Rick Barnes Transcript — Friday, Feb. 26

Looking back at South Carolina loss
“We watched film yesterday for a long time and talked about a lot of different things. I think what they know from our staff, we watch tape, we do a lot of things with them, I think they know we’re going to speak truth. I think after seeing tape they realize what we’re talking about. What we’ve talked about more than anything else is just great effort. When we’ve played our best basketball that’s what we’ve done and we have done that on the road at all, hardly ever, the way we need to consistently. Again, it’s not everybody, but overall the thing that we’re not going to tolerate is a lack of effort.

On if players have gotten the message

I think it’s a never-ending message. Everyday you’re dealing with young students that don’t understand they’ve been given a great opportunity. What we don’t ever want anyone to feel—coaches included—is a sense of entitlement, that it’s just going to be there. Take advantage of every single day, we want them to get up knowing that. Practice. When you’re dealing with young people it’s a constant reminder that we need to make something out of today.

On where the program is, the program’s future

“I think the good thing that has happened this year, there’s been some good moments, probably the brightest thing has been that the freshmen have gotten to play some quality minutes. They do understand what it’s going to be about. They’ve had to learn. The other night (at South Carolina) when we finally felt we had a team on the court that was competing, it was four freshman, one of them a walk-on, and Armani. The one thing that’s non-negotiable, that everyone understands…everybody wants to win. All you can control are your mental approach to the game and your physical effort. That’s what we want. We’re hoping that this group understands what’s going into it. We’re still building this culture. There’s no doubt we’re not where we want to be. I’ve been in this long enough to know that at this time of year, things haven’t gone well, people think they find places that are better, which can happen at some point and time. The fact is we’re all blessed to have this opportunity to be at the University of Tennessee and I want a group of guys that understand that.”

On Kevin Punter’s status, stress fracture

“He’e day to day. He’s not going to play tomorrow, but he’s still trying to do the rehab. The kind of kid he is, he’s hoping to have a chance to get back and play, but what he’s got, that stress fracture is something that’s tough to deal with. He’s doing everything he can to where hopefully he can get it quieted down enough. It’ll be up to him, but he won’t play tomorrow.”

On being brutally honest with players

“I don’t think you walk the line. I think you’ve got to speak truth. I don’t think it does anybody any good if you’re not very transparent, if you’re not very open and honest from the beginning. I think that’s how you’ve got to do it. I just think that’s important. We knew we started the year with a group of guys that had all come together at once, and I’ve said it before, I’ve really enjoyed coaching this team. I know as a coaching staff we’ve enjoyed coaching this team, and we’ve got a good group of guys. We’re not always the only one talking to them, and we can only control what we can control. We’re going to be honest. It’s a privilege to play here, and we want guys that understand that.”

On talking effort with players at this point in the season

“It is. Absolutely. From the beginning, that’s what we talked about. I also think this: Guys that have that innate ability to work hard every single day, I think it’s a talent. Armani Moore has a great competitive talent about him. It’s a gift, but if it’s not there, it’s something that you can develop. I do believe that, that you can develop a work ethic. I think you can develop a mental aspect to the game. I even think you can develop a degree of mental toughness, but it takes great effort on the individual to want to change his thought process and understand and embrace what it is he has to do. That means getting out of your comfort zone most of the time, which is very hard for all of us to do.”

On scouting Arkansas second time around, what jumps out
“Taking care of the ball. If you don’t take care of the ball, they’re going to get out in the open court. They’re going to score layups. They’re very good at layups, they’re very good in transition, finding shooters that get those open looks. If you turn it over, they’re going to jump right back on you and will try to do it again. So you have to protect the ball. We’ll have to play against man and zone. So we have to, no doubt, do a better job in transition and do a better job taking care of the ball.”

On Shembari Phillips’ six turnovers at South Carolina
“I think it’s him still going through the learning process. We knew going in we thought we would have to play Armani (Moore) there more (at point guard) because of South Carolina’s pressure when they go zone. He saw it on tape yesterday where he was just making some careless plays. Got back to where he was over-dribbling the ball. The biggest thing he learned (in film session on Thursday) was he didn’t get us in our offense. That affects us two ways, because Armani is very effective in the step-out four position for us. So when he has to come out to the point it changes things for us. It’s all a part of the process moving forward for Shembari. It’s going to help him in the long run.”

On Robert Hubbs, Derek Reese and Detrick Mostella responding to being benched
“In terms of what they’ve said, yes. But they’ve got to come out here today and put it into action. We’ll wait and see today (in practice).”

Grant Ramey covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at twitter.com/GrantRamey