Postgame Quotes — Ole Miss 83, Vols 60

Ole Miss 83, Tennessee 60: Vols play ‘passive’ on senior day

Mike Strange: The ‘perfect storm’ never happened for Vols, Barnes

Photo Gallery: Tennessee loses to Ole Miss on senior day


(Opening statement)

“I would really like to start out thanking our fans. I have been doing this a long time, and I don’t think I have ever walked out of an arena with a team that’s under .500 and not playing very good basketball and have a group of people thanking you for the year. That makes you even more determined than ever that you want to build a great program here. I think the University of Tennessee fans deserve that. We really do appreciate what the fans have done this year. They have been great.

“Today, we weren’t very good in any area of the game. I thought they pretty much beat us any way you want to beat a team. I hate that for our seniors, because I wish we could have finished on a good note for them. We just really lost our confidence, (and it’s) a tough thing to bring back. Just disappointed in the way we have played the last couple of games.”

(On going 14 minutes without a made field goal)

“Again, we didn’t execute what we talked about against them. We knew they were going to get in their press and do that. We’re walking the ball up the floor. When you walk the ball up the floor, they’re just backing up. There’s not going to be any outlets until you attack it. We keep walking it up. You can’t step across half court or get into those areas on the floor where you know you’re going to get trapped. We just weren’t aggressive. We talked about what we wanted to do against them, and we just didn’t do it very many times today. You have to give them credit. I thought they played really well when Moody went out of the game. Defensively, I thought they were good. They kept moving the ball. They hurt us inside obviously. Our post defense wasn’t very good. We just got beat any way you want to put it. They beat us.”

(On not executing)

“I think when you’re not executing, players don’t know where their shots are going to come from and they’re hesitant. I kept telling Shembari [Phillips] that he needed to change his body language, because they could tell he was tentative. I thought other guys were tentative. It’s easy when you compete and you play. You look around, you see how other people are carrying themselves, body language-wise. They just tee up on you and come after you. You’ve got to change it. They other thing is the tough thing about Senior Day and all that. I do think a lot of times unless you have a mature team, they lose focus and start worrying about other things as opposed to what they have to do to win games. I just didn’t think we were real sharp from the beginning.”

(On not playing meaningful games this late in the season)

“[Ole Miss head coach] Andy Kennedy said to me ‘I know its been really hard on you.’ And it is. It’s hard. I don’t like not being in meaningful games this time of year, but because of the fans, it makes me want more than ever to get this thing going the right way and building a program, because they deserve it. They deserve us to be in meaningful games. It’s hard. The last couple of weeks have been very, very hard. Maybe we are who we are right now, there’s not anything left to get there. As a coach, you can never think that way. That’s when you get frustrated and your patience wears a little bit thin. It’s not fun at all. It’s not fun at all to be in the position we are in right now, where you’re wondering what you’re playing for. It’s not fun when you feel like guys aren’t competing every possession, trying to get better every possession. Its frustrating, and it’s not fun. It’s something I don’t want to go through with. I haven’t had to go through it many times, but I can tell you I don’t like it.”

(On what he takes away from this season)

“Do i think things would be totally different with Kevin Punter? I do. It’s amazing how losing one player can change your whole team confidence-wise, swagger-wise. I think that Stefan Moody gives his team confidence. They feel that if they’ve got him, then they’ll be alright. I do think our team felt like that with Kevin. We put a lot on Armani, and now that he’s gone, there’s so much on him that he can’t handle it. You can’t ask a guy who’s not naturally a point guard to play the point, because he’s not a natural point guard. Shembari’s not a natural point guard. You’re asking guys to do things that they can’t really do, and you’re asking them to do it at a time when if they would have done it all year, you would expect more from them. Now they’re bringing the ball down the floor, like today, it’s an adventure. What’s going to happen next? You know they’re frustrated when they’re pointing their finger. ‘I need some help here. I need some help there.’ It goes back to everyone has to execute and do their job.

“I’ve said all along, I like these guys. I would have said for us to have the type of year that we wanted that we would have to win most of our home games, and if we could go on the road and win a couple that would have given us a great year. But we weren’t able to do that except once. Again, we can always look back and say the what-ifs. When you think about it, with Hubbs not being healthy, we have 35 points sitting on the sideline. Then you’re asking other guys to really do things that they’re really not capable of doing. That’s where the frustration gets in. I do appreciate these guys trying to give us what they have. And I do think they have, they’ve tried to give us everything they have. You can always look and say other guys could do more. You’ll always say that. There were some bright spots, but not enough of them. Even if we had a .500 record or whatever, this time of year is about being in the NCAA Tournament. That’s what you play for. We have to understand, anything other than that, we haven’t succeeded.”

(On how Hubbs is doing)

“He practiced yesterday, but we didn’t do much. He did very little. He has got to be healthy and practice. If he doesn’t practice, he is not going to be effective, and he is not going to be in sync with everybody else. He is going to have to take care of his body. He needs to practice and be a part of it every day.”

(On Shembari’s down game)

“I think the biggest part with all of our young players is when they start to feel good about themselves because they have a good game, they begin to lose focus about getting better. That is just part of the maturity process. We do think our freshmen have gotten some things done this year, but part of it is maturity. We keep talking to Admiral (Schofield) about getting ready for an out-of-bounds play. He didn’t line up correctly twice today. He can score and he works, but these guys are still learning how to play. Some of the mistakes that they are still making are ones that shouldn’t be made at this point in time.”

(On if he thought UT could make the NCAA Tournament)

“I really did. I thought that. What we expected coming in would be to get more consistent play out of the seniors as a group. I will tell you, I don’t think I could coach if I didn’t think that way. I have been doing this long enough to know that talent is the one common denominator amongst the teams that get to the tournament, but I have also watched teams that can outwork talent and win games. I felt like for it to happen, it would have to be like the perfect storm. If you look at it, I don’t know if Kevin Punter Jr. could have had a better year than he had. You guys have seen Armani. I think he has had a heck of year too. We needed Derek Reese and Devon Baulkman and everyone to have great years. We were just very inconsistent, and that was the most frustrating thing because I do think if you are a good team, it doesn’t matter if you are at home or on the road. You understand it is a time to compete.

“Next year, we are going to come back in with a lot of young guys, and I will make the same statement because I believe that we will find enough guys and build on things from this year. We have a class coming in this year that we are excited about. One thing we have tried to do with this class is recruit guys coming in from winning programs. A couple of those guys have won state championships or are playing for one. We want to build that kind of culture, but we know that we have to get guys that understand winning at a high level. We feel like we have been able to do that with the recruiting class coming in.”

(On if he thinks the team will play different in the SEC Tournament)

“At this time of the year, you know who you are. We can play better, but we have lost our transition game. Things we have practiced since last May and June are things we haven’t been doing. That is hard. We have had to improvise. You can’t ask a guy to do something he isn’t capable of doing. We have spent a lot of time working on certain things. So much of that was driven by KP, and when he went down, we had to change some things. We just aren’t very fluid right now.”



(On his senior season)
“I have definitely grown. (Coach Barnes) came in and taught us, and I just tried to buy into what he was trying to teach us.”

(On Coach Barnes’ life lessons)
“It isn’t just basketball. You can sit down and talk to him about anything that isn’t basketball.”

(On adjusting to a new coach)
“It’s been an adjustment. I was used to Coach Tyndall and how he wanted things. Coach Barnes came in, and it was an adjustment for me coming from a junior college. I think I did a good job adjusting to his stuff. It stinks to end the season like this.”

(On what is next for him)
“My biggest focus is getting healthy and getting my degree.”


(On playing hard for Tennessee)
“I think we have had to go through a lot of adversity, especially the seniors like myself. We had three different coaches, and it was hard at first, but we battled through it and found a way.”

(On playing multiple positions)
“It hasn’t been to difficult for me. I am a competitor. I should be willing to do whatever I can to help my team win. Over my last four years I have had to do alot of different things that my coaches have asked me to do, but I took pride in it. I tried to do this to the best of my abilities.”



(On his time at Tennessee)
“It’s been a long journey with meeting new people, new staff, and teammates. It was a long ride for me, but it was good. It was great.”

(On adjusting to Coach Barnes’ new system)
“It was difficult at first. It took time, but I was willing to learn and work on my craft and get better at the game. Coach Barnes was always in the gym with us and helped us work on our game.”

(On his performance against Ole Miss)
“I just wanted to give Tennessee my all today and play 100 percent for my team and my coach.”


(On why he stayed at Tennessee)
“First, the fans. I’ve already been here three years, so why not finish it out here. It was a really quick decision. With one year left, I wanted to finish it out here.”

(On accepting different roles on the team)
“Coach (Barnes) told me at the beginning of the year that he would need me to do a bunch of different things (compared to) what I’m used to. At first, it was really tough. It was very hard to just focus on that, but I wanted to help the team win. I was going to do whatever I had to do to help the team win. I knew that we needed other players to step up too, like Kyle (Alexander) and Ray (Kasongo). I used my IQ and what I knew of basketball to try and help them out.”


(On going to the SEC tournament)

“We just have to get the job done. We haven’t gotten to go on a run yet this season. We’re on the brink of getting on one. Tonight’s outcome wasn’t the best, but I think if we just play together and play with energy for 40 minutes, we can beat anybody. For some reason, we just can’t get that down.”

(On what he took away from this season)

“Learning how to win. Learning what’s important and what goes into winning is the main thing. There’s a fine line between winning and losing. We’ve had games where it was because we didn’t box out, rebounds and put-backs, not closing out or just not guarding someone. My biggest thing is just learning how to win and what goes into winning. That’s one thing Coach Barnes emphasized with me. He gets on me pretty much the hardest because he knows I know this stuff. What he wants out of me specifically is to learn what goes into winning. I have to understand that and be that leader.”

Grant Ramey covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at