Quote the Horns: UT and the NBA Finals
June 12, 2012
Media availability with Head Coach Rick Barnes
On having three former UT players in the NBA Finals: All of those guys worked, so there is no secret. I have told every guy that we have recruited, if I could have put someone in the NBA, I would have put my son in. So I tell guys that you are going to have to do it. We know some things to help you get there, but you are going to have to do it. All of our guys who are in the NBA and getting a chance to live their dreams, they are the ones who have done it. They have put the time and work in.
On Kevin Durant: What makes me so proud about Kevin is he knows that he has been given a gift. He says it all the time that God has blessed him. He feels that he has an obligation to be the best that he can be, and he does not want to let anyone down. That is why he is so humble. That is why he will take time to stay and talk to any kid that comes up to him. He will sign autographs and do whatever he has to do, because he realizes that he has been given a lot so he wants to give back. Kevin has a passion for it (the game). I have to laugh when I hear people talking about him being in the world championships right now and then being on the Olympic team. They say he is playing a lot of basketball and it will be a hard year for him. He would be playing if it were not the Olympics. He loves to play. He has a great passion for it. When it is all said and done, he will be one of the greats. He is on a big stage now, but when he comes back (to Austin) we do not talk about basketball. It is all about the other things. He has always stayed involved with the program, and he has never forgotten us.
On Kevin's growth during his one year at Texas: I have never seen a guy do (improve on the court) what he did in a three-week period starting at the end of Christmas here his freshman year. From the time he has walked in here, he worked. Basketball-wise, we are not surprised by what he has done. His biggest growth has not involved basketball. Watching him do interviews, I remember the first time Scott McConnell (Texas Basketball SID) started doing things with him, he did not like it. He did not want to do it. He did not even want to go to the Big 12 Media Day with us. He said he did not feel comfortable doing that. Watching him now, we're so proud of the way he handles himself and the fact that he has grown so much in other ways outside of basketball.
On Kevin's improvement on the court since leaving Texas: He really sees it now. We know that he can make difficult shots, but now he is making all the right plays. He is working hard defensively. Every time that I see him, I ask him to tell me something that he has learned. He would always give me the pat answer of, 'I have got to get better here, and I have to get better here,' which is all true. But I told him this year when Kevin and Royal came to see us when our team played at Oklahoma, I want something other than the pat answer. He looked at me as humbly as possible and said, "Coach I have realized I can score in this league when I need to." That says a lot coming from a guy who has led the league in scoring three straight years now. He has gotten so much better because he has worked at it, and he is seeing the game in a way that you can't imagine.
On Kevin's success: No, I am not surprised. During the time leading up to his draft, I told people that by the time he was 25, he would be the best player in the world. I was wrong, because he is close to it now at 23. I said that because he has the ability to be drafted as a point guard, center, or any other position because of his passion of the game. He is going to get smarter obliviously, because he truly loves to play. With time, he is going to be one of the greatest players. He is gifted and he knows it, but he is just getting started.
On his prediction for the upcoming series: It is going to be interesting. I would be surprised if it does not go seven games. You are seeing the future of the NBA. You really hope that it becomes one of those great rivalries, like you had with Bird and Magic, with Jordan and whoever. You would like to think that this can be good for everyone and the game of basketball.
On the mindset he thinks Kevin will have during the games: His mindset will be that he will do what it takes to win. His mind will not be focused on the matchup against LeBron (James). And LeBron will be the same way. Those guys understand it is about championships.
On Royal Ivey: That was the year that Maurice Evans put himself in the draft and we needed a player. Rob Lanier said to me there is a guy in New York that I have seen, and he can either be a dud or he can end up playing in the NBA. We went up to recruit him, and I had never seen him play. I went to his home to meet his mother and father. Royal was not even home, as he was still away at prep school. As I walked in, his father asked me, why do you want to recruit my son? I said well, we need a player, I don't know if he can play or not, but Rob says he has a chance. His father told us that Royal has always understood his role. He has always been the fifth man. I had never heard anyone say that. He said my son is going to do whatever you tell him to do. That is so true. That is exactly why he is where he is today. He will accept his role. I remember when we went play Duke in Madison Square Garden, and we sat down the older guys and put all the younger ones in. They played great. When I walked out of the arena that night, the first person I saw was Mr. Ivey. I said you didn't know your son was that good, did you? And Rod Ivey said, "I didn't." Royal was that good because he kept working. He is the one guy that I would love see come back here and be a coach here."
On Dexter Pittman: Dexter did what most guys do when they leave here and come back. Last year when he came back and spoke at our camp, he said LeBron and the guys made fun of him because of the amount of money that he ate his way out of. He knew that he should have done a better job before the draft of losing weight and getting in shape. But he has started to grow up. He understands he has to do that to be where he wants to be, and the Miami Heat organization is being patient with him.
Media availability with Assistant Coach Russell Springmann
On Texas having three former players in the NBA Finals: It's awesome. Just to have our former players in a position where they are living their dreams and really changing the lives of their families too is incredible to watch. To have guys on each team that were among the final four teams in the NBA playoffs (Avery Bradley with the Boston Celtics, Cory Joseph with the San Antonio Spurs) was very exciting. We're pulling for all of those guys to do well.
On Kevin Durant's development since college: I would say the biggest improvement is defensively. I think he competes consistently on the defensive end now which initially was a little bit of a challenge for him. You look at late in games against the Lakers, and now he's guarding Kobe Bryant. So he has grown tremendously in that area. I also think he has grown in rebounding and passing the ball. He has always had really good vision, but now it's starting to really develop at a high level.
On how Durant can continue to improve: His mentality will never change. He deflects everything and says that he's not there yet. And he really means it. He's not just saying it for the sake of giving you something to hear. I called him earlier today and he was in the gym, which doesn't surprise me at all. I think Kevin is always going to be focused on adding to his game. And he will determine what that is. He's obviously an incredible scorer, but as we just talked about, he is passing the ball very well. The interesting thing will be to see what he is capable of doing as he gets stronger.
On how it was to coach Durant during his time at Texas: I am absolutely proud. I'm proud to have been around him as a person. I say this all the time, but Kevin is one of the best human beings I have ever been around. He just has the character of a person that you want to spend time with. He humble, a genuine big-hearted person, and he loves helping other people. He really is everything you want a person to be. I would go beyond saying I'm proud to have been able to coach him. I'm proud to know him.
On his memories of the recruitment of Durant to Texas: I think just getting to know him and his family and having conversations throughout that process that had absolutely nothing to do with basketball. What was most exciting was that here was this kid, who despite all the attention he received late in his high school career, never changed. He was the same down-to-earth, humble and hard-working kid. And his family never changed. They were rooted in their values and in their work ethic. You can see to this day that he is the same person and they are the same people. It's a credit to all of them. But I was really nervous. To their credit, they told me that he would visit here before they made a final decision. There were grumblings that Kevin was ready to commit to a different school, so when you're recruiting a kid, that is hard. I remember his dad telling me that Kevin was going to visit and not to worry. They were good to their word as they always were, and Kevin is just an incredibly loyal person. He never forgot that we were the first high-major program to express a strong interest in him. At the end of the day, he remembered and valued that.
On Royal Ivey: Royal has always known his strengths and what his niche is. He has always been a tremendous defensive player. He's also an incredible teammate. Those guys (on the Oklahoma City team) listen to him, and he's like an extra coach on the bench. Those guys love him and love being around him, because his energy is just contagious. He's another one of those people that you love being around.
On Dexter Pittman: Dexter has worked so hard for so long physically to put himself in a position to play. I think when he finished playing here he was just starting to get a feel for how to play offensively. For so long, he was just so much bigger than everyone. Just look at him. He has already changed physically from when he left here, and he continues to take care of himself. Dexter has stayed with it, he's working hard and I think his teammates enjoy him, too. He's very humble and he's going to work hard every day because he wants to get better.