Interview: Kevin Stallings

VandyNation/VandyMania sat down and talked with Vanderbilt basketball coach Kevin Stallings at the recent SEC Media Days in Birmingham

VN: You've got a lot more players to work with this year than you've had in your first two seasons.

KS: I think that properly used, the bench can be the coach's best friend. If you don't have enough guys, you can't stick a guy on the bench and help him understand the lessons that a college basketball player needs to learn. I've got an opportunity now for the bench to be my friend, and I'll use him.

VN: How does that change practices?

KS: It changes it a lot. Things are more competitive. There's more competition for playing time. There's more uncertainty about who's going to play. There's a lot more urgency about getting yourself in a position to be in the rotation. Most coaches don't play more than 8 or 9, so if you've got 11 or 12 or 13, there's some urgency about being in that 8 or 9.

VN: Would you ever play an 11- or 12-man rotation?

KS: I don't think you can and be effective. I think that's almost impossible.

VN: Talk about Sam Howard-- he had kind of an off-year last year, and now he's one of your senior leaders.

KS: Very disappointing year a year ago. He got started off badly. Foot surgery at the end of the summer put him behind. He lost confidence, and lost a little focus. He's really done a nice job coming back. I hope it translates into the kind of senior year that I think it will. But Sam-- there's not a nicer kid anywhere. He's got to have a good year for us, but I think he will.

VN: How is Martin Schnedlitz's knee holding up?

KS: It's not. He's only practiced about 3 days so far, and he hadn't been able to run in a week and a half or two weeks. His status is very uncertain. I'm not ready to throw in the towel for the whole season, but we've got exhibition games coming up and he won't play.

VN: Can you describe David Przybyszewski's play?

KS: He's skilled, very athletic... a little on the thin side. We need to Americanize his game a little bit. He'll play, but I've never seen him with the lights on yet. You know? He might run back to the dorm room when Haslem shows up. Coach, I ain't guarding him.

VN: I read one writer who said that Vanderbilt will find out quickly that even an injured Greg LaPointe is better than no Greg LaPointe. Would you concur with that?

KS: I'll say this: Greg LaPointe, when healthy, was a heck of a basketball player. But... don't get me wrong. Greg understood the game as well as any guard I've ever coached. He had a tremendous instinct and understanding of the game. Do I think our guys can produce at the level he did last year being hurt? I don't know, maybe not. But I am cautiously optimistic about the two freshmen we have.

VN: Could you talk about how the absence of Billy Richmond affects other people's minutes?

KS: Well, it provides additional opportunity, but based on the way things were going in practice, we're not going to be playing anybody any different because he's not there. The way it was at the time, there were certainly other guys ahead of him. Chuck and Sam, and some others. It's difficult to say, because you don't know how to gauge how Billy was going to play. I just know that it's one less person.

VN: Is Brian Thornton a guy who might provide some needed presence up front?

KS: Yeah, he's got a big body, and even though he's a freshman, he's got a chance to help us a lot because he's got good hands, and good physicality and can score in there. We think Brian's going to be a good player.

VN: Your team ended on a down note last year. Do you feel like your team sort of hit a wall?

KS: Yeah, I think they hit a wall a little bit. I think some things happened that caused the disintegration there at the end. Some you can put your finger on, some you can't. I do know we're all pretty motivated not to let it happen again.

VN: Will better depth help that situation?

KS: Yes, that will help tremendously.

VN: You've always been big on using the bench as a motivator. Can you talk about that philosophy?

KS: Yeah. Eddie Fogler was the one who said it to me... the fastest way to a kid's head is through his butt. I believe that entirely. Kids want to play. And not getting to play helps them understand more quickly what you're trying to teach them. You try to teach them for the purpose of their understanding and their betterment, whether it's an on-the-court or an off-the-court issue.

VN: You didn't have a midnight madness this year. Why not?

KS: We didn't have one last year either. I think those things can either be good or bad. We've had them before, but I'm not that kind of guy. I'd rather have practice the next day and get a lot done.

VN: Playing the devil's advocate, it seems like fan interest in Vanderbilt basketball is down a little bit right now, and it seems like something like that might be good to give the program a little P.R. boost.

KS: I don't think you're going to generate attendance by having a midnight madness. I think you're going to generate attendance by winning games. If you look across the country fan interest is down. Attendance is down at a lot of places, most every place except maybe 5 or 10. I think it's true across the board. Even league games are getting harder to sell out, at traditionally supportive places. But I also think with our fan base, if we turn the table and get the program back where it needs to be, our fan interest should go up dramatically and quickly.

VN: How much does your Chancellor get involved in your program? Does he help you out with, say, recruiting?

KS: Absolutely. He's not only a terrific ambassador and recruiter for our institution, he also makes everybody in the institution feel what they do is important. He seems to be involved in everything-- I'm sure he isn't, but it seems like he is. And that's good. He has really energized our place and brought a lot of enthusiasm-- particularly in athletics, but in a lot of ways. He's probably the single best addition we've had since I've been there.

VN: When you bring a guy in for a recruiting visit, does he help do a little sales job?

KS: He will help us every time I ask him to-- when he's available and in town. Top Stories