Coaches Quotes - Maui Invitational

Kaanapali, Maui - Dawgman.com spoke Sunday to Lorenzo Romar (Washington), John Calipari (Kentucky), Jim Calhoun (Connecticut), Tom Izzo (Michigan State) and Tony Bennett (Virginia) about their teams and their chances for success at the EA Sports Maui Invitational, set to begin Monday at the Lahaina Civic Center.

Lorenzo Romar:

Opening Comments:
"This being our first trip, I can't tell you how excited we are to be here, myself included. Every year you look forward to watching the Maui Classic, seeing the high level of competition being played on a national scale.

This is the first time in about four years that we have more of a veteran team. We've been re-building to this point. The team is led…the strength of our team, I should say, is on our perimeter. Isaiah Thomas is a name that comes to mind quickly. He's scored more points in two years than anyone in the history of our program at this stage. Before you write him off as a little guy that can score a lot of points, he's also won a lot of games - 52 games in two years. He's a real winner.

"Him, Venoy Overton - who is a really good defensive player, especially on the ball - and Abdul Gaddy, are three ball-handling guards that play quite a bit for us. They do a really good job.

"Inside we have another guy in Matthew Bryan-Amaning. He started this year with a bang from last year where he left off doing a really good job for us. And Justin Holiday is a guy who may be our most improved player. He's a very well-rounded player for us, a senior, a co-captain for us.

"Those guys kind of lead our team. In the past we've been a team that has been small over the years, but this year we're a little bigger, and hopefully that will help our cause. Aziz N'Diaye is a 7-footer, a sophomore transfer from the College of Southern Idaho. Hopefully he can help us in those game where we've struggled in the past, due to a lack of size.

Again, we're really excited to be here, and hopefully we can come out here and play our best."

Additional Romar comments:
On who is going to give him a hard time about not making any free throws for the charity event - "No. Trust me, I know I can make free throws. They have confidence in me."

On the team's itinerary - "We got in yesterday (Saturday). As soon as we got in we practiced. They had a players party last night, had a video game challenge and some food - all the teams were there, so it was nice. Team meeting last night, and now it's the morning."

On first thoughts of the Lahaina Civic Center - "No one made a comment to me. I didn't ask them, 'What do you think?' We just walked in and we practiced. I didn't hear any comments. I've seen it before."

On feeling sorry for (Connecticut) Coach (Jim) Calhoun's opening comments about being young - "No, I was just listening. When he gets out there, he'll be the most competitive guy out there, so that's just talk."

On Tony Bennett and how much different he is at Virginia than at WSU - "They are a little more open offensively, but the same defensive principles."

On expecting Virginia to slow UW down - "I don't know. I would imagine. That's what they try and do a lot of the time."

On health of the team - "Just Venoy (Overton) recovering from that tailbone injury. He should be OK by tomorrow, but he's still not 100 percent. It's difficult for him to run, but by tomorrow he should be fine."

On dealing with the disappointment of losing Terrence Jones - "I was just telling someone that if it was documented all the players you lost, you'd seem like the worst recruiters ever, because you don't get everyone. And that's expected. You recruit and recruit, but you have to know. You have to move on. What makes it more difficult is that you build relationships with players and families and you envision them being there, and then you have to switch gears that way. But it's a part of what you do. You aren't going to get everyone.

On talking with Jones for a hour when he found out he wasn't coming to UW - "You develop relationships, and just because someone doesn't come your way and you don't want to talk to them anymore? That means you never had a relationship to begin with. I watched Kentucky play against Portland the other night and I see his box scores and I follow him. I wish him the very best. He's got the whole package."

On the dynamic between Jones and Terrence Ross and Antoine Hosley - "Not everyone has former teammates on every team, but anyone on our team - not just Terrence - you name just about anyone on our team they have friends at other programs. This isn't the first time. It happens all the time."

On having a veteran team - "It's a big advantage if you can transfer it to the court. Because on trips like this, guys understand how to prepare themselves mentally and physically for a three-day tournament, whereas the younger guys may not understand it. So on the road, in close games I think it should give you an advantage. The older guys know they need to get their rest and eat properly. It's just the little things like that. You really have to concentrate on the scouting reports. When the opposition at home, or on the road, goes on a run, you can't panic. You have to play the same way. A lot of times it's like a swimmer or a boxer - if a boxer loses his form or his temper or is just wildly swinging, he's going to get knocked out…or like a swimmer if you feel like you're drowning and you forget your form and you start panicking…you're going to drown. So on the road, it's the same way. A team goes up and you forget your foundation and what you're supposed to be doing, you'll get blown out. Freshmen don't know that, a lot of times. The older players do."

On being picked the favorite in the Pac-10 - "It's a compliment to our program, but it means absolutely nothing beyond that."

On coaching with Tom Izzo - "Just one of the greatest guys to be around, phenomenal teacher and awesome competitor. Really understands the game. I learned a lot. I remember how much I enjoyed being around him and how much basketball I learned."

On not having coached against him - "Came close. In St. Louis, we lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Had we won, we would have played Michigan State."

On seeing so many great coaches at one time - "It's great. But you know, we know these guys. We see these coaches all the time in July during recruiting, and you rub shoulders with these guys all the time. With USA Basketball, you're sitting in meetings and you're talking x's and o's with these guys. Here it's a little more laid back. You aren't going to sit down with them and talk x's and o's here because they are preparing their teams. But with USA Basketball, where you are there and you're really doing that, it's really, really good."

On seeing Jim Calhoun and having flashbacks to the Sweet 16 game in 2006 - "I don't, because I see him too many times. If it had been the first time seeing him since 2006, it might have, but I've seen him so many times since then, so I don't."
John Calipari:
On what he's learned from his team so far - "Really happy about a road win. Really happy about a team where…in Eric's last three years, that's never happened to his team, where we kind of pushed them out of everything they wanted to do. Offensively, we got balls where we wanted to get them. He was stunned…there coach mentioned it.

We have to get double-doubles out of our center position - Josh (Harrellson) and Eloy (Vargas). Just combined, a double-double - points and rebounds. You do that, and the rest of us do our thing, and we can get something out of John Hood, we've got a solid eight.

I was just talking to Jeff (Capel), and he said - you only have 10 guys, how do you practice? How long do you go? And I said we don't go as long as anybody else. We can't. And the reason you can't is, the guys that really want to work, will work. So if you stretch out the time of the guys that are working, you're taking time away from the guys that you really need to make sure they are ready. So one of the things we're doing is conditioning. So the guys that need it will really condition, and the guys that don't we'll keep them fresh and see what happens."

On Josh Harrellson - "The conditioning he's doing is making all the difference in the world. Where you're seeing it is in his own self-esteem. You can BS only so long, everyone starts calling you out. You either cave in to it and say I am what I am, or you change. You change your body, which changes your mind. All of a sudden, he's have a different self-esteem. He has a different approach to what he's doing. Now he reverts at times back to, what's that shortcut, but he's playing for me - which means it's pointed out every single time. He's doing fine. And it's a challenge for Eloy, because now Eloy has to step it up."

On winning being a priority for the tournament - "Obviously you want to win every game, but this thing here - it's about let's learn about our team, and let's get back to the drawing board and let's make sure…look. These coaches, from Jim Calhoun, who has done this for a thousand years, to Gregg, Tommy and Lorenzo…those guys are going to see what your weakness is, and they'll exploit it. We may not even know our weaknesses, but we will by the time these three days are done. So we'll have to figure out, how do we close that gap, how do we get better in that area. We'll also find out about our strengths, and how do we build on those and get them better."

On if a possible Washington matchup registers at all with him or with Terrence Jones right now - "I don't know. I haven't talked to Terrence about it. But I really respect Lorenzo, always have…talked to him through that process. Have always, I've felt, had a good relationship with him because he's a terrific basketball coach and he's into the game and he's into other coaches…so if we have an opportunity to play Washington, it's because we both won. Can I say that much? Then yes, we want to play them. But they will exploit us because of their experience and their speed and the game they play and the reserves they use. We'll learn a lot from that game. For Terrence, there may be something extra, but I don't have any ill will or any feelings in any way. I know the Jones thing kind of makes people…I'm not into that. But it would be a very hard game for us. But if we're to play, let's both win, and then we'll figure it out."

On Terrence Jones - "I want him to be special; he just wants to be a player right now. So I've been on him, even in practice yesterday…if he understands how hard to play on every possession, we're not just playing basketball. Whoever we play tomorrow is going to try to take his throat out. Well, you have a choice; you can take their throat out, or they'll take your throat out. That's just how it is. So you're not just out here playing like it's an AAU game. I tell him all the time, you were a great AAU player, you know that. But this ain't AAU. This is for real now, and you have to compete at a higher level. I want him to dominate his position. You say, he's only 18! How do you want that? But I wanted it with Derrick (Rose) and Tyreke (Evans) and John Wall and Eric (Bledsoe)…I don't care about your age. If you are physically capable and have the skill level to dominate…do it. Don't give me your excuses. Do it. I want them to be special. I don't want them to just be another player. He's different than DeMarcus (Cousins). DeMarcus was 12, 13…he grew to be 17 by the end of the year. But (Jones) never said a word back…he's a young 18. But I think he wants to be good, I just don't think he knows what it takes to be special. And it's always been, I've done alright - we've won state championships…I don't need you taking threes. I need your butt in there inside, rebounding, blocking shots and playing tough and taking the occasional three. But I will say this, I love coaching and I love him as a kid. I love you, you personally. But I also love coaching."
Jim Calhoun:
On playing at Lahaina Civic Center - "We've played game situations in very noisy…we played Ford Field in the Final Four two years ago, 72,000, and the 3500 here can be just as noisy because it's so intimate with people right on top of you. This is what we need for our team. We need to get a couple wins out of here, but they don't automatically come on a six-freshman team with three sophomores. Nine of our 11 guys are freshmen and sophomores. These kind of experiences for us to take back…we don't really play for another month on the road…our first Big East game, two days after Christmas. So we'll get a true indication of what we are, who we are and where we're going."

On wanting tough tests early in the season - "Yeah, I do. But the one thing you don't want to do - you don't want to take away a team's confidence. That's the only thing you get worried about. But we've handled all kinds of things. We came out of the gate two years ago 23 straight, and we've come out of the gate 2-2, so we've come out of the gate different ways. You do take a chance the moment you get on that plane to Maui…you look at that field, and you run the risk of not starting out the way you normally start out. But we need to find out who we are and what we are and understand that what they've been playing against isn't what they'll be playing against the rest of the season."

On getting sympathy from the other coaches because of their youth - "Nah, you're not going to get any sympathy at all. In fact, they are all probably going to laugh and say how talented those kids are. But they are still young kids, and Ray Allen - who was a pretty good player for us, was on the way to the Hall of Fame and break Reggie Miller's record this year - averaged 12 points a game coming off the bench for us as a freshman. Now he had Donyell Marshall and a couple other good players in front of him, but the point being is - he was still a freshman. By the time he was a junior - when he went out - he was a magnificent player. The point being, freshman are freshmen, and every practice is like this; he's really good, he wasn't that good today…same with games. In two exhibitions and two regular-season games, it's been different guys at different times. Except for Kemba (Walker). Kemba's been the constant."

On gaining any advantage because he's been here before - "It's not really important about having an advantage…we've just made sure we've seen all seven teams. We've broken down all seven teams as best we can…Chaminade was the hardest to get information on, but we've broken down all the teams, and that's the only thing you can do. Because you aren't going to win or lose at 12 o'clock on a Monday when the outcome is already determined, and then be ready 24 hours, 28 hours later. No. That's the only advantage. The thing I've found out is that three days in a row is tough for a young team. But even though they are young and even though I know they are growing and they are going to make mistakes, I still have high expectations, because we've had 23 straight winning seasons - so we've done pretty well over the past 20 years."

On seeing UW at the bottom of the bracket and the last game UCONN played against UW - "That was a great game, I still remember what a great game that was. But I haven't. I've only looked at Wichita State and that's the one thing I have learned - when you start looking at the whole bracket situation, a scouting report on Lorenzo or Virginia…we don't know who we're next…all we do know is that we're playing Wichita State first, so let's go win that first one and then we'll worry about the second one."
Tom Izzo:
On playing anyone anywhere - "It just worked for me. I like going to places and play. I've been to every place, home and away and played the best teams, the best coaches. So when I'm done I can say that I did it the best way I could do it, which means we didn't back down from anybody. If our team and our program gets that mentality, I think we win more than we lose."

On possibly losing confidence playing tough schedules early - "I do. It's kind of funny…you listen to Dick Vitale talk about it over the years…he's always talked about the most important thing being competition. And then some people said that the most important thing is confidence. I kind of wavered on that every once in a while, because competition is important. But the way the social media is going and kids getting hammered…talk radio they get hammered more…but they've learned if they come to our place, that's what it's all about. If you look at the Final Fours most years we've been there we've had more losses than anyone just because of who we play. One of these days it might catch up to me and I'll be calling you and say you were right, but until then I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing and keep playing who we play…but this year I may have bitten off more than we can chew because our league is so good, but it's OK. It's more about the program than it is about one year."

On where this MSU team stacks up with his best - "It has the potential to be one of our better…but the problem is we have had so many injuries. This summer was like a MASH unit. I think we had five or six guys that missed two months or more, and I think three missed four-and-a-half months or more. That's a lot of time to miss, because you don't get as prepared in the summer. And then (Kalin) Lucas and (Adreian) Payne missed four-and-a-half months, they didn't get to lift a weight all summer or play. That worries me a little bit, but on paper it's pretty good, we'll find out by January…we won't be the same team until Lucas gets back 100 percent, and that'll be the middle of December before he gets all his speed back. He's made a remarkable recovery so far. We have a chance to be good. Really good."

On Kalin Lucas' status - "It's good. Recovery-wise, it's great, but it's still a situation where you can't miss six months. Michael Jordan couldn't miss six months and be the same player. So he's missed the six months, and he's not the same yet…it's actually improved him in a couple of areas. He's a little better decision-maker because he knows now he can't just blow by people. He's a better shooter because I think he realized that he has to pull up because he doesn't have that speed. Now if he gets that speed back, it's not a blessing, but maybe in some way there's a plus to it."

On the tournament and being around other great teams and coaches - "It's great. I always say…there was one big word when I was growing up - osmosis. So I go by John or Lorenzo and rub and down and hopefully something comes through. It is great. If you want to be great, you should be around great people, and that's been my theory about scheduling. If you want to be the best, you might as well play the best and find out what it's like. And that's what it's like here - there's some great coaches here, guys that have won national championships and Final Fours, Elite Eights, and I think it's pretty cool."

On who makes him smile when he comes to a place like Maui - "Well, whenever I see Jim Calhoun, I smile, because I laugh at just how crazy he is. And John Calipari has been a good friend. Lorenzo and I were assistants together - actually I was a head coach and he was my assistant, but he acted more like a head coach back then…Pan-American Games. We went down to Puerto Rico and got our brains beat in a little bit together. I think when you go through tough times like that you become friends. Jud Heathcote was tight with Lorenzo, so we've been friends a long time.

"It's just everybody. I played against Tony Bennett's Dad and when Tony was a player at Green Bay when we played them, and Jeff (Capel) was a player at Duke when we played them. It's just been one after another, the coaches that have been here, so I have great admiration…Gregg Marshall, we played them and they were very good. You watch. They are going to be a tough team in this tournament."

On any good Lorenzo Romar stories? - "I don't have any I can tell you, I'll tell you that. You know how clean and straight Lorenzo is. There's no bad stories."

On if the players are as aware of the talent in the tournament as the coaches do - "I don't think if players ever do as much as coaches do, just because they are friends and they've played against most of them in the AAU's and things like that. I don't think they are the same as maybe the coaches are; they just look at each other on the same road. But I even enjoy seeing some of the other players, like Isaiah Thomas last night, and Kemba (Walker) last night. I enjoy that, because I figure one day they'll be playing in the league."

On if there's any players playing in the tournament that he lost in a recruiting battle - "Probably a hundred! I lost a lot of guys. But it's kind of funny, because if you look at the group, for the most part I've recruited at Michigan State were on our radius. So if you look here at the group we have…Washington, we don't really recruit against them. Kentucky a little bit, but none of the players they've got now. I'm not dumb enough to go after those guys, they are too good. Virginia…Tony just got there, so I can't think there's really any teams here that I recruited against, now that you mention it. And it's not because they aren't good - it's just because we recruit a little different than most."
Tony Bennett:
On how this UW team looks compared to the UW teams he coached against at WSU - "I think this is the team that he's been waiting for. Obviously (Quincy) Pondexter is a terrific player and they lost him, but as Lorenzo said, they have some more size. And I'm glad Jon Brockman's not out there anymore. I've gone against him too many times. But his experience in his backcourt, and their explosiveness in the open court and defensively…just typical of Lorenzo's teams. But that kind of depth and experience is impressive. And he's built it and he's sustained it, and it's impressive."

On coaching the same way at Virginia as he did at WSU with his father - "We're trying to, but Stanford dropped 80 on us…81, I should say. When you're playing teams, and when you are either very inexperienced or young, you have to do certain things to be in games, and if you don't do those it's tough. And when you play teams as explosive as Washington, you have to certainly try and limit their fast break opportunities. They are very good on the glass. You have to limit their pressure defensively. And those are the things in the past that when we played well, we've been able to do. And part of this is finding our identity for our younger players, and it's the first time seeing this kind of quickness and athleticism. So we'll learn, we'll adjust and we'll grow from it, but he has a team - at least from the early stages - that looks…and they were picked to win the league…very promising."

On his reaction on the pairing with Washington - "I wasn't surprised. I just had a feeling. There's so many good teams here. Marques Johnson did our game before our Stanford game - and I guess he's watched them play, but he was talking really highly of them, saying this might be one of their best teams in a long time. And time will tell. I have a lot of respect for Lorenzo, we were strong rivals when I was in the league. I don't know who does the pairings, but I'm sure it was a match that people would have an interest in."

On his time at Virginia since leaving Washington State - "I'd say our program at Virginia is in the same stages as the early years at Washington State. I remember when my father came out of retirement and took the job at Washington State, it needed to go through some hard yards there and be rebuilt through recruiting. Our first recruiting class at Washington State, we brought in six freshmen. We brought in six freshmen in this class. It was hard for the first few years, but when those young men matured and became upperclassmen is when we tasted some success - and it's the same formula. I appreciated and loved my time in Pullman and there's some special relationships that were built and it was a hard decision to leave, but I know that program is in great hands with coach (Ken) Bone and the players they have.

"I have a wonderful opportunity at Virginia. Virginia really represents what's right - to me - in college athletics, with its academic excellence and then a chance to compete in a league like the ACC. And it's my job to rebuild it, so that's why I'm here."

On now building up a program like his father did at WSU - "I'll tell you after the year, but I've always said how much I appreciated him doing the heavy lifting or taking some of the bullets. There's a process you can't shortcut when you are trying to build a program using the formula we use. You learn from it, you get young men of character and you battle, and you try to improve it and lift up the standard of play. And that's what we're going through right now. We've got some work to do, but we're getting our young guys some valuable experience and hopefully this will prove beneficial when they are older."

On comparing the ACC to the Pac-10 - "Both are very good. The ACC is different from an on-the-road standpoint. Half of our games we drove to, and we're very close. The interest in ACC basketball is extreme - it's such a basketball-first league right now, in a sense. I think with some of the programs, like Carolina and Duke, and the coaches that have established their tenure there, it's impressive. And then the national championships that are in the league really stand out. But both leagues have tremendous talent, and the combination of athleticism and skill is impressive. The ACC, a down year would still be very, very good - and at it's best it's the elite league. It doesn't have the cycles as much as certain leagues do. That's what I'm impressed about the ACC, it stays at a high live. But they are both excellent leagues.

"The road difference is one. We didn't play last year at Cameron (Duke), so I'll get that experience this year. There are some imposing road games in the ACC, but there were good years in the Pac-10 where there were some really talented players."

On Joe Harris, freshman guard from Chelan HS - "He's done a good job for us, he had a nice game against Stanford. Being Mr. Basketball in the state of Washington, I was recruiting him at Washington State. I'm sure he'll be excited and nervous to be playing Washington. I see a nice future for him, I really do. He's getting that experience you can't put a pricetag on - for these young guys to be in these settings and the settings they'll be in. He's a skilled, complete guard that is probably seeing a difference from when he was playing at Lake Chelan and who he was playing against last year to playing at Stanford and against Washington in Maui. There's only one way to get that kind of experience, and that's to go out and do it."

On recruiting a player for the ACC from 1A ball in Washington - "Unless he's a bona fide, top-10 player in the country, you always project. And that's important. And you first look at the character, and you don't get to see him on a day-in, day-out basis against the elite level competition - although the AAU circuit you got to see him do some things, and that was encouraging - but when he came to our camp and I got to know him and what he's about and his desires, I had no reservations at all. I'm hopeful for him as his career unfolds. We laugh about where he was a year ago. He's really excited about this chance."


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