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October 17, 2007

Rick Barnes


PETER IRWIN: At this time we'd like to welcome Coach Rick Barnes from Texas. Coach, welcome. Coach says he's not going to make any comment, he's just going straight to questions.

Q. A while ago in the other interview room A.J. Abrams was asked the biggest difference between this year and last year and he said that's easy, we're going back to the Rick Barnes basketball style of old, tough defense and rebounds. Could you elaborate? I see the smile on your face, you're happy, I can tell.
RICK BARNES: I thought you were going to say 6-9, a guy that bench presses 189 pounds. We haven't been a very good defensive team the last couple of years. And rebound-wise, I think the numbers say we've been okay, but we haven't been what we needed to be. We have to put the emphasis on being a better team and rebounding team. This is the first year going in that we had 13 scholarship players. But some of those numbers are down right now because of injuries. But I do expect us to be a much better defensive team than we were a year ago.

Q. It seems like now they're more focused on body fat and conditioning, would that be true?
RICK BARNES: No, actually our goal is to get Dexter under 300 pounds with his equipment on, that's our goal. Really Dexter has changed his body totally. He's a different person than he was. He's worked really hard and probably has worked harder than anybody since he's been on our campus, how he's had to really change his body. But he's having a slight injury right now in his foot that set him back a little bit. He hasn't practiced with us yet. We do think when we get him back out there he can make a difference for us.

Q. As special as last year was with Kevin, how much different were things, really, offensively and defensively, because now that he's gone you are going back to whatever you were doing before him?
RICK BARNES: Well, again, going into last year, we only had four players on our spring roster. And we signed seven freshmen, and we knew we couldn't throw a lot at him. We obviously knew that we had some talented players coming in. We did put more emphasis on the offensive end probably than we had in the past. And we did get better as the year went on defensively. But it wasn't good enough. We realized that. At the end of the season we talked about that. We went back and told our guys from the time that we finished last year and to right now, we said if you're not going to play defense, you're not going to rebound, you're not going to play.
Our practices up to this point have been much more competitive. We've got some guys that are going at it pretty well. And as long as they do that we'll find a way to get it done.

Q. How much credit should D.J. get for Durant's success last year?
RICK BARNES: Kevin was the best in college basketball and he wasn't on our team. D.J. had a phenomenal year, in terms of what he did, and what made it more special, if you go back further, his family lost everything during the hurricane in New Orleans. He was really disrupted his senior year. He put on weight. And he spent all last summer trying to lose that weight, which he did. He got tired at the end of the year and didn't particularly have the run through the tournament that we all wanted and he was tired. But he had a lot to do with everybody's success, as Kevin did.
The thing that went unnoticed with all that was A.J. Abrams. A.J. as a sophomore averaged the most points of any sophomore since we've been in Texas. But he was caught in the middle of everyone talking about Kevin and obviously D.J. but A.J. put together our most consistent year last year. When you get good guard play, it makes everybody better. I think two of those guys had a lot to do with our success last year.

Q. You had four or five days to look at the freshmen, now, what do you see so far?
RICK BARNES: I like them because they're very competitive, very physical. They're going to help in the areas we've talked about. Those guys are going to help us be better defensively. They're going to help us rebound better. I like the fact that they -- these first couple of days here Alexis, he's going to go at it really, really hard. And Gary Johnson has done a great job. Clint Chapman is the typical freshman, as the year goes on and he develops physically, those other two guys are developed physically, so the physical doesn't affect them at all.
Clint is doing something he's never done, as hard as we're going right now, but those three guys are going to help us up front.

Q. As you enter the post-Durant era, you're still picked No. 2 in the Big 12. Can you talk about that? Is that a fair assessment of the talent at this point in Texas, and your overview of the Big 12 Conference this year?
RICK BARNES: I would assume the same people that are picking us No. 2 are the same people that picked the football poll this year, and that's not very smart. I don't know. I know that -- I guess it's a compliment to our program. I don't pay a whole lot of attention to it. I don't think our players do.
Consistency is what you strive for. And I think over the last ten years we've done a pretty good job of being consistent, but we still want to be the one there at the end of the year. And the last one standing. We haven't done that yet. All the preseason recognition is good, but as you know, it doesn't mean a whole lot.

Q. Eight of the 12 head coaches in the league are either first year or second year. Is that a commentary on the profession or coincidence, what are your thoughts on that?
RICK BARNES: I don't know. I can't tell you exactly. I think the business we're in, you've got to be good. I've told people all along I think you can only be as good as your administration. I think I've got the best situation in the country because I think I've got the best Athletic Director in DeLoss Dodds, and I was asked earlier in the interview about the growth we made. The growth can't be made without the administration. And I think I obviously said that I've got one of the best jobs in the country, and it's made that way by the commitment that's made by the University and our Athletic Director. You look around, I can't tell you, because I'm not at those places where changes are made, and I can't tell you exactly what goes on there unless you're living it there every day. I don't know that you -- or you shouldn't, in my situation, have an opinion on it.

Q. You have said you'd like to move Damion James more out to the perimeter this year, how is that coming along?
RICK BARNES: Well, it goes back, I mentioned we've had a full allotment of scholarships, but because of injuries there are some guys that haven't practiced yet, we haven't been able to do that. We'd like to be able to be as versatile as we can with our team. Damion I think can do that. Really all we've asked Damion to do is -- the word we've used with him is consistency. A year ago he played really well, we seemed to play our best basketball, and Damion is a guy that if he will just bring it every night we'll be okay. I don't think what we're doing is real complicated, so I think when we get everybody back and we decide to go with a bigger lineup, and players will decide that.
To be honest with you, Justin Mason is probably the reason he won't get a chance to do a lot. A year ago we went into the year thinking that we were going to play Kevin at the 3 spot or the small forward. And Justin, through his work ethic and his intensity, just wouldn't allow that. And we went into the offseason, me saying that. We'd like to get bigger. But without question, Justin Mason is our most improved player. It goes back to what I tell our guys all the time, players will decide how we're going to play. And what I've seen to this point, we'll end up playing D.J., A.J. and Justin as our guys. We'll probably play 28 to 36 minutes a game, somewhere in there.

Q. Kim Mulkey talked yesterday about how elevated the women's program in Baylor, when one of the teams won in National Championship. I can't imagine why the men's teams need more credibility. Do you think that's something that has been lacking, the Big 12 needs to win a National Championship.
RICK BARNES: It's hard to win National Championships, as we know. It's going to happen. There's too many teams in our league that have gotten close enough to be there. I do think it will happen. In terms of credibility, I'm sure it does add credibility to the league. Now, does it help everybody else recruit? I don't know. What does that exactly entail? But the fact is it's not going to hurt. But I do think we will win a National Championship. But I think every year we're going to put enough teams in position that eventually we will. Luck is a little bit part of it, but we've had, again, in the ten years that I've been here we have had teams that certainly could have done it, but for some reason it didn't work out.

Q. Obviously Gary Johnson has come back to practice and had a chance to work out. How does he look so far and do you hope that he's got any chance or do you think he's going to be able to help you out pretty soon this season?
RICK BARNES: He has been cleared to play, I mean practice, he's been cleared to practice. A date in terms of when he's going to play hasn't been determined. He's a difference maker, there's no doubt. I think that if Gary were -- if today he was cleared to play I think Gary would probably have as good a chance as anybody to be on our starting team. He's a guy that can -- he can make a difference. When you watch his practice, if you left the gym you would say, yeah, he's a difference maker.

Q. You talked about improved defense and rebounding is a must, and you've talked about the three guards playing a lot of minutes. Does that make it more difficult being small, trying to become a better defensive team and a better rebounding team?
RICK BARNES: No, because I think toughness has something to do with it there. I think that the guards have to come down in rebounding, especially the way we want to run the basketball. Obviously you would like to be as big and as tall as you could be, but if you don't have it I think that you can still go about rebounding differently. You do get concerned a little bit about small guards, as the ball gets closer to the basket. But yet we're the kind of defensive team we want to be, helping each other, we ought to be able to overcome that, too. We're hoping to get probably more help than we had a year ago, we think our interior defense could be even better, last year it wasn't very good. We had to really, really help each other down there. But as I said, it got better.
But right now the one thing that we've done every day is work on post defense. That's where I think we'll hopefully see a big improvement.

Q. With the success of Kevin Durant last year, do you think there could be unfair expectations for freshmen throughout the conference this season?
RICK BARNES: If anybody compares people with Kevin, that's a mistake, because I'm not big into comparing players. A year ago I remember coming to this that I told people if you didn't look at Kevin Durant as a freshman, I thought he'd be the best player in college basketball. Guys like that don't come along very often. I could talk forever about him and what he did. He's the most improved player we've ever coached in a three-month period. I think expectations are -- again, I don't know if anybody is comparing anybody to Kevin right now, but if they are it's not fair.

Q. Can you talk about the nature of college basketball and how one player or one recruiting class can so redefine the perception of a program?
RICK BARNES: Well, I go back to a year ago. We were down to four players in our program. A.J. Abrams being the guy that played the most minutes, and he had averaged I think right around 20 minutes as a game as a freshman and we had Connor Atchley, J.D. Lewis and Craig Winder, that was our team in the spring. We came in with seven new players, and we ended up winning 25 games last year and it caused the impact -- because of the impact of the freshman class. Not to underestimate what A.J. and Connor did for us, and even Craig Winder at the end of the year got it figured out and helped us down the stretch. But, yeah, it can happen.
And then I think the real key is, can you sustain the consistency of it. We've had a tough time. I feel like we finally have our program, I guess the word I would use, stabilized, now, when you get down to four players in the spring and your recruiting class of seven guys, really thinking that maybe two of those guys could leave after a year, which we did lose one, but we lost three the year before early to the NBA, but it doesn't stop you from recruiting, because you realize what you're just saying, they can make a difference in one year. It goes back to chasing, trying to get the big trophy, and it's because it's so hard you do everything you can every year to give yourself the best team you can put together, so maybe give you a chance to win it all. Kevin certainly carried us many times. If he were there without D.J., I don't know where we would have been. One or two guys make a huge difference.

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