Richardson Previews Auburn Game
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The following is a brief transcript of a press conference held by Arkansas head coach Nolan Richardson to preview the Arkansas at Auburn game set for this Saturday, Feb. 5. Jefferson-Pilot Sports will televise the 12:05 p.m. contest.
(Freshman Joe Johnson has left the team to be with his family after the death of his grandmother Arlene Stallings. Johnson is doubtful for Saturday’s game with Auburn.)
(Joe Johnson situation)
“I think Joe’s grandmother had passed away the day before yesterday, but they didn’t tell him because they wanted him to play (at Ole Miss). In talking with Joe this morning, he understood because he was close to his grandmother.
“He is a young man, but you really see the little boy when you talk to him about what has happened in life with someone he loved. You can really see the little boy then. You don’t see the big basketball player, the tough guy, the guy who can score points. I don’t see that anymore. I saw that in Joe when he left.
“I told him that my grandmother was my hero. So I know how he is feeling. That is the situation with Joe right now. He is an undetermined absence. That is the way it always is with a kid in this situation. I told him go and when you feel good come back. There is nothing for him here other than you have a family away from your home. When it is time to come back to your other family you will know.”
(How has this team coped with a series of tragedies?)
“It started with (assistant coach) Mike Anderson’s father. Then of course now we have had three in the last two weeks. That is life. We have to learn to deal with that. My statement has always been the same as far as death is concerned. His grandmother is on the best team she can be on. We all have to try to get to that team. That is how I view it.
“As a youngster and a man you have to view things as positively has you can to try to get over it. That is what I talked to him about this morning. She is on the greatest team in the world. She will no longer suffer or have pain. She won’t be disturbed in any manner again. The rest of us have to hope to get where she has already gone. That to me is what I tell every kid. You can look at it as a graduation. She graduated from here. You can look at it in many ways. I just think you need to look at it in a positive manner so you can get through.”
(Will you try to keep the momentum you built up in the late run against Ole Miss?)
“There is no question about it. When your kids don’t give up that is the key. I think what happened, and it is sad, is that flagrant foul (Jason Flanigan on Brandon Dean) brought a monster out of us. Brandon Dean was a totally different Brandon Dean that I have seen all year. That bothered him so much that is why I ran out onto the floor because I know he was ready to get into it.”
(Auburn has come into the year as the favorite, how do you think they have handled that role?)
“They are still in front. They have a very good record and have held their own. They have lost two games in conference play and they are two games up in the division and one game out of the overall lead.
(What kind of obstacles do they face as being a favorite?)
“They are going to get everybody’s best shot. You have the target. Everybody gets ready for you. There is no slipping up on people this year. Everybody knows they are good. Everybody knows they return the most starters. You have to fend off people.
“That is why I was proud of our national championship team, but the team that made it back the next year was the toughest. When everybody else is after you and you make it back to the final game you take your hat off to them.”
“With a team like we have, we don’t talk about NCAA or NIT or anything of that nature, all we talk about is trying to improve. Let’s try to improve as we go.”
“I’m not worried about RPI, NCAA Tournament nor NIT. I’m interested in seeing some improvement. I have seen some improvement in Larry (Satchell) and Alonzo Lane. I’ve seen some improvement in Teddy (Gipson) since he has been back.”
(Does that kind of comeback and desperation your team showed in the last few minutes translate into the next game?)
“I hope so. That is what we talked about after the game. That is what we will talk about today. You have to always play like your behind to play the way I want to play. We have to play like we are behind in the race. I’ve always said the only way you can catch up when you are behind in the race is to run faster than the guy in front of you. We haven’t played like that. We just haven’t played like that, because we don’t know how to play like that. We are trying, but we just don’t know how.
“Sometimes a team that is frightened to lose is better off than the one who has the big lead ahead because he is trying to protect his lead.
“In 55 seconds there were 19 possessions. We scored more points in a period of three or four minutes than was scored in 30 minutes.”
(Would you say Auburn plays as hard as any team in the conference?)
“They play hard and get after you. They get after people and that is why folks don’t shoot very well against them. Of course they have Chris Porter. He is just a man out there playing with 18-year-old and 19-year-old boys. It seems like Doc Robinson has been at Auburn for his whole life.
“N’diaye not only blocks a lot of shots he alters a lot of shots. You aren’t going to get any layups on him. They have N’diaye and we have Gilbert (5-11) and Tatum (5-10). We just have some midgets.”
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