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March 7, 2012

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Mark Fox

Gerald Robinson


CLAUDE FELTON:¬† We're joined by Coach Fox and student‑athletes Kentavious Caldwell‑Pope and Gerald Robinson.¬† We'll start with an opening statement from Coach Fox.
COACH FOX:  I always wanted to be him.
We're obviously excited to be here.  This is a great city for basketball.  This is amazing how many times I think I've been here for basketball events.  It's really a terrific city and our team's excited to be here and be a part of the tournament.
We're going to play a very good Mississippi State team.  And I think that we have a team that's continued to improve throughout the entire year and I think they're excited to play and we understand that we're going to have to play very well to win.
CLAUDE FELTON:¬† We'll take your questions just for the two student‑athletes.

Q.¬† For both players, obviously shooting is a big deal in basketball period.¬† You guys have been up‑and‑down all year, but clearly in the games you've won and clearly in the time you played Mississippi you were on.¬† Could you just talk about why it comes and goes sometimes and do you feel good coming into this particular game about being able to shoot in it this arena?
KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL‑POPE:¬† Well, to me, every good player have a bad game, some people shots be falling, some not.¬† You just got to come in focused and get ready to just make some shots, I guess.
GERALD ROBINSON:  We haven't quite been in the arena yet, but I'm pretty sure it will start with a good preparation today at shoot around and getting used to getting a good feel of our surroundings and the environment.  And there's not one thing I can specifically point out, with the inconsistencies, but we'll go with a good preparation today and that will be the first step.  And then we'll see if we can shoot the ball in tomorrow.
CLAUDE FELTON:¬† Okay.¬† We'll excuse you student‑athletes and we'll take questions for coach.

Q.  Saw that you took the guys down to the Ninth Ward today.  What was the thinking there and what was it like?
COACH FOX:  I brought my team here in 2007 for the NCAA tournament, and it really was staggering to see it up close.  I thought that at that time I thought the city just bent over backwards to make the tournament experience a good one, and I had a lot of respect for that.
So I just felt like it would be good for our players to see what people went through in this region and to see what the after‑affects of a hurricane would be like.¬† And obviously I think all these guys followed it through the news and just to see still some damaged homes, to see the ones that have been rebuilt, and I just felt like it would be a great educational thing to do.

Q.  Does it make it tougher that you guys beat Mississippi State already from the standpoint of them kind of being ready for you guys, maybe wanting a little bit of revenge?
COACH FOX:  I don't think revenge is much of a factor, really, at this level, because guys are so competitive to try and win every game.
We played really well the first game.  I thought we caught them at the right time.  I think they're a team that their starting five wasn't healthy, and I know Hood hasn't been healthy in the past couple weeks.  But their starting five, when healthy, is arguably as talented as anybody.
They have got a great first group.  So we know we're going to have to play very well.  We know we're going to have to play very complete.  But I don't think that the first game will have a lot to do with motivation for this one because we both understand that it's win or go home.

Q.  I'm just wondering what your opinion is of the nondivisional model that you guys had this year, and do you like the way it worked out?  And looking forward to expansion and everything, do you have any idea what you guys are going to do going forward?
COACH FOX:  Well, first let me say I supported the one division standings, I think that that was the right move for the league.  I felt like at the time that we should have addressed a big picture scheduling model because we still scheduled the old way, the old divisional, two division format.  But we didn't do that.  We didn't address that.  And in hindsight, it's just really a matter of one year because now we're going to have a completely new system, a completely new league, and how that's divided up, how we schedule, that's obviously not been decided yet.
I think that we're going to have to certainly look at several models and we're going to have to do a lot of research.¬† We're going to have to ‑‑ the big argument last year was, okay, Alabama finished four games ahead of Tennessee and didn't get in.¬† And that's a pretty simple argument to say, Why don't we list 1 through 12, and if Alabama would have been that far ahead of Tennessee, they would have both gotten in.
As coaches, we thought, yeah, that makes sense.  The selection committee, I don't know if they quite agreed with us on that, but we made the change.  And as we move forward, I think we not only have to look at arguments that make sense, but we need to do some research on how we're going to maximize our opportunities to get tournament bids.
And we have to look at ‑‑ it's new territory for everybody, 14‑team league or however big these leagues get, no league has found a formula proven to be successful because no league's had that many teams.¬† I think that if we're smart, we'll really try and dissect it as much as we can so we can put a plan in place that maximizes opportunities for everybody.

Q.  How much progress did you see in the Ninth Ward from when you guys visited in 2007, and how much were you hoping maybe this would be something to lend perspective for the guys as to what they're doing?
COACH FOX:  I think it gives perspective just because you can see still some very damaged areas, and I think there's been a lot of progress, obviously.  I don't know the title of the project that Brad Pitt's kind of pushing that has a lot of homes that are rebuilt with solar paneled roofs and very different looking homes, but I think there's been a lot of progress.
But obviously this city and this region had to completely rebuild.  It's amazing when some time goes by that you think that because time's passed, that everything's fixed.  Well that's probably not the case.  And that's why I'm sure that they're excited to have this tournament and the Final Four here to bring more attention and certainly consumer dollars to the region.

Q.  I think you addressed it the other day, the late tip times, 10 o'clock games, you've had a couple.  I think you have won both of them this year, if you count the Southern California game.
COACH FOX:  No, we didn't win the one last week.

Q.¬† 9 o'clock though.¬† 10 o'clock, I think you're 2‑0.
COACH FOX:  Yeah, 10 o'clock.

Q.¬† But for the lay person‑‑ it's kind of an off‑beat question, but for the lay person, what do you do when you've got such a‑‑ I mean you guys are in a hotel all day, so how different a day is it or is it at all?
COACH FOX:  That's the thing, you try and have a routine.  This is funny, Coach Richt and I talked about this in regards to college football and the routine that you have before a game, and the day before a game and how so many things are set in stone.  But our game times are so all over the map, we have these late starts, we have Sunday afternoon games, we just have had some very untraditional times.
And tomorrow will be a day that hopefully we'll be able to watch some of the games in the hotel.  We'll obviously get them up and get them moving, have a little study time, but we'll try and keep them busy.  I think it's important that we get out of the hotel at least once and go have a shoot around or a walk through just so we don't show up sluggish.  Because I think that a 10o'clock start time is a little bit unique, a little bit of a challenge, but we're going to have to deal with it.

Q.  Some of the coaches that preceded you mentioned Jarnell Stokes and the impact that they thought he had on Tennessee, you've seen Jarnell twice.  Can you just talk about the progress you saw from him from the first time you saw him in Athens to when you saw him in Knoxville?
COACH FOX:  We never played them without him, so I don't know how to tell you how he impacted their team because we've never played them without him.  He obviously probably was much more comfortable the last few weeks than he was when we played him.  And I don't think our two games were separated by too much of a time period.  I think that he obviously is somebody who, under the circumstances, was going to drastically, I think, improve because the more he got a chance to practice, the more experiences he had.
I think, like any player, you would expect him to get more comfortable.¬† I think that the advantage that he probably had, and I don't‑‑ and I can't speak for their team, but most guys have to make the physical adjustment to playing in this league, and with a body that he has, that probably was no adjustment at all.

Q.  Earlier yesterday, Coach Calipari sort of dismissed the importance or downplayed the importance of the SEC tournament.  For them, of course, they're pretty set on what they're doing forward.  What does this event do for you guys in maybe a longer term picture?
COACH FOX:  You think they're in?  You think Kentucky's in?

Q.  In what?
COACH FOX:  In the tournament.  Do you think they're going to get in?
You know, I really think that this tournament gives ‑‑ and every tournament, it gives everybody a fresh start.¬† I think that every team has a chance to play their way in, and to win and advance.¬† And I think that it gives a lot of teams a fresh chance to a new ending.¬† I think if you looked at Vanderbilt's team who started the year with an injury, I just think that they probably have been fighting to get in sync and get healthy.¬† But now, here, at the end of the year when they have all their pieces, this might be a new beginning for them.
I think that John's probably right, that this tournament probably can't really help him.  Probably can't do anything but hurt him.  If they would even fall off the number one line.  They have had such a dominant year.  But it's an important week for just about everybody else.  And hopefully we'll take advantage of that.
CLAUDE FELTON:  All right.  Thank you very much.

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