Q: Coach, the NIT run that you guys made at the end of the year... what did that do for the experience of your team?
Vanderbilt head basketball coach Kevin Stallings: I think anytime you get to postseason and have some postseason games and get some experience that way, it's helpful. I hope we benefit from that and build on it and use it as a springboard. I think our Sweet 16 run two years ago gave us confidence and momentum going into last season. Hopefully the run we made last year in the NIT will do the same thing for this team.
Q: It's early in the practice sessions, but how are things going so far?
A: Good! I've been happy with our practices, and happy with our team's attitude and our effort. I think this is the time of year when everybody's pretty pleased with what's going on. Three weeks from now or two months from now, you find out what kind of team you really have. But right now things are probably as they should be. They're energetic. They're not as consistent as you want, but I doubt if anybody in the country is at this point.
Q: How's the post game coming along for you this year?
A: We feel like it's developed. We feel like we have a number of guys who have made some progress there. We're not limiting our post touch opportunities just to the post players-- we're hopeful to get some perimeter players in there and get them some touches as well. A key to our season is getting consistent points and productivity from the paint, which will enable us to get to the foul line more. That's something we didn't do very well a year ago.
Q: When you talk about Vanderbilt basketball, a lot of people talk about the fact that you've got some bigger guys who like to go out and shoot the 3-pointers. You've got guys that don't like to stay around the basket. Is that a concern? Are you targeting those guys to stay down low, or is that what you want them to do?
A: We don't really have that problem this year, because all of our 3-point-shooting big guys have graduated. We're not in that situation as much as we have been in the past. We've been fortunate enough to have some guys that could shoot the ball from the perimeter. Now what we have to do is get a post game that is equal to our 3-point shooting. If we can do that, we'll have an opportunity to be a better team.
Q: Who are some of the guys on your team that we're going to have to hear a lot from if Vanderbilt is going to be successful?
A: I think Shan Foster and Mario Moore and Julian Terrell are three guys that played a lot of basketball for us a year ago. DeMarre Carroll played a lot of basketball for us. But I think if we have a really successful season, guys like Ted Skuchas, Dan Cage and Derrick Byars will be guys that people around our league will have to take notice of. Again, that's IF we're going to be successful, because we're going to need seven or eight or nine guys to be able to compete in a season-long conference schedule. They're all going to have to play well, because we're not so talented at the top that it's going to be easy for us. All of our guys are going to play close to their level of potential in order for us to have success.
Q: How would you rank the conference-- it's pretty wide open-- but as far as the competition level?
A: The competition level is always as high as it can possibly be. Kentucky looks to be very strong. Alabama looks to be very good. LSU is going to be very good. I think there are a number of teams in our league that are counting on having great seasons. But in this league, just like any other, there are opportunities for other teams to jump up in the mix and contend for better positions in the standings. We obviously would like to be one of those.
Q: One emphasis this year in the conference and across the country has to do with palming the basketball. What are your thoughts on that? The rule has already been there, but they're trying to make it more of an emphasis.
A: I think it's a rule we need to enforce, because there's a tremendous advantage gained by players who are able to carry the basketball and get by with it. I've got one of my own. He's very happy to stick his had right underneath it and carry it like a fullback. But I think that's something that needs to be addressed. I hope they stick to it, and I hope we see palming calls made, because I think it's an unfair advantage to the offensive player.
Q: Regarding home-court advantage, you've got a little magic there in Nashville. Talk about why you think there is that "Memorial Magic."
A: I think we just have a great environment. We have a great crowd and very enthusiastic fans. Those things, in addition to the uniqueness of our benches and our court-- there are a lot of things that give us an advantage. What we have to do as a team-- and this does nothing to address your question-- is be as comfortable and opportunistic on the road as we are at home. We certainly didn't do that a year ago, and that's something that has to be a big focal point this year.
Q: Is it tougher for guards to adapt to collegiate basketball, or for post players to adapt from high school to college?
A: I think it's tough for both of them. Post guys come into the league, and all of a sudden the game is so much faster and more physical. Perimeter guys come into the league, and whether it's dribbling skills or the ability to guard, I just think there are challenges on both ends. Big guys usually develop later than perimeter guys. I would say that the task is difficult for both.
Q: One of the big rule changes this year was that you can't go straight to the NBA, you have to wait one year. What are your feelings about that?
A: I wish they would have made it two years. I think the rule would have had a little more bite in it if they had done that. You have a lot of forces that are interested in their own side of things. You've got the NBA, you've got college, you've got shoe companies, you've got a lot of different things going on at one time. It's going to be hard to get everybody on the same page in a way that benefits college basketball. One [year] is probably better than zero, but I personally wish they would have made it two.
Q: The SEC is planning a throwback uniform day, where they bring back the old kinds of uniforms. Will Vanderbilt have the high, old-school pants that go past your hips, or what?
A: Well, I hope we have the real old-school ones, the high ones, so that our players stop making fun of me when they come over to my house and see my old college pictures.
Q: You had those tube socks going all the way up, didn't you?
A: (Laughs) That's exactly right. They went all the way up to the knee. Everything has just sort of moved down over the years. The shorts moved down, and the socks moved down. Back in my day the shorts were high, and the socks were high. We were trying to show off thighs, and they're trying to show off calves, I guess.
Q: Last time we saw you, you were in search of a Matt Freije bobblehead. Did you ever find one?
A: I did. I got one for one of my children. I told Freije that it puts him in the proper perspective, because he was a loose-headed, bobble-headed guy when I coached him. So that's how I want to remember him! (Radio hosts break up laughing)