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March 8, 2006

Todd Abernethy

Rick Barnes

Dwayne Curtis


THE MODERATOR: Coach Barnes, some opening comments for Ole Miss and his first game. Then we'll take questions just for the student athletes and then let them get ready for practice.
COACH BARNES: I'd like to first start by thanking God and we're excited to be here in Nashville. This is a great arena. The SEC always does a great job. Our team played really well last week against LSU. We have challenge against Kentucky. During tournament time Tubby has his team ready. We're excited about the opportunity. The last time we were here in Nashville our team made it to the Finals and that's our goal this time. We come here with focus, first of all, that's at hand with Kentucky, and again, a team that beat us pretty bad the last time we played them, but we have Dwayne Curtis with us this time. I think we're playing with a whole lot more confidence coming into this game than what we did the last time we played this team, but looking forward to the tournament.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions just for Todd and Dwayne, if you have a question for either of them.
Q. Dwayne, kind of the second time you have gone through losing your coach. Talk about how it has affected you, how it will affect the way you approach this tournament, please.
DWAYNE CURTIS: It's affected me a little bit. I try not to let that bother me. I love the game of basketball, I just try and stay focused and go out there and play with my teammates.
Q. Todd talk about what difference you think there could be that you all can make up a 40-point deficit from the last time you played Kentucky; it is just Dwayne or other reasons you should be optimistic?
TODD ABERNETHY: Well, obviously having -- not having Dwayne with us the last game I think hurt us a lot. We didn't establish any post presence. I don't know how many points any of our postmen had. I think it's going to be a big, big difference having Dwayne with us. He can score and -- but he just takes up space and, but I don't think he would have been the whole difference in the 40-point loss. I just think our team needs to stay focused and not let scoring droughts take us out of the game.
Q. Both players, Dwayne, just talk about missing the first game. Tough circumstances. Talk about playing against Kentucky this time, both players talk about your feelings about Coach Barnes and knowing this is your last go-round with him.
COACH BARNES: We're going to play in the NCAA tournament so this is not their last go-round with me, okay? (Laughs)
DWAYNE CURTIS: I know this year, I mean, it's been a great experience having him as a coach and, man, I mean, he's like a father to me. I just love playing under Coach Barnes.
TODD ABERNETHY: Tomorrow and the rest of the season, however many games we have, we just need to go out there and give it our all. Coach has fought for us, he's fought for me three years and the least we can do is go out there and play as hard as we can. So I think tomorrow we're going to be loose and free as we have nothing to lose. So we're going to go out there have fun and play hard.
Q. Talk about playing against Kentucky tomorrow. Was it a struggle? Did you watch any of the first game and what do you feel like you bring to the game tomorrow?
DWAYNE CURTIS: Well, I didn't get to watch it, but I heard from a friend and just me bringing my big presence in there, on the inside, some rebounds, little defense, I mean, it's a big difference, I think my body being in there as a starter could be a big difference in the game tomorrow than when I missed it.
Q. Do you know anything about Randolph Morris and if you know, what do expect that match up to be like?
WAYNE CURTIS: I know that he's their big, big guy, 6' 10", I heard that he's tough, so I mean have to go in there playing hard and having a good game.
Q. How much are you guys maybe trying to rally around Coach Barnes here and do something for him, or is that, you know, an off-the-court thing that's really not a factor?
TODD ABERNETHY: Obviously Coach Barnes inspired us a lot. He means so much to us so I definitely think his situation has a big effect on us. We want to send him out well and in style and whether we win or lose, I think what is going to show is if we go out fighting, you know, and don't lay down, that's going to show the character of this team.
DWAYNE CURTIS: I agree with that. All the players go out playing together, playing hard, playing tough on defense, I mean, just showing him that we're doing this as a family together.
THE MODERATOR: We'll excuse the players. You can be first with Coach Barnes.
Q. I have watched your ballclubs play and there are times that you are as good as anybody in this league. There has been some inconsistency with the team, but there's been some inconsistency with everybody in the league. Could you address that for us?
COACH BARNES: Well, I think you can look at our league and you talk about the teams in our league and the players that effect in this league you are going to see a young team. I think at the beginning of the year, the talk about our league was, you know, because people didn't know a lot of the kids that would impact our league, guys like Dwayne Curtis, Nolen and didn't expect guys to step up because they are so young. So the inconsistency is going to come because we're an immature inexperienced team as far as teams being together. So that's where you are going to get the teams playing well.
I think most of the teams that has a little bit more experience has kind of been a little bit more -- more experience, been a little bit more consistent. That's the same thing with our team. We have a team this year that this is the first time around for most of these guys to play together. Some of the guys have been on the team, but haven't played that much. Now we're putting them in situations that they have never been in, so this team is a team that continues to mature, so there's going to be nights where we look really good and then there's going to be nights where we're going to struggle some. Again, that's inexperience and youth to me.
Q. Talk about your thoughts and feelings knowing that this is your last SEC tournament with Ole Miss?
COACH BARNES: I have tried all of my career to focus on what was at hand. The thing is I coach a great bunch of young kids, student athletes, so my focus has been more about them and less about me. All my life I have always looked at my accomplishments or things that I have, you know, done in my career after it was over. So my focus right now is Kentucky, trying to get a win for these kids, and for this university and you know, I will think about the SEC and this tournament, what happened the last time, whenever it's over. So that's about it.
Q. I guess if my paper wasn't going to have me cover anything for this I might have trouble getting motivated to cover it. I am wondering in your situation is it tough or some coaches who aren't going to be back they just stop coaching right then. Talk about being here, do you see what I am getting at?
COACH BARNES: I don't. I want to answer your question.
Q. For instance, Missouri, Quin Snyder when they told him you are not coming back, he just resigned right then. Talk about, is it hard to get motivated to coach your team in a situation like this when you know your school is not going to bring you back?
COACH BARNES: Oh, no. Again, and I think we make too much of certain situations. I am a coach that love coaching. I love our kids and I have a job to do that when these guys get to the floor to help them to perform at the highest level. Whenever I get to the point that this is about Rod Barnes or I can't get motivated for the next game, I am going to get out of this business. That's not the case. I am excited about being here at the tournament. I am excited about our opportunities. Obviously being at the tournament and the success that Kentucky has had, is not just the easiest task that we have, but I am excited as I have always been. This is a great day for me. I get a chance to do what I love to do and do it with the people I love to do it with. If one person is going to be motivated during this tournament it's going to be Rod Barnes but I have been like that every year that I have been here.
Q. Were you caught by surprise one and two, have you given any thought to where you go from here?
COACH BARNES: I am going to discuss what I think happened at Ole Miss and about Ole Miss situation after this is over. After my career is done at Ole Miss that's when I will say what my opinions and my thoughts and ideas of when it happen and how it happened and all that kind of stuff.
So as far as a basketball coach. I am going to coach basketball next year. Hopefully I get a chance to do it in college. Hopefully I have an opportunity to be a head coach someplace, but if I got to coach 6th grade, that's what I'll do, that has been the calling of my life, the last 18, 19 years, until God tells me different that's what I am going to be going next year.
Q. Could you talk about defending Rondo and Morris what you hope to try to do?
COACH BARNES: First of all, I think with Rondo he's a guy that's great in open court. He can get to the basket. He finds ways to -- to score. A lot of people say he can't shoot but it seems like when he needs to make a basket he makes them. We have got to keep him out of the paint area. That's for both guys. I think we got to be really physical with Morris and try to keep him off the low block and obviously being a big guy he can run and we have got to eliminate him getting easy baskets whether it's dunk backs or getting dunks off the breaks, so, but it's going to be a team effort and we're in the just looking at both of those guys, Patrick Sparks, and most of those guys they can get hot real quick but we have just got to play a great defensive game as a team.
Q. Are you at peace with what's happened the last week and if so how does it motivate you to go for it -- you talk about being the most motivated guy, how does that motivate you to go forward in this tournament?
COACH BARNES: Man, I'd like to hopefully decline that part about being at peace. My motivation has always been you know, this is a platform that I get a chance to do what I love to do. I love to coach. Some guys, I don't know if they love this game the way I love this game. I would be motivated tomorrow if we were playing 6th grade against the 7th grade and I was coaching the 6th grade team, and there was nobody there, but the players, because I love this game. So the love that I have for this game what keeps my fire burning. Whenever I go to the floor and I am not excited about coaching again, regardless of what level it is, I will resign and quit coaching.
Right now I have got a bunch of fire. What makes me maybe given even more fire to this particular situation is nobody thinks we're going to win. So we're the underdog and if you are a competitor that's what makes that fire burning. But I would be there way I felt this way a few years ago when we were in the Finals here against Kentucky here and we Mr. Played tennis and Florida an everybody thought well, Kentucky going to win the game. I was pumped then and went out and coached even though we lost the game and I feel the same way today

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