Interview: Kevin Stallings, Part II

VandyMania talked with Commodore head coach Kevin Stallings about a variety of things including Ross Neltner, team leadership for 2005, the Witchita State thriller, Derrick Byars, prospects for 2006 and more. (Part II of III)

VM: Alex Gordon had a stretch where he scored 0 points, 30 points and 0 points. Was this a team where you never knew who was going to show up?
KS: It was difficult from a coaching perspective from the standpoint that you didn't know where your points were coming from. It is difficult to coach a team and have a team be consistent when you don't know you can get consistent scoring from particular players. And we never had any consistent low-post scoring, which made it even more difficult.

Those were the problems offensively. Not knowing from one night to the next who would and who wouldn't. You knew who could, but you didn't know who would.

VM: : Why do you think Dan Cage's production went south in the latter part of the year?
KS: I don't know. We've spent a lot of time talking about that with Dan and amongst ourselves as coaches. I think Dan lost his confidence. I think it can just be summed up in that – he lost his confidence.

Dan is a guy that over-thinks. Guys that over-think overreact. He probably overreacted to a couple of sub-par shooting performances and then, as we like to say, he thought himself into a new way of acting. Which is not good. We try to act ourselves into a new way of thinking rather than think ourselves into a new way of acting. That is one of our things.

Sometimes you can out-think yourself. Paralysis by analysis. I think Dan got into one of those mental wars with himself and lost his confidence.

VM: I guess the re-telling of the Wichita State story has been fun for you this summer.
KS: Very unusual and unique thing that is fun when you are on the right end of it. It has been fun telling that story even though I tell it at the expense of a friend. Their coach is a good friend of mine. It would have been much more fun to have done it to someone you didn't care for, but it didn't work out that way. It has been fun telling it.

VM: Third in the SEC East did not get you in the NCAA Tournament this year. Will the SEC will good enough next year where third would certainly get you in?
KS: I don't know. With all these guys going pro … if everybody stays in the Draft, our league is not going to be perhaps as strong. So, it could be another year like this year, where only five teams get in.

That's really a good question. Generally speaking, third in the East is going to get you in, but it didn't this past year. Obviously, we didn't deserve to be in. I don't know what will happen next year because you just don't know from one year to the next how your league is going to fare against the other leagues.

I would have thought going into the season third in the East was a shoe-in, because I didn't think there was any way we wouldn't get six teams in, but it didn't work out that way.

VM: Can you compare Derrick Byers to another recent Vandy player and describe what the fans will see next year?
KS: I can't describe him to a recent Vanderbilt player because we haven't had anyone with the same makeup that Derrick has. The thing that is the best about Derrick is he knows how to play. A good offensive player a lot of times can be defined when a guy knows when to pass and knows when to shoot. A lot of times, if a guy just knows that, he can be a good offensive player, and Derrick seems to have a good feel for that.

He's a good passer and he's a good shooter. He can put the ball on the floor. He has good range. He's good on the block. He's good in transition. He just has a lot of things going for him offensively.

In some ways, you could compare him a little bit to Shan Foster. Derrick is a little bit bigger and faster. But they're not really similar players. That is probably a bad comparison.

Derrick has a very complete game. He's a complete player offensively. Defensively, it will be interesting to see what he brings to the table and rebounding-wise, it will be interesting to see what he brings to the table. He's a guy that is very athletic and shoots the ball very well.

VM: You ran your offense through Dan Langhi, you ran your offense through Matt Freije. Are you going to try to run your offense through Derrick?
KS: I'm not ready to say that. After a partial year of practice, because he was recovering from shoulder surgery during the first half of the season, I'm certainly not ready to say that. But I will say this: Between Shan, DeMarre Carroll, Derrick, Dan Cage and we hope you can throw George Drake into that group, we feel like the wing position has a chance to be the strength of our team. Obviously Mario is a senior and Alex has been through it, so now we have two very capable point guards. So we feel like our perimeter has the chance to be very strong.

I'm not ready to say we could run the offense through Derrick. Derrick potentially has those kinds of capabilities, but he will have to prove it on a daily basis if he is going to be looked at in the same light as a Langhi or a Freije. Those guys were everyday guys. It is hard to run your offense through somebody that is not an everyday guy. Dan Langhi and Matt Freije were everyday guys. They came to kick everybody's butt in the gym every day, and that is a rare quality.


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