UK Men’s Basketball
Media Opportunity
May 13, 2014
Assistant Coach Barry Rohrssen

Barry “Slice” Rohrssen

Opening statement…
“Thank you everybody for being here today and taking the time and making the effort. I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone, as well as working for this University and being a member of this community. Everyone has been so kind during this transition getting here and it’s been nice to meet all the friendly folks in the city of Lexington and a lot of the members of the Big Blue Nation.”

On his first impressions of the program…
“One of the things that you hear about from the outside and you certainly learned when you get into this town and on this campus, is in the Big Blue Nation they do things big. Again, it’s nice to see everybody and I really appreciate how consumed this town and this state is and how supportive they are in their love for basketball. It’s something that struck me a long time ago when I actually had a lot more hair and a lot less weight, when I came here and spent some time with Coach (Joe B.) Hall working at his basketball camp and its left an indelible impression on me, so being here now is basically a dream come true.”

On his relationship with Coach Calipari and when they first met…
“There’s a basketball camp, which many of you might have heard, it’s called the Five Star Basketball Camp where a lot of great players have come through; the Michael Jordan’s and Moses Malone’s, as well as a lot of good coaches. God rest his soul, Chuck Daly and the Mike Fratello’s have all come through this camp and just by chance the first week of my employment there, I went in to check into my dorm as one of the coaches and counselors and who turned out to be the roommate? A guy by the name of John Calipari.”

On what Coach Calipari was like when they were younger…
“He knew he wanted to be a coach from the first day I met him. That’s what he spoke about and it’s really what’s consumed him and one of the reasons why he’s been so good at what he does. He’s got a very clear definition of what he wants to do in his life and he’s gone on to do that. There’s no greater place than here.”

On if he and Coach Cal remained in contact after that camp…
“Absolutely, we’ve been friends ever since that first initial meeting.”

On how he and Coach Cal kept in contact…
“You know what, you’re a little bit on the young side and back then we had rotary phones. I don’t even know if we had push button phones back then. Now it would probably be on Facebook or Instagram or whatever you guys use now. I’m still on the rotary phone.”

 

On why he wanted to go into coaching…
“You know what, loving basketball; loving sports and loving basketball in particular. One of the things sports do is there are really no boundaries in it: age, race, religion. Coming from the neighborhood where I grew up and many people here since I’ve got to town have asked me where I’m from. I say ‘Why would you ask that?’‘Because you have an accent.’ And I said,‘I do?’ It didn’t hit me, but being from New York, it’s a melting pot and you just come across so many different people and sports and even basketball has become a global game, an international game and (I) just felt that it’s a great way to be able to stay involved in the sport and more importantly give back. You know my background a bit is from a single-parent home. My mom, God bless her, struggled, worked and sacrificed her whole life and saw the impact that it had on me and I said that if I was able to help other young people achieve their dreams and do that, then that’s what I wanted to do.”

On how he would describe his recruiting approach…
“One of the things you find out being a coach is the plays work great when you have great players, so you better find the good ones. That’s kind of the approach.”

On if he has noticed any difference in recruiting for Kentucky…
“There’s a lot of interest from the best players in the nation that have Kentucky on their list, so it’s a very well-received school and program.”

On changes in technology and social media affecting recruitment …
“That’s what they say, there have been a lot of changes with the social media and someone like myself needs to catch up with them. I think, going back to one of the previous questions, it still gets down to people. It’s just like anything, even in business, the contract is only as good as the people it’s written between. No matter what way you speak to a prospect, his coach, his parent, it gets down to the words that are said, not the way, the medium that has been said.”

On why he took the Kentucky job when he was successful at Pittsburgh …
“Well Pitt is a place that’s very dear to my heart. I went there originally with Ben Howland, who this program I think has coached against at some point somewhere. He gave me an opportunity. I was the director of basketball operations for a few years. Then he elevated (me) and put me in a coaching role on the floor and out on the road recruiting players. They’re very good people. Having been there for quite a number of years and even staying there, passing on an opportunity to work at UCLA and turning down positions, some of them even in my hometown New York, just goes to show how much I think of that University and the people. Kentucky, as I said before, is a dream come true.

On having previous discussions with Calipari on working together …
“He’s been very kind. I better take it this time. There may come a time when he doesn’t ask anymore. I’m sure there’s a long line of people that want this. Every year, the line gets longer.”

 

On having a stacked roster next season …
“We’re all looking forward to it, very much. I guess a lot of people are. That’s the single common denominator; a lot of people are looking forward to next season. Probably most importantly, it seems that the players are. When you see them and when you speak to them, that’s what really this whole thing is about. (It’s) about the players.”

On recruiting players from Pittsburgh to Kentucky …
“We’ll see where that all falls. Again, the best players in your program, they are the best recruiters. People could say certain things about coaches and staffs and how they recruit but the best recruiters are the players because they’re the actual living proof of what’s going on and how things are being done.”

On processing how crazy it is that two roommates from the Five Star camp are coaching together …
“Meant to be. We spoke about it in the past and when the opportunity really presents itself, I’m the first one to tell you, I’ve got a blessed life.”

On how he’s seen Calipari change as a coach …
“Well, like we already stated, he’s known he’s wanted to coach since when we first met. It’s kind of a similar bond. We both were working at that camp like many other counselors and coaches that have gone through there because we knew that’s what we wanted to do and hoped to do professionally. Not a lot of people in college go through whether they want to work in the business sector, whatever they want to do, have a job handed to them when they get out of school. So you go there, you’re a five star at the time for Mr. Garfinkel, Howard Garfinkel and Will Klein, you paid your dues and cut your teeth in that environment and hope to one day get an opportunity. That’s how a lot of that developed.”

On how he got his name, Slice …
“Well we’ll go back to Howard Garfinkel. During those years at the Five Star basketball camp and growing up in New York, I really didn’t shoot the ball that well. The only way to try and stay on the court and win a game was to basically navigate your way to the basket. Mr. Garfinkel affectionately called me Slice and that was how it started, where it started and the name has kind of stuck. He had a lot of people at that time, coming through his camp and that’s what he kind of dubbed me as and it stuck ever since.”

On looking at transfers that could sit out a year …
“You’re the recruiting guy here, huh? The recruiting guy in this group. You probably want to have your own session after everybody else leaves. You know what, I’m just trying to get my feet on the ground. I’m trying to find a place that has hot browns with parmesan cheese on it. We’ll get to the transfers at another time.”

On working at Coach JoeB Hall’s camp …
“You know what a gentleman he was. Here’s a guy that was at the top of his profession and he took the time the time to respond, and wrote a handwritten letter back to somebody he didn’t even know and didn’t even meet, and said if you want to coach come down here and work and I’ll  give you the opportunity. It was nice to actually just run into him my first week here. To go back and have lunch with him.”

On the time frame in which he worked Coach Hall’s camp …
“Off the top of my head, and obviously you see there’s a lot off the top of my head that I can’t really tell you, but it was back in my days when I was at college. I used to have a full-head, and now I have a five-head.”

On the difference between being a head coach and an assistant coach …
“Well, you know what? Both positions are very good. But, if you had to ask me what’s one thing that stands out in your mind, probably as an assistant coach you make suggestions and as a head coach you make decisions. And that would probably be my best way of summing it up. As a member of the staff, you may see things in more or less as snapshots. As a head coach you have to kind of see it as a portrait, to see the whole thing.”

On what his role will be during games …
“You know what, we haven’t gotten that far yet. I’m actually still trying to find a place to live. That’s where I was right before I got here. The potential landlord (and I), we were going over the lease and he wants to sell the place. He asked me if I could vacate it in 30 days. I said, 'what would you like me to vacate?'He said, ‘You know in 30 days if somebody wanted to buy it.’ I said, during basketball season you really don’t want to move. So, he’s going, like when can you move? And I told him, hopefully not until April. I want to be playing until April, sometime after that. Just make the lease out after that.”

On outsider’s view of Kentucky in the recruiting world vs. being at Kentucky …
“Well, again, having coming down here at that initial time with Coach Hall at his camp, you know you see the way things are done here. And then, as you reference Pitt, we played here for an NCAA Tournament game at Rupp Arena in one of our Regionals. The result still disappoints me, we ran into a guy named Antonio Gates (of Kent State) and he had a super night. One of my all-time favorite players to have coached is from Lexington, Jaron Brown. So, having some background here, even though I may be new to the city, again not necessarily new to the Kentucky program, and the Lexington way of how they feel about their basketball. The bar is high here, and it should be. Somebody previously asked a question about John (Calipari), he sets the bar even higher, Coach Cal.”

On if Coach Calipari described the program as one on steroids …
“Yeah, he likes that. Then you go into your office and you see the pillow there. You all are crazy.”

On if he has a desire to return to being a head coach someday …
“We’ll let that process play out. Right now, I’m just really enjoying this. I’ve always felt good in my life, fortunately. I’ve said the Lord has blessed me. I’ve got my mom to thank. I just want to live in this moment right now, and do whatever part I can to help Coach Calipari, this staff and this University win a National Championship.”

On having been a head coach helps him be a better assistant coach …
“I feel it would help anybody. It was definitely something that sharpened my lenses a lot more. When you have that experience, on a daily basis for a good length of time it definitely brings different things to the forefront, and hopefully that makes you better in the role that I have right now.”

On Coach Robic and Coach Payne …
“Well, Coach Robic is another Five-Star guy. I have basically known him even from his GA days. He’s been to multiple Final Fours and has a National Championship. The same thing with Coach Payne. I’m very excited to be on their staff and I look forward to working with them.”