FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas basketball coach Stan Heath met with the media on Tuesday to recap the 2007 season. The Razorbacks finished 21-14, earning an NCAA Tournament bid and winning 20 games for the second straight season. Arkansas is one of just four SEC schools to earn NCAA bids in each of the last two years. The Hogs were also 4-3 against ranked teams, and in conference play led the league in defensive field goal percentage (.411), were second in three-point defense (.321) and third in scoring defense (68.2). Following is a partial transcript of the press conference.
“When we got back (from Spokane), I told the guys to hold their heads up high. I realize our goals are to be a top 10 program every year, but that’s not always going to happen. Coming into the year, we lost three 1,000-point scorers and 70 percent of our offense. I think if you had told people we would play for the conference championship, win the Old Spice Classic, go 4-3 against ranked teams and win 20 games again and be in the NCAA Tournament again, they would have been happy.
“Our future is bright. I look at us like Kansas. They lost in the first round the last two years and now they are one of the top teams in the country.
“We’re one of four teams in the league to make back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. Expectations set 10 to 15 years ago set the standard high, and I don’t see any reason we should not win multiple games in the NCAA Tournament next year.
“Last year, we sat here and said we needed to improve our defense, and we had the No. 1 defensive field goal percentage in conference play.
“We have to improve our ball-handling and passing, and clean up some other areas. Through development of our players and in recruiting, we will address those areas.
“I’m excited about this group and will continue to work to get the program where our players and fans want it to be.”
Evaluation meeting with Athletic Director Frank Broyles:
“He will call me in a week, a month or sometime in June. I don’t know when it will be. That’s how it’s been for five years. Whenever he calls me, I’ll go see him.
“It’s not frustrating at all (that the meeting has not been held). There is a lot of misinformation out there and I think the fans have been misled. There are a lot of sources and speculation that are not accurate.
“I’m here to talk about our season and our future. I don’t want to comment on sources and speculation.”
“We’re not done for this season, but that junior class (for 2008) is critical. We will look at players from a wide spectrum. We will need bigs and guards, and try to fill every position.
“For this class (this year), we’ll look for the best player available that fits our needs. That could be a point guard or if someone decides to leave, whatever position that is.
“There are things in life you can’t control. My concern is I want to build a wall around the state of Arkansas for recruiting. I hope people see we have all of our guys back and we could be in store for a big year. Playing defense in recruiting is not fun. It’s not good or healthy. Other schools beat you up. They use it against you. Over time, things will be cleared up.”
Players leaving off of this year’s team:
“I’m not aware of anything. I will meet with them when they get back and find out what they are thinking. It is not surprising if someone wants to look at something else for playing time. That is normally the case.”
Inconsistency this year:
“That can be attributed to two things. When our ball-handling and passing weren’t where they needed to be, and our perimeter shooting as well, it hurt us. If the three ball isn’t falling, we need to counter with something else, like frontcourt scoring.
“A lot of the things that bothered us this year were turnovers and careless passes. Our chemistry will be better next year. We’ll be better at all of those things.”
What was learned this year:
“I learned to never give up and never quit. I saw the team pull together and win five straight, and fight. We banded together and got things accomplished when no one cared about who got the credit.”
How to maintain and improve home attendance:
“By winning and scheduling. We had trouble getting big non-conference home games this year. We have Texas and Missouri coming in next year, and that should help. The SEC schedule takes care of itself.”
Tournaments for next year:
“The (preseason) NIT is a possibility. There are two or three others we’re looking at. Along with being in one of the tougher conferences like the SEC, I thought being in and beating the teams we played in the Old Spice Classic was a feather in our cap.”
Southern California game in the NCAA Tournament:
“I have to give them some more credit. Their guards were good and (Taj) Gibson was quicker than I thought. He gave us problems. I left the game thinking we didn’t play well, but after seeing what they did against Texas, you can see they are a pretty good team.”
Interest in other jobs:
“I’m the head coach at the University of Arkansas. I’m excited about being the head coach at the University of Arkansas. I am not pursuing any jobs at all. I have not been contacted by anyone and the Athletic Department has not been contacted. That’s an example of people being misled.”
Surprises this season:
“I knew Patrick Beverley could help us, but I did not expect him to play 34 or 35 minutes a game. I would like to get him around 30 next year. Steven Hill had that stretch where he played like a monster. For whatever reason (after the hamstring injury), he did not get back to that level. Michael Washington at the end of the year gave us a great lift. His future looks bright. Sonny Weems was up-and-down, but then made that adjustment. He was the only player not from Florida on the SEC all-tournament team and was playing his best basketball at the end of the season.”
“He really came on in practice. He got such a late start. He was not able to go through workouts or conditioning, and couldn’t do anything until October. Once he started, you could see his body start to fill out. He went through a stretch in practice where he was our most dominant player for the last three weeks. His coming out party was at Vanderbilt. He’s a sponge in a lot of ways. You show him something and he gets better. His upside is off the charts.”