October 16, 2007
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Bruce Pearl Quotes From Media Day
“Certainly this never gets old. It is for me, as special a time of the year as there is as we get started and get to practicing and as we begin to prepare and try to put things together. You never stop working, not for a minute, and you work in different areas all through the year. This is the time of the year when you try to take all those different pieces that you planned on and worked with individually and you try to put them together. So, for me, the start of basketball season and the start of basketball practice is always the most exciting time. That and probably whatever takes place in March.
“We are healthy, for the most part. The energy level has been very good, as you would expect. It is that way every place else around the country because they are fresh and they are furious.
“The emphasis has been on trying to improve in areas that we have historically, here at Tennessee, not been as strong. We are working on improving without doing anything to take away from our identity. When you think of Tennessee basketball, hopefully you do think of a style of play and hopefully you do think of a way of playing the game of basketball. Whether you want to call it different or, I don't think it's unique, but it certainly is a style. The biggest thing I've felt like Tennessee men's basketball needed was a brand, and we have that. We are just trying to build on that right now.”
Q: What is the identity of Tennessee basketball?
“I have been a head coach for 15 years and for 14 of those years we’ve led the league in scoring. The one year we didn’t lead the league, we finished second. We are going to score a lot of points. We are going to get up and down. There is a real commitment to up tempo transition basketball. We are going to press. We are going to extend defensively. I would like to think that our kids play as hard as anyone in the country. That is something we are proud of.”
Q: How do you deal with the high expectations this year?
We had a 17-point lead at halftime of the last game we played to go to the Elite Eight. That is easy. It is not difficult to keep these guys humble and hungry. Our last half of basketball, we didn’t blow it because Ohio State had a lot to do with it, they were a very good team. We certainly really appreciate what we did last year with a young basketball team that wasn’t predicted to do as well. At the same time, that left a really bad taste in our mouths. I think for the most part the guys have really trained well leading up to this point of the year.”
Q: What is the Chemistry like on this team?
“Chemistry is something that will have to evolve. If you take the 12 teams in the SEC, I do not know where you would rank our talent level but you certainly never put it in the upper half of the league. You can not. Now there are going to be some chemistry issues. Dane Bradshaw no longer is on this basketball team. That is a fact. Sometimes less is more. Dane did not require a lot of shots and he made everybody else out there better. The person I put out there in his place will probably be a better individual player but he is liable not to make everyone else better like Dane did. That is a chemistry issue. Believe me, I would rather have more to do it than less and have to wonder what you would do when Chris Lofton gets hurt for few weeks or if anybody along the front line gets in foul trouble.”
Q: How has Chris Lofton improved since last season?
“I have seen Chris Lofton’s game improve in two ways. First, he has elevated it defensively. He is now conscious of a defensive breakdown whereas before it would bother him but he would get right back on the offensive end. He understands what this team needs to do to take another step. Number two, I see Chris being more involved with the team and the team building and leadership. Not so much verbally but he’s been in my office. He’s asked more questions. He’s offered to help the other guys. He took a more active role in recruiting than he ever has. He has taken over more. This is his team. I always turn it over to the seniors. JaJuan Smith, Jordan Howell and Chris Lofton, this is their team. No matter what, you always remember your last year. You think about your senior year in high school. You remember that pretty well. You always remember your last year and that is what I am trying to impress upon those three seniors.”
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