Basketball Coaches Express Pride as Alums Compete in NBA Finals

With UT alumni on both teams, Longhorn fans will have a hard time deciding which team to root for in this year’s NBA Finals. When the final teams face off for the first time tomorrow, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant and Royal Ivey will be pitted against fellow alum Dexter Pittman of the Miami Heat.

One thing, however, is certain. With former players on every team in the Final Four, and now on both teams in the finals, UT’s basketball coaches are bursting with pride for their athletes who have made it so far.

“It’s awesome just to have our players in a position where they’re living their dreams,” assistant coach Russell Springmann said at a press conference Monday.

Twenty-three year old Durant, who came in second place for this year’s Most Valuable Player award, has improved his defense dramatically since joining the NBA and he is always focused on adding to his game, Springmann said.

“I think the interesting thing will be that Kevin’s mentality will never change,” Springmann said. “When you listen to him talk, he deflects everything and says, ‘I’m not there yet.’ And he really means it.”

Head coach Rick Barnes said Durant has also improved at giving interviews, and his passion for the game never wavers.

“He’s been gifted,” Barnes said. “He would tell you, and he says it all the time, that he knows God has blessed him in so many different ways. He feels like he has an obligation to be the best he can be.”

Ivey, who joined the NBA in 2004, has always known his strengths and been a tremendous defensive player, Springmann said, and his Thunder teammates refer to him as an extra coach on the bench.

“Those guys love him,” Springmann said. “They love to be around him. His energy, for all of us still, is contagious.”

On the other side of the court, Pittman, known for shedding almost 100 pounds during his time at UT, will represent the Longhorns on the Heat. Pittman, despite his weight struggles, has always had tremendous hands, Springmann said.

“You could throw the ball anywhere near Dexter and there could be traffic all around him, and he was going to catch the ball,” Springmann said.

The coaches were talkative when it came to praising each player but conspicuously quiet when it came to predicting which team would win.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Barnes says. “I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t go seven games.”

Audiences will see the future of the NBA over the decade, Barnes added, referring to a possible developing rivalry between LeBron James and Durant. But, he said, “It’s not going to be about him and LeBron in his mind. I don’t think it will be in LeBron’s mind either. Those guys understand. They’ve been around the game long enough to realize it’s about the championship.”

Photo courtesy Flickr user RMTip21


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