Ole Miss Basketball Press Conference

Feb. 13, 2003

Head Coach Rod Barnes

(On Mississippi State)
It doesn't seem that long ago that we were playing them here. They were off during the week, and they have played better their last couple of games. We just have to go down there and play focused.

Obviously, you have to consider Mario Austin in whatever gameplan you put together. They have had other guys step up. Timothy Bowers hurt us last time, and Derrick Zimmerman hurt us, especially on the last play of the game. We have to do a better defense job in transition against Mississippi State. We played well enough to win the last game (against them). We need to go to their place and play with the same type of effort we did here and execute. It's going to be tougher to do so down there.

With what we have gone through recently, we'll be a tougher basketball team. When adversity hits, you can go one of two ways. You get tougher or weaker, and I'm confident that this team will be tougher.

It's a wild game when you play a rival game like the one versus Mississippi State. You never know what you're going to get. I don't think anyone would have predicted that both teams would have shot that well because we never do in that game. And usually there is a hero that no one has heard of, and you are looking in the media guide to see who made the shot or the pass or the block. Last time that was not the case as Derrick Zimmerman, their captain, made the play. Hopefully, if we're in the game from the standpoint of executing well and playing good basketball, then we'll be fine.

(How do you get through tough times?)
You just focus. You don't worry about the critics, and just get back to the basics. You zero in more on what you're doing. You spend more time counseling your players. My focus is to get our team to play better. This is a time when you find out, as a coach, who your true friends, your true followers, your true supporters are. And you remember those times.

In the 1999-2000, we had some similar times, and I remember those people that stood beside me and said, "Hang in there" or "I'm there for you." I remember those people that ran away. You don't forget those things.

Everybody is there when you win. But during the times like we're having now, you get closer to your players, coaches and those around you. That's the way it should be. A lot of people that say they are there for you are really there for you when things go good. It's something I have never got caught up in.

When we came from Kansas City after advancing to the Sweet 16, I couldn't see the ground at the airport. I could see the ground after coming back from Auburn last week. You remember those things.

Our fans have been good. Our students have supported us. But, those people that come around when you're winning are not around now and you know why. Maybe they just think I'm in a bad mood (Laughter).

Again, you just put your head down and move forward. That's how I got where I am. When I came here (as an assistant in the early 1990s), this program was really down. I came in as an assistant, put my head down and went to work. That's what I'm doing now. You have to fight your way out of the situation. No one is going to let you out. Our focus is to fix what is wrong, and there are some things wrong. We're not defending the way we're capable of defending, and we have to fix that. We're not executing as well as we can, and we've fixed some of that. We now have to be so prepared that we have confidence. We can't just go into the game with confidence. We need to have practices that build confidence.

When you've been an underdog most of your life like I've been, these are the times you reflect and try to become the best you can. That's what I look forward to. I look forward to when we turn it around. I look forward to seeing our kids execute the way I know we can. Not that I want to lose, but these are times when I cherish the opportunity, cherish the challenge. It takes you to another level whether or not we win the next game. We will not run away from this challenge.

 

 

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