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March 24, 2006
MODERATOR: We're joined by the Texas Longhorns and their coach. We'll have Coach give just a brief overview and then open up to questions to student-athletes and Coach.
COACH RICK BARNES: We realize tomorrow's opponent is much different than what we played up to this point in the NCAA tournament. We really played three teams that have ran more of a spread type offense. More of a bit control oriented where LSU is a very athletic, strong, physical team. Excellent in the open court. A team that I thought last night their defense was outstanding. And as you go back and watch them, the success they have had this year and the way they play, they're a very tough opponent to play against.
Certainly we realize that we're going to have to play great basketball to give ourselves a chance.
Q. Coach, is there a process that a program has to go through over time to sort of imprint itself on the college basketball world, and that includes everything from fans to the media, to the players, who say, I want to go to that program because they're always there? And is it a time consuming thing you have to go through and is Texas there now?
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, I do think that to be a program that every year if you want to be in, everyone comes out with their preseason top 10 pick and you want to be one of those teams that every year that they say well, Texas, the programs over the years, the Dukes, the North Carolinas, the Kentuckys, and reason those schools are always mentioned is because they have been great for a long time. And it is consistency.
To be in that neighborhood you can't be a won-and-done-type thing. And I am proud of the consistency that we have had with our program over a long period of time now and certainly the players have -- are the reason for that happening. We know what we're chasing, and but the fact is that the last couple years where we have been with our program -- and we will never take for granted being in this tournament, we won't. But once you get in it, we know what we're playing for.
Q. Coach, can you talk a little bit about P.J., his development as a player, and what he has meant to the team this season in particular?
COACH RICK BARNES: I think a lot of watching him from the first time I met him when I walked into his house in North Carolina a couple years ago and how far he's come, and when you recruit, there's a lot of things that you try to look and see and but there's some things you just don't know until you spend time with the person day in and day out.
Over the course of the last three years, I don't think anyone has an idea what P.J. is about. My college roommate probably said it best when I called him back then and I said, what do you know about P.J. Tucker? He said, I can tell you this, I never seen a kid work harder from the time he walks in the court, whether it's in the morning with drills, playing games, he said I never seen him not play hard. He's got so much passion, he said, I can't believe that everybody in the country is not recruiting him.
But once he got to Texas and we knew we were going to work with him and we have actually recruited him because we felt like when you get to the NCAA tournament, you need an undersized postman to help you because when you play against certain teams you need to do that. And we didn't know that we were getting a guy that had the ability to pass the ball like he does, you never know in terms of the competitive level what you're going to get.
And his work ethic. I mean I don't -- it's tremendous what he's done. And what he went through a year ago, I can I think he grew from it, I think it was a -- he'll look back one day and realize it was probably a real turning point. He's handled everything. And one of his strongest suits is he's stubborn, which I think good players are. I think people that are successful -- but yet he'll, he's learned to bend and he's learned to grow. And that's what he's done over the last, really, a lot over the last year.
Q. For Brad and P.J., could you guys talk a bit about Mike Williams' play last night and also like during the season what kind of things have you said to Mike to try to keep him up? I know he's had some ups and downs this season, but have you guys tried to do anything to keep his attitude going and that sort of thing?
P.J. TUCKER: Mike, there are a lot of people trying to take hits at our bench saying our bench isn't getting productivity and we wouldn't go far because our bench hasn't been good all year. But I think that Mike has been one of the guys that just proved everybody wrong. Came in played hard. You think that's the biggest thing that he does, whatever we need him to do. Play defense, play hard, rebound, he's just been a guy that's just come off the bench and give us energy and just play hard. So he's been a real big part of a lot of things we have been doing here lately in terms of the tournament.
BRAD BUCKMAN: You see him in practice, he works hard, man. He's a guy that's going to make you better when you go out with him because he's improved a lot over his two years here and I think just a glimpse of what he's going to be these next two years afterwards, so.
Q. LaMarcus, I read something along the lines of former LSU Tiger Shaquille O'Neal had a talk with you before you came to Texas about going to college and staying away from the pros and how much college was to him and how much he enjoyed it. Can you tell us about that?
LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE: Yeah, during my senior year that I was playing and he came down and he had a lunch with me and I went to the hotel in Dallas with him and he just emphasized how much fun you have in college and how much you will miss out on it if you didn't go to college.
He just made the statement that you have time to develop in college whereas when you go to the NBA, you're on this time line and if you don't meet that time then you're out. So that was like the main thing he was just talking about, just have fun and just take your time developing.
Q. For LaMarcus first and then P.J., can you explain to us, not being available both you guys at this time last year, how much extra desire and inspiration you have now because of what happened? LaMarcus first?
LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE: I'm just real excited just to be in this position that we're in right now. And because of last year, it hurt me to watch the game that our players, they played their hearts out last year and it just didn't go good for us. So I really, I was really down just because I wasn't in the game and I couldn't help, so just being back this year I'm really excited and I'm just trying to do everything I can to win.
P.J. TUCKER: I think just for both of us, me and LaMarcus, to see our team struggle with both of us out last year, we just sat on the bench and vowed to each other that we were going to come back and make everything right. We were going to do what we needed to do to put ourselves in a position to win a championship.
So just all year we just went back to that and just thought about where we been and what we were trying to go to. So now that we are here, we're just trying to live every moment of it. Just trying to play every possession and win those inches, just to be able to win championships.
Q. For Kenton and Daniel, can you talk about finally getting away from the spread offensive teams, playing a team like LSU and maybe who they remind you of? From teams you faced this season.
DANIEL GIBSON: They're a different ball club than what we faced, but, yeah, they're extremely athletic and things like that. But it's tough to make the comparison to another team. Just because the way that they play and their style. So but I think, yes, they're definitely a different ball club and I think we'll prepare for them and be ready to play.
KENTON PAULINO: They're a very athletic team. You could somewhat compare them to Memphis just with based on athletic ability, but we're going into this game and just preparing for them just like we prepare for any other team. They're very good and they got very good inside play, so we'll just prepare for it.
Q. Brad and P.J., you guys had a very tough patch in December that could have shattered some teams when you have those back to back games that you had. How did you guys overcome that and would you be here had maybe those games gone differently or had you handled them differently.
BRAD BUCKMAN: It's hard when you lose two back to back games by a pretty good amount of points because you try to find ways to get back and improve. And as a team we did a great job coming together and not giving up, man. A lot of teams followed after stuff like that and secondguess themselves. And a lot of people say we now -- the good things that happened in the before, and we took it as a -- as a way to push forward. We knew we were better than that and we weren't going to let that affect us at all. And we had a great core of guys and we all stuck together and we pulled it out and we had a good nine, ten game winning streak after that. So we pushed forward.
P.J. TUCKER: I think the biggest thing was that we all -- the whole team and staff, we all knew that we didn't play Texas basketball. That it wasn't even us in those two games. We played nothing like we usually do and we knew it. So we just have to find out why we weren't playing to our abilities and what was going on. And it was just kind of everybody finding out their roles and what they meant to the team and what they need to do for to us win.
So I think once we got past that point that everybody knew what we need to do to win, it was just working hard and trying to do it every single day, having the consistency to do it every day. So I think every day, ever since then we have been working at it, trying to play that perfect game or be able to win all the chips that we want to win.
Q. Last night obviously the country was sort of introduced to Kenton Paulino. But you guys have known about him this whole year. I was wondering if the coach and maybe some of the players could speak to what he's meant to the team and you got a lot of guys with a lot of bigger names, but he's obviously somebody that's very important to what you guys do.
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, he has been important and his maturity is something that I think that certainly from a coaching standpoint we have all knew that we would need him this year. And I've always thought Kenton probably really didn't give himself enough credit for how good he is. He's always been a very smart player. He understands the way the game should be played, the way we want to play it.
He had to battle injuries his first couple years and even last year, but this year he came in and has -- he's been everything that I think we always thought he could be. He's very quiet, not a very emotional person, but yet in his own way he's very efficient when he's on the floor, the way he goes about his workouts he's very efficient. He gets his work done and we would not be where we are today without Kenton Paulino.
LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE: He's an all-around and just a great guy. He's always called the silent assassin because he can play a game and nobody would ever know it, like give him any attention. But by the end of the game he got like 19 points and like seven assists and you're like, dang, he did that?
So, you know, I just call him the silent assassin. But I always go back to the Duke game when we was struggling and he had like our first 12 points, I mean, but that's what he does -- he does that for us game in and game out. So he's a big part of our team.
DANIEL GIBSON: Oh, yeah, definitely. K.P., as a unit, we always knew that he was that special player and the thing about him is that he doesn't worry about getting a lot of notoriety or a lot of publicity, he just kind of lays in the weeds and just does it every night out. Every night out he comes out and does the same thing. He's very consistent and he's definitely a valuable player on this team and somebody that I really admire.
Q. Kenton, three part question. Sorry, I apologize in advance. Number one, how many times have you seen your shot? Number two, did you stay up any later just so you could see it again? And number three, has it sunk in yet that you're going to be seeing that shot the rest of your life?
COACH RICK BARNES: First of all, he asked for four copies of it before we left the building. And he went back and he did watch it, but he asked for a VCR to be sent to his room too.
KENTON PAULINO: No, I watched the shot over and over and over again. Just it was just soaking it all in. But it's short lived. I just tried to enjoy it for that night because I know today, you know, we have to focus on something else. So tomorrow we got a big game against LSU. So it's short lived. So I just try to enjoy it as much that night as possible.
Q. Kenton, did the president call or did you get a bunch of calls on your cell phone?
KENTON PAULINO: I didn't get a call from the president, but I got a lot of calls from family members and they were happy for me. And I was happy about that. It just feels good when family and people that want to see you do well is happy for you.
Q. LSU has got a unique collection of athletes, they come at you a lot of different way, I wonder if you can talk about the specific challenges guys like Thomas, Big Baby and Temple will provide for your offense tomorrow night.
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, last night I thought they were great defensively. Maybe as good a defensive effort as I've seen this year. Guarding a very talented team and a -- the way they swarmed last night. They just did a great job using their athletic ability.
Did a great job on J.J. Redick, there was not much separation, Duke does about as good a job as anybody in the country running their offense. And J.J. Redick curls tremendously. They were there, they didn't give him much at all and then offensively, you got to understand that they know what they're looking for. And they really realize that their athletic ability, they can -- they block shots, they alter shots, and offensively, they get in the open court, they can create a lot of problems.
Q. Along those lines, LaMarcus, what do you know about Glen Davis and Tyrus Thomas and just talk about the front court matchup, and maybe, Brad, chime in on that as well.
LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE: Well, we watched film and those are two great ball players. All around. Davis, he's a great low post threat and he also can bring the ball up and go off the dribble. So that's going to be something that we have to look forward to. And Thomas, you know, I just seen that he was a great weak side shot blocker. He had some amazing blocks the last game. So we want to watch out for that. But I think that those guys, they're great ball players, so we're going to have to come out ready to play.
BRAD BUCKMAN: It's going to be a good match down low, man, it's -- we got two big time front courts going at each other. So it's going to be a good battle down low and we got to get prepared for them, like he said, Davis does a great job getting position and scoring through you. And Tyrus is an incredible leaper and athletic. And we got to do as much as we can to stop that and it's going to be a team effort from all of us, and individually we got to do what we got to do.
Q. Coach, you guys scored a great win last night, the buzzer, LSU with a really emotional win. Does the turnaround in this seem a little more severe than usual even though you are playing for a trip to the Final Four?
COACH RICK BARNES: I don't know, last night it was obviously a good day for both teams and we got back late last night, we ate, guys went to bed. Other than Kenton, he stayed up calling everybody and that. Watching the VCR. He's the one guy that can go without sleep. I guess.
But then we got up this morning, let them sleep in and then we have watched some tape and then we'll -- after we get through with you guys we'll go out and do what we do as these guys mentioned, we're going to prepare for this game like we have all year and have to get rested. I think right now that's really important.
But we understand, just like LSU, we all understand where we are right now. Excitement of being in this tournament, that can carry you a long way as well. But tomorrow, once it rolls around, we get ready to play, it will settle in to what goes on between those lines.
Q. I know that wisdom compels you not to look too far into the future but I was there in Pasadena when your football team pulled the great shocker. How much does that encourage you all? This is for the coach and the players. It's a beautiful story being written in your athletic department. How much does the football team's success encourage you all on this run?
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, first of all, in Texas it wasn't a shocker. (Laughter.) It was an expectation.
I've said all along, I think that everyone that's associated with the University of Texas and they come to Texas, whether they're an athlete or a student, they come expecting great things to happen. We have got a great university. We have got a great athletic director that gives us everything that we need. I think that, and these guys can answer this, I think that amongst the athletes on campus, we all pull for each other. I think there's a level of excellence that we're all seeking to get to. We're proud of obviously our football team, baseball team, swimming team, you go down the line. It's not just those two programs. I think that -- and certainly in basketball we know what we're chasing, but the expectations that we have for ourselves has nothing to do with that, other than the fact that this basketball team here came to Atlanta with the idea that we want to win two games and we can get that done and we'll go home and regroup and try to go again.
But we have had a great focus about ourselves all year, trying to take care of what's right in front of us. And we know people are going to talk about Texas and the athletic department. But we're all proud of it.
P.J. TUCKER: Like Coach said, I think we probably put more pressure on ourselves than anybody can ever try to put on us. So we expect ourselves to do well and even with all the great teams we have had, at our school in football and every other sport, I think that individually and as a team we all put pressure on ourselves to go out and perform. So I don't think we get any extra pressure from anybody.
DANIEL GIBSON: Coming in, once you come into Texas, you automatically get that feeling that you're striving for excellence and once you put on that brown and orange, you're playing for your school. So definitely we always are proud of the football team and other sports and every time you step out on the floor you definitely are trying to do big things, just because, I mean, you're a part of Texas tradition and that's tradition that's excellence.
Q. Kenton, I was wondering, number one, do you enjoy the new-found celebrity and spotlight you're going to have now? And number two, does that shot put you in the same level as say Vince Young on Texas's campus?
P.J. TUCKER: He walked into breakfast this morning with shades on.
COACH RICK BARNES: And he actually did say Vince who?
P.J. TUCKER: He had a new pair of shoes.
KENTON PAULINO: You know, until we win the National Championship I don't think anything compared to what Vince did, but you know, this new-found celebrity or whatever you want to call it, I mean, no, I just take it for the moment. Guys can tell you I never let anything get to my head. I forget about this as soon as we go out there and we start shooting around and as soon as Coach starts talking about what we have to do for LSU, it will be a memory until, until I'm about -- until the season is over and all that stuff. But I just take it in as it comes.
Q. Coach, do you believe in destiny?
COACH RICK BARNES: Ask me in a week or so and I'll tell you.
(Laughter.) I don't know. Sometimes I think I do, sometimes I'm not sure. I don't know. I'm not -- I haven't thought much about it. I believe that if you work and you go about your business the way you need to every day and if you keep focused and don't allow outside things to creep in and if you're chasing something and if you stay with it, handle the ups and downs, I think that some way, somehow, something good will happen. If it doesn't, you're going to learn something from it.
But I don't know, I don't know, I do think sometimes we -- things happen and that's the word we use. But I haven't thought much about it just other than trying to take care of the process we're going through right now.
Q. Rick, there are so few great college centers anymore it seems like, can you talk about Davis and his unique abilities at such a young age?
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, the thing that really impresses you about him is his skill level. He made a terrific play last night when he took the ball the length of the floor, avoided a charge and picked up a -- put a blocking foul on a Duke defender. And you got to love the way his personality -- the way he plays and the way he carries himself. But he's a very skilled player, he's got tremendous hands, great feet, great agility. He takes up a lot of space, obviously. But he -- his feel for the game is something that you got to really admire. He's a different type player than we played against. So he'll certainly cause some problems.
Q. Brad and Kenton, what do you remember about being in the Elite Eight the last time you guys were in it and is there anything you would tell these guys going into tomorrow night's game?
BRAD BUCKMAN: The Elite Eight was unbelievable. You felt like were you a step closer to getting to where you wanted to be. And you had to do whatever you had to do to get there. And we had Michigan State and it was a hard battle until the end. And it's always going to be like that.
These games are not going to be blowouts, they're going to be close and you got to be prepared coming down the stretch and know what you got to do, hope it comes down to the last minutes of the game, because it going to be a drawn out battle. It's an exciting experience and I hope we get a chance to win again.
KENTON PAULINO: If I had to tell the players on the team anything, I would just tell them to enjoy this moment. Just enjoy the moment. And don't be overhyped or -- just try to go out there and just play every game like it's the same and just have fun and enjoy the moment. Do what you do.
MODERATOR: We'll conclude with the student-athletes. They will go to the breakout rooms and then we'll continue with Coach Barnes. Questions for Coach.
Q. Mike Williams, nine points last night and LSU got a nice contribution from Lazare off the bench. When you go to a guy putting a substitute in, sometimes is it like, hey, if I get nine points it's kind of found money kind of situation where you -- it just kind of bonus?
COACH RICK BARNES: I think offensively we're not asking Mike Williams to score, we do ask him to take shots that he practices and shots that he makes. And he did that. He's done that the last couple games.
But what we have asked him to do when he goes out there is to really give us a presence, to give us energy, to run down rebounds. And when I went back and reviewed the tape last night, he made an effort every shot that went up. He was making an effort to get to it some way, somehow. And defensively, last night, it was a really tough matchup for both he and Brad. Because of some foul trouble, they had to go back and matchup with Herber, which is a really tough matchup for those guys.
But Mike made a huge play for us last night where we were beat off transition, off penetration out front and he came over and made a great play to stop the penetration and recover back at that point in time of the game. And they actually missed on the kick out and -- but, yeah, I think whatever he gives us point-wise, I would -- you know, again, we're not looking for it, but if he gives it to us, it's a great bonus.
Q. Apologize for the football reference, but you know how the football coaches carry the laminated card that tells them when to go for two after a touchdown, do you have a laminated card, real or figurative, that tells you when to call a timeout late in the game or when to let your guys go?
COACH RICK BARNES: No, I would say overall that I think basketball coaches are probably a little bit smarter than football coaches. You know. We don't have 30 seconds in between plays or whatever it is to call this, to set up a play or that.
But, no, I don't. During that last timeout we knew we had one and they would have scored that basket with under three seconds we probably would have called time. But because of where it was and I told the guys to -- if they score, to get it in. And I didn't even want them to think about a timeout. I said if they score -- but I knew if -- I would watch the clock and I had actually told one of the referees that if we need a timeout, make sure you catch me here because if it would have been under three I would have called timeout there and tried to advance the ball to half court and we could have done that. But I wanted them to go with it.
But I wasn't going to call a timeout at the start of the second half. People have asked me that, when they came out and hit two threes, I told them we were up 12, the way we play it's a four possession game, and the way they were shooting the three and we knew they were going to keep doing that. I told them we were not going to flinch and at that point in time we were actually guarding them really well, they raised up and hit two contested threes and I couldn't tell them anything I hadn't just told them already coming out of the locker room.
And I don't think our guys thought I would call a timeout there. But very seldom this year have I had to use timeouts to settle us down because most of the time I normally probably save them more towards the end in case we need them in special situations because our team this year is somewhat young and at that point in time maybe use it to help them at the end of the game.
Q. John Brady has certainly had his critics over the years, I think he's obviously silenced a lot of them on this run. What are your impressions of Coach Brady as a coach and anything you can share, I guess, about him?
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, he works really hard. Obviously. Excellent basketball coach. He's won everywhere he's been. He's done an out standing job at LSU. Again, I mean this isn't the first time they have been successful. They do a great job. You look the at his teams, they're sound. Last night -- I'm not sure I saw a better defensive effort from anyone this year. They were tremendous, watching that tape again last night. I think the mindset he's got his team in and the relationship he's seems to have there is good.
But looking from the outside in, you just got to be impressed with the fact that they went through a league, won it, and are right here with everybody else still playing.
Q. I know mid-December must seem like an eternity ago, but can you talk about the just how the team bounced back from those two games and were you worried that despite the talent that maybe that this team might not be sitting here today if they hadn't handled it differently?
COACH RICK BARNES: We started the regular season, we knew we were going to be challenged early with our schedule. We came, we won our first two games at home and we went to Kansas City and had a game very similar to last night with West Virginia except we were down. We were down I think as many as seven or eight points in that game and won it on a last second play. But it was a defensive play. LaMarcus Aldridge did it. And we turned around the next night and played Iowa, a game that went right down to the wire as well, really. And went home, played a few games and went to New Jersey, which is -- we knew going it was basically he a home game for Duke, up there in the Meadowlands.
And at that point in time everybody talking about one and two, I did not think we were the number two ranked team in the country at that time because I didn't think maturity-wise we were there. The game starts, what, eight nine minutes into the game, Brad Buckman, who at that point was a huge part and he still is, but he was playing great basketball, got hurt. So didn't play the last 30 minutes of that game. So Mike Williams is thrust into a situation that he's certainly at that time wasn't ready for. And we had to -- we came apart because what we learned from that game was even when we came back in the second half and cut the lead down to four or something like that, everybody tried to do it by themselves. And then Kenton got hurt in that game. He strained an abdominal muscle. We came home and had an exam period, getting ready to play Tennessee and Brad Buckman was going to be out for three weeks, so Kenton did not practice the entire week leading up to that game. Dan Gibson got a concussion two days before and we had a lot of things going on. And obviously Tennessee was a lot better than everybody thought and they came in and played great and we were struggling and then after that we went through a three week period where we did not practice five on five at all because we didn't have enough people. And we broke it down and stayed in a half court and then we won some games that we knew we were going to win.
But I think our team was probably waiting to see because our next big game was going to be against Memphis. And then Brad came back right after Christmas, practiced, played his first game, came out, and you could almost feel when he came back on the court, because he was playing great and then four minutes into that game he turns his ankle. And then he doesn't practice anymore until we go to play at Memphis and in the process there his grandmother died. He was very close to her. But our guys never wavered. I think one thing when you watch, when you get beat, whether it's by 1 or 20, you show guys -- I mean, we always talk about what goes into winning, you have to teach young teams, and what goes into losing. And I'm not sure our guys knew that early in the year. But they figured it out and with the exception of one game this year, I think our guys have had great focus and great energy and great effort.
Q. You mentioned that one of the things you admire about P.J. is that he's stubborn. Are you stubborn, why or why not, and are there some things that as you mature as a coach that some of your mentors would share with you on how you need to improve on this and you need to do this as you built the program and as you learn how to get through the rigors of some of these big schools you've been at?
COACH RICK BARNES: I've been very lucky as a coach. I would say people that know me would say I'm -- I think my players would probably tell you I'm a little bit stubborn probably. But I've been very lucky. When I got into this business I was fortunate to be around people at Davidson College and Eddie Biedenbach and John Cochan, Tommy Badamarcka (phonetic), Bob McKellip who is a coach there now who all were -- first of all, they talked about recruiting. And so I came in knowing how important recruiting was, real quick. And then leaving there, going to George Mason with Joe Harrington, watching him build a program at George Mason that he was the first full-time head coach hired there. I was the first full-time assistant. And that's why with a lot of pride I see where George Mason is today because I spent five years there and probably the most important five years of my coaching career.
Because of what I was able to learn and who I was able to be around and watched what was going on in terms of building a program there and then leaving a year with working with Coach Sanderson who was the first guy I was ever around at Alabama that talked about fresh legs. And knowing how to taper -- and I remember this time of year or actually starting in early February he would practice 40 minutes a day. And then leaving there and spending a year with Gary Williams. The one thing I can remember with Gary was you know, he was fearless. He would say, hey, we'll put anybody in the game and try to steal a possession here or there and then getting a chance to go back to George Mason and after one year going to Providence I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for Dave Gavitt being the Big East commissioner and former basketball coach and he saved my life because I was probably over my head at that point in time at Providence being in that league with the great coaches that have gone through that league and I've been lucky that I've been able to maintain a lot of those contacts and those guys still do call me after a game and I listen to them. Because they have a different perspective not being around it every day. And after every game I have certain people I want to talk to and listen to what they have to say.
But I've been very lucky with the people that have come into my life and I will state this, I never worked for a bad athletic director. I always had good ADs. I think that's very important. I always had people that have given me the necessary tools to do a job and support you and understand the ups and downs of coaching. But they're there with you. And that probably started with Jack Zavitz, my first AD that hired me when he hired me he said we're getting in this together and Jack helped me my first year too a lot. But once from there going to Providence, Dave Gavitt, who has been a tremendous help to me in my career.
Q. In the tournament, it seems like there's so many timeouts in college basketball it seems like almost every dribble is coached anymore. Especially in the tournament where the stoppages last forever. Does it take some fate on your part as a coach to say, look, I'm just going to let my guys play here with the game on the line and maybe one of the biggest games of my career on the line?
COACH RICK BARNES: Not really, because we have talked -- now we worked special situations and we talk about it. But during that -- again, just going back to last night, we had talked about switching, we knew they were going to come down and do something, because they're such a well-coached team. They weren't just going to come down and raise up and shoot a quick shot. They were going to do something. They had I think Herber driving against P.J. and get everybody trying to look in and they kicked out and they did a little rub screen and we were going to switch, but A.J. Abrams didn't switch out and I'm not sure it would have mattered if he did, because of the size difference.
But, no, we tell our players this time of the year that players make plays, you got to make plays. And at the end, though -- and I told A.J. -- I told P.J., get it out as quick as you can and A.J. push it and create traffic. What we mean by that is get in there and get lost in the traffic and hope that they help somewhere and try to -- we work daily on guys running, getting to spots and it really -- it's -- that's our transition game. And you either do that our know if you call timeout, one, you're going to allow them to set their defense, which would probably be their 1-3-1, which we know that's hard to get something out of that. But there was -- we knew what we were going to do. If it would have been under three seconds, we probably would have called timeout.
Q. You didn't get much from your bench in the first NCAA tournament game, is there anything that you said to Williams and Abrams that day to challenge them? And more generally, how have you brought them along, you said earlier that Williams was put in a spot that he wasn't ready for early in the season?
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, Mike has continued to work. I think that the last couple weeks, three weeks -- and sometimes as coaches, we don't know when it clicks in. You talk and you keep going and you keep trying to come different ways. But also I think you look at a guy like Mike Williams, he is sitting there, he looks at Brad who has played a lot of ball for us. LaMarcus Aldridge, P.J., and you have to admire a guy that will continue to come to practice and Brad did mention it and Mike comes to work. And he kept working, he kept grinding it out. And as coaches we tell our guys -- we told them and again the guys mentioned, inches and possessions. And if we can steal an inch there or a possession there, I thought J.D. Lewis, I told him first thing this morning, I said, J.D. hadn't played at all and he went right in the game and came up with a big steal for us. I said that could have been the possession, that one inch, that one possession that we're talking about.
But Mike has continued to work at it. I think that again I don't know why he's different now than he was a month and a half ago, but he's comfortable. He can shoot the ball. He's not looking to go shoot, which I think has helped him. I think all kids, all players -- and I do think roles change throughout the year, but I think that he was for whatever reason maybe trying to put too much on thinking he had to score to get in the game. And he doesn't have to do that. And last couple games he's been able to score because he's gotten lost in playing his role. And A.J. has been a guy that has gotten better throughout the entire year. And he's -- he had some moments early in the year, he had some moments where he wasn't very good defensively. But his feel for game and his confidence, I don't think that's ever wavered, but just his experience and I think maybe even Mike, the experience they're getting throughout the year, one is a freshman, one is a sophomore, it's probably helped both of them.
Q. Last year the Katrina tragedy brought Texas and Louisiana together in a very, very special way and now tomorrow there's a basketball war. Can you speak a little bit about any rivalry that exists between Texas and LSU is it strong and as rivalries go? How does it rank with any others you have?
COACH RICK BARNES: I don't know right now. We did play them I think my first year. I think -- I want to say it was my first year we played down in Baton Rouge and we haven't played since. They did play in a game I want to say two, three years ago when they came to Houston and played a team and we I think we played Seton Hall and I think they might have played Texas A&M back there, I think. But they do have a very large population of alumni in the Houston area.
And but in terms of -- I can't tell you when the last time the football teams played. Again, basketball I know we -- well, no, I take that back, we got beat by LSU I think my second year in Utah. When they had Stomile Swift, so we -- I know we played them my first year and I think it was either my second year, it had to be the second year. So we did play them in the NCAA tournament. And that's the last time we played.
So we have talked, we have been talking about the possibility of maybe having a starting a series in Houston. Because it's again their alumni business there, our base there, they recruit Texas heavily, as obviously as we do, but other than that, I'm not sure I could call it a rivalry right now. Even though we share borders.
Q. As you prepare for LSU, how similar are you guys to each other? Is it almost a mirror image type thing? And second part, the fact that they're so young with so many freshman, is that a little bit tricky to gauge what you're going to get from this them from one night to the next?
COACH RICK BARNES: I don't know if I can answer that and be honest with you in terms of knowing them that well. What I'm getting from them right now is watching tape. Watching them I don't know enough about them. Other than the fact that I think that by now they're closer to being sophomores than freshmen I think that they're -- at this point in time they're a talented team. They're different and more athletic team than we are.
But I think that, again, once you toss it up there and you get ready to play and then last night I was really impressed with watching them play last night. I thought defensively they were unbelievable. And I've seen Big Baby play through the recruiting things and everyone knows what he can do.
And the guy that I'm really impressed with is Darrel Mitchell. He's a guy that he makes them go. He does a lot for them. And creates a lot for them. So they're not just a one-man team. They wouldn't be here if that were the case. A lot like us they have got guys like a Kenton Paulino that people probably haven't written about this year and a Mike Williams, guys that can come in and hurt you just as well.
So we know and, again, we have talked about personnel and we try to relate them to guys that we play against, but again, we -- it's going to be -- the game's going to be different than what we played the last two weeks really because of they're a much more athletic team than what we played in the last -- especially in the last two games or three games.
Q. Speaking of George Mason, do you have -- are there any people remaining there whom you still are in touch with at all? And the second part is, do you ever think how differently your career path obviously would have gone had you gone to Charlottesville instead of staying at Providence back then?
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, I do have two dear friends at George Mason. Carolyn and Jay Marsh. Jay was the associate athletic director there still, Carolyn is the basketball secretary. She and I worked together for the five years that while I was an assistant and when I came back. She and I -- I can -- and really do I consider them two of my dear he's friends and we do stay in touch. I actually called this morning and we have talked. They have, Jay actually left me a message this morning that Washington, D.C. has adopted the Patriots right now and he says that they're really going through something they have never gone through, something that I think that we all dreamed about back in 1980, I think they went Division I in '79 but '80 was the first time they hired Joe Harrington as the first full-time head coach.
And I'm excited. I'm really excited for them. Because that was -- and I mentioned a huge part of my growing in this business, and in terms of the UVA situation, I don't know, I don't know if it would have been one way or the other what the difference would have been. I mean I grew up in that part of the country and at that point in time wanted to coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference and spend five years in Virginia, obviously, having a chance to go there and even though it was only for a couple hours, you know, that's a great university. It is.
But I don't know, looking back, I don't know what would have been different. I don't know. I know that staying at Providence ended up being a great thing because it gave me more time to be around Dave Gavitt. Again, I think he -- his -- he's helped me more than he would ever know. And I think staying back there at that point in time probably outweighed anything else at that particular time.
MODERATOR: That will do it. Thank you very much, Coach.
COACH RICK BARNES: Thank you.
End of FastScripts...