Rick Barnes Monday Press Conference Transcript (2.4.19)

Rick Barnes – Vols HC / Credit: UT Athletics

On where Jordan Bone ranks in terms of improvement with other point guards he has coached:
“He would be right there. I remember when Coach Lanier went to go watch some other players play and he came back and said, ‘coach, I saw this kid that I think is going to be better than all of them.’ And he was talking about Jordan Bone. From the time that we went to see him play and met him, there was no doubt that that was the commitment that we wanted to make to him above all of the other players at the time we were recruiting. Watching his growth over the last two years — and I don’t think it’s any great news that I’ve probably been as hard on him as any player that I’ve ever coached — to watch him now start to connect the dots and do the things that he’s doing and starting to see the game, it’s been really neat. I said after the game in College Station, he was tremendous talking in the huddle, which I haven’t seen him do that ever. Yesterday I asked him what got into him and he just said ‘coach, I’m learning,’ and the fact is that that pretty much defines what he’s done since he’s been here. He’s always wanted to learn, he’s never been against teaching, I’m not sure he’s ever truly understood his talents the way that we see it, I don’t think he’s ever understood the game other than when we do things, he does it because we say what’s supposed to be done. I think now he’s starting to understand why it’s all happening and why it’s all supposed to come together. But he deserves the good fortunes that he’s having because again, he’s worked hard and he’s been through a lot of ups and downs, but he’s stayed with it and he can get better, he has to get better. I think that he knows that his best basketball is ahead of him and he’ll continue to work the way that he has worked up to this point.”

On the process of finding the type of players that fit the program he wanted to build:
“There’s no doubt that we were always looking for talented players. We still are. There’s some programs in the country that could never get by with recruiting the class that we brought I that’s having the success the they’re having right now. Because their media and their fan base would be screaming that ‘we’re not recruiting the best players in the country.’ I think it goes back to being a real compliment to our coaches and our players that they went out knowing that they have a wealth of experience and they look at some guys sometimes that have a higher rating and a guy that doesn’t, and it’s up to them now who they’re going to put me in front of. What you love is when Rob Lanier came back from seeing Jordan Bone, there was no waver in his voice. He said, ‘the guy’s got it.’ But he also knew that it was going to take time. He made it clear that he didn’t know how long it would take. So I could tell you many, many stories about assistant coaches that have gone to see guys that weren’t highly thought of, and said ‘this guy has a chance to be special.’ We knew we had to sign guys at almost every position, but again it went back to fitting in with the culture that we were wanting to build here. Our second year here when we brought in Jordan Bone, Bowden and all of those guys, we brought in five guys on one visit and said to them, ‘this is who we want to build this program with.’ And that day, I can’t remember all of those guys, but I remember Jordan Bone was the first that said ‘I want to be a part of this.’ We said that that was where we wanted to go and before he left that day, he made the commitment and said he wanted to be a part of this. That’s what you want, you want the point guard to be the guy that jumps first. At that point in time, we were trying to really fill a roster.”

On Admiral Schofield’s recent up and down play:
“I think it goes back to the fact that during the season, you’re going to have the ebbs and flows of a season, but I’ve said many times that when he is focused days before, when he does his preparation… Every wants to win come tip-off, but not many guys are willing to prepare themselves two or three days out mentally and go in and understand that they have a job to do. If they take care of those details, it will help you take care of the details it will help you play the game you want to play. There is no question that when he is locked in days before, that’s when he plays his best basketball.”

On the blueprint that he had to build the program that he has at Tennessee:
“I don’t think that we have a blueprint on that. I think that we collectively have a group of guys together that are for one, good people that have decided to share a common goal and try to be the best basketball team that we can be. I’ve said many times before, you Never really truly know what you get until you live with it, every single day. I don’t want anyone to think that we’re perfect, we’re not. There are some days during practice where I get on guys. And I’m not perfect either, I look back sometimes and there are times where I was too impatient. But the fact is, we’ve all grown together. And I think that’s the key. I think what goes on around our program outside of basketball has been important. We’ve tried to let these guys understand that we’re concern with more than them as basketball players. We want them to be the best they can be, we want them to have great hearts and a love for this university and a love for people. We want them to know respect and humility and accept the responsibility of being part of this program. And the fact is, they’ve collectively bought in to doing it. We’re not perfect, but they have grown, and we still have growth that we need to do.”

On Derrick WalkerJohn Fulkerson and Yves Pons’ limited play on Saturday:
“I didn’t think any of them played very well on Saturday, and we need them to. Those guys need to understand that those minutes are really valuable, and we need those guys to come in and bring the energy and understand that what they do is equally as important. We need that. They didn’t play because they weren’t playing very well, and we need them to play well. We can tell if they’re playing well if they’re doing the job that we asked them to do, and that’s playing solid defense, bringing energy and rebounding the ball. If they give us something offensively, that’s fine, but it’s the other three things we’re looking for right from the time when we step on the court. We can’t see those guys jogging down the floor with the ball out in front where they’re not working hard to get inside and not trying to block out on rebounds or not staying in front of the basketball turning the ball over. We’re not asking them to do a lot with that, but it’s just a feel from us being around our guys everyday feeling whether or not they have it on that particular day.”

On the way Missouri plays and their personality:
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Coach Martin play, but he was a good player, and he was a hard, tough-nosed guy that you knew, if you weren’t ready to play, he was going to come after you. I think his teams are like that. They play hard, they shoot the ball well. I think they make nine 3-pointers every game, and they’re efficient with it. I think they’ve got a couple guys that shoot a really good percentage, but when you get the inside game going with Tillman, it really makes it more difficult. He’s a very talented player and can do some things. Cuonzo is one of the finest people I’ve been around. My first year, I bumped into him, I think we were in Augusta, Georgia, and we were checking into a hotel at the same time. He said ‘you’re going to love being at Tennessee.’ He said the people are great, and I’ve got a lot of respect for him, because I’m not so sure he was treated here the way he really should’ve been treated. I can tell you, there’s not a finer person and a finer man. I know one thing, if my son ever wanted to play for him as a player, I’d want him to play for him. He’s that kind of person that you’d want your son to be around every day.”

On how Grant has been more efficient this year:
“He understands how important it is to fight for position and get the ball. He understands our offense as much as anybody that we’ve coached, and he understands what we’re going to do at times. He’s not perfect, he strays a little bit from it sometimes, and I think he knows, defensively, he’s got to be more efficient there. He likes to pass the ball. He’s worked hard to expand his game. He’s a capable 3-point shooter, and I’ve told him he just has to pick his spots when he does that. If I were playing against him, I’d like for him to stay out there. I wouldn’t want him coming within 15 feet of the basket; he’s very effective there. He’s got big hands, and he’s strong; much stronger than people think when they play against him. They look at him and they know he’s strong, but I think he’s probably stronger as a player than you might thing when you see him. He’s worked, and the fact is, what I do know about Grant is that he will continue to work. He is one that can look at himself, and can take coaching and you can get on him because it’s not going to affect him. He does want to be better, and he knows he has to be better.”

On if there’s a player that is similar to Grant in size comparison:
“The guy that I’ve said in the past, when we were recruiting, that came to mind was PJ Tucker. They’re similar in some ways. One way, they were both fat when they got to college. They both had to work hard to lose weight, and they both have big hands, strong, aren’t afraid to compete, and both are workers. I’ve watched PJ, today, play on TV, and I love watching him play. I love when I see the NBA highlights of LeBron and Kevin Durant, and they guy always guarding those guys is PJ Tucker. In college, you wouldn’t have thought that other than when we had to put him on somebody, he would do that guy because in college he was a scorer, very much like grant is, close to the basket. He kept continuing to work, and Grant is a better perimeter shooter right now than PJ was coming out of college, but PJ, at this point in time, was a better defensive player. That’s where grants got to continue to work to get better, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he will.”

On what has been Yves’ struggle:
“I think guys can go through slumps defensively, as they can on the offensive end. Everybody thinks slumps always happen offensively, but I think right now, Yves is pressing a little bit because he wants to do the right thing. When I watch what he’s doing defensively, he’s not in the stance he needs to be in, he’s not on edge the way he needs to be, and he knows it. He had a talk with coach Schwartz the other day and he said that he let his mind start thinking that because we’re scoring, that he had to do that too. Each player has to be who they are and play the role that they have to play, and they struggle within that role sometimes. His has nothing to do with anything other than he’s got himself locked up because he’s trying so hard to a fault. You can’t play like that. You’ve got to be able to relax play and make mistakes. You can’t play trying to be perfect because it’s not a game of perfect. He doesn’t want to let anybody down. It’s about him not wanting to let his teammates down, and when he feels he is, he really does take it personally, which is a good thing. He’ll come back, he’ll be fine, because this is a guy that played 30 minutes in a game a while back. If Lamonte wasn’t hurt, he probably would’ve been in the starting line up if we hadn’t made the decision to bring Jordan Bowden off the bench, but he was hurt and the next guy at that point in time, coming off the lineup was Yves. I thought that he handled starting well, and prior to that, handled coming off the bench well. We’ve got seven starters and he will get it back. You just can’t work as hard as he works and not get it back.”

On what allows the team to stretch out the lead in the second half:
“Well we do not allow them to get back within two. They get back within two because they work hard. I go back, and the respect I have for Billy Kennedy, Frank Martin, Cuonzo Martin and everybody we play against. We got terrific coaches in this league, and they are not going to let their teams roll over and die. When you make a run, like we did in some of those games, you fully expect the other team to make another run. Now what you do with your team is you sit down with them afterwards, and you say ‘why did they make that run.’ You might run good offense and just might miss shots, and other times you take bad shots, and like a play Saturday, Lamonté took a really tough three that barely hit the tip of the rim. I think he came down and got called for an intentional foul. That could have been a potential five point swing. That is how quick momentum can swing, but the fact is that you go into every game expecting it to be a close game. All you got to do is read the papers, before you go in, Texas A&M and their players were talking about it was a great opportunity to do something. So they are going to get great shots from people and it should make us better, because we should know there is no let down. If you do, over the last couple weeks we have been in some good basketball games, good arenas but the fact is we have been able to play and our defense is good at the end of the game. That has helped as much as any, but I think when teams come back, from a coach’s standpoint how did we let that lead get away, but sometimes it is the fact that the other team does it. They start making shots. Texas A&M had averaged making six threes going into that game. They made 12 the other day, and their point guard TJ Starks had done a great job of getting the ball to the basket. He had eight assists where he had not been doing that and shooting the ball more, keeping the ball more. The other day he was spraying it around and making terrific passes. Some of them we got back to contest, and some of them we could not. Often times, it is simple has you got to give the other team, and when another team gets down, they are going to put their head down and start driving which is hard to do. Now guys start getting into foul trouble and you got to get to your bench a little bit to keep guys out of foul trouble. In the game, there are different things that can come on that can happen, then if your bench is not playing as well as they have been playing, that leads the guys playing more minutes than you wanted them too. They probably are not able to play at the highest level as you would like for them too. That is why as a team collectively, everyone has a job to do so you can ward off some of those runs and certainly have enough to win those games.”

On the pace and giving bench guys more minutes:
“We think about that at the start of the season. All that goes into play because you want your guys to do it, but what happens this time of year is that we are not practicing as much as we did, in terms of volume early in the year. The amount of work back earlier when they were playing is more than right now. Even with the games going to be more taxing. We are conscious of the minutes. That is what I told to our team yesterday, is that we need those guys to give us any time. We need them to go in, and bring the energy. Do the job we expect them to do.”

On Missouri coming in and starting to calm down in conference play:
“Well it is like a round robin. You are in a conference where you play teams twice. There is adjustments and familiarity with it. You expect to them to make adjustments, and they expect us to make adjustments. Just the fact that both teams know each other, and its happening this week with Missouri and Florida. It is different when you are playing a round robin. Our conference is different, and we do it with two other teams outside of our conference. It is more like a regular conference to be played.”

On the last couple of weeks in the schedule:
“I think we all have brutal schedules. You look at it, and I think this week was a tough week for us. I think it is a tough week for everybody, because we all are trying to continue to play. You hope everything you do is preparing you for something down the line. Schedules are tough, but I do not want to look at it. I just want to look at what we got to do for tomorrow. This is the time of year that separation starts happening. There is a lot of basketball left to play, and I think we can all look down the barrel at what could be a long week for us because there is no giving for us. I do not care what we have done up to this point, if you are not trying to improve and get better, it will jump up and get you real quick.

On if Missouri is a better team now:
“Well just watching what I have, I think they are tough team. Tillman has played really well. He is a force. He is a talented young man. I like the energy that they play with. They have been right there like so many of us. They are there and they are going to fight. They are going to keep doing what they are doing. They are a very efficient three point shooting team, and when he get going it really opens it up. You got to give him attention. I think what I am saying to you, people would say about us. There is not a lot of secrets with what we are all doing, but we are going to have to be ready cause they are going to come ready to play.”

-UT Athletics



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