On his new seven-year contract:
“I’m real pleased that we got this done. This gives us a chance to feel comfortable about the university and to complete the job I came here to do, and when I do, it will probably be time to step down. My goal is to win a national championship. The (NCAA) investigation (in 1996) slowed us down, but now I feel like we’re getting close.”
On the 2000-2001 Razorbacks:
“Our kids are more experienced. We can get right into the nuts and bolts of what we’re doing. My game isn’t the easiest to pick up. Last year, in the last month, we got in shape, got over illnesses, sicknesses and (family) deaths. This year, everybody has worked hard and is in good shape. We’re set. We’re a whole team, which is the way we were at the SEC Tournament last year. Everybody is here, has played and has been in the conditioning program, except for Joe (Johnson), and he’s gotten individual attention in the mornings.
“I want other teams to have to match us up. We don’t match up with other teams. Our defense doesn’t allow us to because we play defense 94 feet most of the time.
“I’ve been excited since the end of last season. I have a job to do. We’re going to be in the hunt for something. I’ve been focused from the day last season ended. We must start the regular season with the focus that we are going to do the things necessary to be successful.
“With Teddy (Gipson), Brandon (Dean), Joe, Carl (Baker) and Dionisio (Gomez), from my standpoint of coaching here the last 15 years, I don’t think I’ve ever had those types of players. Dionisio and Carl can guard a guard and play the front of our press.
“I’m excited because we have so many different ways to attack. I’ve looked at tapes of Nebraska football. I’m a funny guy. Nebraska always does the same thing. They have cohesiveness. We have coaches that have been here a while and the key is for us to do the things that have made us successful.
“I think we have the best core group of guards in the country. We may not have the best two, but as a group, I don’t think anybody has any better.
“I tell them all the time we’re not going to lose any games, and they take on the way I think and talk. I’m glad to hear Brandon (Dean) was saying (Arkansas shouldn’t lose).
“I really believe they believe we could have something special here. They see (Alonzo) Lane is better, (Larry) Satchell has been with us all year (after joining the team at mid-season last year) and the same for Joe. He was playing his way into shape as we went last year.
“Of all the teams I’ve coached, this team can really shoot the ball, but when you put a striped shirt on the floor and fans in the stands, those are different kids on the floor. That’s why we tell them to take practice to the game.
“I honestly feel this team, if they don’t have injuries and everything falls into place, has a great chance (to make a Final Four run). What I see that I like about this team are match up problems for other teams. Now there could be a foul here or a missed free throw there and that could change everything. Starting off, I’m very happy with this team and excited about the season.”
On last year:
“In the last month of the season, you could see it coming. In the game at (No. 12) Kentucky (an 86-72 loss), our kids grew up because they felt they should have won that game. The same thing happened at (No. 10) Tennessee (a 73-66 loss). By the time we got to the SEC Tournament, our confidence was pretty high. I thought that if we could get by the first game, something positive could happen.
“In the NCAA Tournament, our inexperience and fear caught up with us (75-71 first-round loss to No. 23 Miami, Florida). By the time we got ready to play, time had run out in the game.”
On junior guards Teddy Gipson, Brandon Dean and Jannero Pargo:
“Teddy has talent you can’t teach. I don’t think I’ve ever had a player that can run a lap and you can’t hear him. He needs to play with the attitude that ‘Joe is good, but he’s no better than me.’ You don’t take back seats to anybody. The same goes for (Brandon) Dean and (Jannero) Pargo. I haven’t coached Pargo, but he has the chance to be an impact player for us.”
On sophomore guard Joe Johnson, a preseason All-America pick coming off a left ankle injury which required surgery and has limited his pre-practice activity:
“He finally played a pickup game this week. He’s set to go for Midnight Madness. Joe will be hesitant until he gets it clear in his mind (that he’s recovered). Eventually, that should smooth itself out. He’s a finesse, smooth, under control type of player.”
On sophomore forward Carl Baker:
“He was the guy, to me, that made big plays last year with a blocked shot here or a rebound there. He doesn’t stand out, but he doesn’t mind working hard either. He just needs to play and keep maturing. He has a nice game.”
“I would rather have (Brandon) Dean flying and be 6-1 than have him 6-8 and not flying. I think rebounding is over-rated. We usually shoot more than most teams in the country, so there are going to be more rebounds to get.”
Teams to watch in the SEC:
“Alabama will be good. They had some kids hurt last year. Mississippi State has four starters back. LSU lost two big players, but they have some good players coming back and they brought in a good one. From top to bottom in the West, it will be a challenge.
“In the East, Tennessee is loaded. They’re all back and they were co-champions last year. Kentucky, they don’t have to recruit, they just select who they want. Florida lost some players but they had a Who’s Who list on the bench.”