Rick Barnes Media Day Press Conference

On the identity of the team:
“I don’t know if I have a grasp other than the fact that I think it’s been a fun team to be around and a fun team to coach in the fact that they’re working in the direction that we want to go. We still have a lot of young guys that are still learning the details of some things and the importance of some things, but their attitudes have been terrific and we need to get everybody as healthy as we can before we get into it. It’s been a fun group to be with and I just think it’s going to be a group that’s fun to be with as the year goes on.”

Credit: UT Athletics

On how Lamonte Turner has grown over the past few years:
“I think probably the biggest difference—and I believe that any of our coaches that were here would talk about this—is his everyday preparation. Trying to make every day a good day in terms of his focus in practice and not only concerned about himself, but thinking a lot about his teammates. He knows that our team will obviously have a different dynamic, but he also understands how he has to be a positive leader and I don’t think he is wrapped up in himself at all. I think he is totally concerned with what he can do to make each individual a better player. I know how much he wants to win and he is as competitive as any player that we’ve coached since we’ve been here. Really his single day approach for practice and how hard he tries to being it every day has really been impressive.”

On replacing front court scoring:
“We do feel like we have some inside guys that have the ability to score, but I think we go back to a couple years ago, I said the same thing about Grant Williams and some other guys, it does take them time to understand how they have to play in tight space and can’t mess with the ball in certain areas on the court. It’s up to us as a coaching staff to continue to work at putting guys in those situations because we do feel like we have guys that can score, we just have to get them in the right place and have to be patient with them because early (on) they’re going to make some mistakes by probably being in too big of a hurry. We do think we have post guys that do a really good job of handling the ball and can pass out the traps if that’s what happens. The biggest thing is just to get them to understand how they have to be able to operate in tight spaces.”

On getting back on the court with lots of newcomers on the team:
“It’s always exciting when you get going, especially when you have a group of guys that you enjoy being around. I can tell you as a coaching staff, we enjoy these guys because they’ve proven to us starting back at the end of last year and then when the new guys came in, the way they really took these young guys under their wings and really tried to teach them what it’s going to be like and the way we try to do things here and that’s been a fun part. To see these guys help the younger guys and see the younger guys embrace it. That part of it has been fun and then once you get going with the season, now you’re trying to put it together and there are a lot of things that you continue to try to clean up, a lot of the detailed things that the younger players probably don’t quite understand yet, but that’s part of it when you start over with certain players. It’s been a good group, they do want to be a good basketball team, they do want to learn and I think they really like each other which is a big thing.”

On how he plans to use Josiah-Jordan James:
“We’ll use him in any and every way that we have to because he’s the kind of player that I (is) very versatile, I think he’s kind of an unselfish person that’s willing to do whatever you ask him to do, whatever his teammates need him to do, but I think we’ll use him every way that you can possibly think about using a guy, because he’s that versatile that playing the point, playing off the ball, doing whatever, he’s always going to try to make winning plays. He loves to pass the ball, maybe to a fault right now, that’s something that we’re trying to get himself to understand. He needs to look for his shot a little bit more than he already has done, but his instincts have always been ‘what can I do to run the team and get my teammates in places where they can score and get better,’ which is a great trait to have for anybody that’s a lead guard. But we do think that he has to get a little bit more of a scoring mentality.”

On if fans can expect the same style of play with new crop of guys
“I think they will see the base package of what we do and the things that we believe in, but I think every year, and even throughout the year you start tweaking things, changing things. You go into every year with a thought process as a coaching staff of how you want the team to play, and what you think they need to do, but you also go into it by not putting players in boxes. They might start surprising you with some things, and we’ve actually thrown some things out there that we’re not sure we’re going to use or not use, but sometimes they might make us do some things that we didn’t think we would, or plan on doing early. So, players have a lot to do with your style of play. We will be different in some areas, there’s no doubt about it, but you know some of the things that we do on offense will be a little bit different, but I think you’ll see a lot of the same base packages we’ve used (before). Defensively, you have to work hard with young players to get them to understand the team concepts that you’re putting in, whether its ball screen defense, help side defense, whatever it may be. We want to be a team that is hard to guard on the offensive end, we want to be a team that you have to prepare for, make it a difficult job to prepare for us. But, we also know that our players make all that really work, and so we do spend a lot of time trying to figure out that our guys can do individually, and then try to build on that. Going back to the question about inside, we’ve got some guys that we think can score, but we know that every day we have to spend time to help them grow, because a lot of them have scored in different ways, and I don’t think that some of that can happen here, or in college basketball. So, we are just trying to look at each of them, and they might make us change our offense or defense by what they do, and we hope that happens to be quite frank.”

On the background, recruiting, and early returns of Olivier Nkamhoua
“We knew a year ago the possibility of losing guys early, it’s real every year, you have to be prepared and have a plan. We knew as the season went on last year that we wanted to add a couple of frontcourt players, and Kim English, at the time was at Colorado, and he and Mike Schwartz had worked together and were terrific friends, and Kim had called Mike and said he had seen a young man play, he said he was a terrific offensive rebounder and somebody that we should look at. And Coach Schwartz jumped on it, and from the first time he laid eyes on him, he said this is who we want, so the staff worked hard trying to get him here. We’re excited about him. He’s talented, one of those players learning that it’s a different game, and that he does have the ability to score, but like all players, he has to learn how to get down lower, how to fight for space on the floor. He can’t just walk over and get where he could a year ago, he’s going to have to really fight for it, because he’s playing against a guy like Yves Pons every day, who’s going to fight him for every step, but he’s improved a lot. And all of our guys have improved, but he’s really figured out the fact (that) he wants to be a good player. And he knows he has to add some things to what he’s doing right now, as all players do, but it takes some of them longer to figure out, and he’s figured out early what we need him to do. They all come in with the idea of what they want to do, a big part of coaching is getting them to understand what you need them to do, and helping them to continue to stretch their game and grow. But, he’s starting to really understand what we need from him.”

On the impact of bringing Kim English on staff
“When you have a staff, I think the coaches have to all be involved in it. I have always wanted to have people on staff that are guys that have played for me, guys that I really personally know, guys that my staff really know, because I don’t think you want to experiment with chemistry and that stuff. I think it’s important, just like recruiting, you’ve got to dig into that. I’ve always relied on our coaches, because they spend more time together than probably with me on a daily basis with everything. Kim has added a lot, he’s young and energetic, can still play, and I think the fact that he’s made such a quick impact with our players, they trust him, is really important. I think they respect where he has been and what he has done, but I think more than anything like our staff, we are very much a hands on staff. We love being with our guys. When practice is over every day, we have dinner in our locker room, and as a staff we’re there with them, because we really enjoy being around these guys. I’m excited about our staff and he has been a great addition. He’s been everything you could want and more.”

On Josiah’s feel on the point guard position in comparison to Jordan Bone and if the position will be split between James and Turner
“I can tell you that all summer Josiah spent his entire time learning that position because it’s the most demanding position that we have on our team. I thought he made great strides with it. This summer we were making sure Lamonté got healthy, and Josiah’s had to deal with a groin injury. To answer your question about feel, he has great feel. To answer your question about the minutes, I like to think that whoever those guys…I want to move them around because I don’t want any to get locked in because I think defenses can really game plan for them. How it breaks down minutes-wise and who is there most of all, I don’t know who it’s going to be. I really don’t. I know that we’re counting on the both of those guys to play a lot of minutes, and I think they’re really going to complement each other. I’d like to hope that even our third perimeter out there—I’d like to think that he’s capable of running the point at times. I think the more you can move players around, it makes them more effective. I like the versatility. If you’re at practice today you’re going to see Jordan Bowden playing the point against Lamonte Turner because Josiah won’t practice today. I think that benefits Jordan Bowden probably as much as anybody. So, in terms of minutes, I’m not really sure how that’s going to play out.”

On if Barnes is preparing the team any differently based on the NCAA rules adjustments to the three-point line into effect over the summer
“It’s back, and obviously we’re going to play back off that line. It extends our defense. We normally play with our heels on that line defensively. Offensively, we want to use that line for our spacing. So, it does open up the court a little bit more. One thing we worked on really hard and continue to work on is corner shots so guys don’t step out of bounds because it is back there. It’s not as far back as the NBA line, but it’s there. I think you’ll see that a lot early in the year in college basketball—guys running back in that corner area and stepping out of bounds a little bit. I don’t think I’ve seen it affect shooting that much. I think nationally, what’s happened in the past, is the national average will probably go down just a little bit, but it will come back up and probably be better than it was. Players do a great job of adjusting to that. Again, I was in favor of that rule. The only thing I really wish is that we could find a way to figure out how to not have different lines on the floor. I think it’s difficult. I think it’s probably harder for the women because wherever we go, we practice on an NBA court. We seem to play off the NBA line, which in some ways make it even a little more spacious out there. Players seem to play off the line that’s further back. That’s something that everybody will have to deal with for a while because there will be two lines on most courts.”

On Jordan Bowden and the need for him to be a consistent scorer for the team
“We’ve had a conversation with him for four years now. He knows about being consistent, and you’d like to think that going into his senior year. We don’t want him to put his whole mindset on scoring the basketball. We want him to be a complete player. We think that he can affect games on the defensive end. We do want him to understand that he’s going to probably be in the game playing a little bit different this year than he has been in the past. I mean, people did pay attention to him, but not to the extent people will this year. So, that’s going to be really important. He’s worked hard to get better. He’s worked hard physically to improve his body, and he practices very hard every day. He always has. We’d like to see him become more vocal. I don’t want to use the term ‘get out of his comfort zone’ because I don’t think he’s afraid to do that from a physical standpoint. I think it’s probably more of a mentality. We want him to get more aggressive mentally in a lot of different areas—not just shooting the ball but just in the way he does everything. He’s such a wonderful person, and everybody loves him, but sometimes you’ve got to come outside that personality when you’re between those lines. I think we all want to see him do that more consistently than what he has done.”

On how Barnes feels about the transition to a more guard-heavy team and his status on finding out who is going to be first off the bench
“I do have confidence in our team, I do. I like this group of guys, and I think they are grasping better right now. Yesterday was a day that as a coaching staff we tried to create havoc, confusion and chaos to see how they would respond. [It was] quick with a lot of talking going on at one time just to create some confusion to see how well we could focus and stay grounded where we needed to be. I thought for the first day that we really tried to do that at a very high level. I thought the guys did a good job with it overall. In terms of the rotations, I could see that changing. Davonte Gains broke his thumb. He’s our right now and will be out for a couple more weeks. We get Josiah back. I do think that Jalen Johnson is working hard to be a person that we can count on. Depending on how things work out with Uros will determine really how much we will be able to play Yves Pons inside or outside to where we want him to maybe get a little bit bigger. He’s spent most of his time learning a new position this year, but we know he can go back the other way if need be. We need Zach Kent; we need all these guys right now. We’ve watched the last couple weeks with a couple guys being out. Drew Pember’s been out a lot. He’s been in practice the last couple days. He’s shown the instincts that we saw when we were recruiting him. It’s a whole new game for him learning how hard it is [and] how physical it is [and] how demanding every possession is [and] how to go from one play to the next play to the next play. He just does some instinctive things that impress you. He going to have to be a guy too that learns probably every position on the floor except probably the point right now, so he’s a guy that we could swing in probably a couple different ways. We do have good length—that’s the one thing you see in practice with our size out there—deflecting more balls right now because of the length of our front-line guys. You look at it, when Josiah’s out there and when Davonte gets back out there and Drew. That’s 6’10, 6’6 and 6’7 long wing spans. That way it does change us a little bit. As we go, I don’t know when, I don’t know what the time table will be, we’ll somewhat settle into a rotation when we get everybody back. It will be based on performance. They will decide that. Our players will decide how we’re going to end up playing and our rotations. They will decide that with how quickly they all understand the role that they need to play.”

On prospects saying they want to come to Tennessee based off player development to the maximum level 
“It’s always been the case, we’ve always believed in our player development program, and I think a lot of school do a good job with it I’m sure, but it is the upmost importance here that’s why you start with our strength and conditioning program, I’ve been blessed when Todd white was with me for twenty years, and now Garrett Mendenwald comes out of that same school and worked with Todd, when I came here there was no doubt that Garrett was a guy that was coming with us, with what he does on a day to day basis, and then normally when you get to a new place your training staff is in place, Chad Newman is one of the best that I’ve dealt with and those two guys are very important in terms of your player development because you’re asking guys to put a lot of time in, you’re asking them improve their bodies and extend their bodies and it’s not just during the season because I do believe in the old adage that players are made in the offseason and they continue to get better during the season. But they’re going to make those big strides in the offseason, so that part of it is really important for us and for them and then I think the work that the coaches do with them not only from a physical standpoint. You know working on their daily vitamins when they come in to work on the things we want them to do at the very least we need to get those in every day, but also from the film work that our assistants do with them. Just, to continuing to teach them the mental side of it. At the end of last year one of the things we talked about is we always felt like that we’ve put a lot of pride in our player development program, but we talked about how can we take that to another level, and we’ve tried to do that in the offseason, pretty much with our coaches being able to spend as much time that they’re allowed to, to be with our players and our players have embraced that and so it really is a commitment from the entire staff and not just coaches, the players have to do their part. Then obviously I can’t emphasize enough how much it means to have a great medical staff here and what they do, what Chad and Garrett do every day, and Lauren our dietician and what she does, our guys love it. If you would to come to practice one day and come down to the locker room and see her there and how much pride she takes In doing her job, what Mary-Carter does to make sure everything is in place on her end, it’s just staff commitment, because we do believe in putting our players first, we think we’re here to help them grow in every area, every facet we can to help them grow and that’s what makes the job fun, is to see the guys get better, because the better they get the better we will be as a team.”

 

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