Everything Rick Barnes said about Vols’ game against Arkansas

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    Vols head basketball coach Rick Barnes met with the media on Tuesday to preview Wednesday night’s game against Arkansas.

    Barnes discussed the status of freshman guard Jaden Springer, how his team has responded to the loss to Alabama, what the Razorbacks do well, why Drew Pember received minutes against the Crimson Tide, on Josiah-Jordan James getting more of a look at the four and how John Fulkerson has specifically responded to the Alabama game.

    Here’s everything Barnes said about Tennessee’s next game against Arkansas:

    On the status of freshman guard Jaden Springer after hurting his left ankle against Alabama:

    “He didn’t work out yesterday but he was on the floor today and did pretty much what everybody else did.”

    On if Springer will be able Wednesday night against Arkansas:


    On the NCAA’s decision to move the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament to the state of Indiana:

    “I don’t think that anybody is surprised. If you’re going to pick one site to go to, you’d go to Indianapolis. If you took a poll of all Division I, Division II and Division III coaches that have been in coaching for a long time, that would be one of the top cities. If you said you had to pick a place to go, Indianapolis would be one of them because of the way things are laid out there. Obviously, this is going to be different. When you talk about a basketball state, we know how much the state of Indiana takes pride in their basketball. I’m sure, with this year, there’s still going to be a lot that’s going to be learned from now until when that tournament gets here. Overall, I think everybody’s excited that we know we’re moving forward to try to have a postseason tournament.”

    On why Drew Pember received minutes in the first half against Alabama:

    “I felt like we were stuck. I just felt like we did not come out with the same intensity. When we got down, I just felt like we got stretched out too far. We got away from all of our base principles. You just try some things sometimes just to see if you can get something else going. Maybe someone can bring you a spark. Drew did OK. He got put in a tough situation with a pass one time where he wasn’t ready. He actually took a charge that wasn’t called, which our big thing with him is defense. Overall, we actually tried everything just to see if we could get a spark from somebody to jolt us out of where we were but we never could get anything going.”

    On what Sunday’s film session was like and how he feels the team has responded to the loss to Alabama:

    “As you can imagine, it was tough because they have to look at it again and see the things that we didn’t do well. I think they saw that we didn’t do anything well. I don’t want to take away anything from Alabama. They won the game, but we didn’t resemble anything that we’ve practiced, that we try to do. With that said, we had a ton of wide open shots that we missed. We didn’t shoot the ball well from the free throw line. We missed shots at the rim, missed dunks, missed tip-ins. Believe me, we got a lot of wide open shots. You know they’re going to make some threes. That’s what they do, but it wasn’t the threes that bothered us so much, from a coaching staff’s standpoint. It was getting blown by to the rim shots where we stopped helping each other in the gaps. We got frozen and we simply weren’t concentrating, thinking about what we need to do. We can’t play like that.”

    On what makes Tennessee’s defense so good and how Bob Kloppenburg has influenced his coaching style:

    “From the time that I got into coaching, I would say that the defense is what we’ve done. Through the years, maybe not as many defensive breakdown drills. We used to break it down any and every way you could. When Mike Schwartz came back to be a part of our staff here, Mike and I were talking about it and I told him, ‘We can take the defense to another level. You can take it and run with it.’ He’s the guy that made contact with Bob (Kloppenburg). They’ve developed a friendship. Obviously, Eric (Musselman) would know him from his time in the NBA and through Eric’s father, who at the time were two terrific coaches. If you know anything about Mike, he’s like a sponge. He never stops trying to learn. He’s always looking back. I talk often about how much older coaches that are no longer coaching have had a tremendous influence on my life in a lot of different things. I think the key to all of this is that if you ever stop trying to learn, you might as well quit. That’s the one thing we try to do every year – look at what we do defensively, or offensively and see how we can make it better. Mike himself has done a great job of taking the defense and running with it. Like I said, he’s had phone conversations with Bob.”

    On how cool it is that Bob Kloppenburg is still helping out current coaches at 93-years old:

    “I think it’s really cool because I think if you talk to anybody that knew Bob, they would tell you that he was a pure basketball man. That’s what he loved. You go back to those guys that stayed in the game for a long time, even assistant coaches, (stayed in the game) long past when people thought they could, because people, coaches, head coaches want that kind of knowledge around them. They’ve seen a lot. They’ve seen it all, maybe not all because we keep seeing something new every day. They had seen a lot. The fact is, they are people that you love having around. My college coach was a tremendous influence on me after I left college because Coach Hodges just loved the game. Until we lost him, he was as big of a fan as anybody that we had. Just to have someone that you know, who’s older and has been around it, that you can run some things by, knowing that you’re going to get the truth (is important). I think it is neat. I know how much Mike enjoys talking to him, but I also know that Bob enjoys having the chance to still talk basketball with someone like Mike.”

    On if he likes the casual wear this season compared to the business look:

    “I like casual. There’s no doubt I like the casual. It’s especially good on the road, because you don’t need to change. We would always change before we got back on the bus or the plane coming back. I do like it. I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t. Back in the day a lot of people would feel like you wouldn’t be respecting the game if you didn’t do what came before you, but I always go back to watching professional football when I was young. I remember watching Vince Lombardi, Paul Brown and every head coach in the NFL be decked out with a suit and tie and now no one does that anymore. I remember Tom Landry and all of those guys had their deal. Now, you look at baseball and they come out in a baseball uniform and do their deal that way. The way we are now, is basically the way we are in practice every day. So, I like it. I really do.”

    On Josiah-Jordan James getting more of a look at the four spot:

    “I obviously didn’t like the fouls that Yves picked up. He didn’t get to play but a bit over 20 minutes which hurt a lot. With Josiah, it’s just things we’re working on now. We’re not totally where we want to be with that lineup, but we’re doing a little more each day. We like it when Yves is out there, because when Yves moves to the five, we feel like that gives us a chance to be our best defensive team. It’s not just the offensive end we’re talking about, it’s the defensive end. We still have work to do on both sides of the ball. There’s no question we’ll use it and whatever the game dictates, we’ll use it.”

    On how John Fulkerson has responded to the Alabama game:

    “I think it’s obvious that teams are going to be physical with John. They’re going to be physical. They’re going to meet him high and around the rim. So, he’s going to have to work harder than he’s ever worked for space on the floor. He’s going to learn to play quicker. He’s going to need to get back to playing the way he was at the end of last year and he hasn’t played that way. It’s almost like he keeps waiting and it’s taking away space from him. We also need our perimeter players to do a better job of delivering the ball sooner, faster and quicker. We haven’t gotten that timing down consistently the way we need it to be. It’s up to Fulky. Fulky is the kind of guy you don’t need to run a lot of plays for. He knows enough about the game, that once we get into our free movement, he knows how to move and get the ball in the areas he needs to. He’s got to get back to that. When you watch him, he’s not bringing any of the thrust that we need him to bring. Whether he’s going into a ball screen, or moving off that ball screen, just anything, he needs to bring more thrust to it.”

    On if Fulkerson is physically ok:

    “I think he is. The thumb is there and I think it will take some time with that, but Fulky is a guy that needs to take care of his body. He has to do it. He has to work hard at keeping his weight up. We don’t want his weight to drop. He’s down a bit more than we want him to be, but he’s been around long enough that he needs to understand what all goes into this. Especially now more than ever he has a target on his back. He’s going to get game planned for, first and foremost. That means that he’s going to have to deal not only his opponent who’s guarding him, but there’s going to be a lot of eyes on him when he gets the ball.”

    On if opponents who don’t shoot the three as well will game plan to drive to the basket:

    “That had been the plan for everyone. The problem is, that everyone we’ve played this year has tried to do that. We did our work in our gaps, but we didn’t do that the other day. We weren’t helping anyone with the ball and when you look back at it, when you know you’re switched, you have to be in your gap. You can’t be guarding your man and try to help and then get back to a good 3-point shooting team. You have to get to where you’re supposed to be to start with, so one, they don’t see the floor wide open and two, you’re there and ready to make a play in the gap. We had played against other teams that had driven the ball, but we had much better support defense. WE had none whatsoever against Alabama. Teams that shoot three’s are going to shoot three’s. You can’t stop them from shooting them. I’ve told teams in the past that 15 three’s won’t beat you. You just can’t let them have their three’s in other areas where you know you can’t give it to them.”

    On what he expects from Arkansas following its loss to Missouri:

    “Just like teams that shoot it and challenge you every night, I could go back and tell you that it’s a game of make and misses. The other night we had a lot of wide-open shots with really good players. Guys like Santi and others we want to shoot it. When you’re playing a team like Arkansas that has three terrific guards that are averaging in double-figure points, you know they have the ability to put up big numbers. What you hope is that you defend them well enough, so that they don’t get comfortable. You could tell the other day that Alabama got zoned in and put us back on our heels and we deserved it. We deserved it, because we weren’t doing the things we should be doing. I think when you look at Arkansas and Eric (Musselman) does a good job of picking his matchups that he wants to go after. He does a good job with the analytics and pushing guys certain ways. He’s going to play all of that. We know good and well they’re going to get on Santi’s left shoulder. They’re going to be on his left side, daring him to go right. They’ll do that with other players they want to do it with, so it’s a matter of us doing what we need to do to combat that. In our league, on any given night—I go back to this, not everyone has had a chance to get everything going the way they want to, so if you’re not ready to play, you’re going to get beat. I don’t care what people think should happen, because there are teams in this league that are capable of beating not just anyone in our league, but anyone in the country.”

    On if he expects Arkansas to shoot better than it did against Missouri:

    “I go into every game expecting people to shoot well. That’s probably one of the biggest fears you have as a coach is when you go into playing somebody that shoots a lot of threes. One thing we know is that the three is the great equalizer. And like I’ve said, we’ve won games where teams have made 15 threes over the years. What that does is maybe it keeps the game close and on edge, where maybe you have to go down and answer some way somehow, but you can’t give them 15 threes then put them on the free throw line more than you get there. Arkansas does a great job, and I think it’s one of their big deals, trying to make more free throws than you shoot. They work hard at getting fouled. But you can’t give a three-point shooting team that, fouls and baskets at the rim. And you have to take care of the ball. You have to make sure you’re getting your opportunities at the other end.”

    On what makes Yves Pons such an effective shot blocker for his size:

    “I think what makes him so good at it is I think he enjoys doing it. He really does. He has athletic ability there, he does have great timing. He did a great job Saturday. He got a couple tough calls, but he’s really learned how to do it without fouling to be honest with you, he’s really good at it. But it’s something that I think he really enjoys doing. He takes pride in wanting to defend and rebound the ball and we call them fix-it plays where he know that he will come over to do it. I’ve said in the past that we need more guys to help us with fix-it plays and not always rely on Yves.”

    On what is at the top of his scouting report for Arkansas:

    “They’re fast, and like I said, they’re extremely well coached, so it’s going to be a high-paced game and they’ll shoot it quick and if they feel like they have a shot that they’ve worked on with their individual work and all that, they’re going to shoot it. So getting matched up early is really important. We’re going to have to guard the drive because they’re going to try to get fouled and they’re going to drive the ball hard, they’re going to test us that way. We’re going to have to have good recovery defense and rebound the ball with those long shots. We simply are going to have to be ready to play a high-level defensive game because regardless of what they did last game, they’ve proven they can put up a lot of points. I think Eric (Musselman) does a great job of picking where he wants them and how he wants something done. If he wants to pick on someone or two people, whatever it may be. On the other end, we have to be a whole lot better than we were offensively the other night. Taking about them not shooting it well, we didn’t shoot it well. We did not have a good night shooting the basketball.”

    On how he is preparing for Arkansas given the attrition from last season:

    “Their guards, between them they have over 45 points per game, somewhere in there. I know they’ve got three guys in double figures that can go get a bunch early. They put pressure on you by the way they drive the ball. Eric (Musselman) is a guy with his experience who is going to play the analytics. The other night, I’ sure they would love to get us in some ball screen actions where they get a switch and get the matchup they want and things like that. We’ve simply got to get better at what we do. I will tell you, after watching the game, I was pretty upset with Fulky (John Fulkerson) after the game. Watching him on tape, defensively, wasn’t nearly as bad as I felt at that point in time after the game. We left him out there on an island all by himself. That’s not his fault. There’s no doubt he was trying to do the things that he needs to do. We’re a team who’s defense is based strictly on everybody doing their job. It’s all team-based. The other night, we didn’t show anything of what we’re supposed to do.”

    On if offensive basketball evolving has changed how he recruits:

    “There’s no doubt the game has changed, the three-point line changes it and we’d be kidding ourselves not to think that there isn’t an NBA influence as well. You watch the NBA, those guys bomb that thing from way out there and they work so hard at it. When you think about it and start comparing games, you really can’t because they have a wider lane and you don’t realize that difference in their three-point shot. We tell our guys all the time, you can’t play inside the three-point line with two feet. We have an NBA line out on our practice court that we try to play outside of because of what has happened in today’s game. Guys will come across and if you’re not there they’ll raise up and shoot it. So yeah, the game has evolved different ways through the years, but yet you see different things going on every year in the NBA and I think we all watch it because it’s the highest level of basketball and the best players in the world. They do it 365 days a year, seven days a week and have terrific coaches.

    “You can learn a lot not only there, but I can tell you this, I’ve gone into high school gyms and have learned things. We talked about Bob Kloppenburg earlier. I had two great coaches that I worked with, Gary Williams and Wimp Sanderson that have had great influences on me, some of the things that they do, we still do. We do it today and have a little bit of both of them. You have to keep continually making yourself. I think you look around right now with football, you look around with what’s happening there. I’ve kept up enough with Nick Saban’s comments where he made the comment that he’s not sure if great defense wins championships anymore. Time of possession maybe isn’t as important as it used to be because you’re trying to score quicker. So to answer that question, you really have to evolve and keep working. The biggest mistake you can make — and I felt like this a little bit Saturday after we lost — is asking guys sometimes to do things they can’t do. Even though in my mind, I have to believe the things that we ask our guys to do, they can do it. But sometimes you wonder ‘maybe the things I’m asking of them, they can’t do.’ I think the biggest mistake you can make in coaching is you can watch the best of the best and thinking you’re going to run it just like them.

    “I remember one year I was out in Los Angeles and went  by to see Coach Wooden and asked him when he retired, how many coaches came to see him. He said the first year he was out, almost daily college coaches came by. That went on for a year, year and a half, maybe two years. And he said after that,  high school coaches would call and they would come by. He said he had a high school coach come in one day and he had a film with him and he said ‘coach I want you to know that I don’t think I can run your offense than we did this year, but we got all the shots we wanted to out of the offense but we didn’t make them.’ Coach Wooden told me he looked at the guy and said ‘well maybe you should have spent more time on shooting.’ I think that’s important. You can learn schemes and watch schemes, but you still have to watch what’s going on and you can’t put guys in positions where they can’t do things. When this game is played right, it’s a beautiful game to watch. It really is when you have five guys that are in sync and moving the ball. We felt a little bit of that at Missouri, but for whatever reason, you exhale for a second and it can get away from you. For as long as it took you to get there, it can get away a lot quicker. But when you play this game the right way, I’ll tell you what, it’s good to be around and it’s fun to watch.”

    On Springer’s status:

    “He’ll be back. He practiced today.”

    On Springer’s impact on the game:

    “It’s important. We basically played the game the other day with two guys that we count on quite a bit. I still think we’re good enough to handle what goes on, but we didn’t. You’re asking about shooting. I’m hoping guys stay healthy and (we) get our best group of guys out there and the combination we put out there can play well and do what we need them to do.”

    On Arkansas freshman Justin Smith not being available against Tennessee:

    “I think as time goes on you do make those adjustments. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody because it’s happened to all of us at some point. The more (time) over the next couple of weeks that he’s not there, I do think they will adjust; and when he goes back, they will be that much better for it.” Eric (Musselman) has been around a long time. Eric’s a terrific coach. He’ll make the adjustments that he needs to make with what he’s got. With whatever he’s got, I promise you he’s going to put them in the best position possible he thinks they need to be in to win basketball games.”

    On what he saw from the guys in practice the last few days:

    “We treat winning and losing the same. We have our routine, and we go through it. When you play on Saturday, Sunday is our day off. I think when the players see it, most of it is mostly watching themselves, it’s disappointing when you feel like you haven’t played up to the standard that you’ve worked up to play to. It’s not to take anything away from your opponent, but I think every team in the country feels if they play the way they’re capable of, they’ve got a chance to win every single night. The fact is, we watched it and we showed the things that we didn’t do. We did not get very good defensive guard play from a couple guys that we’re counting on, and that hurt a lot. Then we expect those guys to go out on the court. We clean up the things we didn’t do well. We expect them individually to understand, ‘Okay, this is what I didn’t do, and I’ve got to get better at it.’ It’s all about being real, being honest—I think everybody’s got to speak truth, and sometimes that’s hard to hear. One thing I said over and over was that tape doesn’t lie. It tells you exactly what went on. You hope that everybody looks at it and takes it in and says, ‘Yeah, I made these mistakes, and I’ve got to fix it.’ Is it disappointing? It is, but you’ve got to let it go. You’ve got to get on to the next game and realize that if you have anything lingering behind where you’re not thinking, whether psychologically or getting yourself prepared physically as well as mentally, you’ll drop another one. You’ve got to have a short memory, but in some ways, you’ve got to have a long memory. You’ve got to be able to understand that ‘Hey, I’ve got a job to do. My teammates are counting on me to do it, and I’ve got to do it.'”