What did each SEC basketball coach say in the offseason teleconference?

Published 11:13 am Friday, June 28, 2019

The Southeastern Conference hosted its usual offseason teleconference for basketball on Thursday morning.

SEC basketball will be sporting four new coaches for the 2019-20 season, some of which are huge names within basketball circles.

Eric Musselman (Arkansas), Buzz Williams (Texas A&M), Jerry Stackhouse (Vanderbilt) and Nate Oates (Alabama) will be taking over for their new programs. There’s also an handful of second-year coaches, including Ole Miss’s Kermit Davis, that are still making their marks on their program.

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Here’s a few notes from what each coach said about the state of their program in the offseason:

Alabama – Nate Oates:

On first-year changes: “I do think they’re talented enough to win a decent amount of games, but we’re trying to change some of the culture. It’s going to be a little bit different. We’re going to play a different style. We’re not spending a lot of time on the defensive side of the ball in the summer. But offensively we’re getting them used to our pace of play and how we want to play offensively.”

On returning point guard Kira Lewis Jr.: “It’s great that Kira Lewis is playing on the USA U-19 team. I think that will give him some great experience. He’s one of the better point guards in the country. It’s nice your first year to walk in and have a very talented point guard, especially with the way we play and how fast we play. He’s one of the best transition point guards in the country and I think we have talent to go around him.”

Arkansas – Eric Musselman:

On growing his second college program: “I think every program is different. There are some things we’d like to bring from Nevada. We’d like to get to the style of play we have there. We’d like to build the same type of culture. So there are a lot of things that we’re trying to bring. But there’s also new things you’re trying. It’s a new conference and there’s a different style of play in (the SEC) versus the Mountain West so there’s adjustments as well. As a staff, we’re spending a lot of time watching game tape of last year’s SEC play.”

On differences between SEC and Mountain West: “First of all there’s a talent difference… there’s a difference in length and you’re dealing with more NBA prospects – guys that can play at the next level. … In my opinion, you’re talking about the best coaches in the country (in the SEC). Each guy has his own style and identity of ways they play. Every night it’s a different challenge from an X and O standpoint.”

Auburn – Bruce Pearl:

On the effect of a Final Four trip: “The reception we’ve received in recruiting has been positive, but that’s really way more about relationships that have been made and developed and built. You want to show recruits the confidence that they can come to a place like Auburn and realize their dreams and be competitive and win championships. That’s where our focus has been as far as recruiting is concerned.”

On the impact of new rules extending the three-point line: “I wish the line was back last year, it would’ve helped us even more. I think it will be a positive thing for the game. The percentages will go down a couple points the first year. It won’t effect your great shooters – it’ll effect your guys that don’t shoot it very well. They won’t make as many and they’ll take fewer. I do think it’ll open up the lane a little bit and it’ll be positive.”

Florida – Michael White:

On returning experience and youth: “As it stands right now, we don’t have a senior on our roster… We’re going to need freshman leadership and sophomore leadership. Hopefully, with a couple of these returners, they can grow into some of these leadership roles. The challenge isn’t to find a leader, unless he’s an unbelievable leader. We’d like to find three, four, five or six of them.”

Georgia – Tom Crean:

On roster turnover: “It hits us every day that we’ve got nine new players. That’s a tough thing, but it’s also a good thing in a sense that there’s a lot of teaching and learning going on. There’s a lot of competitiveness coming out. We have to have strong patience and perspective this summer with them, but at the same time take this time to get them to the place they’ll need to be when we go into this season.”

On extending three-point line and adapting to more NBA-like rules: “I think the NBA has such good basketball rules and I wish we would take even more of them. We’re making progress, there’s no doubt about that. But anything that creates space on the court and speed on the court, I’m all for.”

Kentucky – John Calipari:

On individual vs. team success: “We have a great group of young people, young as my teams are usually. but what I’ve been trying to remind them is that our best teams, the teams that won 38 games or 35 games, those players benefitted from those teams. It’s about team during the season and individuals after. This is about ‘good team makes a better me.’ The better our team is, the better opportunities everyone within the team will have.”

LSU – Will Wade:

On returning talent: “We’re happy to have five of our top eight guys back. We’ll have a little bit more of a veteran core than we’ve had. But I’m also very pleased with our young guys. We have a blue color, hard working group with our new guys.”

On upcoming foreign tour: “We’ve got a trip to Spain in August. It’ll be a great chance for us to grow as a team. Every time I’ve been on a foreign tour with other teams I’ve coached and other teams I’ve been a part of, it’s been a great team bonding experience. It really expedites things for our teams as far as being a little bit ahead as we start the season.”

Mississippi State – Ben Howland:

On the return of Reggie Perry: “He went though the whole process of working out for (NBA) teams and going to the Chicago combine. He’s now currently playing and starting for the USA 19-and-under team in Greece. It’s great to have him back in the fold – that was a huge plus for us – and we return a lot of good players.”

On Nick Weatherspoon’s progression: “Nick will be our starting point guard. That’s what we recruited him as and I think he’ll be outstanding defensively on the ball. It’ll be great for him to have the ball in his hands more, now. His ability to finish at the rim and making good decisions, we’re expecting big things out of Nick this season.”

Missouri – Cuonzo Martin:

On the Arkansas hire of Eric Musselman: “It was a great hire. I’ve known Musselman for probably 15 plus years when we were in the NBA. Actually it’s been longer than that. When if first met him I was playing in the CBA in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We had some intense games. One thing I liked about Muss is talked trash as a coach on the floor. I enjoyed that. I’ve known him since probably 1996. We’ve had a relationship since then. We don’t talk all the time but he’s a great man. He’s done a great job as a coach at all levels.”

Ole Miss – Kermit Davis:

General team overview: “It’s been a good summer so far. I like our team. We’ve had about 10 guys in the first semester of summer school and awaiting three guys that’ll join us in the second semester for workouts. We have four of our six returning scorers coming back. I love our veteran backcourt. The leading scorer in the SEC returning in Breein Tyree and Devontae Shuler has great experience. He did a really good job in the first time ever playing point. We have two freshman from last year that I though have really grown since the season is over. Blake Hinson, who started about 30 games and K.J. Buffen, who had some really good moments, has gained about 10 or 12 pounds. We like our returners, but we’ll have six newcomers, so half our team will be new.”

On molding the team in his image: “Blake Hinson has really reshaped his body. He’s a kid that probably weighed 250 pounds in high school. He really lost some weight and his body started to transition when he was at Sunrise (Academy) – now he’s at 230 or 232. His body fat will continue to go down. K.J. Buffen finished the year around 215 or 216-pounds. Now he’s around 225 and that’ll help him a ton.”

On first-year positives and recruiting: “The fan base connected to our team. We had a 24-percent increase in SEC game (attendance), which lead the SEC. We averaged right under 9,000 fans. So that part of it relating to recruits watching on tv and seeing the environment and coming to games. They see the connection to the fan base.”

On Terence Davis’ shot with the Denver Nuggets: “He had such a great spring. Great Portsmouth and Chicago pre-draft, great workouts. It’s just the nature of the draft. He had a chance – from what we heard he would’ve been picked but he said he wanted to be a two-way player. He’s in a good place with Denver and he’ll go there trying to make their roster. I’m going to go watch him in the Summer League. But he’s right back on the grind and he likes the spot he’s at in Denver.”

On how Breein Tyree can improve: “He’s got to make the next step as far as making others better off the dribble. As he transitions more even to the point guard, his assist to turnover has to evolve and be better… and then just becoming a more determined defender the entire game. He’s been off to a great start this summer.”

South Carolina – Frank Martin

On finding new leadership: “Replacing those voices and those every day approach is hard. People always get worried about replacing points and rebounds, but we’re worried about replacing voices that are willing to take ownership. Trying to find that is something that’s kind of pointed, it’s something people embrace.”

Tennessee – Rick Barnes

On roster turnover and change of play style: “We’re by far and away the longest of all the teams we’ve had. We only have three guys under 6-foot-5 on this roster… it’s the longest and tallest team we’ve had. But there’s no question, we’re going to play through the guys that have done it. It’s a young group but we’re really excited about this young group of guys. We know it might take them a little bit of time, some more than others, but I don’t think there’s any question that they’re going to make an impact for us this year.”

Texas A&M – Buzz Williams

On team building a new program and comparison to past jobs: “We’re a work in progress with millions of miles to go in front of us… Marquette is an incredible job with long term tradition and success.  It’s more comparable here to Virginia Tech in regards to the roster and the facilities and the work to be done. There’s a lot of work to be done. Virginia Tech and Texas A&M would be more similar, relative to our arrival, than when I was at Marquette.”

Vanderbilt – Jerry Stackhouse

On shaking off last season’s struggles: “I honestly think that (last season) is still in the back of their mind a little bit. It will take some early success this year before it’s gone. But for us, as a new staff, we’re really focused on moving forward and them learning what they need to do to have success within our system… they’re honestly and truly excited about it.”

On NBA experience translating to college: “I’d like to think basketball is basketball. Everybody has a lot of different styles and different ways to win and have success… The game is looking a little more like the pro-game with five out and spacing. A lot of five men are more on the perimeter and we’re seeing more things that are a mainstay for the professional game now translating into college basketball. I’m not sure if we have any advantage in that department or not, but I think it is trending that way.”


You can reach Nathanael Gabler at nathanael.gabler@oxfordeagle.com with news tips, suggestions or comments. Follow @ngabler4 on Twitter.