Transcript: Tulane Men’s Basketball Media Day

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Ron Hunter
(Photo: Parker Waters)

NEW ORLEANS – Head coach Ron Hunter and select Tulane men’s basketball players spoke at Tulane Basketball Media Day at the Jill H. and Avram A. Glazer Family Club, previewing the upcoming 2019-20 season.

Basketball Media Day was also streamed live on Twitter, ad fans can watch Coach Hunter’s press conference as well as interviews with graduate transfers K.J. Lawson and Christion Thompson. To view the press conference and interviews, go to this link.

Below is a transcript of press conference and interviews.

Head Coach Ron Hunter
Opening Statement…
Okay, I haven’t been in New Orleans long but why is it every time we meet here, we have a buffet of food? This media, I’m surprised they stay skinny! But we are happy to be here, just came back from having media day in Philadelphia, and I’ve been doing this a long time and that was the most motivated I’ve been in 25 years, being at that media day. But things are going well, and they are going well because of these two guys that I’ve got sitting with me to my right and my left. We are ready to get going and win some games.

On why this is the most motivated he’s been in 25 years…
Well, first of all I’ve never been picked last for anything. Secondly, I just thought that we were sitting there, and nobody cared about what we thought or what we said and that was fine. We kept looking at K.J, knowing he was getting more mad about it. But again, most of the time people don’t understand what we are doing here. It was definitely a fuel for us. K.J texted the players yesterday… So, we’ll just see. I tell them it’s not how you start the race it’s how you finish.

On what makes him feel good about the upcoming season…
Well, I said it a couple weeks ago… We have a really talented basketball team. These two young men right here are a real talent. I’ve been amazed at how quickly we’ve been able to flip this roster. People are going to be shocked, basically at how good these kids are so if we can kind of stay healthy, I think we are deep and the only thing that we don’t have is chemistry with each other. That’s our negative right now. We haven’t coached this group and they haven’t played together. We won’t get beat because you just find a team more talented than we are, that’s not going to happen to this group. And won’t happen to these coaches and while these two guys are sitting with me. It’s just now to the point where it’s the chemistry of us doing things together.

On how you can wash away losing culture…

I have no idea what you’re talking about. I really don’t… (To reporter) You know what he’s talking about? (Again) You know what he’s talking about? I was in the NCAA tournament last year, I don’t know! I don’t know what happened here in the past. I really don’t. I said that to my wife the other day, I didn’t know what she was talking about. She was mad at me; I don’t know what I did. I didn’t do anything, that was six weeks ago. I don’t know what happened six weeks ago. So, I’m more concerned about what’s happening here today. Again, 94% of people in our program were not even here last year and so for us that is not something we talk about. I have not seen one film of last year… I watched more film of what we did at Georgia State than I have of what happened here. So again, I don’t know. We don’t talk about that, it’s not even a topic of conversation. Actually, in reality, it doesn’t matter if everyone does. That’s why I was really upset yesterday at the media day. They wanted to spend more time talking about something we had nothing to do with then the reality of what is going on right now.

On the chances of finishing last…
(Laughs heavily)
Reporter: Don’t tell me I stumped you…

No, I’m never stumped. I’m trying to be careful with my words right now. We have a better chance of me walking on Lake Pontchartrain for about a mile than us finishing last. That’s not going to happen. That’s not going to happen. Look, there’s cameras. That’s not going to happen. We are not finishing last, I will walk on water, which I can’t do! We are not finishing last. I was fine when I woke up this morning. I was kind of mad at the conference media day. I woke up, started feeling better, saw my guys getting ready to go early for practice. And I’m sure of it. I come into the media room… oh, we’re going to finish last? No.

On how the players are adapting to the system…
Well first of all, my system has to adapt to these guys. I think what happens to a lot of coaches, you want these guys to adapt to what I’m doing. I’m trying to adapt my system to these guys, so they play to their strengths and they are relaxed. I think that’s the most important thing, not so much my system. If we just ran my system, you know what would happen? We’d finish last. What I’m trying to do is make sure we play to these guys strengths… To K.J’s strengths, and Christion’s strengths. That’s what’s going to support these kids. These guys here, they’ve got one year. They don’t come here, they were leaders at their schools who were having success, to come here and be last. (To K.J) Make sure you say that in practice today. Make sure we talk about that today.

On when Tulane will play a game against the University of New Orleans…
We actually could have played this year, I know they said they didn’t want to do that, to play the type of game we want to play. I will say this about the schedule: To New Orleans, to whoever. We don’t care. We’ll play. If it works out, we’ll play, we don’t run from people. I mean, if they want to play, we will play. Lot of times it just has to do with contracts. I took over a job that already had contracts… but by no means, I’ve been on that side of the river at New Orleans where you want to play the big brother. And we are the big brother. You want to play and beat them. So, we will get that done, don’t worry. Just like any team in the state that wants to play, we will play. We don’t have a problem with that. Playing people is not going to be something I’m worried about. That’s never been a problem and it never will be a problem. You tell them, we will get that done. I wanted to play this year; they could probably tell you that. I called and said, ‘let’s scrimmage’, we didn’t get it done. They didn’t call me back. We could have been doing that tomorrow. I got no problem with that.

It’s like the NCAA, I saw that thing that you sent out. That was funny to me, that was hilarious because it’s not the truth. The truth is that I called and said ‘hey, we can’t play a game right now, but we can scrimmage so let’s just play right now! See sometimes people want to play and they need media. I’ll take my dudes and we’ll go play down there on Claiborne. We’ll play on Claiborne. We don’t need media to play. That’s what I love about these guys. They don’t need all that fancy stuff; we just came to play. Find us a park to play at, we will play at the park. We don’t need the media to go do that, we can play. We are a few miles from each other, we’ll come over there and play if you want to. We don’t have a problem with that!

On how much easier it is to have a brand new roster…
Without it these guys wouldn’t be here. I’ll be honest, we took advantage of a rule and will continue to take advantage of a rule. I’d rather be playing with these guys than 18-year old’s right now, and that’s what would have happened if we didn’t have them. We’d be playing with 18-year-olds. And I probably wouldn’t be sitting up here, see the thing is with these guys, I talk all the time about how these guys come ready to play. If I had 18-year old’s sitting up here, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here, and surely, I wouldn’t be seeing some of the stuff I’ve been seeing. But I’ve got grown men here that want to win, and the transfers have definitely helped with that. It’s one of the few things that I can say ‘thank you NCAA’ for that, it’s really helped a program like us. We don’t have to wait, to sit here 4-5 years before we compete.

On junior guard Teshaun Hightower…
Teshaun is really good. We hope to hear something within the next 48 hours actually. Did I tell you how much I love the NCAA? I think the NCAA is a beautiful organization, if it weren’t for the NCAA, I wouldn’t have a job. I just love the NCAA. And NCAA people that are looking at the Teshaun deal, we just love you. We love you here in New Orleans. I’m actually going to send you some oysters and some things that I get here. So, could you please make sure that our guy Teshaun is going to be allowed to play here within the next 48 hours. So hopefully in the next 48 hours we hear something, but we desperately need him, he’s a really good player and he fits with these guys so hopefully in the next 48 hours the NCAA will be calling us and giving us good news.

On who Tulane will beat this year, after calling out teams in the American…
We plan on beating every team we play. I don’t want to just think about that team that you are referring to. We’ve got a lot of teams we’ve got to play before we get to them. As I said before, when I saw that thing that’s sitting on my dashboard right now that says we are dead last, one media person voted for us in the whole deal. So, we’ve got a lot of teams first, whether it’s East Carolina, whether it’s Jackson State, whether it’s Southeast Louisiana, before we get to that we’ve got a lot people we have to prove wrong. So that’s it, we are just going to check some things off. I think I’m mad at everybody on our schedule, especially after yesterday. Anybody on our schedule we are upset with them. One great thing I can say, because I do know this, it doesn’t matter who we play, I know how hard these kids can play. And especially because again, we call ourselves now ‘Last Chance U’. We feel pretty good about what we are getting ready to get done. This is the last chance for these guys. Maybe the last chance for me too, so that’s why they say that.

On if the zone will win games…
I love you man. It’s one of almost 490 games. That’s the only thing I’ve done. I’ve never played man to man my entire head coaching career. Not one possession. Think about that, I’ve been a head coach for 25 years, been in this business for 31 years. Not one possession in 25 years have we played man to man, and we won almost 500 games. So why would I change that? I see no reason to do that. We adapt some things to fit with these guys and they understand that, but this group right now is playing as well as any team I’ve ever had because of some of the changes and because of their athleticism. What’s great about these guys, their basketball IQ is off the charts. I could put something in today, and these guys would pick it up. I was worried about that, but with this group they’ve been able to pick it up. So, I expect this group to be probably the best defensive team I’ve had in my 25 years as a head coach.

Graduate forward K.J Lawson
On the perceived disrespect…
We all know that respect is earned it’s not given. A lot of guys looked at us like it was already a win in the column. They expected us to win, for Coach Hunter to win, two years from now. But me and Christion and the rest of the guys, we are trying to win now. We don’t have more time left on the clock.

On what attracted him to Coach Hunter’s team…
His style of play, winning of course. He won at Georgia State, he won at IUPUI. So, I knew he wasn’t a losing coach. And it was a great opportunity to come back to this league and dominate the league. I’m pretty sure all the guys that transferred saw a great opportunity to change a place and put an imprint at a place where nobody has won before and like he said, we don’t expect to finish last but I’m glad that we are last because we don’t have the expectations. We don’t owe you guys nothing because you didn’t vote for us anyway.

Graduate guard Christion Thompson
On why he picked Tulane…
I’m really excited. All I’ve wanted to do is play in front of my family and play at home. I never really got; I had an opportunity, but I didn’t think it was the right fit for me at that time. When I was planning on leaving Rhode Island I got the call. I started talking to my old coach and he was telling me that Coach Hunter was really impressed with my game and we got on the phone and we spoke and it just happened to be the right fit for me at the right time and it was something that was destined to happen, it was meant for me to be here and I was just thankful for the opportunity.

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