On the record: Kevin Stallings (Part II)

At the annual SEC Basketball Tipoff, Kevin Stallings addressed questions about the upcoming season from writers and broadcasters from around the South. Here are some of those questions and his answers. (Part 2 of 5)

Q: I've not been around Matt [Freije] that much, so I could be wrong, but it seems like he has kind of a shy personality.  But now that he's one of your more senior players, you're asking him to be more of a vocal leader.  Does that sort of go against his natural grain?

A: Not really.  He was raised... as right as he could be raised.  It's not in his personality to offend someone.  It's not in his personality to get after somebody.  He's very self-motivated.  Quiet?  A little bit, not overly, but a little bit.  Fortunately, he's got a teammate that you're actually describing better than you're describing [Freije].  Lakey is quieter by nature, but he's the one we've been able to get out of it.  He's helping me coach practice!  That's why I'm a big fan [of Lakey's] right now.

Q: Who's the one on your team who'll jump on the [behind] of someone else?

A: Lakey.  Lakey.  In a heartbeat.  In a competitive game, he'll yell at guys on the other team for not playing hard enough.  Plus, he's tough.  The mistakes he makes are because he's mad that his teammates aren't playing the way they're supposed to, and he makes these overly aggressive, overly assertive mistakes when he plays.  But I think people will see this year why we said we missed him so much last year.  Because he's improved a lot.  He's the guy that takes toughness with him to the floor every day.

Q: Is that part of his Los Angeles streak?

A: No, no, he grew up in a real nice area in L. A.  He's just a competitor.  I think his Dad's a competitive guy.  He's just got a streak in him that, he's just a little feisty.  And we need him desperately.

Q: I assume you'd rather he not tell the other teams that they're not playing hard.

A: (Laugh) No.  He won't do that.  He's smart, too.  That helps.  I like that a lot.  He's smart.  He sees when somebody else in practice is about to get in trouble, and he coaches those guys up so that his team doesn't suffer!

Q: Is it kind of weird not having a senior on the team this year?

A: I've had it before.  Ironically my fourth year at Illinois State, we didn't have any seniors.  Same exact setting this year... if only this team could have the same success they had.  They won the league and the conference tournament championship.   We lost to Iowa State in the first round that year.  It was the next year, when those kids were seniors, that we beat Tennessee.

Q: In the SEC not too long ago it used to be that Kentucky was Kentucky, and the rest of the league was the rest of the league.  Now it seems as though the rest of the league has caught up to Kentucky.  Even Tubby Smith said that today.

A:  Well, I was asked who I thought would win the league the other day.  I said, you know, I'm going to be statistical, analytical genius, and since Kentucky's won more league championships than all the rest put together, I'm going to pick Kentucky.  But, do I think that gap has been closed?  Sure I do.  Do I think it's completely closed?  Not necessarily.  Kentucky can still recruit guys that the rest of the schools in this league can't recruit.  As long as that situation exists, they're going to be able to get into doors that the rest of us can't get into, and therefore have an advantage.  But the gap is obviously not as wide as it once was.

Q: When Bob Huggins had his heart attack, I'm wondering, with the stresses of the job, did you pick up the phone and call your doctor?

A: No, my wife told me to.  But I didn't.  God picked out my day and time.  It might be on the flight going home.  It might be on the elevator tomorrow going up to my office.  But the last time I checked, I was pretty healthy.  I'm not going to freak out because one of our colleagues... thank goodness he made it, and he's healthy.  But... when my number's called, it's called.  There's nothing I can do about it.

Q: What do you think makes the SEC such a great league?

A: If you look at all of the really good leagues in the country... Big Ten, SEC, Big East, Big Twelve, Pac-Ten... our league is the only league that doesn't have what I'd call, nights off.  Now, we've probably been as close to that the last couple of years as anybody.  And yet, we've beaten people that have won divisions, and I just think there are some games in most of those other leagues that you look and say, we'll win those two.  We'll win both times we play that school.  In this league you can't do that.  Like I said, we've probably been as close to being that team as anybody, and yet, I don't think people feel that when they come into our gym, it's an automatic W.  Yet other leagues I think you can look down there and say, we'll win those two.  And obviously anything can happen on game night.  But I think that's the difference in this league and every other league.

Q: Has it got

VandyMania.com Top Stories