I don't know that AD Kirby Hocutt could have picked a guy that knows what to say. After what seems like years of people not knowing what to say from Texas Tech, interim head basketball coach is not that guy, at least not yet. Last week, Walker along with plyaers F Jaye Crockett and F Jordan Tolbert were in Kansas City for the Big 12 Media Day and it seemed like Walker said all of the right things (PDF).
When asked about his interim status:
I look at this situation, and people look at it as if I've been diagnosed with cancer. It took me six months to live. I've really flipped it and said it's six months to give. I'm head coach for the first time in the Big 12. I'm going to give everything I have to the University, to the players and the community of Lubbock.
Would you like a life-lesson mixed in with your press conference? When asked about his leadership style, Walker had this to say:
I aim before I shoot when it comes to kids, and you realize that the number one thing I need to do more importantly is open their hearts while I open their minds. I'm really into changing the way they think and really focused on making them the best men, best students, and best athletes they can be by the time they leave Texas Tech, because we are the last line of defense before they go into the real world.
If you want to talk about a guy that can sell kids to a program, then sell that quote above. Put it on a postcard and send it to all of the mothers and fathers of the potential recruits.
Walker was also asked about assistant coaches Jeremy Cox and Bubba Jennings. On Cox:
Could not have gotten to this point without those guys. I'm the one that you see here today, but those guys have been the wind behind the sails. Jeremy Cox who was with Coach Gillispie at Texas A&M and Kentucky and in Nebraska. A very experienced coach, really good recruiter and even a better person.
And on Jennings:
Bubba Jennings who is the star of Lubbock. I tell him all the time he's the most popular man in Lubbock. He's just a great resource for the guy, awesome player, and the star of Texas Tech and the people of Lubbock, and a host of other guys that have helped us transition to the point where we're really able to pick it up.
For whatever reason, Walker was asked about transfer F/C Dejan Kravic. If you remember, one of the things that came out during the Billy Gillispie situation was that both Ty Nurse and Kravic had purchased tickets to go home to Canada during the summer break, but were allegedly told by Gillispie that if they went home that they may not have scholarships when they return. Fast forward to last week and here's Walker on Kravic:
Dejan's doing great. He's transitioned from junior college. It's been a whirlwind for him. He's done a 180. Has tough family issues he's constantly dealt with. He's risen above all that stuff and gotten himself to Texas Tech. Every day is a learning process and a growing process. He's met every challenge head on, first with Coach Doherty coaching him, and I'm looking forward to him being a major contributor for us this year.
I don't know who Doherty is, but it seems that Walker is at least conscious of a family situation, whatever that is, but I think this is a better way to deal with a player having a family situation than to allegedly hold it over his head. And if you were to maybe guess as to a guy that could be in double-digit scoring and maybe 7 or 8 boards a game, it would be Kravic. It's a thin frontline, but he's going to play a huge part of this teams' success.
Walker was also asked about his attire, and this will be music to some of your ears:
But in Lubbock right now these guys were so entrenched, focused on being the best they can be. Coming into the arena, being competitive. We have this thing where everybody on our staff wears black every single day. It's to remind ourselves that every time we step on the court, you're on the road. When you're on the road, you're the most focused, everyone's against you. We create that in practice every day. We create great habits that we're in the most difficult situations, and that's what's going to come out.
I also caught LAJ's Nick Kosmider's post in talking with Walker's former head coach at Villanova, the legendary Rollie Massimino.
"He was a leader," Massimino said. "He was the captain of the team, and he always wanted to be a coach. He became an assistant at Villanova twice, and people have a lot of respect for him. "He showed at a young age that he was capable of associating with anybody in the business. And he's turned out to be a terrific recruiter."
As a player, it's good to see that Walker was a leader for the team. I think he'll fill the role as a leader for this team as well, he seems like he really gets what he's supposed to be doing as a head coach.
Ever since Gillispie resigned, I've said that you'll have to throw your expectations out the window, unless you expect to see a team that is more offensive oriented, a team that's probably going to run a bit more with all of the fantastic guards on this team, a team that might press defensively and a team that will hopefully compete. It's never good to write before a season will start that you don't have any expectations, but it seems unfair to me to expect Walker to do very much from an interim basis. Walker's not worried about it, so I don't know why I need to be worried about it either.
Whoever is going to be the head coach next year will have the opportunity to recruit five players as there are five juniors on this year's team. Whoever that coach will be will have the opportunity to get five of his guys and that will at least give them some opportunity to recruit some players without kicking players off of the team. And the year after that, they'll have three scholarships available. I hate looking that far into the future, but there is reason for optimism, especially with Hocutt at the helm. I think he'll make the right decision.