March 16, 2009
University of Washington men's basketball coach Lorenzo Romar addressed members of the media today via teleconference. He talked primarily about the Huskies' upcoming NCAA Tournament first round game against Mississippi State:
"We're watching a lot of film, talking about pre, pre-staff meeting talk - what we think about our opponent, what we have to do to be successful. That's about it. "
"We'll take off tomorrow about 1:30. (Bus). We'll practice today and tomorrow morning and then we'll head down. "
Do you know more about Miss. State's big guy (Jarvis Varnado)?
"He's very versatile. He's got great timing. He's not just a shot-blocker because he can jump. He's got great timing. He's got an uncanny ability to go up and get the shot, without leaving his feet all the time. He's got great quickness and offensively he has a way of getting to the basket."
Comparison to (USC's) Taj Gibson?
"I would say Taj is a little more versatile offensively. When I watch (Varnado), he reminds me of Jelani McCoy, at that age, who played at UCLA at that age. I think Taj Gibson is a very good shot blocker, but I don't think he's quite the shot blocker that this guy is."
Coaches bonding together by conference? Do you make calls to teams who have played your opponent?
"It does. I haven't talked to anyone myself, but the thing that people don't realize about coaches and this coaching fraternity, is that during the year, we fight and compete and get after it, but across the board, across the country, most coaches are watching other coaches programs just to see what's going on. You run into each other in recruiting, on the road, but yet you are happy to see each other. For instance, the Nike coach's trip takes place and you're happy to see everybody there. You get along fine. Coaches golf together, eat together, dance together, laugh together and have a great time. The coaching fraternity is really close and guys get along really well, besides this time of year, bonding.
Any thought to call any of those SEC coaches?
"Oh yeah. I'm sure, just like Mississippi State, everyone who knows everyone will talk about different teams."
Having a night and day to study them, how much more do you know about Mississippi State?
"Well, they are very quick. Very tenacious defensively, very scrappy. They can really hit the 3. If they get going from 3, they can present a lot of problems. "
Stylistically, do they mirror anyone in the Pac-10?
"No. I would say closer to Oklahoma State. When we played Oklahoma State non-conference, Oklahoma State played pretty much four guards, but Oklahoma State didn't have the big shot blocker in the middle."
Do you agree with the national media piling on the historically strong SEC because teams are down this year?
"There may be some truth to that. When you look at the SEC, teams of the highest profile, their names are probably Florida and Kentucky. And regardless of what everyone else does, there might be that perception because (Florida and Kentucky) are not one of the tops this year. Maybe they feel the conference is really down. That happens sometime in our conference with UCLA and Arizona. "
Best advice from Jim Harrick about what it takes to win in March?
"Having worked with him, there's not any single word that he told me. I was with Coach Harrick for four years, and watched how he prepared for it. We've been in our own tournaments, and we've tried to prepare for it. Obviously you have to be playing your best basketball at this time. You can't have a bad game. Your bad game can be your last. It helps when you don't have injuries, and I think it's real important that your players don't give into distractions. Family and friends all want tickets; they all want to hang out with you at the hotel. They say, `We'll meet there and hang out.' No, we can't meet there and hang out. Serious business here. You have to keep your players from being too distracted."
Are you worried about that with Isaiah?
"No. A guy like Isaiah, that has such a passion for this game and is such a student with this game, he's not going to waste this opportunity with distractions. He himself. Sometimes others can, but with the freshmen in this case, I don't think that's going to happen. The other thing with our team is that our senior leadership is not going to make that happen. "
You went to a Kent-Hargrave game and got a chance to see Dee Bost. Did he leave an impression on you?
"Yeah, I thought he played really hard. He was a serious competitor. He took big shots, hit big shots. Just a fearless, fearless guard. That's what I remembered. "
Is he still trying to find his role?
"I'm sure that he's gone through that. But they have so many guards and so many guys that are like size. He's just kind of found his way it seems. And he has done a decent job of distributing the ball this year."
Is there a team in the Pac-10 that could hit those deep shots and play a solely perimeter game?
"Well, Arizona State, Cal, those two, Stanford, those three of those teams, even UCLA, they can hit the 3-ball. But I would say more like Oklahoma State as opposed to anyone in our Pac-10 conference."
How much do you think Isaiah is embracing the big stage of the NCAA stage?
"I think this is something he's probably been looking forward to since the day he decided he was coming to Washington. Getting there and eventually playing in the NCAA Tournament. So I would say he's probably going to embrace it pretty good. "
Does Coach Cameron Dollar spend time telling people that he inbounded to Tyus Edney for the big shot?
"I don't know if that's come up. In the other years, when we went to the tournament, that's never come up. Maybe this will be the year."
Coach, how difficult this year, when you have to (potentially) play back-to-back major conference tournament champions?
"When you are in the NCAA Tournament, you take what's given to you. You prepare all year to play one of the best 65 teams in the country. And you work towards beating the even better of the 65 down the road. We can't be too selective. We were not in the tournament the last two years. It doesn't matter how tough our opponent is. We're in the NCAA Tournament. "
Clearly, you play who you were given, but do you feel like you have an extra-tough draw?
"Oh there's no doubt that we're playing against a tough opponent in our first round. You win the Southeastern Conference tournament, you're a good team. There's no doubt about that. Miss. State is a good basketball team. In terms of your question, yes I would agree. It's a better team than I would expect to play against as a 13 seed. However, that's who we are playing against. So we have to go play."
Have you seen what they've been doing the last 6-to-8 games when they've been playing well.
"Oh yeah. It sounds like there have been a couple of lineup changes here or there, and it sounds like a couple of players have really stepped up, not unlike our team. "
Were there any stylistic changes, or is it guys playing better?
"I just think that they've made more of a commitment to doing things right. And they've kind of drawn a line in the sand, saying that this is how it's going to be, and this is who we're going to go with. And it seems like it's caught the team's attention."
Mississippi State thinks it's playing its best basketball. Do you feel that way about your team?
"No, I don't think we're clicking offensively right now. Early on, we were making shot offensively. There are teams in our league that were going that well and then all of a sudden they can't put the ball in the basket with regularity, and they've bounced back. And there would be no greater time for us to bounce back, playing with intensity."
How big a deal is the geography? UCLA is going to Philly, ASU is going to Miami, etc.
"I'd like to think that it would be helpful. I think we're going to have more support in Portland than we would have in Philadelphia or Miami. I think that helps. Familiarity helps, but once you get out there on the floor the dimensions of the floor and the court are all the same, so you still have to go play. But you would much rather be in a situation where we are, than another one a long ways away, different time zones."
Mississippi State guard Phil Turner, does he remind you of anyone?
"Yeah. Sorry, but I have to keep going back to Oklahoma State. They had their guy (Obi Muonelo), he was (6-5), very undersized, but he was their leading rebounder. Both guys sometimes proved to be more mismatches for the other team."
How important is it for your guards to attack the shot blocker?
""I think it's important that we're aggressive. I think it's important that we're not tentative. If we're fearful of getting our shot blocked, it will get blocked more than it would be if we were just aggressive. He's going to block shots. That's for sure. He's done it with regularity the past couple of years. But it's important for us to not get away from that."