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It’s great to be back here. I’ve been gone several stops in the last
18 years. I feel like it’s an honor
and a privilege to be back here working with Lute (Olson) and working at the
Arizona. I’m excited about the possibilities of
it – competing for national championships is something this program has always
Having been in the NBA for the last
seven years, I had the opportunity in the past year to explore some college
things, and be involved in some college situations, but when it came right down
to it, the only one that I really had any interest in was this
I’m appreciative of Coach Olson for
bringing me back here and appreciative of the opportunity to coach at such a
great place in a great town.
The team seemed to lack a bit of
motivation. What can you bring to
try to motivate these players?
I’ve watch some of the game films
and I watched a lot of games on TV.
This is the first year that I really had a chance to sit and watch
college basketball. I think it’s
important that any team that is going to compete for league championships and
national championships needs to play with a high level of intensity. I’m sure our guys will do
What made you decide to come back to
the college game?
I was undecided as to whether I
would come back to college or stay in the NBA. Frankly, I had some other opportunities
in the NBA that I could have pursued, but the thing that really intrigued me was
the coming back to Arizona.
If I was going to come back to college basketball, it was going to be at
a place of Arizona’s caliber, and preferably at a place
where I know people. This was a
good opportunity that happened at the right time.
Do you now see your long-term future
I never ...I’m not sure I have a
long term future (laughs). The way
that I’ve been in the business, I’ve moved – I was in the college ranks for a
while, and then in the NBA you move quite frequently. For me, I just try to take this thing
one season at a time and see what it brings. It would be nice to get a feel for
college basketball again, to see if it’s what I remember it as. Unfortunately, it probably is
(laughs). I don’t have any
long-term plans to be honest with you.
I want to coach for another 25 years. That’s my only long-term
Are you ready to get on the
recruiting trail and all of that good stuff?
I don’t mind recruiting at all. I never did mind recruiting as long as
you are recruiting at a high level.
At times I’ve gotten tired of recruiting. Al lot of times it depends on where you
are recruiting to. I won’t mind
that at all. I’ve traveled way more
during the NBA season than you travel in college. To me that won’t be an adjustment at
How much do you think your NBA
experience will help you in recruiting?
I think, unfortunately, every kid
thinks he’s going to play in the NBA.
If you went to any lockerroom and said how many guys think they are going
to play in the NBA, I think a lot of hands would go up. The thing that players don’t understand
is that it very difficult to play at that level. It’s very, very difficult to achieve at
that level and even more so. I
think it will help. I think kids
want to talk about the NBA. They
want to hear the NBA. I don’t think
it will hurt. I don’t think it will
make the ultimate decision.
What can you bring from that
experience in the NBA to this program?
I just think I got to be a whole lot
better of a coach. It’s been often
a misnomer that NBA coaches don’t ‘really coach.’ You make a lot of decisions in every NBA
game. There are 14 to 18 timeouts
depending on the TV stuff. There
are all kinds of decisions down the stretch. If anything, I’ve become a better coach
in the last seven years and would hope that I could learn more and become a
better coach and learn more this year.
The thing I could say to anyone at
this level that is true at the NBA level is that no matter you coach at or play
at, if you don’t do it to the hardest of your ability, you are not going to be
successful. I’ve now been fortunate
to coach on every level as a head coach and an assistant. I have learned that if you don’t play
hard every night and every practice, you will not be successful. If anything, the NBA made me realize
that more than anything.
Defensively, is it a change in the
scheme or the mentality that is needed here?
I haven’t really talked to Lute
specifically about that. I’ve
always been a man-to-man defensive guy.
I’ve always been a guy who felt that defense wins championships and wins
games. I think that holds true in
most every league you play in no matter what level it’s at. I would say that I’m a defensive
oriented guy first. I would hope
that our team ends up being a very good defensive team.
How have you changed since the last
time you were in a role here?
The things that haven’t changed
about me that I really would never want to change is that I love the game of
basketball and I love coaching.
Like I said, I want to do it for another 25 years. It’s my hope that my love of the game
would never change. This past year
was a test for me. I wasn’t
coaching for the first time in 27 years and it was really difficult for me. It happened at the right time. My mom passed away in December, so I was
able to be there for that. I think
the basketball gods were kind of looking out for me and now it’s time to get
back to work.
How much of an adjustment will it be
to be an assistant coach on this level?
I’ve learned over the course of my
time in the NBA that it doesn’t matter if you are a head coach or an assistant
coach. It matters who you are
working with and what program you’re at.
Assistant coaches dictate often times how much you win and how much you
lose. They are a big part of
winning and losing just like the head coach.
Will it bother my ego to be an
assistant in college? Not one
bit. I don’t want to be an
assistant in college at Northbrook College, you know what I’m saying? This is a unique situation, obviously,
for me to come back to the college ranks as an assistant because it’s someplace
that I have a great love for and a guy that’s coaching that I have great respect
for. So that’s why I’m here more
Do you get the sense that people
feel that you are the “big fix?”
If they do, I hope they are
right. I don’t know what’s been
wrong. I haven’t been associated
with it. To me, there isn’t much
wrong, to be honest with you. How
many straight NCAAs (tournament appearances)? Twenty-three. If that’s wrong, I think we’d all take
that. I just hope that I can add
something to help the team be better every day...to help Lute do a better job
and help the university win. I
don’t really see myself as a fix. I
just hope I can contribute in ways that are positive.
How did this come
It was toward the end of Arizona’s regular season
or maybe the Pac-10 Tournament.
Coach just asked me what I was doing...what was going on. Stuff like that. Then I didn’t hear from him at all for a
long time. I had a chance to talk with him a
couple of other times. It just went
from there. I talked with several
people. A guy that I have great
faith in, Mark Bartlestein, who has been my agent for a long, long time. I spent a lot of time with Mark talking
about this, talking with my wife Roberta about it. It was an opportunity to do this for the
first time in a long time. You
don’t get out of NBA contracts. You
have to be out of them (laughs) in order to take this opportunity. It just kind of came about in
During this year, I explored a lot
of things in college situations. I
talked to some people about their jobs.
I was offered a few jobs.
But I wasn’t determined to go back to college. I want to reiterate that this is one of
the few places that I would come to be involved in college basketball. I think the reasons are obvious. I appreciate what Lute did for me. He got me a start, got me the Marquette job. He has been instrumental in a lot of my
successes. More than college
basketball per se, it was Arizona basketball that caught my attention
more than anything.
What about your future beyond Lute
That has never come up. That’s never been talked about with
myself with Lute or with (athletic director) Jim Livengood. That’s not part of the equation as far
as I’m concerned. The only part of
the equation that I’m really concerned about do we get better this year...go
farther. (Succeeding Lute) has
never been talked about at all.
Have you had a chance to speak with
I have not. I don’t think that’s my place because I
wasn’t involved in that. I have the
utmost respect for Jim Rosborough as a coach. I think he’s had a great career of
coaching basketball. I think he was
a big part of this program for a long, long time. I have not spoken to him and at some
point, I’m sure I will. I’d like
to. I worked with him at Tulsa when I was there
(1985-86) and have a lot of respect for what he’s accomplished and helped the
program accomplish over the years.
He’s been a big part of the successes.
What do you make of the comparisons
between Sean Elliott and Chase Budinger?
I just saw Chase on TV a few
times. He’s obviously a very
talented guy. You always hear
comparisons of players to players.
If he ends up as good as Sean, he’s going to have one heck of an NBA
career. I’ve always stayed in touch
with Sean. I think the world of
him. That guy had a great career
and accomplished many things outside of playing basketball that all of us would
be proud of doing. If Chase ends up
like Sean, then we have a hell of a player.
What’s the biggest difference with
working with NBA players and those in college?
I didn’t find any difference. When you got NBA players in individual
work, I thought they worked much harder than any of the college guys ever worked
out. The NBA has its own set of
problems also and those are well documented. For the most part, players are players
at any level. If you demand of
them, work them hard and have expectations of them, I think they will try to
meet them. I really didn’t notice a
big difference between the NBA and college guys. I enjoyed working with guys on both
How does toughness factor into
competing in this conference?
I think naturally as a team we’d
like to get tougher. You always
want to be more hard-nosed. I have
great respect for what the rest of the coaches in this league have done. This is a great basketball league. It’s our job to be competing for Pac-10
Championships and national championships.
That would be our goal.
Anything I can do to help, I’m going to give my best effort and put in
the time and work as hard as I can to help us get better.
Do you expect to have autonomy over
You guys all know Lute well enough
to know that no one has autonomy except him (laughs). He didn’t hire me for my looks or my
offensive prowess or any of that.
I’ve been fortunate to have had a good niche in the NBA and in college of
being a good defensive coach. That
would be something that I would think that he would want to get input from me on
among other things. Yes,
defensively, I’m sure I’m going to be involved with that
Are you still the firey practice
coach who is not afraid to get in anyone’s face?
That changes in the NBA. You don’t get in anyone’s face in the
NBA. You basically coach hard. I didn’t have any problem ever telling
NBA players what I thought should be done or what’s expected. I have no problem pushing guys at any
level. I think that’s
important. The important thing is
that our players push themselves and push each other. We push them and they push us and we all
are pushing in one direction.
That’s going to be the important thing for us. You do things hard. That’s something that I would like to
think that I would always bring to the table is an intensity to do things the
right way and the hard way.
How do you make a team
Some guys are just naturally tougher
than others. Let’s face it. That’s just the way it goes. But I think you have to set down an
expectation level about what’s tough and what’s not. If you are ducking out of charges, you
are not very tough. If there is a
loose ball on the floor and our jersey isn’t on it, then we’re not tough
enough. There are certain measures
of toughness that we all can see.
It’s easy to tell which team is tougher often times on the court. Changing that or improving that are a
cultural mentality more than anything.
A lot of guys talk tough.
The guys you should worry about are the guys who don’t talk at all and
they just knock your socks off.
Those are the guys that are really tough. Being tough mentally is as important as
physically. If you are tough
mentally, you will do the right thing every time. A consistency in intensity and toughness
would help any team get better.