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March 8, 2006
THE MODERATOR: Okay. We're ready to begin with South Carolina. A reminder, if you will please turn you cell phones off and also no flash photography while the media session is in progress.
We'll ask Coach Odon if he'll give us a few thoughts, opening comments in general on the tournament and on the South Carolina team, and then we'll take questions for the players, and then we'll excuse them so can go get back to the locker room and continue on with Coach Odon.
COACH DAVE ODOM: Well, we're certainly like every other team and every other coach. We're excited by the Tournament. The SEC I think longunderstanding has been one of the finest tournaments around, and we're particularly pleased to be taking part in the tournament here in; Nashville.
My first trip to the beautiful Gaylord Event Center. Been out there for an hour. I enjoyed it.
It is basketball like, and so I think we're in for an exciting three, four days and, you know, to be in a basketball arena and basketball atmosphere, I think is certainly something that every coach and every team and players are going to enjoy.
As far as our team is concerned, we've had a good three days of practice, Monday, Tuesday and today, one hour, and I think from a physical standpoint, we're about where we need to be.
It's only question mark on our team at this point that we would not know about it would be Rocky Trice came down with some sort of stomach virus last night, did not practice today. Doctors are on top of it. I fully expect him to be okay and to play tomorrow. If not, we'll adjust as any good team would.
You know, we know nothing more than that. He did come out and took some shots. He did not participate in the full scale scrimmages.
The other players, on the other hand, are doing very well, and I think our preparations went well. Meeting with our team on Monday, Monday morning, I posed the question, "Guys, tell me what you remember about our first meeting, our only meeting with Mississippi State this year," and gave each guy to say something. They were all exactly dead on it. And as anybody knows, you know, we played pretty well in that game, were able to win the basketball in company in Columbia.
I said, "All right. All that is well and accurate. The problem is none of it is true today, Mississippi State may be the most improved team in our league from anywhere close to the middle of the season to right now. The performance that they put out on Saturday night against a really good Alabama team was truly impressive. We saw the tape yesterday.
I'll tell you, they were bigger, they were tougher, they were better. They played with more speed than the team that we saw back in Columbia three weeks ago.
So, I'm, you know, kind of walking off the court out there, three, four people said to me, "Boy, you know, they're a whole lot better than they were. We know. We saw yesterday. We know.
The key thing is we've got to play better than we did in Columbia as well, and we've got to meet their aggressiveness and their enthusiasm and their confidence level with more of our own.
I think it will be a good basketball game. Their size bothers me. They're playing so much bigger right now than they did back then, I mean, with the addition of Wesley Morgan in there, that gives them a good front line. They've got great size on the perimeter. The two Delks, have really come of age. Reginald Delk, he gets in one of those corners. He's death shooting the basketball, and his brother has gotten better, and, of course, Jamont Gordon, as we all know is one of the truly best freshman in our league and in the country for that matter. He brings the ball at you like a Mac truck.
We've got our work cut out for us. But I think we know what we've got to do. Now it's just a matter of whether we can stand up and get it done or not.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. We'll take questions for either of the student athletes only.
Do you have a question for either, please raise your hand. We have some floor microphones, and we'll get those to you. Hands up.
All right. Go ahead. We'll start right in the front.
Q. Do any of the players -- what was it that worked so well for you guys in Columbia towards the end of the half that allowed you to go on that big run.
THE MODERATOR: You want either or both?
COACH DAVE ODOM: Tarence.
TARENCE KINSEY: I think we went with a shorter lineup the second half, and it proved our quickness, and sizewise and that kind of gave them little problems. Also, Tre' Kelley was hitting shots from every corner, so that helped us a lot.
THE MODERATOR: Tre', do you want to respond?
TRE' KELLEY: Like he said, we just out-quicked them. We got on the break, and we was running. Guys got open shots. We created shots for our guys that was running out on the wings on the break. We knocked down some outside shots, and it helped us. So this smaller lineup really help used in Columbia.
THE MODERATOR: Hands up. Any other questions? Let's go right to the middle. She's coming over.
Q. This is for both the players, also.
How much do you guys expect momentum to have played in this game. I mean, you guys lost a few games at the end and Mississippi State won a few games at the end. How do you guys kind of equalize that now?
THE MODERATOR: Tarence, you go first.
TARENCE KINSEY: Basically, we just keep doing what we've beep doing. It starts from practice, and the coaches keep pushing up and the team keep pushing to get better every time, you know. We know right now if you lose, you go home.
That's the only momentum we've got. We won't take make it out through the tournament. Everybody get to be in a tournament, but you're really not in a tournament until you win a game. That's what we focus on, try to win the first game and to ride that horse all the way to the end.
THE MODERATOR: Same for Tre'?
TRE' KELLEY: Like I say, we use the one game eliminations as motivation and momentum going into the game. We have to have the "can't lose" attitude. We've got to go in there and play our game. If we get up early, we've got to keep going at these guys and keep pushing at them and do what we're doing right. Just keep trucking. Just keep trucking.
THE MODERATOR: Hands up. Other questions? All right. Go ahead.
Q. Tre', does it make any difference whether you're playing in an arena like this or in the dome like you did in Atlanta and, if so, what differences?
TRE' KELLEY: I don't think there's no difference. You have the same team out there, and we have we have to believe in ourselves no matter where you go, we have to stay together. I think that's -- you know, that's the leading fact, to just have to stay together. You can't think about the arenas that you play in or the teams that you're playing against. You have to go in there with your team, and we have to stay together and fight together.
THE MODERATOR: Hands up, other questions for either of the student athletes? Any? Okay. Go ahead.
Q. Does playing in a dome or in a venue like this affect your depth perception, though? Is it easier to shoot when it's more smaller place designed for basketball?
TRE' KELLEY: I don't think so. All the courts we played on this year were ten feet. So that -- that's it. We can't think about different places that we play in. The same court, you know, 94 feet, and the same place. We got to look at it as another team that we're playing, and we got to go in there and win.
THE MODERATOR: Anybody, one last question for either of the players? Got time. Anybody?
Okay, fellas. We'll excuse you back to the locker room. Thank you, and we'll continue on with questions for Coach Odon. Hands up. Questions for Coach Odon? Okay. Go ahead we'll start right on the front here.
Q. Dave, why is Charles Rhodes so tough to defend?
COACH DAVE ODOM: Well, he's got all the ingredients. He's big. He's strong. He's aggressive. He's determined, and in a very good way, he's nasty. I don't mean that ugly. That's a compliment to him.
I mean, he -- unlike a lot of post-players, he's not so worried about style points. I mean, he's more into substance. He'll try to dunk on you. Lot of people would call that style. I wouldn't. I just call that good basketball.
I mean, he's very aggressive. He's not easily discouraged. I mean, if he misses a shot or doesn't get the ball through, four possessions in a row, he's right back at you the next possession. Rick Stansbury can speak to this more than I, but to me, he looks like a coach's dream to coach:
THE MODERATOR: Hands up, other questions? Okay. Let's go to the middle right here.
Q. Dave, did you emphasize the past three weeks the struggles, or did you try to flush that out of guy's minds?
COACH DAVE ODOM: Did I emphasize what?
Q. The losses during the past three weeks or so.
COACH DAVE ODOM: I'm not really sure what you mean there, Kent. What I try to do is we try -- I try to coach everyday with the express purpose of getting better. I want our team to get better every single day. Now, I mean it's true that when you lose some of the close games that we lost, you typically have to deal with the psychology of a team as much as you do with the physical development of a team, and this year's team, I probably have spent more time with that than I have in some other years.
In the last two to three weeks, the run that you're talking about where we had so many disappointments, I tried to be -- I tried to find a level of consistency myself. I don't care how bad I hurt, you know, I tried not to bring that to the locker room or the gym with me.
Because I truly believe that, you know, the players are going to take their lead from their leader, and, you know, I've tried to be as consistently upbeat with them as I possibly can.
I mean, in truth, the games that we've lost -- well, since Mississippi State. That's when we began to have that series.
You know, to get down on one -- you know, series of one point losses, they hurt, but you're so close to being where you want to be. In the course of my career, I've had people to say to me, "I'd rather lose by 20 than by 1. Never felt that way.
You lose by 20, you were never in it or probably were never in it. You were not a threat to win the basketball game. You've got a long way to go to be where you want to be.
You lose a game by one, most cases there's not a lot of difference between you and the other team and you've got a smaller amount of ground to make up, and to me, that's an easier sell than the other, and, so, you know, flushing, I think you heard me use that term one time.
What I try to do is flush disappointment and build on positive things that happen and, you know, I don't know how my team has perceived it, but I now how they've played. They've played hard every day in practice, and they've played hard every day in every game. Not always well but always hard.
So, I feel good about what we've done from that standpoint.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions for Coach? Raise your hand. All right. Go ahead.
Q. Coach, how wide open do you think this tournament is, and, I mean, do you emphasize to your players that hey, even the top teams, you know, they've been vulnerable lately?
COACH DAVE ODOM: Well, I don't address other teams as much to my team. I do try to focus on our team. But to answer your question about the openess of this tournament, in my short stay here in the SEC, I don't think there's been a tournament that more teams have a legitimate chance to say, hey, this could be ours.
As we all know, that will happen three, four times, two, three times across the country this weekend. They'll be a team that will come out of nowhere to challenge for the championship and in some cases even win it. It's already happened. Loyola Marymount out in the West Coast Conference, whatever, the Gonzaga conference already happened.
I think they were something like 9 and 17 going in, and here they are in the finals.
That won't be the last time that that will happen. So, when you look at the SEC as a tournament, I don't think there's a prohibitive favorite here. LSU certainly deserves respect and, you know, they won the regular season. They proved it over the course of 16 difficult games and they would be a favorite.
Tyrus Thomas is a factor. If he plays, he's a positive factor. If he's not there, it's going to be tougher for them because they've already got a depth problem. But, you know, if they go keep the pace of the game for three days the way they want it, they have the personnel to still win it.
If you're looking, for lack of a better word, dark horse teams to come in, I would look to teams that have size and have excellent back courts to go with them but also have depth, and the two teams that I would look at there would be Arkansas, because they have excellent back court and they have an excellent, excellent size, and I think -- I think Kentucky because they have both of those ingredients as well.
Now, both those teams have to play four days which is, you know, kind of mitigates some of that, but I think those two teams, you know, would be qualifiers as to watch out if you have to play them.
I would also and not because we're playing them, I would throw in Mississippi State. I think they're playing as good in our league right now. They have size and back court. They have shooting, and they've got pretty good depth.
I know their depth is a little bit thinner than it was with Slater not playing now, but, Rick Stansbury has done a lot to get his team to where it is right now and they deserve a lot of credit, as well. That does not dismiss Florida. It does not dismiss Tennessee for sure. They played great. It does not dismiss Alabama, nor does it dismiss the other -- LSU is the other three-day team. Don't dismiss those teams at all.
Outside the obvious teams that have byes. I think you got to look at Arkansas and Mississippi State, and I think you've got to look at Kentucky.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Other questions for the Coach? All right. Let's go right over here and then we'll get you guys.
Go ahead, Jerry.
Q. Dave, how much does motivation, do you think, play into how the teams come into this? I mean, some teams are pretty much have an NCAA bid, and other teams are really clawing and fighting to get in or whatever their agenda might be. How much do you think motivation along those lines plays into it?
COACH DAVE ODOM: Well, I think -- I think it certainly plays a lot, a big -- it makes a big difference. If a team is motivated, if they almost taste what they want but haven't quite been allowed to swallow, I guess is a good way to put it, I think it motivates them to play harder and to play better.
A lot of that would depend upon the individual coach, and, each coach handles his own team the way he feels is proper but from my vantage point, I want my team eager. I want them motivated. I want them confident. I want them aggressive. I want them to go after it.
THE MODERATOR: We've got time for two more questions. We'll take you right now, and then we'll come right here.
Q. Coach Odon, could you give tell us about Ole Miss center, Dwayne Curtis. He's a kid Kentucky didn't have to face the first time they played Ole Miss. You did.
COACH DAVE ODOM: I sure did.
Q. Your comments.
COACH DAVE ODOM: Well, he's truly one of the better inside low post players in our league, and he's had a really good year.
I know he had the difficulty at the end. I think he had a death in the family or something he had to tend to, and that kind of took him out of the mix there, but, you know, they're a team that is dangerous for a lot of reasons. But he certainly was probably the big one.
He gives you a good low post presence inside. He's one that you've got to account for every time down the court, and I'm certain that he's going to be motivated.
This is his first SEC Tournament as a participant and, you know, he's talented, he's got skill. He's big. I mean, he's probably one of the three, four better low post players in our league.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Last question.
Q. Dave, in your other comments, it sounded like you prefer the arena versus the dome. Could you elaborate on that and also address any other possible changes you could see made to the tournament to make it better?
COACH DAVE ODOM: Well, Ron, I do prefer made for basketball arenas. That said, I do understand the need to play games in the dome, i.e., SEC Atlanta Dome.
I mean, I will tell you the SEC cannot afford to give up Atlanta as a base. I mean, we must play that tournament there as often as three -- three out of every four years, two out of every three, whatever it is that the presidents and ADs decide. That's our stronghold geographically, and we must keep that, you know, from a recruiting standpoint and every other way.
And so when I say I prefer made for basketball arenas, that's like the Gaylord Event Center here, I mean, I'm just being honest and would always prefer to do that, but I certainly understand the need to play our tournament in Atlanta as often as is deemed advisable. I certainly understand that.
But I think most people, most veteran coaches, most fans understand that it is easier to create a tournament atmosphere, a basketball-like atmosphere in a building that is made for basketball.
The spaciousness of the dome lends itself to a more dormant atmosphere in most cases. I mean, you know, you could begin tomorrow's game in the dome, probably have 12, 13,000 people at tipoff and not get that sense that the tournament has yet begun. Whereas here, you're looking at one that is dash - I'm not even sure how many it holds here. 20,000? What does it hold?
THE MODERATOR: About 18.
COACH DAVE ODOM: If you've got 12 here tomorrow at the beginning, you're two-thirds, three-quarters full, and it will happen more of a basketball. I would bet you by 3:00 tomorrow -- well, be over by 3:00 almost, but by mid dash between the two games, I mean, you're going to be looking at pretty much a filled arena and you're going to get the sense that the tournament is underway, and there's a lot of excitement and, you know, March Madness is truly here.
As far as any kind of improvements to the arena -- I mean, to the tournament itself, I think the people in the SEC office do a wonderful job. They've got a great handle on how to run the tournament, what's right for us. I certainly congratulate them on that.
We all know that we're missing Brad Davis this week and his footprint, handprint, fingerprint is going to be all over this tournament, and he certainly is going to be sorely missed.
He's put just tons of hours and years of work into making this tournament what it was, and him not being here certainly going to be felt for everybody.
But I know that the staff that is here is going to carry on and do a great job.
The only thing that I would like to see is somehow -- I don't have that answer for this, I really don't, but at some point, I would like this -- I'd like to bring this up for discussion among coaches, among athletic directors, among fundraisers at the different universities, and among presidents and even invite fans to participate in an open forum discussion. I don't know how to do this, either, by the way. I don't have the answer, but, you know, to me, I would like to put forth the idea that when fans come to Nashville or Atlanta, Tampa, or wherever it happens to be, that they come for the beginning and they stay the duration and they go to every game, and you would see the arena, whether we're in the dome or whether we're in this particular building or one like it, split in 1/12ths.
You would see schools show up and cheer together, together/against and for and you would see the conference come together and really promote the tournament, support the tournament, not just their team.
My thinking is when fans come to their school's game only, they're doing just that, they're supporting their team which is admirable, that's good, that's great, but this is a tournament, and we're in the league that is proud and has great basketball in it and I'd like to see the teams go back to their universities and try to get it started and do it at the conference level to where the building is filled every game, not just for when any said team is playing, and, you know, that's a compliment to Kentucky. It's not a criticism of Kentucky.
Kentucky has done what every team should do. They should be here and, you know, what happens as we all know is, you know, early on when teams lose, those tickets go up for grabs and Kentucky typically, over the course of time, any tournament, you know, those seats gradually tournament from garnet to light blue or Kentucky blue or whatever color they got, and then it kind of spreads around the arena, and again that's a compliment to Kentucky. It's not a negative, but I would like to see that stopped somehow or another. I'd like to see it where Georgia got their 1/12th secured, Ole Miss has got theirs secure. South Carolina, Vanderbilt, whoever, and then you got a tournament because it's fun. I've been in places where it's fun to see, you know, schools get together and cheer for or against in a good hard way. It makes for a great four days.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you.
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