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Stan Heath Press Conference Regarding the NIT

Stan Heath Press Conference Regarding the NIT
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas lost in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament at Atlanta to Tennessee on Thursday. On Friday, head coach Stan Heath, after guiding the Razorbacks to an 18-12 season, announced Arkansas, if invited, would not accept an invitation to the National Invitation Tournament. Here is a partial transcript of Heath’s press conference.

“After the Mississippi State game (a 57-55 loss on March 1), which was a heartbreaker, I was really convinced we were a post-season team. The last two games (against Auburn and Tennessee) put doubt in my mind. After the Tennessee game, I met with the team and asked them what they wanted to do. They all put their hands up (wanting to play in the NIT). They are competitive, and that’s what you want.

“Sometimes I think with my head instead of my heart. In the last two games, we didn’t play with the intensity or cohesiveness that we should have, and that bothered me. That’s not the way a team should be playing going into the post-season. I didn’t sleep 15 minutes last night. That’s all I thought about. When I made the decision, I decided to go talk to Coach (Frank Broyles).

“I have a lot of respect for the NIT. It is a very prestigious tournament. However, our team needs to improve. I need to a good job over the next few months evaluating this program from top to bottom and inside out to get back to the championship level I envisioned when I came here. I think this team has made some improvements this season. If we hit a shot against Kentucky and a three at LSU instead of a two, and all of a sudden we have a different story being written right now.

“As I look at how we closed the season, I can see in my team’s eyes, we are emotionally and physically tired. That does not translate well for a team that should be going into post-season.

“If the NIT offers us an invitation to their tournament, we will decline. Not because we don’t have respect for that tournament but because we need to get our ship right.

“I am very thankful and appreciative of the fans we have that support us that have come out throughout this whole season. We need to put a better product out there for our fans. We’re close. We made improvements, but not at the rate that is acceptable to me and the performances in the last two games were not acceptable to me.”

The meeting with Coach Broyles:

“When we met, I was 100 percent convinced (about turning down a possible NIT bid). I let him know my thoughts and he supported me.”

On changing his mind:

“When I got back to the hotel, I started thinking about it through and through. When I was talking (about playing), I was talking with my head. I do think in my head that playing extra games and continuing the season is good, but when I looked inside my heart and I really looked at how we were playing and the emotion of the team, I had to go with my heart. It has absolutely nothing to do with any potential opponents and everything to do with how we played in our last two games. Anybody who watched our last two games knows what I’m talking about.”

Telling the players:

“I told them my decision and why I made it. I let them know every time we step on the floor, it is an opportunity. They had mixed emotions, but they knew where I was coming from. I’m the coach and I have to look out for what’s best for not only the team, but for the program.”

Areas to look at for next year:

“I saw a pattern this year that was disturbing. I saw an emotional loss that was translated into the next game with a performance I wasn’t comfortable with. I saw that continuing to happen, and that pattern needs to stop. I’m going to look at that hard and what I can do a better job of. I’m not pointing the finger at this guy or that guy. It starts here and is going to go through the whole program on the court and off the court, mentally and physically to be prepared to have a great season next year. I’m going to do everything in the best interest of our program to be the best team we can be next year.

“Any area I see that is lacking, I’m going to attack it and I’m going to make an adjustment. I don’t have any concrete answers on what that might be right now, but at some point in time, I’ll make decisions. There may not be any decisions, but everything will be looked at and evaluated very closely.

“I have a lot of built up anger inside of me. I have a competitive side of me that hates to lose. It eats me up that we’re not in the NCAA Tournament. It eats me up. I’m not sure when you’re totally rebuilding a program that’s where you’re supposed to be in year three, but that’s where I wanted to be in year three. There’s no question I want to be there in year four.”

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