will be playing against Top-25 teams."
Jay John, Oregon State
On turnover and new players: "Well Seth Tarver has probably made the most improvement from last year to this year. As a freshman he was wide-eyed, but has made wonderful improvement. The trip to Italy really helped the guys who have been around for a while. We have a number of freshmen that I am really pleased with. The big kids have been extraordinary surprises as they are ready to play. We did have turnover, five players that had eligibility did not return, including one senior. We had six scholarships that we were able to fill with better players so we will be a better team than we were a year ago."
On C.J. Giles: "Instantly, he changes everything on the defensive end. He's as good an athlete as almost all the guards anywhere. His ability at 6-10 to cover ground is extraordinary. As a rebounder and a shot blocker he is impressive. He has the "it" quality. He is assertive, aggressive and he anticipates the ball. He never scored a lot at Kansas, but he will with us. Last year's team was never great at dictating tempo in terms of our defense, because we weren't athletic enough, but with CJ in there we can do that."
Ben Braun, California
Opening Remarks: "I feel good about our team. Jerome [Randle] was released from the hospital, and we are waiting for the results of a biopsy he had. I don't have anything conclusive now. We are optimistic, and we want a long term solution for Jerome. Those types of things help you put basketball in perspective because now he is looking at a life issue. That is the biggest concern right now. We'll have information by the end of this week, if not early next. He is optimistic on his return to the team. DeVon [Hardin] is back and is healthy. It is great to have him back in the lineup. Ryan Anderson is happy about that too. Jordan Wilkes is back, as well. I am really encouraged by our big guys. We were one of the smallest teams last year, and this year we are one of the biggest. We hope our big guys will be our strength."
On the Pac-10: "What a great year for the Pac-10. As a coach I am proud to be in the Pac-10, it is the greatest conference in the country. I believe that, the fans believe that, and the players believe that. We are at a high point."
On the guard situation: "Scholarship guards - we have three. Not a lot is it? So we have a challenge on our hands, but we've been there before. We're going to have to step up and it will be a challenge for our team. We are optimistic and confident. Injuries are part of the game, its tough, but no coach plans for that and you have to have your team prepared. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us that we don't have our whole team healthy. We are going to have to count on some guys to step up and give us some minutes. It is a blow, I'm not going to sit here and tell you it's not, but we're going to go out and play."
Lorenzo Romar, Washington
Opening Remarks: "We are excited, ready to get going. We have our first exhibition game on Monday. Our guys can't wait to go out and go up against someone else. In unfortunate news, Ryan Appleby fractured his thumb and will be out six weeks, but should be back after that. We have a tough schedule, but it will help us prepare for the very, very competitive Pac-10 Conference. i was fortunate enough to play in 1979 right when the Arizona schools joined the former Pac-8, and I have never seen it this competitive from 1-10. There have been times when it has been tough at the top, 1-5, but never this tough from the top to bottom. Please don't ask me who I would pick to finish in any spot, because I have no clue. That being said, our group coming back allows us to be a little more experienced than we were last season. Jon Brockman is back - that is the good news - but the bad news is that after this year he is a senior. He is a great player and it is a pleasure to have him in our program."
On being picked to finish eighth in the Pac-10: "I think if it wasn't us, they would've had to pick someone else and you would've had to ask the same question. Someone had to be there. We finished seventh with Spencer Hawes and now he is gone and we are picked to finish eighth, so I guess they thought we couldn't finish higher than that without him. We'll see how it plays out. We had some teams that played well in the NCAA Tournament last year. UCLA went to the Final Four and has the majority of its team back. You have an Elite Eight team in Oregon and a Washington State team that was outstanding. Arizona has been to the Tournament 23 consecutive years, they are always good. Then you add in Kevin Love and O.J. Mayo, who were arguably the two top players in the nation in high school last season."
Trent Johnson, Stanford
Opening Remarks: "I'm as relaxed as I've been at this point because this is the first time since I've been at Stanford where we've been relatively injury-free. We're clearly a much better basketball team than we were last year. We should be a very good defensive team and a very good rebounding team. We need to be more consistent throughout the season whether it's rebounding the ball, shooting the ball, etc. Individually, the most improved player is Landry Fields. I look for him have to very good year. Lawrence [Hill] is going to play multiple positions. Fred Washington, one of our three seniors is healthy. I think Fred is one of the more under-appreciated players in our league. His game is ugly at times, but he will do whatever it takes to help the team. We will play him in multiple positions. Consistency will be a huge key for us in this league. We also will have to play extremely well in the non-conference."
On the Lopez twins: "Brook, if he takes care of his academic issues, should be back around Dec. 19-22. Robin is fine."
Lute Olson, Arizona
Opening Remarks: "We had a red-blue scrimmage the other night and it was very competitive. We divided the two teams up pretty evenly and had about 9000 fans. With our team last year, there were some highlights and some low lights. The first problem was that we lost Kirk Walkers to mono, and he is still not totally recovered. He has recovered from mono, but hasn't gotten to the point where he was as effective as his last season. Jawann McClellan has dropped from 220-something to 205, to lessen the pressure on his knees, and he has not had the swelling problems like he did last year. We are expecting a lot of leadership from him. Bret Brielmaier is very well-respected and well-liked by his peers. He plays hard, he gives you a 100 percent all the time, he is a great communicator has been doing a nice job. We signed an outstanding group of freshmen, just like everybody else in this league did. The Conference i said a year ago was going to the be the best it's ever been, but this year is even better because of all the guys coming back and the recruiting classes. It is far and away the best conference in the nation and by far and away the best conference top to bottom that it's ever been. It`ll be fun for the fans, the players and the coaches will need a lot of Rolaids."
On why the Pac-10 is so strong: "Unfortunately, the other coaches that have come into this league have been really good coaches with good experiences. A while back, they used to hire an assistant from another program, now they are getting the best coaches they can get. With that, the recruiting efforts are something special. When i first came into the league 25 years ago, if you did a good job and got over the hump with one or two teams, you could deal with the others. It's not like that anymore. The quality of coaches that have come into the Conference and their recruiting ability have changed things."
Tim Floyd, USC
Opening Remarks: "We are looking forward to this year, it's good to see all of you again. We lost more than anybody in the Pac-10 last year. Lute might feel this way too. We lost 44 points per game, but hopefully we have gained more than anybody in the league, that's the only way we'll be able to compete. We've got a special player returning in Taj Gibson and we are going to be relying a lot on young guys. A year ago, one of the advantages was that we had a senior starter and two junior starters, we were a little bit older than other teams in the league. This year, we'll have more than likely two freshmen and two sophomores in the back court. If college basketball is about guard play, I like our guards, but they are going to have to grow up and step up for us. The league is terrific, we are going to have to grow up with what we believe is the toughest non-conference schedule in the nation. When you look at our league you are looking at quite possibly 14 games against ranked teams alone."
On staying successful: "We need to recruit well. We need to hope that some of these pros on these other teams, go pro and get out of there. We are happy with what has happened here, but we want to build something for the long haul. The facility has been a tremendous help. We give players in this area more of a reason to stay home, there's no real reason for these kids to leave anymore when they can play in the strongest conference in the country."
Ernie Kent, Oregon
Opening Remarks: "It has been a fast-paced off season, but it also feels like I've been rejuvenated. I'm anxious to get going on the season, and I'm hoping my basketball team plays with the same energy. We've lost a great player in Aaron Brooks, he was the leading scorer in the Pac-10 last season. But we have four starters back, and we need to figure out who is going to be that guy that is going to step up and win basketball games for us. This is the best Conference in the nation and it is the strongest it's been since I have been here. I hope there are a number of teams representing the Pac-10 in March Madness."
On the league: "I think we have some outstanding coaches in this Conference. Our style of play, the way we get up and down the floor appeals to people. I think Ben [Howland] changed things when he got here, at least defensively."
On building a new arena: "The arena situation is full bore in terms of putting together our financial package. The interest level is sky high right now. We are hard at work financing it, it's something i know will be taking place. We will be breaking ground at some point."
Tony Bennett, Washington State
Opening Remarks: "When we were picked 10th in this league, it didn't shake us, we knew we were going to be competitive. The same holds for this year, we are selected higher but our kids are realistic. We are right on that line, if we're not playing well we are susceptible. We're like most teams in college basketball, we are close to being good, and close to not being good. I like my team because we have veterans, guys with Pac-10 experience under their belts. We rely on our experience. There is no substitute for juniors and seniors. You can make a case that many teams can contend for a title. When they say this is the best the league has been, it makes you take pause. There is a lot of excitement in Pullman for basketball. Once the season starts, all the other stuff will fade away."
On the role his dad played last year: "I felt kind of guilty about last season, but when I told him that, he said he had his time. He enjoyed where he was. His role was huge, he was the architect for that team and his fingerprints are all over this program. I've learned so much from him. As far as last year, he came to about three practices. You can't get him away from the golf channel or the golf course. He addressed the team on three separate occasions. His influence is huge and I'm grateful for him."
On changes in recruiting/scheduling after last season: "I think it has made it harder to schedule in some ways. But it helps us get in the door with some kids that maybe we wouldn't have had before. Coaches keep telling me to be careful after you have a successful year, you can get a higher-ranked player, but don't change the type of kid you go after."
Ben Howland, UCLA
Opening Remarks: "We are excited about this year. The biggest thing that I have no control over is our health. We've had a number of different nagging injuries through the preseason. We are very excited about our core group returning from two Final Fours and adding the best high school player in the nation."
On Michael Roll: "Mike is very smart, especially at the offensive end. He knows how to space, how to post, how to move without the ball. Whether he starts or not, he will get a lot of minutes. He will have a very good year."
On Kevin Love: "Kevin is a very good low post scorer, really knows how to use his body, seal with his body. A lot of kids don't know how to do that. He has good hands, good feet, and good skill level at the offensive end. He is a hard worker, a great teammate, and all about winning. He has great work ethic and a desire to reach his potential."
On the physical nature of UCLA practices: "I don't think our practices are that different than other teams. Everyone has guys that are out right now. When you have really good, strong athletes that are physical, injuries happen. That is the tough part that you have no control over. We want to ge a good team that blocks out and that sets screens. It's the way the game is meant to be played and you want to practice how you play."
**In attendance with Coach Howland was Josh Shipp and Kevin Love.