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April 2, 2003

Rick Barnes


BILL HANCOCK: Rick, hi. This is Bill Hancock. Congratulations. We appreciate your time today. We have about 60 national media on the line here. We have about 15 minutes for you. The other three coaches have done a splendid job. All of them spoke very highly of you, by the way.

COACH RICK BARNES: Well, I appreciate that.

Q. Coach, I imagine when you first got there, people thought you would be kind of crazy for going to a school that's so football crazy. Can you just talk about maybe what convinced you that you could get it done there, that you could really make basketball a viable product?

COACH RICK BARNES: Well, I think, obviously, a great university, an administration that is willing and told me that they wanted to have as good a basketball program as anybody else in the country, and they were willing to do everything they could to make sure we had what we needed to be successful. The State of Texas, I think there's 16,000 kids that play basketball in this state every year. Obviously, you feel like if you can recruit and keep some of those players home, that you'd have a chance. Plus, I felt like the University of Texas gives us a great calling card on a national level, that we can go and be involved with the best players. But, more importantly, is just, you know, in the league, I think the formation of the Big 12 has been a big key to helping us.

Q. Also, can you talk about what the mood around campus has been like because you have both women's and men's teams in the Final Four. What kind of electricity is buzzing through there?

COACH RICK BARNES: Well, I'm sure it's good. To be quite honest with you, I'm kind of shutting myself off to all that. Just based on what you can feel happening with the things that come into the office, I can only tell you that I'm extremely happy for Jody Conradt and her staff. Again, we work closely together in terms of we see each other every day either going on or off the practice court. During the spring, we share the facility together. I just know how hard they've worked. She's got a great group of women that deserve every good thing that's happening to them right now.

Q. I've got two questions for you real quick. Is there any added pressure being the only No. 1 seed to actually make it to the Final Four, or do you pretty much feel like everybody else right now?

COACH RICK BARNES: No, I don't think there's any pressure. I say once you get down to the Sweet 16, if you wanted to forget the seeds, it doesn't matter. I believe that right now. I don't think the teams there, anyone's thinking about seeds. I think that we're all thinking about what we have to do to be successful on the court. But we haven't -- again, there's no pressure from that.

Q. One of the things I've noticed about this team is it seems like every player on your starting line-up has one basic skill that they always sell: You've got James Thomas, who's excellent at rebounding; Brad Buckman, same thing; T.J. Ford, passing skills. It seems in this day and age a lot of what we call basic skills gets lost in college basketball, because we're looking for that one flashy player. Talk about your philosophy of coaching and how it's worked for you and the players.

COACH RICK BARNES: I do think the key, and I've mentioned this to our players early in the year, there wasn't a lot of drop-off from our players once you get from, say, like four on down. We talked about, you know, the depth could be good if the chemistry could be there, and that if players were willing to buy into playing the role they had to play, and I also remember telling them early in the year "what your role might be today, it might be different come February." Not one time this year has anyone - any member of this team - said to me at any point in time, "I think I should be playing more." So the key has been the chemistry. I think the competition and practice every day, I think what Terrell Ross does every day playing against T.J. Ford is a big part of what we do. I think the James Thomas, Brad Buckman, Jason Klotz, Brian Boddicker match-up every day in practice, watching those guys compete, is huge. But one thing about these guys, I think they truly respect what each one of them does for this team.

Q. Everyone I talked to says that you're the same guy now that you were, you know, at every stop along the way. Can you talk about how you've managed to maintain your personality throughout all the different stops.

COACH RICK BARNES: Well, again, I think I'm very fortunate. I just think that there's been a lot of wonderful things that have happened to me in my lifetime and long before I got into this coaching that I'm forever grateful for. I know there's also people out there that I felt and I feel that if they were given the same opportunities could have done more - as well or maybe more. I think, too, it has a lot to do with the people I've been with, just good people. I've always believed my job is not more important than what you do. It's just this is what I chose to do, and I'm going to respect the job I have to do here, but I'm going to respect everybody I come in contact with because, again, I grew up and I was taught by my mother, my grandparents, that everybody is equally important and treat them that way.

Q. Are you a better coach or different coach now that you made it to the Final Four than you were, say, a week ago when you had never been to the Elite 8?

COACH RICK BARNES: I don't know if I'm any different this year than I was -- I mean, I don't know if I'm any different at the start of the season and right now, but I do think that I've tried to get better every year. I would be the first to tell you that I think there are some things, if I could go back 15 years ago, I would definitely do different. But I do think the one thing, regardless of what, you know, this has been a good year for us, but I'm going to try to improve on things that we did this year. And I just think you've got to always keep trying to get better. But a lot of where we are right now, I think this team, I think they deserve the credit because I know how hard they've worked and they bought into each other and that's been the single biggest key.

Q. I know that it's hard to have missed the speculation about Roy Williams and the North Carolina job. As someone who's been in the ACC, someone who's changed jobs a couple times, can you understand or appreciate what he may be going through right now in trying to get his team ready for the Final Four?

COACH RICK BARNES: Yeah, I understand it. I think that Roy, I don't know what he said or anything about it, but I will promise you right now there is nothing more important to him right now than the Kansas Jayhawks. I promise you, he is not going to allow any of those speculations and rumors to get in the way of what they're trying to do this weekend. Roy's been around long enough to know that, you know -- believe me, it's not gonna affect him. What he's probably most concerned about is people asking that question to his team right now, because he doesn't want any distractions. Truth be known, I would hope that the media would respect that. Those guys have worked so hard to get here, they shouldn't have to answer a question about the future of Roy. Right now, the only thing he's thinking about is this weekend.

Q. There are so many great individual players in the Final Four this year, kind of an unusually high number. There may be as many as four First-Team All-Americans. Do you think that adds anything to the special way that the Final Four is, does it add to the luster of the tournament?

COACH RICK BARNES: Well, I think so. Again, I've always felt that it's a tournament for players. I do think that you're going to get a chance, and people will get a chance to see some special guys go and play. I hope that they all play well. Because this time of year, it's a beautiful thing to be a part of, and I think probably the reason that these teams are there are because those players have had big years, they've been able to make those players around them better. So I think that it's going to be an exciting tournament down there.

Q. Can you talk about the specific problems that Anthony presents.

COACH RICK BARNES: Well, you know, he's a phenomenal player in terms of his -- I think he's got a great feel for the game. Obviously, at 6'8, he can shoot the ball from the perimeter, he's got the great mid-range game, and then he certainly does a tremendous job of taking advantage of his height down low. But I think that Jim has done a great job of letting him be who he is. I think he plays with that freedom, that mental freedom where I think he gets lost in the game and he does what he does well, but, obviously, he's a terrific player.

Q. You were just talking about "special players," and it's "a tournament for players." Can a team get to the Final Four without that "special" kind of player? All four of these teams have a special guy who can take over a game.

COACH RICK BARNES: I think that's a key, certainly, this time of year. You need someone who I think not only do you feel that way, but more important the players and the teammates know that they've got someone that can maybe get it done. I go back to last year's national championship game. I thought the single biggest play was the play where Indiana was coming back, making a little bit of a run at Maryland. They gave the ball to Juan Dixon and he made that great step-back move. So I do think, to answer your question, you're going to have somebody at some point in time that can make a play for you on the offensive end or even a guy that can make a play for you on the defensive end.

Q. Do you anticipate a really fast-paced game? Do you think it's going to be an entertaining, up and down, 94-foot game? Obviously, you guys would probably prefer it to be that way.

COACH RICK BARNES: I think it will be up and down. Syracuse is an excellent team out on the open court, too. They run really well from their defense. They come out of it looking to score quick. It's not like, you know, I think on offense neither team is a team -- I think both teams, I think they're a really good offensive team. Everybody talks about their defense. I think they're a very efficient offensive team. When they get a good look, they're going to shoot it, and we're going to do the same thing.

Q. Did you have a chance to see any of the women's game at all last night, or were you too tied up?

COACH RICK BARNES: I watched a little bit. I did get a chance to see some of it, I did.

Q. How extraordinary is it for a place like Texas to have both teams in the Final Four?

COACH RICK BARNES: Well, I said this earlier, I'm excited about -- I'm really happy for Jody. I think that anyone that's been around as long as she has and done the job that she's done, I'm excited for her players because we're with them every day. You know, we're either walking on the floor or walking off as they're doing the same. I know how hard they've worked. I know how hard they've worked in the off-season, because we're in the same gym with them at the Rec Center. We're there with them in the fall. We see them in the weight room. We do all that. I'm really happy. I'm happy for them, because, again, I just know how hard they've worked to get where they are. So everybody's excited about it.

BILL HANCOCK: Thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it. We look forward to seeing you this weekend.

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