March 4, 2002
Below are selected quotes from Cal head coach Ben Braun from his weekly press conference. The Bears next meet UCLA in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament at 9 p.m. Thursday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The sun came up (after the Arizona loss). That was a start. I really believe that you have to throw the result of the game out. We as a team want to pay attention to what led to a poor game. We do that for any game - we did it for Stanford, we did it for South Florida. This was a game where I felt our team lacked on the effort side. You just go over what were the things that contributed to that. You want to focus on those things. I have never dwelled a lot on wins, and I've never dwelled a lot on losses. I want our players to be the same way. I just don't want us to be over-hyped with a win, I don't want us to be down with a loss or a poor performance. You can't afford to do that when you have a tournament game coming up against UCLA, at 9 o'clock on Thursday in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. We've got a game, and our team has got to get ready and play. We'll learn from that game.
On preparations for UCLA
We're going to prepare for UCLA, which I think most of the time is a pretty tough team, just the way they're going to prepare for a Cal team, which, most of the time, is a pretty good team. I don't think that UCLA is going to (look at the loss against Arizona) and prepare for (our) worst game. That wouldn't be very smart. I don't think that we're going to prepare for a team that's dropped a couple of games and who we happened to beat last time. You can't do that. When we prepare for UCLA, I can promise you that the tape of their Kansas game is going to be in our highlights. We're preparing for UCLA's best effort, and I'm sure we're going to see it when we go down there. I'll make sure that our players know that. When you get to the Pac-10 tournament, you realize that it's one and done, so I think there's a bit of urgency for everybody.
On Cal's rebounding
When we've rebounded well, we've played well. Rebounding is a sign of attention to detail. It's a sign of doing the dirty work. It's a sign of toughness. When we've done those things, we've had a lot of success. We've got to get back and focused on that area. Our rebounding, our contact and our aggression were very poor in our last game. That's going to be a challenge for our team. When we play aggressively, when we pay attention to detail, we do well. That's a big stat, you look at that stat, it's pretty telling. You look at that stat, and it implies two things. One is you're playing decent defense. The second is that you're going after the ball, being aggressive and getting position.
On freshman center Jamal Sampson
I think Jamal is certainly someone we've seen step up to the rebounding challenge. By the same token, we need to be more productive in the post with Solomon and Amit. Those guys have shown the ability to go out and get double-figure rebounds. I don't want to put it all on Jamal's shoulders: we want to get the rebounds where we can. Our guards can rebound, our guards have come up with some big rebounds. Certainly, it's not going to fall on just one person's shoulders, but Jamal's been our leading rebounder, and he's going to have to hold his own for us to be successful. Everyone else will have to contribute as well. We'll take them wherever we can. That's a good quote.
On the NCAA Tournament
When (the NCAA seedings) start to get into the forefront of your mind, you don't have a chance to play your best. (Whether in) a season finale, i.e. Arizona, or in a Pac-10 tournament, i.e. UCLA, I have a feeling those things contribute. I hope the players, when you ask them that question, will answer that they're not thinking about the NCAA, because you shouldn't be thinking about them right now. That's irrelevant. We'd better be thinking about playing our best basketball at the Pac-10 tournament. That's what it comes down to: you've got to play well. You've got to play hard. That is what was so frustrating about Arizona. In order for our players to win the game, we challenge our players to play hard, to play harder. We've been capable of doing that all year long, and to not do that is disappointing. We've got to get back on that path. We can't have off nights, we can't not have a player stepping up. One player, two players, or in the case of Saturday, many players not stepping up, we drop back. That's our goal right now. It starts with our coaching staff, it starts with us. That message has to be a lot clearer.
On the Pac-10 Tournament
My concern (about the tournament) has always been for the student's welfare. It's not about wanting to play basketball, it's not about the excitement. I love the excitement. One of the questions is if you really care about kids, it's about the academics. Counting the last road trip, counting the Pac-10 tournament, counting the NCAA tournament, we're going to miss a month of classes. That's always been a concern of mine. While we're playing, we're going to enjoy playing in the tournament. That's always been one of my major (ideas). Heck, we're leaving tomorrow. We could be there until Sunday, only to get on a plane again (soon after). With the schedule, I don't know where we're playing, when we're playing. It's kind of ironic: the teams that do the best are going to struggle the most academically. It's a long Pac-10 season. When you look at the Pac-10, this is an exciting year, this will be an exciting tournament. It's a good year to have a tournament, based on how our team has finished. It ends up being pretty good.