Jon Teitel's "Big Dance" Interviews: UALR's Solomon Bozeman & Joe Kleine

    
March 9th, 2011
In the latest installment in his "Big Dance" interview series CHN writer spent some time with the hero of Arkansas-Little Rock's comeback win over North Texas in yesterday's Sun Belt title game (guard Solomon Bozeman) along with assistant coach Joe Kleine. Both names are quite familiar to basketball fans, even before last night, due to Bozeman beginning his career at USF before transferring and Coach Kleine's playing career in both college and the NBA.

Jon Teitel: You transferred from USF in 2008. Why did you decide to leave USF, and why did you decide to go to Arkansas-Little Rock?

Solomon Bozeman: I decided to transfer mostly due to a coaching change, as the coach my freshman year (Robert McCullum) got fired. I have a lot of family down here in Arkansas, and Coach Shields is a great guy who I believe in.

JT: You were named Sun Belt Player of the Year earlier this month despite not having a single teammate make any of the all-conference teams. Do you feel like you need to play your best in order for your team to have any chance of winning a game next week?

SB: I feel like I have to play well, but my teammates can step up and hit big shots so I do not need to have a monster game.

JT: You made over half of your three-pointers in conference play this year (32-of-61). What is your secret for three-point shooting?

SB: I just get in the gym as much as possible (morning, evening, whenever), as I have been a hard worker all my life. You have to take a lot of shots, but they also have to be high quality shots.

JT: You made your only three-pointer on Tuesday night with 1.5 seconds left to win the game and get your team into the tournament. Did you think the shot was going in, and where does that rank among the most clutch shots of your life?

SB: It definitely ranks #1 in my life. When it left my hand it felt good, so I knew it was going in!

JT: Your dad Eric is currently the head coach at South Arkansas, but previously was an assistant to Rod Barnes at Ole Miss when they went to the Sweet 16 in 2001 before losing to eventual national runner-up Arizona. Has he given you any tips about what it takes to win a game in the tournament?

SB: He just told me to play hard because you never know what will happen. He also said that we just have to keep fighting and stay together.

Assistant coach Joe Kleine

JT: Your own tourney experience at Arkansas in 1985 involved a first round win over Iowa before a three-point loss to St. John's. What is your favorite memory from that March 25 years ago?

JK: My favorite part was just the excitement of the tourney. Iowa had beaten us pretty bad earlier that year in Hawaii (71-52 in the Rainbow Classic in December), so it was nice to get them back. The St. John's loss was hard to take, as it went all the way down to the wire. There were plays that both I and my teammates did not make that kept us from advancing. I still remember it like it was yesterday.

JT: How do you go from being an Olympic gold medalist in the 1980s and an NBA champion in the 1990s to an assistant coach who made the NCAA tourney in 2011?

JK: I have been involved in basketball all my life, and after retiring from the NBA we chose to move to Little Rock. I got to know Coach Shields, and after volunteering at the start I was offered a job to join his staff.

JT: This is your 4th year on Coach Shields' staff. What makes him such a great coach?

JK: He is very detail-oriented in all aspects of the program: recruiting players, watching film, scheduling games, etc. He is involved in our players' lives both on and off the court, and is very fair with them whether they did something good or bad.

JT: Solomon Bozeman made the game-winning three-pointer on Tuesday night with 1.5 seconds left to get your team into the tournament. Did you think the shot was going in, and where does that rank among the most clutch shots you have ever seen?

JK: I thought we would get a good shot off since we had seven seconds left at the end of the game. I would love to lie to you and tell you I thought it was going in, but only Solomon knew it was going in because he has so much confidence. The rest of us were just hoping. It ranks way up there because of what was at stake for Solomon as a senior. Either make that shot and keep playing or your college career is done.

JT: I know you are not a fortune-teller, but what seed do you think your team will end up getting and what kind of team do you think you would match up well against?

JK: I think we will be a very low seed (14-16) and might even be in the play-in game. Being a small team that plays small, the teams that give us trouble are the ones that can really rebound and have big guards and long wings. If our opponents can also make threes, then that will really take away our advantage on the offensive end.