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Monday Night Louisville is going to play Michigan for the National Championship. It will be Louisville’s first chance to play in the last game of the season since 1986. Cardinals vs. Wolverines. One will cut down the nets.
Louisville & Michigan have met twice on the basketball hardwood. First in 1977 in Ann Arbor when the Cards emerged victorious 88-85 against the #9 ranked Wolverines team in the country. Then again in 1978 when the Wolverines returned the trip to Freedom Hall, this time as the #6 team in the land and left Louisville with an 86-84 loss. Obviously two close games, a long time ago and a trend that Cardinal fans will want to keep going.
Rick Pitino & John Beilein are familiar with one another. The two squared off regularly when Beilein was West Viriginia’s Head Coach before taking the Michigan job. The most classic of games was the 2005 Regional Final in Albuquerque when the Cards made a thrilling comeback to force overtime and eventually clinch the Final Four berth to St. Louis. Our very own CrumsRevenge made a tribute video of that very game that you can watch here.
Rick Pitino will officially be announced as a member of this year’s inductees to the Hall of Fame on Monday. Pitino has compiled a record of 663-239 (309-111 at UofL) and is 47-16 in the NCAA Tournament with a National Title (1996) and is in his 7th Final Four. Beilein is 672-402 (.626) All-Time & 121-84 (.590) at Michigan. This is Beilein’s first Final Four.
Rick Pitino is 0-1 all-time against Michigan when his Kentucky Wildcats lost 81-78 in the 1993 Final Four. Michigan later was forced to vacate their entire 1992-93 season.
Team Stat Comparison
Michigan & Louisville statistically are very different in a lot of ways. First, Louisville’s Strength of Schedule at 6th & Michigan at 47th is odd considering that most rating services list the Big Ten as the toughest conference in basketball. Michigan did go out of conference to play some quality opponents in Pitt, Kansas State, NC State, Arkansas, & West Virginia before going into conference play.
Michigan CAN SHOOT. The field goal percentage difference is probably negated by the Scoring Margin difference. But if we’ve learned anything watching Basketball it is that a team that can shoot the ball always has a chance. Louisville & Michigan also rebound the ball & get assists at a similar rate, but the Cards have a distinct advantage in Blocks & Steals.
One thing that will be interesting to watch: The Wolverines are #1 in Turnovers Per Game, meaning that they turn the ball over less than anyone in the country. Louisville is a big time turnover creating team despite just an 11 turnovers forced effort against Wichita State. Michigan is also #1 in another category: Team Fouls while the Cards are 198th and went into the Bonus EARLY against Wichita State with 14:56 remaining in the 2nd half!
Michigan does have a distinct advantage in Field Goal percentage, both from 2-point & 3-point. Field Goal Percentage Defense is flip-flopped and big-time advantage Louisville. Both teams are mirror images from the Foul line.
|Strength of Schedule||6th||47th|
|Points Per Game||74.3 (27th)||74.9 (20th)|
|Avg Scoring Margin||+16.2 (4th)||+11.9 (10th)|
|Field Goal %||45.6% (52nd)||48.2% (6th)|
|Rebound Rate||52.8% (54th)||52.2% (67th)|
|Blocks Per Game||4.3 (70th)||2.8 (227th)|
|Steals Per Game||10.9 (2nd)||6.3 (203rd)|
|Assists Per Game||14.6 (37th)||14.4 (49th)|
|Turnovers Per Game||12.5 (105th)||9.4 (1st)|
|Team Fouls Per Game||17.9 (198th)||12.7 (1st)|
|2-point FG%||51.0% (43rd)||53.5% (10th)|
|3-point FG%||32.8% (218th)||37.9% (24th)|
|Free Throw %||70.9% (121st)||70.8% (126th)|
|Opponent Shooting %||39.2% (24th)||42.5% (143rd)|
|Opponent 2-point FG%||43.0% (29th)||47.6% (175th)|
|Opponent 3-point FG%||31.5% (58th)||32.4% 91st)|
|Opponent Block Per Game||3.4 (163rd)||3.1 (97th)|
|Opponent Steals Per Game||5.7 (53rd)||5.2 (15th)|
Player & Bench Match-ups
Peyon Siva vs. Trey Burke is interesting because Siva was actually cheering for Trey Burke in the Louisville locker room for the Wolverine’s overtime win over Kansas after the Cards beat Oregon. Burke is generally considered a Top 10 NBA Draft pick for this Summer by most analysts and is an outstanding scorer. In contrast Peyton Siva is not known for his scoring, but rather as a ball handler, distributor, and defender. Burke, though is a better assist player than Siva even is and Siva will have his hands full against Burke on Monday. I do look for Siva & Russ Smith to rotate the responsibility, especially early or if one or both get into foul trouble.
Burke has played 190 of 205 minutes during the NCAA Tournament & has scored 69 points (13.8) and is 23 of 71 (32.4%) from the floor with 17 rebounds, 35 assists, 3 blocks, 9 steals, and 15 turnovers. Siva has played just 144 of 200 available minutes scoring 43 points (8.6) and is 16 of 45 (35.5%) from the floor with 11 rebounds, 23 assists, 1 block, 10 steals, and 11 turnovers.
No matter what happens Monday night will be the last time we will see Peyton Siva play a game for the Cards.
|Peyton Siva||Trey Burke|
|6-0, 185, Sr.||6-0, 195, Soph|
|Field Goal %||41.30%||46.40%|
Russ Smith vs. Nik Stauskas is scary because of Stauskas’ shooting ability, but Stauskas is coming off a disaster of a ball game Saturday against Syracuse as he was 0-5 from the field and was only on the floor for 18 minutes. Syracuse had bigger guards to match-up with Stauskas and that likely played a role. Louisville, whether it is Peyton Siva or Russ Smith will not be able to match Stauskas’ size in the same way unless they elect to move a Wayne Blackshear or Luke Hancock up to play him. I don’t expect that unless Nik gets very hot from outside.
On the other end Stauskas is going to have the chore of guarding Russ Smith. I honestly don’t think Stauskas can stay in front of Russ and for that reason I think Russ has a big night whenever this match-up happens. It will be interesting to see if Coach Beilein goes instead with Caris LeVert for the defensive match-up, especially if Stauskas continues to miss shots.
Stauskas has played 157 of 205 possible minutes for Michigan in the NCAA Tournament and has scored 49 points, 0 on Saturday night, on 16 of 36 shooting (8-22 from 3-point range, was 6-6 from 3-point vs. Florida) 8 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals and 4 turnovers in the NCAA Tournament. Russ Smith has played 161 of 200 possible minutes and has scored 125 points on 39 of 78 shooting (50%), 9 rebounds, 11 assists, 1 block, 15 steals, and 15 turnovers.
Russ & Nik played high school basketball together.
|Russ Smith||Nik Stauskas|
|6-1, 165, Jr.||6-6, 190, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||42.30%||47.10%|
Wayne Blackshear vs. Tim Hardaway, Jr. will be the starters, but I think we all know and have seen over the course of the tournament that Luke Hancock is most likely to get the minutes here. Wayne Blackshear played just 9 minutes against Wichita State (and just 2 minutes in the second half. Still Hancock & Blackshear have shared minutes pretty even over the course of the season and tournament, Luke just got hot Saturday night vs. the Shockers.
Tim Hardaway, Jr. is a very steady and reliable basketball player. He is a lot like Trey Burke in that he is a volume shooter and an excellent passer. Having two players like that in two different body types is dangerous, teams can usually shut one player down…..but two?
Tim Hardaway Jr. has played 188 of 205 available minutes and has scored 67 points, is 24 of 64 from the field (37.5%) with 21 rebounds, 17 assists, 3 steals, and 5 turnovers. Wayne Blackshear has played 91 of 200 available minutes and has scored 27 points, is 9 of 19 from the field with 15 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 5 steals, and 2 turnovers.
To be thorough, I am also going to include Luke Hancock here even though he will come off the bench. Hancock has played 110 of 200 available minutes during the NCAA Tournament and has scored 47 points, is 14 of 24 (58.3%) from the floor with 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks, 4 steals, and 3 turnovers.
A side note here: Tim Hardaway Jr’s Father, NBA Legend Tim Hardaway attended Louisville’s White out game against Marquette early this season. Michigan had played Indiana the night prior in Bloomington. At the game I filmed a time lapse and Mr. Hardaway bumped my camera which nearly ruined the time lapse……………..I thought at the time that he may have bumped my camera, but it would be nice to bump Michigan from the tournament…….little did I know it would be the National Championship game. Also it really is “OK” everything turned out fine and Mr. Hardaway was very nice.
|Wayne Blackshear||Tim Hardaway, Jr.|
|6-5, 230, Soph||6-6, 205, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||42.10%||44.50%|
Chane Behanan vs. Glenn Robinson III is a really good match-up. Glenn Robinson, Jr. is the son of Purdue legend Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson. This is the type of match-up that Chane Behanan really thrives in with undersized Forwards. Robinson will step back from outside on occasion but Behanan has done a nice job with that skill set, particularly when he can get a size advantage. Robinson is more reliable at the free throw line statistically, but honestly having watched a lot of both teams this season I would rather have Behanan at the free throw line under 1:00 than I would Robinson. Call me crazy. Also like Behanan, Robinson is unlikely to foul very much. Both players rarely get into foul trouble & have great body control.
It is close (and not really backed up statistically), but I have to give the Cards the edge in this match-up. Robinson has played 181 of 205 possible minutes for the Wolverines while scoring 64 points, is 28 of 44 (63.6%) from the floor with 31 rebounds, 3 assists, 7 steals, and 6 turnovers. Chane Behanan has logged 117 of 200 possible minutes for the Cards and has really started playing some inspired basketball the last two games. Behanan has 38 points, is 15 of 27 from the floor, with 25 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 4 steals, and 5 turnovers.
Robinson is a potential 1st round draft choice according to several projections.
|Chane Behanan||Glenn Robinson III|
|6-6, 250, Soph||6-6, 210, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||50.50%||56.60%|
Gorgui Dieng vs. Mitch McGary is a big-time match-up. Gorgui’s tournament has been “OK” but he struggled against Wichita State and their style they play on bigs. It will be much different for him Monday night as McGary & Dieng should be capable enough to take each other on without help. Michigan is not a “slap down” team and commits very few fouls, so that will help Gorgui out a great deal. The problem is that Dieng will be facing an extremely talented Center in Mitch McGary. Projections vary on McGary but several have him in the NBA Draft, and several don’t.
Also don’t pay attention to McGary’s average minutes played, he hasn’t logged fewer than 25 minutes during a single game in the NCAA Tournament. His role has clearly grown as the season has progressed.
McGary has been rebounding (and playing) at a high level during the NCAA Tournament, and this is Dieng’s last chance in a game environment to prove that he can be an NBA 1st rounder in June. Going by tournament stats, I have to say that McGary is playing much better. McGary’s game against Kansas 25 points, 14 rebounds alone deserves mention. But despite that I wouldn’t want anyone other than Gorgui in this spot. Also McGary is a poor foul shooter.
McGary has played 155 of 205 possible minutes in the NCAA Tournament and has scored 80 points, is 37 of 50 from the field, has hauled in 58 rebounds, with 8 assists, 6 blocks, 11 steals, and 10 turnovers. Dieng has played 134 of 200 possible minutes with 44 points, 36 rebounds, 4 assists, 12 blocks, 7 steals, and 9 turnovers.
|Gorgui Dieng||Mitch McGary|
|6-11, 245, Jr.||6-10, 250, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||53.30%||60.50%|
Louisville & Michigan Bench Comparison is really not a comparison at all. Even with Louisville in their short guard rotation now without Kevin Ware the Cards still have a decided advantage on the bench, which was also a HUGE reason for Louisville advancing to the National Final. The Wolverines really ‘rely’ on one player, Caris LeVert off the bench to play major minutes. Typically LeVert is used to rotate in for Nik Stauskas. The rest of the players listed below are used to ‘steal’ minutes here and there.
Montrezl Harrell, Luke Hancock, Stephan Van Treese, and even now Tim Henderson are capable of big performances. The Cards have a big advantage on bench in this game.
|Montrezl Harrell||Jordan Morgan|
|6-8, 235, Fr.||6-8, 250, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||56.40%||58.30%|
|Luke Hancock||Caris Levert|
|6-6, 200, Jr.||6-5, 170, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||40.80%||29.80%|
|Stephan Van Treese||Jon Horford|
|6-9, 245, Jr.||6-10, 250, Soph|
|Field Goal %||65.00%||57.90%|
|?Tim Henderson?||Spike Albrecht|
|6-2, 195, Jr.||5-11, 170, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||30.00%||41.70%|
I’ve lived through one national championship. I was 4 years old. I do not remember it. Making a prediction that Louisville will cut the nets down seems like the most foreign concept imaginable. Louisville has been a top basketball team for a long time. Top 5 attendance, #1 in revenue & Television Ratings. But a title has evaded the Cards since 1986.
I think the Cards do it Monday night in Atlanta. Louisville is full of veteran & character guys who have been through the battles. Winning a championship isn’t the ONLY way to cap off a great season, and in some cases careers. But it sure would be nice, and it definitely would be fitting.
This is going to be a tough game. The Wolverines have lost just one game this season by double digits (Michigan State 75-52) and are 31-7. Trey Burke, Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, Glenn Robinson III, Tim Hardaway, Chane Behanan, Luke Hancock, Mitch McGary, Gorgui Dieng. It is a star-studded match-up. I do think that the bench plays a big role in this game, and late-game free throw shooting. I think Michigan hits a lower than usual percentage from the field (happens to almost every team that plays the Cards) and I think Louisville takes advantage in the lane against the Wolverines.
I predict that Louisville will win their first national championship since 1986, their 3rd in school history.
Louisville 74 Michigan 69
National Championship History
1980-Beat UCLA 59-54
1986-Beat Duke 72-69
Louisville Transcript 4-7-2013
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Louisville head coach Rick Pitino and student‑athletes. We can get things started with Coach Pitino.
Q. What do you think this team has really been about this year outside the nuts and bolts? Some thoughts about the bond that these guys have had that has gotten them through so many adversities.
COACH PITINO: Well, I think any time you have success, a family is formed. You don’t see close‑knit teams, reunions for teams that finish .500. The longer your journey goes, you not only have to overcome adversity, you have to come from behind, hold the lead, you spend so much time together, you form a very big bond.
The one thing that struck me, I had my team watch the Jimmy V documentary, which I cried 50% of the time. The guys afterwards, we were the No.1 seeds, we weren’t Cinderellas like NC State, but I wanted them to understand that because they won a championship, for the rest of their lives they will sit around that table, and every year, they will get together for the rest of their lives.
Q. One of the concerns before last night’s game was trying to stay out of foul trouble with the shortened rotation. That did become an issue last night. How will you address that for tomorrow’s game?
COACH PITINO: Well, I’ll tell you, it affected us not in terms of foul trouble. It affected us in the fact that guys were afraid to foul, and their pressure relented until we obviously had to try to win the game.
So they were all trying to play very cautious, didn’t get after people. Besides the great play of Wichita State, it was one of the reasons we didn’t force turnovers. Everybody was afraid to foul. Gorgui had fouls. He was afraid to block shots. Russ and Peyton were being overly cautious.
Unfortunately, when you play that way, you shoot yourself in the foot. You have to play with foul trouble, use the bench, use potential superstars like Tim Henderson (smiling).
Q. Could you talk in a historic sense, I know it’s all about the team and winning, but at the same time you have a chance to do something no coach has ever done, win a championship with two different schools. What does approaching that accomplishment mean?
COACH PITINO: Well, I’m going to be honest with you. I haven’t thought about it for one second until you mentioned it. It’s really not that significant to me.
We have built a brand on Louisville first. Everything we do is about the team, about the family. I’d be a total hypocrite if I said it’s really important. It really is not important.
I want to win because I’m a part of this team. That’s it. Those of us in team sports always think that way.
A guy like Russ Smith in the beginning, when he first came in, never thought that way. It was about points. It was about scoring. Now Russ Smith has gone full cycle, it’s all about the team. When he tries to score more, in the back of his mind, he said, If I don’t, the team won’t win.
All these guys just bought in. None of us really care. It’s just when we lost three in a row, we set our goals because we wanted to win a championship. If it’s to be, it’s to be. If it’s not, it’s not to be.
Q. Rick, I think it was earlier in year you talked about enjoying having players now for two, three, four years. With that in mind, the emotions of Gorgui, Peyton, the four‑year journey with you.
COACH PITINO: Gorgui is a three year so far. If he played like he did last night, it will are four years (laughter). I say that in jest because he is going to go pro.
You know, all these guys are so different, that’s what makes up a great family. I have five children. None of ‘em are alike. These four guys up here are so different. Like I’ll get on Chane unmercifully. He gives me that look. He knows I love him. He knows why I’m doing it. He says, Yes, sir, I got it.
Russ, I don’t even bother because he doesn’t listen to a word I say.
Peyton listens to every little thing. He understands.
You know, they’re all unselfish. If this was another team, you’d hear Wayne Blackshear saying to someone, Man, I wish I could have played more. He knows Luke Hancock’s on fire. He’s up there, the biggest cheerleader on the bench. One game Chane didn’t play. Montrezl Harrell, the Syracuse game in the Garden, Chane’s the biggest cheerleader. I went to say something to him. He said, Don’t say anything, stay with the freshmen.
That’s just what we’ve had the last three years. In this culture today, I just don’t see it anywhere in our society.
Q. Rick, you’ve had really a remarkable week. It’s an open secret you’re going to be in the Hall of Fame. Your son gets the Minnesota job. Playing for the national championship. Do you wonder if you’re pressing your luck or do you indeed have a deal with the devil?
COACH PITINO: I can give you some years where I can name the other way. So you take it in stride.
I try not to ever get too low. I fight adversity as hard as I can fight it, not get too low. When good things happen, I don’t really embrace it. I just say it’s a lucky day.
We’re about the team. If we’re good enough to win a championship, we know we have to play a great game to beat Michigan. With one day prep, this is probably the toughest prep day we’ll ever have with how many things they run.
I’ve known John a long time, back to West Virginia, I know what he’s all about, and that’s about great things. These guys have tremendous respect for.
With us it’s just about winning. The horse race, I hope you guys bet and made some money. Outside that, it’s all about the trainer, the jockey, the horse. Not about us. That’s great.
Outside of us, Richard getting the Minnesota job is one of the best things that could ever happen to me.
Q. Rick, in January your team was named No.1 in the polls, then you beat Connecticut that night. Afterwards you said you had told the players, Enjoy being No.1 ’cause it’s going to go away, but it’s going to come back to you. What did you understand then that made you so sure it was going to come back to them?
COACH PITINO: Well, last year Fred Hina told me in the amount of minutes that we were out, it was more than any of the nine years prior or 10 years prior to me being there. There were people saying in town, I was working the players too hard. I couldn’t believe what I was reading or hearing because we were having concussions, just a rash of injuries.
We stuck together like a fist. We never deviated. The good thing about these guys, they never read comments about themselves. They’re college kids. Chane is more interested in the next date he’s going to have that week. He’s not interested in what they say.
These guys have lives. You forget sometimes, they’re college guys. They want to have fun like some of us used to have 70 years ago. They’re just college guys. They stick together, they have fun. All I told them is, when we got to be No.1, we’re in the Big East, You all know we’re going to have some bumps. The Big East has been one of the greatest conferences of all times. When you play in the Big Ten, the ACC, the Big East, you’re going to have some bumps.
These guys never rattled. They believed in themselves. We knew we didn’t have injuries. Other than Gorgui out for the Duke game, we didn’t have injuries, did we?
RUSS SMITH: I had.
COACH PITINO: Mentally, though (laughter).
Q. What does it mean beyond yourself and the players for this school to have a chance to win the title?
COACH PITINO: You talk about a lucky couple days for me. You think about a program that we get a new football coach who’s tremendous and everybody’s after him. Turns down mega millions, sticks with Louisville. Then goes out, one of the biggest underdogs I hear in the history of a college bowl game, beats Florida, the No.4 ranked team in the country.
Then our women have one of the greatest upsets in the history of women’s basketball in beating Baylor, scoring 82 points against that team.
We make our run. Not talking about all the other sports.
So our school is built around Gorgui and these guys, Russ Smith took off all his clothes, except his underpants, of course, and painted his body red for a women’s soccer game in the cold.
Now you know what I’m coaching (smiling).
That’s what these guys are all about. Gorgui goes to every women’s game. These guys go to volleyball games. It’s a pretty cool school. It’s a blue‑collar school. If we raise money and built facilities, we don’t really do it with alumni. Some we do. We’re not who’s who like Harvard and Yale in the alumni world. We’re a blue‑collar school that supports each other. One of the coolest places I’ve ever worked.
Q. Rick, how have you changed from the ’96 coach who won the championship? How have the years mellowed you or altered you?
COACH PITINO: I think the Boston Celtics changed me the most. I don’t think we’ve changed in terms of what we teach and the values we have as a team. That ’96 team was very close. We did the same things technically. But personally you always change as you get older.
I was watching a press conference, and I know Jim Boeheim so well. It was typical Jim last night, what went on. But you all got to realize something ‑ I’m probably getting close to that ‑ it wasn’t the fact he was upset that you were asking whether he’d step down. You were asking a man, how old is Jim, 65? What you’re basically telling him is, You’re getting old. You’re reminding him of that.
Inside, that’s what bothers us because we all want to be Peter Pan and stay young. It wasn’t the fact whether he would retire or not, because that’s a normal question to ask somebody after a Final Four. But it bothers us if some of you are my age, 60, Man, you’ve had a great career, guy from the Indianapolis Star, are you thinking of hanging it up? You don’t want to hear that because it tells you you’re getting a little old and you don’t like that. I know the feeling.
So it was typical Jim. But that’s why it bothers people like us if you say that. So please don’t say that to me tomorrow (smiling).
Q. This has been viewed as kind of an ugly college basketball season. You’re close to winning it all this year. Do you agree, disagree?
COACH PITINO: Ugly in what way?
Q. Not a lot of scoring, a lot of physical play, difficult to watch at times. I don’t even know if you agree.
COACH PITINO: I do agree. I think Jay Bilas has done a tirade on the way college is being played. I started thinking about it because I was on a committee many years ago with a bunch of coaches, Pat Riley, Larry Brown, general managers, about 18 of us in the room. David Stern called the meeting to change professional basketball. I think at the time there were only one or two teams breaking 100. Pro basketball was ugly, just like you’re saying now.
We talked about the zone. We talked about eight seconds in the backcourt. Then we left the meeting and everybody wanted to do something about it.
Go back a little bit, for all the New York guys. My team with the Knicks averaged 116.8 points in the game and we were third in the league in scoring. The NBA came full cycle, couldn’t break 100.
What was happening is, all the things we tried to come up with weren’t the answer.
I went to see Earl Clark play against Miami. Earl was playing LeBron. Earl just basically took his hand and just rested it on him and they went, Foul. What happened in the NBA now is they stopped all the arm bars, all the standing up of screens, all the coming across and chopping the guy. They stopped all that. Now there’s freedom of movement in the NBA and you see great offense.
When you coach in the Big East, you should wear body guard. Peyton wears body guard, shoulder pads, because you can’t cut, can’t move. The referees are caught in a quandary. They’re saying, We’re going to ruin the game, we’re on TV.
Jay is 100% right, if we want to get back, take a page out of the NBA, have freedom of movement.
I always liked to watch the old films of Clyde Frazier and, you don’t see defense touch anybody at all. Everybody cuts and passes, freedom of movement. That’s what we got to get back to. The only way to do it is the first 10 games of the season, the games have to be ugly and the players will adjust, then you will see great offense again.
Like the NBA now, you see all those great scoring teams. Now they have a great product, and we need to go the route of the NBA.
That’s a long answer, but I think that’s the truth.
Q. Russ, after you won last night, had a chance to sit and watch that game, knowing you get the winner, what did you see out of Michigan?
RUSS SMITH: Well, we know how good Michigan is. They move the ball really well. They have great shooters, great length, great height. We just got to be prepared for all of the sets and the zone offense and the man‑to‑man offense.
But overall, I think it should be a pretty interesting game.
Q. Coach and Russ, do you view this game as any kind of referendum on Big East versus Big Ten? Is it just Louisville versus Michigan and nobody cares about the leagues?
COACH PITINO: If it was the old days, that would be L in the alphabet compared to this. We want to win it for Louisville. That’s the only reason we want to live it for. The Big East is no longer the Big East. We’re all heartbroken after that. As soon as we started adding Tulsa, SMU, Boise State, we realized it wasn’t the Big East any longer.
That doesn’t come into play with these guys. I think you would agree, Russ.
RUSS SMITH: I agree.
COACH PITINO: Then say something about it (smiling).
RUSS SMITH: Pretty much it really doesn’t matter to me. I view every game the same way. I try to approach every game the same way, with the game on the line. Like the Big East championship, I didn’t look at it any different than a regular‑season game. Just try to play hard and win every game.
This is the national championship on the line. We just all got to come prepared to play.
Q. Peyton, tomorrow night is the last game, four years. Does it feel like it’s been four years, eight years? Does it seem like just yesterday? What would it mean to go out by cutting down the nets?
PEYTON SIVA: To a lot of people it might seem like eight years. To me, it seems like yesterday, I was a freshman, getting pressed the whole time in practice and turning it over every play (smiling).
For me it’s been a great run, long journey, a lot of ups and downs.
I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Every day I treat it like it was my last game. Tomorrow, it definitely is. It would be great to go out on a win. I know my team and I will be ready tomorrow. We just got to go out there and play our hardest.
Q. Rick, admire your stance about freedom of movement. Is it compatible with the way you’ve coached these guys to defend, as hard as they are on the ball handler and on the ball?
COACH PITINO: Yeah, to be honest with you, we don’t really foul too much. Russ will once in a while, like, he’ll get in the guy’s jocks and use his hands. We don’t do those things to stop freedom of movement.
Russ, I’ll be honest with you, I told him last night, That’s a foul, son. He got after the guy, that’s a foul.
I’m all for it. We got to get through this year, then something has to be done about it. I complained for three years about coaches having conversations with referees. That was my biggest thing to the commissioners, is how can, during the game, the referees talk to coaches. Can you imagine someone screaming in your ear as you’re trying to make a Wall Street trade? You can’t do that.
I love the NBA. They drop the ball, ignore you as if you don’t exist, go to the other side of the floor.
I think the freedom of movement has to start next year from the exhibition games. Have to allow it to happen. One of the worst things about certain calls, happens to Gorgui all the time, goes up for an offensive rebound, over‑the‑back call, second foul, he’s got to sit. You do have to call what you see. But the arm bars, the stopping of the screening and the stopping of the cutting is what was cleaned up the NBA.
Q. For this tournament, have you made a conscious effort to isolate your players from the rest of the media? Did Kevin’s injury approach how you’ve had the guys treat the media this week?
COACH PITINO: We’re told what to do here. We didn’t even have time for church this morning. They just tell us what to do. We were literally one minute late. My SID was going to fire me. He was yelling at me, screaming at me.
The media, we love talking with you guys, but we do what they tell us. They occupy our time every moment of the day. These guys don’t have any time to relax at all.
Q. A lot of the dialogue during this trip to the Final Four has been about comparing what it was like going last year with what it’s been like going this year. Do each of you feel like there was a moment, an experience, something that happened at the last Final Four that might have set you on a course to be playing in the game you’re going to play tomorrow?
RUSS SMITH: I think the experience playing against Kentucky last year was really necessary for us in yesterday’s game. I think the experience factor kind of helped us get over the hump and kind of like keep pushing.
Last year when we played Kentucky, we made a run, but our run stopped. We didn’t make the plays necessary to finish the game.
I think yesterday we made a run and we continued our run and got some stops on the defensive end.
I think last year’s experience definitely prepared us for yesterday’s game and got us here to the national championship.
PEYTON SIVA: I think the same what Russ said. Last year when we played Kentucky, we played ‘em tough. It was a tied game at one point. We couldn’t get over that hump. This year we’ve made our run and we stuck with it.
So the experience really helped us out of playing on a big stage like that, playing in front of like the bright lights, just playing together as a team. This year we came back. We was hungry to get back here. This is a blessing from God that nothing serious really happened to us and we was able to stay together, get to this point.
GORGUI DIENG: I think they both are right. You know, last year we lost something very special because we knew we had a chance to win that game. Coach said we need to learn how to kill the game. We didn’t do it last year. Last year we keep pushing it and never let up.
Q. Peyton and Gorgui, you guys had difficult games last night. How do you approach the final? Is there a fear or a possibility of overcompensating in trying to bounce back from tough games? And, Peyton, talk about the matchup with Trey Burke.
PEYTON SIVA: You know, for me it’s really not about having a bad game. I did some good things, I did some bad things. I never really worry about my shooting or anything like that. My whole thing is as long as I go out there and play good defense, I’ll be fine.
As for tomorrow against Trey Burke, he’s a great player. But we know that. We have to contain him. We got to play a good game against their whole team. Mitch McGary is having one of the best tournaments of anybody. Tim Hardaway, Glenn Robinson, Stauskas, they’re all playing well right now. It has to be a team effort for us.
Trey Burke is a great player, but we have to come out there, play our game, execute our plays.
GORGUI DIENG: I didn’t have my A game last night. But we got a chance to win. You know, I already forget about it. Just pay a lot of attention to the film and try to have a good practice and going to be ready for tomorrow.
But I think it don’t make any sense to think about the game yesterday. We win, we survived. Probably tomorrow I got a chance to redeem myself again.
THE MODERATOR: We’d like to thank the student‑athletes.
I’d like to introduce Dan Gavitt from the NCAA for a special presentation.
DAN GAVITT: I just want to take two minutes, if I may. In this 75th Celebration of March Madness, there are so many people who have been such a big part of this tournament for so long. There’s one gentleman with us here today that has loved, respected and cherished this game, the players, the coaches that play this game, told their stories so well.
Now in his 35th year of covering the Final Four. Unfortunately doctors are telling him he may not been able to continue covering the Final Four as he has been able to. We didn’t want to miss the opportunity today to honor someone who has meant so much to our game, to all of you, as your peers and colleagues.
You’ve been covering the Final Four for 35 years as the AP National College reporter. He’s an alum of St. John’s University where he was mentored by Coach Lou Carnesecca and Luke Kaiser, the athletic director there.
I know there are many here that love and cherish this game, and surely as much as Oc, but maybe no one more than Oc. I know he’s had the great respect of coaches and players that he’s covered all the years. I thank Coach Pitino to honor Jim O’Connell from the Associated Press.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll continue with questions for Coach Pitino.
Q. Your history with Coach Beilein, just wondered your impressions of what makes his offenses so unique, what you respect about him there.
COACH PITINO: We were lucky enough in 2005, we had seven players on our team and we could only practice with six because Otis George had a stress fracture and couldn’t practice. The last 10 games of the season we were playing all zone and couldn’t press. One of the few teams for me that got to a Final Four and didn’t press.
I remember it. I hope I’m right on the numbers. We were down 20, like, 12 minutes into the game. Literally his son made a three when he was in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That was, I believe, the 10th or 11th three that half, and we extended our zone.
We hadn’t practiced. We had one day to prepare. We didn’t go through one man play. I took the stat sheet, tore it up. I said, Guys, I’m sorry to say this, we can’t beat ‘em playing zone. We have got to press, play all man.
We spent our 12 minutes in the locker room clearing the chairs. They ran more of a Princeton offense back then, going through the back cuts. I said, I know we got seven guys, you’re going to have to press. We cut it to 12 at the half. We wound up winning it in overtime.
But his offensive sets, both against man and zone, he’s one of the best offensive minds in basketball.
The other thing about him, he really recruits to his system maybe better than any coach, as Jim recruits to his zone defensively, he recruits to his system. He gets everybody that can pass, catch and shoot. Then if you get up on ‘em, they can ball fake and drive.
Mitch McGary has gone from a raw basketball player to a David Lee in the shortest period of time. He reminds me so much of David. His skill level is great.
So John is a great teacher. Their players are great. Mitch McGary has improved so much in a short period of time to be one of the better players in the country right now.
Q. You understand the state of Kentucky as well as anybody. How would you describe this fan base right now and how starved are they for this after Kentucky won it last year?
COACH PITINO: I’m sure they are. But to tell you the truth, I have about as little interaction with fans and the media as any person probably in coaching. I just live in my own cocoon. I don’t read, I don’t listen. I just coach and enjoy that aspect of it.
I have probably one of the best relationships with the Louisville media as any coach in the country because I don’t read ‘em and I don’t listen to ‘em. That’s not a negative. There are great writers in our town. It happened a long time ago when I was in Lexington. I made up my mind with the media. I want to treat everybody as if they’re my friends. You have to say bad things about us sometimes because we have bad nights.
I don’t know what’s going on. I’m sure they’re enthusiastic. I’m sure they’re fired up. I can tell you one thing, I don’t subscribe to the fact that Kentucky won it. I don’t get into that. I love Kentucky. My eight years there were Camelot. I got nothing ever negative to say about them or their program. I love Louisville. I want us to be successful.
I rooted for them to win the championship last year. I think 90% of the Louisville fan base wanted them to win it. There’s 10% on both sides that don’t subscribe to that.
Q. You mentioned the family kind of atmosphere. Was there something that you did to change and foster that or was it more trying to recruit guys that had the personalities that would blend in like this? Is it because of past players that may not have been about the team?
COACH PITINO: I think a family is formed when you have an incredible work ethic and you have incredible discipline. No bond can be formed just by love.
When you struggle together and work together and you get tired together and fatigued together, you become a family. That’s the only way it happens.
When the struggles happen through hard work and discipline, you become a family. If everything’s given to you all the time, you don’t become a family.
Q. Speaking of family, Luke’s performance last night came in front of his dad, who is not really in great health. I know you have immense respect for that young man. How much did it grow last night?
COACH PITINO: That’s the first thing he said to me when he came up. He said, Coach, thanks so much. My dad got a chance to see it. That was the proudest moment for him ’cause his father has been in poor health.
His father getting to that game, being there, was awesome. When we went to the press conference, he has really bad shoulders. This kid is the toughest kid I’ve ever coached times 10. He goes through a routine of heating and icing, whatever they do. They wanted him to be on the CBS show at halftime. I said, He’s got to get treatment.
Steve Scheer said, who we going to be on with? Obviously if it was Digger, we both would have left. He said it was going to be Greg Anthony, Kenny ‘The Jet,’ Charles Barkley, Gottlieb, Greg Gumbel. He said, Barkley is going to be there? I’d like to meet him.
It was a great time for him having his dad there and he loved meeting Charles.
Q. Assuming the sources are correct, tomorrow you will go in with Jerry Tarkanian. Did you take anything from him? Talk about his impact on the game.
COACH PITINO: If he is in, and I don’t know that to be a fact, I really don’t. I read what you read on the ticker. Tark offered me one of my first jobs. I was head coach in Hawaii for six games and coached against Tark. I didn’t know what an X or an O was. I was 22 or 23 at the time. I love Tark ever since. I love him because I watch him in Final Fours.
I’ve been in his company over a hundred times. There can be a freshman ladies coach come up and say, Jerry, I really like your pressure defense. Well, sit down and let me tell you about it. An hour later, he’s still with that lady. He’s a very unique man.
If he is in, I’m more excited than if I was to get in. I’m equally excited, if it is true. I had the two greatest years of my life for two reasons: one, working under what I called one of the greatest experiences of my life in working for Hubie Brown, and the second thing, one of the greatest experiences of my life, watching a young man going on a run like I’ve never seen before and getting a chance to work with him and that’s Bernard King. They don’t tell you these thing, believe it or not. They do not.
Q. Can you relate at all to what it must mean to Michigan being back at this point after sanctions, et cetera.
COACH PITINO: It’s great. Michigan is an unbelievable school. Great academic institution. Great tradition. I happen to have a little contact with them. To be a Michigan man, it means a lot to them. They could have no greater leader than John Beilein. He’s what college basketball is all about.
This has been a journey for me that’s built on this NCAA tournament with respect of the people that we prepare for.
I know John really well. But the other guys from Cy, with North Carolina A&T, I thought he got more out of his talent than I’ve seen most teams get. I said this last night, Larry Eustachy put together a team at Colorado State that was unbelievable. Never coached against Dana Altman, and I hope, and I really mean this, I hope I never coach against them again. Then, of course, last night was as good as it gets.
We have a profession. I know we’ve had some tough moments lately. But the other extreme, the majority of what you’re seeing is just incredible. The teaching that’s going on in unbelievable, like no time I’ve ever seen.
Q. The great philosopher Charles Barkley has gotten on the AAU system quite a bit. You’ve had the advantage of seeing this for a long time. You just complimented your kids’ unselfishness because it seemed to be out of the norm. Do you think that the AAU system needs to be tweaked? Is it turning out great kids, kids you have to break down?
COACH PITINO: The AAU system, I’ve seen some really, really great coaches who care about their kids, really do it for the right reasons. Then I see some AAU programs that are totally tied into the shoe companies, being run by them, and you see some bad things that are happening.
There’s good and there’s bad, like in all parts of society. Charles is right with that.
I’ve also seen some great AAU programs that the kids leave, they don’t make it in basketball, and they’re still there for the families and helping them in many ways. Then I see the flipside where I see the shoe companies heavily involved in the programs, directing players, things of that nature. That’s the bad part of it.
I’m not sure of the solution of it. You’ve seen runners who are running AAU programs. I’m not sure I know how to clean it up. Don’t have the answer for it. Like a lot of people get on these tangents about the players aren’t getting paid. I don’t know, my teammates, Julius Erving, Al Skinner, we got paid.
I just know myself, I’m finishing up over a quarter of a million of dollars at Georgetown and Notre Dame with my children. We get paid as athletes, room, board, books and tuition. That is a lot of money for all of you that have taken out loans that you may still be paying today. We are being paid.
You can write about it all you want. I made one suggestion. I think all the families for the NCAA tournament should be flown in, have their hotels paid for. That’s the least we can do to see their children play because it’s a great expense to them with the flights today.
But I don’t know what the solution is because of all the other sports that are non‑revenue, because how do you pay BU hockey and not BU basketball, you know?
Q. With Mitch McGary, what makes him so good right now? Put your NBA hat on. What skill sets does he have that will translate on the next level?
COACH PITINO: I make the analogy of David Lee. He reminds me of David Lee. Big‑time athlete, David was. David really improved his shooting. Couldn’t shoot a lick. He was shooting air balls from the foul line in college. Great runner. Very active. Now he’s become a great passer. Tremendous outlet guy. Great basketball player.
Everybody sort of talks about Trey Burke. He has really gotten better to the point where he’s one of the premiere guys in the country right now. He’s always been hard‑nosed and tough.
Q. I’m wondering if Jersey Red would still call you the exorcist or has time mellowed you and have you found some perspective as your career has gone on here?
COACH PITINO: Well, I haven’t spoken to Jersey in over 10 years. Like I’ve said many times. I understand this game. The Boston Celtics helped me understand it mentally, physically, what it’s all about. It’s all about the guys to my left. There’s no secret potions here.
I was taught a long time ago about why you win and why you lose from a good buddy named Dick McGuire from the New York Knicks. He told me great players play in the middle of the floor, where the window is open, you can see their options. Inferior players play to the sideline and the baseline.
He kept repeating to me my first year with the Knicks, Stop winning, you’re going to get fired, stop winning. I just laughed at Dick. I’ll never forget it as long as I live because our locker room, when we were rolling on the ground playing the Indiana Pacers, going to the playoffs the first year, management, Dick, the scouts, it was like a funeral because we were going to play the Celtics in the next round and they knew we were going to lose out on a pick.
So Dick was a man of few words. We spent an awful lot of time. They were my two pals, Fuzzy Levane and Dick McGuire, they gave me about as much wisdom as I could possibly get as a basketball coach.
Q. We’ve seen star players step up and make runs. Here Tim Henderson, Luke Hancock, Michigan, their backup guards hit four threes in the first half, what does it say about this Final Four and this matchup that maybe the star players are taking a backseat so far?
COACH PITINO: I think we’re all trying to stop the great players defensively, choreograph our defensive plan to stop the great players.
I remember on the march in ’87 to the Final Four, we had to play Georgetown, and the MVP of that region was our seventh man Darryl Wright, because we knew they would take Billy Donovan and Delray Brooks out of the game. We had to have Steve Wright and Darryl Wright rise to the occasion, and Darryl Wright, the seventh man, was the MVP of the region.
It just works that way because coaches choreograph the region. If you’re playing against the Miami Heat, not that you can’t stop LeBron, but your mentality is going to be to try to stop LeBron, stop D Wade, to stop Bosh, then Chalmers has a great night, somebody else steps up and has a great night. It’s just what you try to do defensively.
Those guys, not that you don’t pay attention to them, but your strategy is not toward them.
Q. Last weekend you used the word ‘humility’ a couple times, once in reference to your Boston days, and also about your team’s mindset this year needing to stay humble. No offense, but as a younger man, when you were with UK, is that a word that would have sprung to mind?
COACH PITINO: No, it took a long time to gain humility. If I had one regret in life, it wouldn’t be what you think, it’s that I wasn’t more humble at an earlier age. And I preach to any young coach that comes along. I tell my son all the time, Don’t make the same mistakes when I was your age.
He said, Do you press too much?
I said, No, wasn’t humble enough. I didn’t realize why we won enough. You got to learn some when you go to Minnesota, it’s not about coaching against Tom Izzo, it’s not against coaching against all the great ones in that conference, it’s about getting players that play at Indiana, play at Ohio State, play at Wisconsin. That’s what it’s about.
I’ve never scored a bucket in my life at the collegiate level as a basketball coach. As a pro coach, when you fail with the Celtics, suddenly the full court press didn’t get you over the hump, the three‑point shot, the motion didn’t get you over the hump. You truly realize why you win and why you lose.
That’s why my all time favorite, because I read a lot, read books constantly. Every page of anything you read about John Wooden is just like a manuscript for any young coach how to carry himself and how to live your life. That man was truly one of the most incredible people we’ve had on this earth.
Q. You mentioned that you had some contact with Michigan. Can you take us through that decision‑making process from 2001. Is it a little bit ironic you’re facing them tomorrow night for a chance to win another title?
COACH PITINO: It was kind of a funny story because I agreed to be the Michigan coach. I lived in Boston right on Com Avenue. We visited Las Vegas. I love Las Vegas. My wife doesn’t like Las Vegas. We had young children at the time. She said, Look, if we were all ‘let’s go,’ we have young kids. I just don’t want to go out west. I don’t want to go to a different time zone. I want to stay near our family.
It wasn’t Las Vegas as a town, it was the fact that it was west of the Mississippi.
I’ll go to any job, but want to stay closer to home.
So I took the Michigan job. That morning I agreed. I forget what the name was, I think it was ‘Outright,’ which when I called the Michigan AD, he didn’t want me to use my real name to get through to him. My wife came up and, as I said, I’m on the third floor, putting together all the things together with the Michigan contract.
She had a book. There was an expression in the book that, I’d rather live one day as a lion than a thousand as a Lamb. My wife doesn’t swear. She didn’t want to go to Michigan because I’ve never visited there, I didn’t know anybody there. She wanted to go back to Kentucky where she saw the family so happy for eight years.
I said to her, You don’t understand, the Kentucky coach can’t coach at Louisville. You’re just not getting it. She said, It’s one game every year, and every other year you have to visit. What’s the big deal?
I said, It’s a big deal. We don’t want to do that. We’ll be miserable. You don’t want to put yourself in that situation.
She said, You know what, that line you’re always using, I’d rather live one day as a lion than a thousand as a lamb, you’re an F‑ing Lamb, then walked downstair.
I said, Think about it. There’s half a million Kentucky fans in our town. It’s not like living in Lexington where if you wear red, you get shot. It doesn’t work that way.
She said, I don’t care, your family is going to be happy. Now I have to call the AD. It’s 12:00. He had a thing between 12:00 and 1:30. I think it was squash or racquetball, where he can never be disturbed unless it’s a matter of life and death. His assistant said, Is it a matter of life and death?
I said, No, it’s really, really important. It’s a matter of life and death, because I changed my mind.
I’m sorry, I can’t put him through to you, do you want his voice mail?
So now I’m leaving this long voice mail. I rambled on saying it’s one of the greatest jobs in the world, but I have to go back home where my family grew up, my children grew up. I gave a long‑winded story. Never till the NIT when I got a chance to speak to him in person about it. I went to Louisville. It was the right move not necessarily for me. But it was the right move for my family.
Q. You’ve had tremendous success for a long period of time. You’ve also had periods when you’ve been knocked down. How have you been able to get through the harder times the last few years?
COACH PITINO: I think I really have to believe in your faith. The thing about adversity, you know, for me losing a child to 9/11, I don’t care what I face, I can fight it. I’m still not over losing a child and I’m still not over 9/11. I still to this day think about those guys all the time. I wanted to watch Zero Dark Thirty. It meant a lot to me. My children said, Skip the first five minutes, watch it, you’ll enjoy it. And I did.
That moment when that happened, at the end was really crucial to me.
I can face anything. That, I had a very difficult time facing. Still to this day for most of us from New York have a very difficult time with that.
Q. You said last night if you had Michigan, you had a whole lot to prepare for. When did the preparation for Michigan start and where did you start?
COACH PITINO: Well, I thought it started at halftime. But then at the end, it went back.
We didn’t have to prepare for Syracuse. We’ve played them three times. We knew them. We knew they were going to play zone.
Michigan, one day of prep, is very difficult to prepare for. We play both man and zone. We press. You have to go over the press offense, the zone offense which changes to man. They have so many different counters to their plays. They execute.
But a lot of offensive things that they execute, we do on offense. Roll and replaces, high pick’n rolls. They shoot the ball better than we to, but some of their offensive schemes we do. It won’t be easy, but we’ll be used to it a little bit more.
Q. A lot has been made about John’s journey to get to this point through his career. Do you think young coaches today are patient enough to do that? Do you think athletic directors value that experience the way they should?
COACH PITINO: The young coaches are much better than I was at their age. I was always looking to move up that ladder and overly ambitious. Guys like Brad Davis [sic], Shaka Smart, Gregg Marshall, they stay put. They’re so bright and so smart by doing that because they understand. You know, when you win, so many opportunities chase after you as if it’s part of your shadow. When you put yourself in a losing situation, everything goes away.
Pat Riley said it in such a profound way about the NBA. There’s winning and misery and nothing in between. It’s really true.
So when you’re part of a Wichita State and a Virginia Commonwealth, a Butler, you’re winning. When you make the money that they make, it’s not the money some other guys make, money is irrelevant when you have it, it’s totally relevant when you don’t have it.
So those guys are much smarter than us as older coaches because they understand the value of winning, the value of programs.
We have the classiest young coaches that I’ve seen come along. There’s nothing like these guys. They’re incredible coaches, more important, they’re incredible people. Brad Davis comes out. He comes out, leaves his team to come out to congratulate me when we win a game in the bracket we were in. The class they exude, the loyalty they exude, our game is in great shape, better shape.
Now, we have to change the way we play the game a little bit, and that comes with the rules committee.
Q. You spoke earlier about some of the more unheralded bench players, the role they play in the Final Four. Back on the stars. Looking at tomorrow’s game, do you see it as a potentially very high wattage, star‑studded affair?
COACH PITINO: I think you got a lot of great players on that court. You don’t know which ones are going to step up. I tried to tell Russ in the Duke game, They trapped you in the Bahamas, they’re going to do everything possible to stop you.
I said, With us, we had to get Kelly out of that game somehow, so we kept running at Kelly trying to get him out of the game.
So you don’t know what the coaches are thinking in terms of who to stop. They are really a great basketball team because of their movement, their shooting, their passing, their unselfishness.
A lot of teams when you watch them, you get nervous a little bit because they do so many things well. You have fun watching Michigan play basketball. The way they pass, cut, shoot, it’s a John Beilein team. They’re fun to watch. As a coach going to play them, I really enjoy watching them on film.
I’m saying Brad Davis, it’s Brad Stevens. I say for my own player Luke Whitehead for Luke Hancock. I know what you’re thinking: I’m like Boeheim, he should go.
Q. Gorgui, Peyton and Russ were asked a question about how last year’s experience in a Final Four has prepared them for tomorrow night’s game. Could you expand upon that.
COACH PITINO: You know, I really don’t think it does personally. I think what it does, when you get on that stage of a dome, playing in front of 75,000, 80,000 people, it helps to experience that.
What I think is more important to me personally in preparing a team is the conference tournament. Those three or four games that you play where you have no time like now to prepare, and your players have to really get ready in a short period of time, I think that’s invaluable than being on this stage.
I think they know what to expect from what you have to do to prepare, the time restraints. But it’s really not an advantage at all. We didn’t have unfinished business last year. We got beat by one of the great teams in the country in Kentucky. We came close, fought them hard, got beat. Did that prepare us?
I think it’s like when you go to a really great restaurant, you can’t afford it in your younger days of coaching. You’d like to get back to that restaurant. You wait for your anniversary to get back. It’s the same way here. You taste the Final Four, you love that run, you’ll do anything to get back to it. That’s what our guys did this year. I think that’s where the experience helped.
Q. You were talking about the demise of the Big East. It made me think of next year. I’m sure you haven’t given any thought to it, but can you give us a few seconds on being in with Roy, CoachK, Larranaga, all that?
COACH PITINO: The reason I don’t think about it is because I have been for 30 years preaching, I’ve read my pro teams by Spencer Johnson, the cute little book called The Precious Present, telling my pro guys, don’t look at the second contract, stop worrying about the second contract your agents are drilling into your head. Enjoy being a rookie. Enjoy these times.
The Precious Present is all about being here right now talking to you, enjoying my hour with you, enjoying my hour and a half of practice. I think that’s what life is really about: enjoying your family, the fact they’re traveling with you. I’d be the biggest hypocrite in the world because I read that book every year to every college and pro team I’ve coached.
I tell these guys all the time, Gorgui probably won’t be back, I said, Son, enjoy this, this is incredible. Peyton, Siva, I’ve had one of the greatest gifts of all time for having Peyton Siva for four years. I’ve enjoyed every minute of every hour of every day.
So I never think about that.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Mitch McGary, and what role will age and experience play as Gorgui tries to neutralize what he does tomorrow?
COACH PITINO: Well, how old is Mitch?
COACH PITINO: So Gorgui is 37. He’s got 16 years on him, so it means a lot (laughter).
No, on paper you would say this is a young basketball team. But because he’s done such a great job molding this team, they play like seniors. You don’t see guys pass, catch and shoot like that. This is a remarkable team the way they share, the way they pass. They don’t play like a young basketball team.
Mitch McGary in the beginning of the year was a good player who had really good potential. Now he’s a great player, one of the premiere big guys in our country. So he’s not a freshman, doesn’t play like a freshman. Nobody on their team does.
So we’ve had an incredible run. I think yesterday, I’m pretty sure Kenny told me this, was the most wins in the history of one of the greatest traditions in the history of college basketball. We’ve had a great run. Now we’re playing for a championship.
But I don’t think any of that will matter, the fact that we’re on such a great run. It takes a well‑seasoned, tough‑as‑nails mentally basketball team to beat a Wichita State team that outplayed us last night. So two great teams playing for the national championship, a lot of fun, and we’re certainly going to enjoy it.
THE MODERATOR: We’d like to thank Coach Pitino for being so generous with his time today.
COACH PITINO: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Michigan Transcript 4-7-2013
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Michigan head coach John Beilein and student‑athletes. We’ll begin with questions.
Q. Curious about in your career, as you started to get better players, more talented guys, were you tempted at all to maybe change your approach in terms of how to handle guys who maybe wanted to accelerate the process a little faster?
COACH BEILEIN: You know, no. Always thought that whatever we do, when I was coaching at the lower levels with really good players, said that if I could ever get to the point where I could recruit these five guys, that we would do a lot of the same things, but we just do ‘em better.
As far as after that, we think we’re preparing kids for everything in life, whatever comes their way. We want them to be more skilled players. If their dreams are to play at a professional level afterwards, we study what people do at that level like crazy. Not as much to say, certainly it’s preparing them, but we want to win. So the better they can become, the better we’re going to be.
These young men have some really unlimited potential, and that’s why we’re coaching. But we don’t ever have the idea, We’re coaching these guys, we’re going to keep telling them they’re going to be great pros.
No, we’re saying, Let’s win at Michigan. Unpack your suitcase, and let’s win at Michigan, then the rest will take care of itself. Just like during the year, if we just take care of each game, you can be in the championship game one day. If all you talk about is the championship game, you might never get there.
Q. Coach and Mitch, Rick Pitino said when he watches Michigan on film, he has a lot of fun. Do you have fun watching Louisville on tape?
COACH BEILEIN: I started at 5:45 this morning watching them on film. Those two hours, I didn’t think they were fun because they give you so many different looks. With a one‑day prep, it’s almost impossible to get ready for all those things.
What you’re hoping is that you’ve been getting ready for that since October 15th. You don’t know whether you are, but just you got to dribble it strong, you got to pivot well, pass well, play with your eyes up. Those are things these guys have been working on all year long.
MITCH McGARY: I’m going to have fun no matter what, watching film, practicing. It’s what we love to do. We have a chance to play for a national championship against Louisville, a great team. Just going to go out and have fun.
Q. Tim and Trey, point guards and shooting guard scorers often have a delicate relationship. The point guard’s job is to get the ball to the right guy, and the scorer sometimes is having an off‑shooting night. Can you explain your relationship, how that has evolved over time. Sometimes it’s a delicate thing.
TREY BURKE: Well, me and Tim, we have a certain bond out there on the court. We know when one guy’s shot’s not falling. We just know how to attack different ways.
My shot wasn’t really falling yesterday and Tim’s wasn’t falling yesterday. We just try to find different ways to contribute, not only on offense, but on the defensive end which would give the team more of a spark.
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: It all just plays out playing with each other in the summer on the same team, different team, knowing each other’s tendencies while playing with each other or against each other.
That just evolves onto the basketball court during the season, throughout the season. Like he said, we read each other really well out there. We had an off game yesterday. But we just try to do the best we can to distribute and contribute for our team and just find guys that were getting good looks and getting good shots.
Q. Do you think it’s harder for young coaches now to follow the path you took in your career? Do you think young coaches are patient enough?
COACH BEILEIN: As much as this has been a very fortuitous path, an interesting path, it’s been very fortuitous. My wife and I talked about this the other day because my son Patrick is a Division II coach. Whether people would ever trust a Division II coach to go to Division I. They should, but they probably don’t.
Things fell together at different times to allow me, with no Division I experience, my son played and been at two places at Division I, I had none. As a result, I believe that if you can coach, you can coach. But there’s a perception that you got to have a pedigree. You have to come up a certain tree in order to know how to coach.
There’s an awful lot of guys, I hope I’m holding some type of flag right now for all those Division II, Division III, NAIA, junior college coaches, who really were some of the best coaches I ever coached against, knowing that they could be here too right now if they had the same breaks I had.
Q. I think I read somewhere you were coming off the bench at Brewster last year. Can you talk about how much your game has developed in the last year since then? Coach, can you address how much Mitch’s game has elevated in the last year.
MITCH McGARY: You know, just being poised with the ball. A lot of confidence throughout the whole year, maturing, growing on and off the court has helped throughout the whole season. Just credit my teammate for the growth in my skill level. They’ve helped me a lot, pushed me through practices every day, just helped me throughout the whole season.
COACH BEILEIN: Yeah, what we’ve seen from Mitch, he knows it well, is he’s got so much potential and so much talent that, I have a thing, that sometimes your strength can be your weakness.
So, you know, he’s so skilled, he sees so many things, maybe sometimes tries to do so much. We have a saying, Let’s be good before you’re great. In this tournament he’s played good. He’s made a good team, a great team, because he’s played that way.
His practice habits, his overall focus on the game continues to evolve. It was never bad. But it’s at a point where he realizes, Boy, this stuff works. He knows that, but he’s young. He continues to learn just like all my guys are young.
This guy, I have a feeling his performance in this last month of the season is going to propel him to even bigger and better things down the road.
Q. Trey and coach, Trey, you’re the leader of this team and won a lot of the big awards. Can you go back to your first practice at Michigan or your first game, what you thought of yourself then, what you expected for yourself that first day, and, John, what you thought.
TREY BURKE: Just tried to do what was best for the team. You know, when I came in as a freshman, I didn’t know what my role was going to be. But I was thrown right into the fire. Going to certain tournaments such as the Maui Invitational, playing in certain games, that’s allowed me to grow as a player. I think that definitely helped my development, as well as following behind leaders like Zack Novak and Stu Douglass. I had an opportunity to learn leadership skills from them my first year and allowed me to become the leader I am today.
COACH BEILEIN: What we saw with Trey coming in, we really loved his talent, and I could see it, especially in high school. I could see it in AAU. I saw a winner in high school. Really when he came in with Darius Morris, we had no idea he would be going to the NBA after that following year. So he was saying ‑ Darius was 6’5″ ‑ We could play with both guards together. You can also backup Darius.
You can recruit a point guard every two years, and he was that every other year. When Darius left to go to the Lakers, to go to the draft, we’re sitting with this freshman point guard. I’m saying, This is going to be a heck of a year for us to win with a freshman. After that Maui invitational, I had no doubt he was going to fill in beautifully, and he has ever since.
Q. Coach, everybody knows that the kids get excited about playing for the national championship. What is it like for a coach getting a team to a national championship game? Would you also reflect on coaching against Rick for a national title.
COACH BEILEIN: You know, I probably sound so boring about getting a team ready. This will be a normal prep. The only thing that’s not normal is things like this. We’ll be doing what we do. We’ll try to duplicate what we did before we ended up playing VCU, before we ended up playing Florida, that 48‑hour window where you’re trying to get your team ready and rest them.
They’ve been through this 38, 39 times. I want it to stay as normal for them as possible.
Rick Pitino and I are about the same age. He came through a different path than I, somewhat similar, starting out at Boston University, moving through the coaching ranks that way. I’ve watched his teams for a long time, bought his tapes back in the day when he was first putting out all those great tapes. He’s a guy I admire for the way he has always coached. He’s been a guy that’s not afraid to take on challenges.
It’s going to be thrilling to play on this night with these guys, putting Michigan back in this Final Four environment. Louisville happens to be an opponent, and a darn good one.
Q. Trey, does Louisville’s pressure defense remind you of anybody you played this year, and in what way?
TREY BURKE: It’s definitely similar to VCU’s pressure, Florida’s pressure. But I think it’s different because I think they rotate a lot of guys, keep guys fresh.
Then they have two really dynamic guards in Russ Smith and Peyton Siva. Me and the whole backcourt, our job is to try to limit our turnovers, attack their pressure as much as possible.
Q. John, going back to your unique path, even then did you ever think you would end up here in the Final Four playing for the national title in Division I? If you did, when did that start becoming part of your thoughts?
COACH BEILEIN: No, I probably never even thought about it, really. So much in mind with the task at hand. I always have worried about the next game when the next game came. The only time I ever ended up a season with a win was the NIT championship six years ago.
You just keep coaching. It’s really an eerie feeling when you get done, when you’re coaching a practice, you know that might be your last practice if you don’t play well, when your back is to the wall.
This is really strange to be in a situation where we know today is the last regular practice. Their film sessions are limited right now. You’re saying, Okay, this is it. There’s two teams playing, and it’s us and Louisville.
But I really never thought about that. I think I dreamed of getting teams and rebuilding teams to get in the NCAA tournament. I always thought if we just did our job, we would need breaks to go our way to get to this point. Breaks have gone our way. I have some of the greatest young talent and players I’ve ever been associated with. That’s helped more than all the breaks and all the coaching.
Q. What attracted you to Spike Albrecht and in what ways has he been an asset for this team?
COACH BEILEIN: As we went through the season last year, we could see this young man here needed some help, and Stu Douglass would give him a little help. He was playing 36, 38 minutes, maybe 40. We just wanted one guy who we could really trust, was going to come in and give him enough backup and would understand that role as well.
I watched Spike. I think at one time I had like 300 clips of him back to Crown Point, Mount Hermon, and I would watch them over and over again. People were going to think I’m crazy for taking this young man. At the same time we said this is exactly what we need in today’s age, a four‑year player that’s just going to work his tail off and loves the Big Ten and is going to challenge Trey Burke every day.
Little did we know we were going to get a kid that was going to make two threes last night. That was the first foul shot he missed last night. That we would get a young man that would continue to improve once he got here.
Q. You mentioned recruiting a point guard once every two years and Darius Morris leaving, somewhat of a surprise. Did that change the way you approached looking at a roster from year to year, knowing you may have guys who may make decisions that maybe you don’t have as much input in?
COACH BEILEIN: Would it change how we recruit? Here is my stance on the whole idea with the NBA when you’re coaching young men. I think if a kid is going to be a guarantee, one‑and‑doner, we’re only recruiting that kid if that kid’s dream is to go to Michigan, he wants to go there, he’s still going to go to study hall, class, be a great teammate, we’re not going to turn that kid down.
At the same point, young men we’ve recruited right now may have opportunities like that in the future. Those guys didn’t come in with that MO for the most part. They’ve developed where they’re great prospects.
You don’t know which way to go sometimes. I’m just going to continue to do the same thing: recruit young men who are going to unpack their bags and say Michigan is not a stopover, the University of Michigan is a destination. They’re going to make the most of every opportunity at that destination. If things work out for them that they have better opportunities, I’m all for it.
Q. John, I don’t know if you were at the ’89 Final Four championship game, but just curious your thoughts on if you watched it, what you thought about that game.
COACH BEILEIN: I was at the Final Four. I do not believe I stayed for the championship game. I might have come home early on that one.
Just watching that game, of course we all remember the foul called late when Rumeal went to the foul line. Every game that I’ve watched, it’s always thrilling to have a game where it goes down like the two games last night.
When I watch games, I probably don’t root for either team. What I do is look at what is that coach thinking right now, whether I’m watching NBA or current college games, what’s going on behind the scenes.
It takes away from the enjoyment of the game a little bit, but at the same time, in that game in Seattle, between that and the conventions, that was a very exciting time for me to go. I was a Division II coach. I think we were expecting maybe our fourth child. She might have made that trip with us. It was a great getaway for us to go to the Final Four, see all the big‑time coaches, watch great basketball.
I do remember this very vividly: I heard the victors, I heard the best fight song in the world. Kathleen and I looked at each other and said, That is the best fight song I have ever heard. That’s why it’s so eerie when I hear it today, that it ended up being my destination.
Q. John, can you reflect back on what your reaction was or how you reacted when Mitch first committed to you given he had offers from every place in the country, what your immediate thoughts were about how that may change your program.
COACH BEILEIN: As you know, Mitch, when he transferred to Brewster, where he had had a good career at Chesterton, it was a great influence on his life as well. As we went through the process, we had a young man named Zach Novak who was from Chesterton. He had told us so much about Mitch, about Mitch’s potential, that we felt we were in good shape with the recruiting process, but you don’t know. I’ve had my heartbroken several times.
I think when Mitch called us, we said we have a real chance right now to be real special because we had some really talented players lined up. Having a 6’10″ player with his skill level, it can be a difference maker with teams. As he’s evolved this year, we’ve all seen how that’s happened.
Q. Nik, your thoughts on the thought you have been able to pick each other up. What has the coaching staff instilled that keeps you ready at a moment’s notice to step up in that circumstance?
NIK STAUSKAS: I think it speaks volumes about the kids Coach Beilein recruits. We have a lot of kids on this team that have sacrificed playing time all year long, games like yesterday where I didn’t shoot the ball well or Trey struggled a little bit, we have guys coming off the bench like Caris and Spike who hit big shots for us.
We’re at our best when this team is firing on all cylinders and we have guys coming off the bench and playing well.
COACH BEILEIN: That’s been a thing I think all year long. If you look at all five of these guys, Glenn Robinson has been terrific in so many ways off the floor. Probably, unless you’re a coach, you don’t understand what he does for this team.
I bristled a little bit last night when people say that Trey Burke had an off game. Trey Burke did so many things behind the scenes in that game that we don’t win without Trey Burke, don’t come close, or Tim Hardaway. What you all have to understand, it’s more than just that box score, how many points. How many good screens did he set? How many times did he pass right to a shooter when we needed it? Stop looking at the final box score and how many points.
If you understand all the nuances of the game, it’s a huge difference of whether we win or lose, some of the intangibles that happen in a game that you never see in a stat. I think most of you know that. But if you watch the complete game, how they defend people, oh, my goodness, it’s huge in determining whether we win or not.
Q. Can each of you remember what you knew about coach before he started recruiting you, and a short phrase to describe him now that you’ve played for him a little bit.
COACH BEILEIN: Be very careful, we still have one more practice (smiling).
TREY BURKE: I knew I was coming into a really good program, was going to play for a really good coach. My senior year, it came down to Cincinnati and Michigan. Michigan came onto the scene for me late in my recruiting process.
You know, I really didn’t know what to expect when they first started calling me. When I got the chance to meet Coach B, get to campus, meet the players, things like that, I definitely felt like this was the place for me to be.
Coach Beilein, he’s always been a players’ coach. He’s the type of coach that allows you to play. He tells you, Play within the system, but don’t be mechanical, robotic, be a player. I definitely think that’s important for this team because we had those type of players that can make plays, but at the same time run an offense and definitely get good looks.
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Yeah, I knew I was coming to a great place when Coach Beilein, the first question he asked was, How are you academically? How you doing in school? When I was getting recruited, no other coach talked to me about that. It was great just to see how important academics was to that coach.
He knew if you wasn’t going to do well in school, you wasn’t going to see any playing time on court. So I knew right then and there I had his trust going to the school, just getting a great education here.
MITCH McGARY: During the recruiting process, I had other big‑time schools that offered. I just felt Coach Beilein and his staff, I respected them a lot. They stayed true to me. They were real classy with it. They didn’t give me the normal car salesman pitch like every other coach did. They told me what I wanted to hear, told me I have to earn everything when I get there.
Just going off this year how Coach Beilein lets us play throughout his system, it’s just a blessing for us players. We have guys, like Trey said, who can score at any moment. Just for him to let us play within his offense, be players, it’s just an honor.
GLENN ROBINSON III: I heard a lot about Coach B coming into Michigan, our recruiting trips, how good of a coach he was. Something that really caught my eye and my attention about coming to Michigan was about how he was a great coach, he was so family oriented.
We all get along like family. He really values each and every one of us, wants to gain a relationship. He’s not just a coach to us. He believed in myself and the rest of these guys up here in stages of our life when we probably weren’t this good and we didn’t have all offers. That’s something I really respect about Coach B, and thank him for that.
NIK STAUSKAS: During the recruiting process, the thing that stuck out to me was the interest that Coach B took into my personal life and my family. Most of the other coaches that recruited me, every time I talked to them, it was just about basketball, what things were going to be like when I got there.
Coach Beilein took the time to talk to me about anything that was going on in my life. I appreciated that. The other thing he stressed was skill development. He said he was looking forward to improving my game, getting me better. That’s something that meant a lot to me because I’m always looking to get better on the court.
Q. Can you name the 1989 starting five for Michigan that won a national championship?
TREY BURKE: Rumeal Robinson. Glen Rice. Those are the only two that comes to mind right now.
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Same.
MITCH McGARY: Same.
GLENN ROBINSON III: I remember those two.
NIK STAUSKAS: Me, too.
Q. Terry Mills, Mike Griffin, Loy Vaught.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll allow the student‑athletes to head to the break‑outs and continue with questions for Coach Beilein.
Q. Curious about where your fascination with the offensive concepts comes from.
COACH BEILEIN: This story has been told, but I’ll tell it again. I was coming out of college. All I wanted to do was be a coach. I just wanted the keys to the gym. My uncles all had the keys to the gym and my dad worked in a paper mill. I just wanted the keys to the gym one day.
When I began to coach, I probably was trying to find who I would be. We were flex for a while. Then I started running set plays. We had a team at LeMoyne that was not great with set plays. We just couldn’t do it.
One of my uncles, Tom Niland, coach at LeMoyne before I was coach there, talked me into a two‑guard front, play sort of like the old‑time days. We did it to increase the spacing on our floor so our lack of athleticism wouldn’t be exposed.
I said, if we could get to this point where I have athletes one day, we’re going to play the same things, because it will really work when we get athletes, much like you see the Princeton system, variations running in the NBA today.
Now it’s taken off, taken on all shapes and forms. We added the ball screen like crazy to it. I’m fascinated probably because, you know, I enjoy that. My staff, all my staffs, have been very helpful with that, improving our defense. Whether we went 1‑3‑1 zone back in the zone, 2‑3 zone, and now primarily man‑to‑man.
Q. Coming into the tournament, Mitch McGary only started a couple games, now started all five. What did you see in him coming into the tournament that gave you confidence that he could be that guy that could start and play a lot of minutes for you?
COACH BEILEIN: Going into the tournament, he was coming in at the 17‑minute mark. I’ve always had an idea that I love having enthusiastic, energy players coming off the bench. He was very comfortable with that.
There were a couple times he deserved to start by his play, but I also am very loyal to some of my upperclassmen, Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan, who had been injured. He said, Let Jordan start, I’m fine coming off the bench.
There came a point that I didn’t want to get off to bad starts, he was really getting so many of the things that are really important to his success, these incremental steps he’s been making over the last month. We saw enough of them to say, Let’s not worry about who comes off the bench as much right now because he’s ready to help us from the get‑go.
And we might even win a jump ball to start the game one time, which at that point, we were probably 0‑30.
Q. I saw you listen to all those guys talk about what it was like when you recruited them. You were smiling a little bit. You always say how you’ve changed. How has this team changed you as a coach?
COACH BEILEIN: I don’t think it’s changed me. What it’s done, it’s encouraged me to know that some things don’t change: your values, getting kids to work hard, getting them to play together. All our core values are stronger than ever. At the same time, it reinforces the idea that you must change to your team. You can’t say, This is how we play.
For example, here is the thing. We went into the season. The first week of the season, we were throwing lob dunks to each other. We were like 0‑20. I realized it was part of what we needed to do to get easier points. I can see it more and more, how it’s effective, especially in the pick’n roll and the fast break. We began practicing lob dunks, did more and more of it throughout the season in practice. All of a sudden, we’ve become very good at it.
So that’s a big change.
Now, throwing a lob dunk to Zack Novak or Stu Douglass probably wasn’t the best play. But when you have Glenn running in, Mitch running in, you know, again, change to your talent. What do you have? Don’t say you have to get a better point guard, like we did with the two‑guard system. No, change how you play so it more fits that particular team.
Q. You’ve been around long enough to remember when you recruited a guy, you could count on him being there for four years. Now it’s most likely you’re going to have a two‑year relationship. Can you talk about how you have to sort of adjust emotionally when you know somebody might be around just that short period are time. Specific to Trey Burke, the first time you met him, what you thought of him.
COACH BEILEIN: Let’s just talk about every coach right now at this level. You’re recruiting. In the back of your mind is, I always got to be ready for a couple of things: a guy that is going to go to the NBA early or a guy that is going to leave early because he wants more. This is an issue we’re all trying to deal with, but it’s life as well.
We’re always ready. We’re always thinking and keeping fires warm, the coals warm, where there could be another recruit you’re working on in the future.
One of the reasons I disliked junior college was every two years I was changing the team. Just to get them to play like you want the end of their sophomore year, then they’re gone. Even at Nazareth, four years, this is going to be great, LeMoyne.
It’s sort of the idea that we love that, but it’s a fact now. Not just NBA, they’re going to leave and find somewhere else if it’s not the perfect situation for them. While we try and get people to be, we’re going to miss Blake McLimans, and Matt Vogrich, and Eso Akunne Corey and Jeff so much because they stuck in there, even though it didn’t work.
Trey and our relationship, here is a great story that I love to tell. I went down to see him play after we signed him. This told a lot about what you’re asking about. I was walking through a gym at the AAU. We were saying after watching the recruits we had coming in, after finishing Darius Morris’s first year, we said, We need to have somebody in case Darius goes down.
We watched some summer recruits. I said, We need another point guard. I walked through a gym in Orlando at that time. We knew a lot about Trey Burke, I knew him as a junior, then I backed off thinking we had what we wanted in the backcourt. I watched him a couple games. If we needed a point guard, that would be a great one to get.
He was still available. He liked Cincinnati. I think he wanted to play in the Big Ten. I think if any school in the Big Ten would have offered him, besides Penn State, because he already reneged on that one, he would have gone to a Big Ten school.
Q. Obviously big boost from Spike and Caris. Louisville got a big boost from their walk‑on. What does it say about this Final Four, these teams, maybe the star players are taking a backseat to some of these guys?
COACH BEILEIN: I think that’s why we had 70‑some thousand people here. College basketball, we continue to have, as Mitch is talking about, people going pro or transferring as I was talking about, and there’s 75,000 people at this game. We lost a pro two years ago and three guys transferred out. It is that mystery of the young kid, the altar boy, the choir boy like Spike, the 18‑year‑old kid that hasn’t played well coming in and making big baskets that makes this game so great.
The program is so much about stars, the college game is so much about the team. 75,000, I bet some people couldn’t tell whether the ball went in or not, but they wanted to be at an event where they could see the shining moments of Spike Albrecht, Caris LeVert, Jordan’s charge. It’s incredible what the little guy has meant to college basketball, how it keeps it being so exciting.
Q. My understanding is there’s a pretty good group of guys that came down from Lockport. Can you talk about what that means to you and what your connection is to Western New York at this point.
COACH BEILEIN: I have eight brothers and sisters, big family. I was fortunate enough to go to a pretty good high school. The bonds that were formed between those guys and my family, all my 44 nieces and nephews, 22 just on my side, with those nine kids. So many people that have followed this career, whether they went to West Virginia games, Richmond games. Every year there’s been a bus, except last year. They must have got out of hand two years ago. But 45 people from Lockport, from Danny Sheehan’s Steakhouse would come to a game every year. We only lost one time, and that was to Syracuse.
It’s what I love about what I do. Because of a game, maybe it’s free tickets sometimes, but we can bring people together, family together, that doesn’t see each other except at a family reunion, or high school reunion.
I love that we won because they paid a lot of money to come. Especially from Buffalo to come down to Atlanta, especially in this nice weather now, for four days.
Q. Your guys have gone through four of arguably the best defenses in the country to get to this point. Now you have to go through what might be the toughest. Is that a preparation thing? Is the planning detailed for teams like this? Is it just your guys can handle it?
COACH BEILEIN: As I say, you’re exactly right, the 40 is the watermark that I look for. If a team has a defensive field goal percentage of under 40, I know they really guard people. I wish ours was under 40. I didn’t look at the Louisville stats until the bus going out of here last night. I said, Please be like 41 or 42. There I’m looking at 39 again.
While I think a prep in one day has some effect, it’s not as significant as what you’ve been prepping for all year long. Like I said before, play with your eyes up. Pivot strong, pass strong, space the floor, really hit the open man, play as a team. Those things we’ve been stressing from the beginning. Maybe that’s why we’ve been able to be successful offensively through this tournament so far.
What’s really unique is everyone has been very different, even though they’re all good defensive teams. VCU is an animal of its own with the way they continue to apply pressure to you. It’s different than Florida’s.
I hope we can do one more, just one more game where we can put 60 to 70 points up there in these games. We could have a W if we can put up those number of points.
Q. You talked about adjusting to your team. In the past you were known for the 1‑3‑1 zone. What was it about this team that you decided that you would prefer man‑to‑man?
COACH BEILEIN: Great question. I ask myself sometimes the same question. Because the 1‑3‑1 was so good at Richmond. At Richmond it was really good. Then at West Virginia, we had it going there for two or three years, even our last year.
1‑3‑1 takes a lot to teach, a lot. When I found when I got to the Big Ten, because Northwestern played it a lot, it was a unique defense, nobody else was playing it in the Big East or Atlantic‑10. When we came to the Big Ten, I thought everybody seemed to have Rick Mount like all over the place in the Big Ten. Some 6’4″ shooter that could jump out of the gym and put it in. The other leagues were more dribble leagues, put their heads down, get themselves into traps.
Our personnel, you need to somehow get lucky, teach it like crazy or have five guys that learn it easily. For some reason we haven’t had enough time to teach it or have the personnel. Gansey and Tyrone Sally, Tony Dobbins at Richmond were exceptional on the top. We haven’t found that exceptional guy on top yet.
We could practice it, but we haven’t chosen to do that. With this young team, we felt they couldn’t be good at two things. Teach them man, and maybe next year be able to teach them more zone.
Q. You talked after the VCU game in particular about having a very high IQ team, they can pick things up quickly. Is that the type of thing you can anticipate in recruiting?
COACH BEILEIN: I want to make it very clear the SAT score does not necessarily represent the basketball IQ. There’s all kinds of young men that come in with different academic credentials that their learning curve is different in basketball.
I’ve had some young men that were 1390, they knew our offense in one week. I’ve also had some young men who did not have those academic grades, they could learn our offense and defense very quickly. Also have very bright young men that are still trying to figure out what we were doing.
It’s a thing that we try to recruit from a standpoint by talking with them, watching them play. In AAU it’s tough to see that sometimes. That’s why we like to see practices, we like to know their coach a little bit. Have they been coached before? Thankfully most of our guys have really good high school coaches, and that helps us determine what they can handle from us.
Q. What would you tell your son if he wanted to get to this level from Division II? What is the best path?
COACH BEILEIN: What I told Patrick is be the best coach you can right now and it will take care of itself. He does have the Division I experience. He does have a name. I mean, he was a young man that played the game at a cerebral level that was much higher than some other players. That’s what got him on the court, not ’cause he was my son. He saw the game in slow motion.
I think people respected him for that. So he’s got a name out there. He’s got to find out how to coach by those sleepless nights you’re going to have when you’re a Division II coach, you’re calling every shot. You’re going to be more prepared when you do get a shot.
I would encourage him after he learns more about being a head coach to take an assistant coaching job if there was the right one available, then that could promote him into the next level of being a head coach.
I also know that if more ADs would look into this, there are very successful Division II and Division III coaches that could handle what we do for a living very easily and transcend into that position very easily.
I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I can’t affect the ADs. Patrick can control what he can control, learn to be a better coach, build relationships with players.
Q. With underclassmen taking up so many minutes these days, especially with Mitch in the starting lineup, how challenging has that been for you to negotiate the relationship with them and the upperclassmen on the team, specifically the transition that Jordan has allowed in the NCAA tournament?
COACH BEILEIN: We have two things, the Jordan Morgan issue and we have five seniors on this team, three of them have been walk‑ons at different times. Then Blake McLimans and Matt Vogrich, I call them my investment committee. Their jerseys will never hang up in the rafters, but their banners will. They’ve won a Big Ten championship, now they’re in the Final Four. That has been a key for us.
Jordan Morgan, it’s been tough on him at times. He’s a starter, and he had a bad injury that he didn’t come back from. He’s getting closer to it. In the meantime, all of a sudden Wally Pipp takes a day off and Lou Gehrig comes in.
He’s got to fight through that and do just what he did last night. Those two charges he took last night, embrace what he can bring to us in that way. Jordan Morgan is an engineering major that will graduate in four years from the University of Michigan. If he can embrace that as much, all the dirty work he does, he’s going to be a superstar in Michigan history one day.
That’s what he has to grasp right now. He’s going to have other shining moments, as well.
Q. Rick was up there earlier talking about how fun it was to watch your team play. Does the same apply to you and Louisville?
COACH BEILEIN: ‘Fun’ is not the word I would use there. I think the game is fun and winning is a lot of fun. I’m more of looking at it from a standpoint of what they do, how we can stop it, just taking in as much information as I can in a brief amount of time.
I didn’t do anything last night. Haven’t watched a lick of them all year long. I don’t watch college basketball, I watch Big Ten basketball on my computer. That’s the only thing I watch. And I watch it endlessly.
I had 6:00 a.m. the computer was delivered. I watched from 6:00 to 8:00. I’ll watch it the rest of the day. He has changed. Good coaches do. Actually faced his team at Kentucky, the championship team, when I was at Canisius. Faced him three times at West Virginia with two overtime losses and a win.
He continues to change. That’s what I’m trying to measure right now is what he’s doing the best right now. And he does everything well.
Q. I understand that your mother’s cousins are the family from the saving Private Ryan story. Can you talk about that and what that means to you.
COACH BEILEIN: Obviously this is Steven Spielberg directed and produced the movie and everything, but there’s reports that this is the story of my mother’s cousins that inspired the movie.
He was reading Band of Brothers where my uncle, who hired me at LeMoyne, was in the 101st with a couple of his cousins, and it was documented in there how when the two of them were lost on D‑Day, my mother’s other cousin was shot down in Burma the exact same week. He was discovered alive over a year later. Her other cousin did come home. There wasn’t the drama that we see in Saving Private Ryan, but he did come home.
I was born in ’53. That happened in the early ’40s. I grew up with that story and didn’t think much about it until I watched the movie, until I had children of my own, and could only imagine what that family went through.
Why my parents been talking about it more, you realize there were so many deaths in so many different ways in that family. One of my mother’s brothers was killed in the steel mill the day my uncle Tom came home on V‑E Day. There were so many tragedies in those post Depression era, depression era families with children dying, crib deaths. My uncle hit by a car at the age of five. They had so much tragedy in their life. They were so resilient, we didn’t talk about it.
Now it hits me of how unique that was and what great stock we all come from.
Q. What does it mean to you that players who were not affiliated with Michigan are coming and how tough was it to beat Wake Forest and Chris Paul when you couldn’t talk that day?
COACH BEILEIN: I could not talk (laughter). We have several players here. Two LeMoyne players are here. I’ve heard from Eerie Community College players, Canisius players, respected players, and several West Virginia. It really means a lot for them to attend and be here.
Mike Gansey, my son Patrick is arguably his best friend. I also got a technical in one of those games because the doctors had given me steroids to take care of this terrible cold I had. I lost my voice in the second half. Jeff Neubauer, really successful, really talented coach of Eastern Kentucky, basically I’d whisper to him the best I could what we wanted to run, he’d yell it to the team.
I think Mike got the message because he had 18 points in the two overtimes. Chris Paul, I think he fouled out in the first one. I don’t think at that time Wake Forest ever thought that he’d be leaving for the NBA that quickly. As it turned out, it was a great decision for him. I don’t think anybody thought that was his last game.
Q. You mentioned you picked up the two‑guard front at LeMoyne. Can you name something else strategically that you learned about coaching along the line, Nazareth, Eerie, LeMoyne as you were coming up?
COACH BEILEIN: There’s so much that I’ve learned from not having a mentor, then just talking back. I’ve been going to clinics for a long time. I’ll sit with anybody at any time and talk basketball.
When you coach every day, against different opponents, you’ll find these philosophies saying, I never thought of that in my life. I talk with some guys that have been head coaches like myself for a long time. Several really good friends. We talk all the time like this is stuff we never thought about 20 years ago.
It’s incredible how the game won’t stop evolving. If you don’t evolve, you’re going to get beat. That’s one thing I’ve learned watching.
So I come to Michigan, we’ve had successful careers. When I brought this coaching staff together, Bacari Alexander who had strong Detroit roots had also been down at Ohio U and Western. Then we bring in LaVall Jordan who had been at Butler, knew how they did things at Butler. Then Jeff Meyer had been at Winthrop with Gregg Marshall. He had been at Missouri, been at Butler.
All of a sudden the chemistry we have from exchanging ideas. I do a practice, I used to do a practice, meet with the staff, and that was the practice. It was an hour meeting. Now I have a practice meeting about two hours before the practice meeting to go over the practice I want to run, then we tweak it, then I finish it.
We meet probably up to an hour and a half to two hours a day just on every minute of that practice. That’s how you learn, by exchanging ideas. Sometimes I’ll say to them, you know, I’ve tried that several times, that does not work. But then sometimes I’ll say, I never thought of that before in my life. Then you try it and it works.
I think solving that puzzle is why I love coaching. I love putting the puzzle together.
Q. So you were at LeMoyne. 200 people in the stands maybe. Last night you have 75,000. There had to have been a point yesterday when you looked around and said, Oh, my God. Now that you’re a Michigan man, have you thrown over your St. Louis Cardinals for the Detroit Tigers?
COACH BEILEIN: When I came out last night, I gave the speech, 10‑foot baskets, 94‑foot courts. We just played in Cowboy Stadium. You don’t need to look up in the stands and see what’s up there.
Then I gave in, took a little peek. I might have said something I shouldn’t say on TV at that time, like, Holy Cow. It was amazing to see that. I wanted to see my team. I wanted them to see a poised coach that saw this as only another game.
Yes, I remain the biggest St. Louis Cardinal fan I contend anywhere. Mike Matheny is a Michigan graduate and also a Michigan basketball fan. I can continue to go to Cardinal games every year and listen to every game that I can listen to. If they play 162 games, I’m listening in some part to probably 100 to 120. I got it on my phone now. I don’t have to dial in and drive on top of a mountain anymore. I have the app on my phone. It’s my escape, the St. Louis Cardinals.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
Louisville & Wichita State are familiar opponents. Though Saturday’s match-up in the Final Four in Atlanta is going to be like two old neighbors seeing each other for the 1st time in a long while. The Cards are 19-5 all-time against the Shockers and last played in Wichita during the 1975-76 season when the Shockers took down the Cards 78-74 in Overtime.
You might say that Saturday’s game is revenge 37 years in the making. That game, coached by Denny Crum and Harry Miller, at the end of February allowed Wichita State to play in the NCAA Tournament AT FREEDOM HALL, while the Cards just missed out on the 32-team Big Dance and went to the NIT.
That game was so long ago, there are no CrumsRevenge, VillenHD, or G6 highlights to embed here. Even if I wasn’t on limited time, finding game footage would be a chore. But what matters is NOW. At the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The Cards have an opportunity to win 2-games in the Final Four for the 1st time since 1986. Louisville has a chance to “Rise for 5″, which all Card fans are asked to do with 6:33 remaining in the first half (time of Kevin Ware’s injury) and place 5 fingers in the air.
This is Rick Pitino’s 7th Final Four. Pitino won the NCAA Tournament at Kentucky in 1996 and was National Runner-up in 1997. We will find out soon whether or not Pitino will be elected into the Hall of Fame, but the coach has said that he is not interested in that sort of thing. That is interested in bring a National Title to Louisville for the community and for his players. Louisville First.
Pitino’s “re-branding” effort has been a rousing success & lit a new fire under the 60-year old head coach. The difference the last 3-4 seasons in Pitino is striking & is a big reason why the Louisville program who started two walk-ons during the 2011-12 Final Four run, is back in the Final Four a year later with a legitimate chance to win the crown. Whether or not the Cards are able to beat Wichita State Saturday night is irrelevant to the job Pitino has done with Louisville basketball. Two Final Fours in consecutive seasons is sustained high-level basketball, but it would be incredible witness the Cards’ cutting down the nets.
Wichita State & Gregg Marshall DESERVE to be at this spot. They are having an incredible season, and like Louisville also had a 3-game losing streak. Honestly, I’m really impressied with their wins over VCU & Creighton. Those are outstanding ball clubs. The head scratchers are the losses to Southern Illinois & Indiana State. But Card fans have seen their share of unexplainable losses during the course of a season, particularly in late January & early February.
During their NCAA Tournament run Wichita State easily handled a Pitt team that Louisville struggled with AT HOME (64-61) to beat. The Shockers beat the #1 seed in the West, Gonzaga 76-70, and then dispatched LaSalle 72-58, before finally doing us all a favor and taking down Ohio State 70-66.
Wichita State has been tough to eliminate from the NCAA Tournament dating back to 2006 when they made a run to the Sweet 16 before falling to George Mason, and last year went down in the opening round to VCU 62-59. Gregg Marshall has had his share of runs in the tournament as well. This year is his best work to date, but his team easily could have reversed last season’s exit with a few bounces of the ball. Marshall also beat Notre Dame as a #11 seed in 2007, I’m not ready to crown Gregg Marshall ‘Mr. Glass Slipper’ as that title probably belongs Brad Stevens.
Wichita State will be making their 2nd appearance in the Final Four when they ran into UCLA who beat them in the National Semifinal 108-89 in Portland, OR during the 1965 Final Four. The UCLA Bruins went on to win their 2nd National Title, also John Wooden’s 2nd title.
Louisville is making their 10th NCAA Final Four appearance. The Cards have won two national titles (1980, 1986).
Team Stat Comparison
|Strength of Schedule||6th||91st|
|Points Per Game||74.3 (27th)||69.8 (104th)|
|Avg Scoring Margin||+16.2 (4th)||+8.9 (28th)|
|Field Goal %||45.6% (52nd)||44.1% (114th)|
|Rebound Rate||52.8% (54th)||55.6% (7th)|
|Blocks Per Game||4.3 (70th)||4.5 (49th)|
|Steals Per Game||10.9 (2nd)||7.5 (67th)|
|Assists Per Game||14.6 (37th)||13.6 (105th)|
|Turnovers Per Game||12.5 (105th)||12.7 (125th)|
|Team Fouls Per Game||17.9 (198th)||17.9 (198th)|
|2-point FG%||51.0% (43rd)||49.7% (79th)|
|3-point FG%||32.8% (218th)||34.0% (157th)|
|Free Throw %||70.9% (121st)||69.8% (167th)|
|Opponent Shooting %||39.2% (24th)||39.3% (27th)|
|Opponent 2-point FG%||43.0% (29th)||43.4% (37th)|
|Opponent 3-point FG%||31.5% (58th)||32.1% (80th)|
|Opponent Block Per Game||3.4 (163rd)||3.0 (73rd)|
|Opponent Steals Per Game||5.7 (53rd)||5.6 (43rd)|
Player & Bench Match-Ups
Peyton Siva vs. Malcolm Armstead is going to be a tough match-up. Siva played perhaps his best game of the tournament against Duke and played inspired basketball. Armstead is a little bigger than Peyton and shots the 3-pointer a little better, while Peyton is a better passer. I think Siva & Russ Smith will do a lot of switching on Armstead and I’m interested to see how Malcolm handles the pressure the Cardinals may put on him.
Armstead has really done an amazing job scoring in the NCAA Tournament, and really probably compares closer to Russ Smith as Armstrong is a volume shooter in contrast to Siva who takes mostly controlled shots. Both guys are a threat to drive to the rim, but Malcolm is much more likely to shoot the 3-point shot than Siva. Malcolm has scored 62 points in the NCAA Tournament on 21-59 (35.5%) shooting with 21 rebounds, 15 assists, & 8 steals, and just 9 turnovers. Siva meanwhile has 36 points on 15-36 (41.6%), 10 rebounds, 20 assists, 8 steals, and 9 turnovers.
|Peyton Siva||Malcolm Armstead|
|6-0, 185, Sr.||6-0, 205, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||41.30%||40.20%|
Russ Smith vs. Tekele Cotton is an odd ball match-up. Russ is more like Malcolm Armstead as a player, while Cotton is really someone who is going to patiently wait for his shot like Peyton Siva. So we’ll see how the coaches match these guys up. Defensively Cotton tests ball handlers and can really rebound for a 6′ 2” player. Gregg Marshall rotates their 2-guard position with Cotton & Demetric Williams a lot like Louisville rotates their wings Luke & Wayne. Russ Smith might be small for a 2-guard, but try and stop him. No one has been able to lately. Russ is a problem for ball handlers and he is also a problem for teams trying to defend him. Russ can hit jump shots, drive the line and knock down free throws at the line. He’s a scorer and a very good defender.
Cotton has 30 points (10-21 from the field, 5-10 from 3), 15 rebounds, 7 assists, 8 steals, and just 2 turnovers. Russ Smith on the other hand is the Tournament’s leading scorer with 104 points (33-61 from the field), 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 13 steals, and 10 turnovers.
|Russ Smith||Tekele Cotton|
|6-1, 165, Jr.||6-2, 202, Soph.|
|Field Goal %||42.30%||44.00%|
Wayne Blackshear vs. Ron Baker can be a dangerous match-up for the Cards. Baker missed a lot of time this season due to a stress fracture in his foot returned to action for the Missouri Valley Tournament and has seen his role grow in the NCAA Tournament. With Baker in the line-up the Shockers are 15-2. Baker can get hot from beyond the arc and he is also a very good free throw shooter. Since his return Baker plays most of the game and is a big part of the Shocker’s run. Wayne Blackshear is going to basically split time with Luke Hancock 50/50 for the game which could help the Cards play really aggressive with Baker. The key is to play him aggressively but to not send him to the line. Wayne really has struggled with his fouls of late, but has taken really good shots when he has taken them.
Baker has 44 points (9-21 from the field, 6-15 from 3-point), 16 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 blocks, 3 steals, and 6 turnovers in 4 games during the NCAA Tournament. Blackshear has 27 points (9-18 from the field, 3-10 from 3-point), 14 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 6 steals, and 2 turnovers in the first 4 games of the NCAAs.
|Wayne Blackshear||Ron Baker|
|6-5, 230, Soph||6-3, 218, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||42.10%||40.40%|
Chane Behanan vs. Cleanthony Early won’t be much of an adjustment for Chane Behanan after playing Duke’s Ryan Kelly. Early is an inside/outside guy but isn’t as big as Kelly, but is definitely more mobile. Early doesn’t handle the ball like Kelly, but is he prone to fouling. I like Louisville’s match-up here. Chane really hasn’t be ‘on fire’ statistically but he has played great defense lately and hasn’t been very good at not turning the ball over. I think the early part of the game plan in the half-court will be a lot like the early game plan against Duke by putting pressure inside on the Wichita State Shockers. Chane has proven to be able to guard this type of “4″ most effectively during his career rather than the bigger ’4s’ who continually post him up. Still Cleanthony Early is a scorer and he has been on fire, I like the match-up but it is a BIG job for Chane Behanan. Early will also have to deal some with Montrezl Harrell.
Cleanthony Early has scored 57 points (22-46, 6-19 from 3-point range) in the NCAA Tournament for the Shockers, with 28 rebounds, 2 assist, 5 blocks,3 steals, and 5 turnovers. Chane has 28 points, (12-22) with 16 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 4 steals, and 5 turnovers.
|Chane Behanan||Cleanthony Early|
|6-6, 250, Soph||6-8, 215, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||50.50%||45.10%|
Gorgui Dieng vs. Carl Hall is what I expect. Sometimes Gregg Marshall elects to go with 7-0 Ehimen Orukpe in the starting line-up, but I think he’ll go with Hall here. Hall can score inside, but I am interested in seeing how he does against a potential 1st round pick in the NBA Draft. Dieng should be able to patrol the lane against Wichita and come off Hall and trust the rotations. But you can bet that the Shockers are going to test that part of Louisville’s defense. Wouldn’t shock me to see Hall as the most productive offensive player because of that.
Hall has 43 points, 19 rebounds, 3 assists, 12 blocks, 2 steals and 9 turnovers. Dieng has 44 points, 30 rebounds, 4 assists, 10 blocks, 7 steals, 8 turnovers.
|Gorgui Dieng||Carl Hall|
|6-11, 245, Jr.||6-8, 238, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||53.30%||53.80%|
Cardinals Bench vs. Shockers Bench is a dynamic match-up. Wichita State really doesn’t use the same rotations all the time. Wichita State doesn’t use a regular rotation at all. Gregg Marshall really uses a lot of guys, in a lot of different ways depending on the Shocker opponent. Some players may play 5-6 minutes, 18 minutes, or not at all in different stretches. So it is kind of hard to get a read on what they might do.
First we know that Wichita wants to Rebound the basketball and Louisville’s front court has depth so I think White, Orukpe, & Lufile will play a lot. Particularly to give them extra fouls do deal with Siva & Russ in paint. I don’t think anything inside is going to come easy and I think the Shockers will send the Cards to the line……a lot.
Demetric Williams would be Wichita’s ‘main guy’ off the bench. Williams could start (think Luke Hancock) easily and brings in a fresh body in the back court to change things up. He’ll play a lot of minutes. Outside of him, the rest of the Shocker’s bench are really used like “fireworks”. ”Firework” players go into the game exert as much energy as humanly possible and have a big explosion. The key to eliminating this part of Wichita State is to force their bench players to play extended minutes.
Louisville’s bench is about to be real different. Kevin Ware’s injury really interrupts probably one of the most effective 3-guard rotations Louisville has ever had. Now Tim Henderson is going to have to steal some minutes. I like Tim’s game, but he’s been used this season as a guy late in the 1st half to come in, handle the ball, foul, and play defense. Tim is adequate to play this extended role, but he isn’t Kevin Ware. Ware’s speed and Defense is going to be sorely missed, and it will be interesting to see if Pitino elects to just keep Russ & Peyton out there longer. Dark Slime (Michael Baffour) now steps into Henderson’s previous role. Slime’s on the ball defense is pretty good and he’s good for some fouls if the Cards need them.
The thing to watch is how often Pitino is able to play Russ & Peyton together. They are a lethal combination and not being able to rotate an equally lethal Kevin Ware defensively might really change this team. If Wayne Blackshear wasn’t so foul prone I think we might (and maybe we still will) see him slide up to the 2-guard spot. But Wichita State’s guards might be too fast for that. Syracuse & Michigan (if the Cards can get there) would be different.
|Montrezl Harrell||Jake White|
|6-8, 235, Fr.||6-8, 232, Soph|
|Field Goal %||56.40%||46.80%|
|Luke Hancock||Demetric Williams|
|6-6, 200, Jr.||6-2, 178, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||40.80%||38.50%|
|Stephan Van Treese||Ehimen Orukpe|
|6-9, 245, Jr.||7-0, 250, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||65.00%||47.00%|
|?Tim Henderson?||Fred Van Vleet|
|6-2, 195, Jr.||5-11, 190, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||30.00%||39.60%|
|6-6, 187, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||43.60%|
|6-9, 251, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||55.90%|
Wichita State is DANGEROUS. If you are reading this and don’t know that already from the results in the NCAA Tournament so far, then I can’t help you. I’ve said here several times that programs, uniforms, recruiting rankings, history, tradition NONE OF THAT plays basketball. Players do. Coaches are a big part of it, but in the end Players play. And that’s all this is.
Louisville has had a major distraction with Kevin Ware’s injury and it is also very disruptive to their guard rotation. Luckily there was a week between Louisville’s Regional Final win against Duke and the Wichita State Final Four match-up. That should give Louisville time enough to plan, settle, and generally reset before a huge weekend.
Meanwhile Wichita State has also been sitting and watching leading up to their first Final Four appearance since 1965. I guarantee you that Gregg Marshall has been watching a ton of film on the Cards. I think in the end Louisville wins this game. Wichita is a quality team, worthy of a Final Four, but I just think that Louisville has the better team. Wichita is going to hit the glass, but Louisville has been hyper focused there lately and I don’t think the Shockers have seen a defense quite like the Cards.
However, Louisville MUST stay strong with the basketball in order to win. Wichita State plays an aggressive style, like Louisville and will foul quite a bit. But it is by design to disrupt flow and frustrate their opponent. Louisville should have an advantage inside, but will want to be careful to not get on the back door. This is a game for Russ Smith. If there was ever a game designed for him, this was it. Peyton Siva also needs to take advantage and make his foul shots. I think the Cards win and play on Monday night for the title.
Louisville 82-Wichita State 71
Final Fours/National Semifinals
1959-Lost to West Virginia 94-79
1972-Lost to UCLA 96-77
1975-Lost to UCLA 75-74 (OT)
1980-Beat Iowa 80-72
1982-Lost to Georgetown 50-46
1983-Lost to Houston 94-81
1986-Beat LSU 88-77
2005-Lost to Illinois 72-57
2012-Lost to Kentucky 69-61
Thursday Press Conference Transcript
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by head coach Rick Pitino from Louisville. Coach will begin with an opening statement and then take questions.
COACH PITINO: Well, we’re very excited to be part of a Final Four. For basketball players, it’s the ultimate, the best thing to put on a uniform and play in this type of event, and the second best thing is to be able to help prepare the guys play in this event.
So we’re really excited at Louisville. It’s been an unbelievable week for both our women’s team and our men’s team both reaching the Final Four. Very excited for them and very excited for ourselves.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Pitino.
Q. Is it more exciting this week for your son to be named youngest coach in the Big Ten or for you to be in a Final Four?
COACH PITINO: They’re both exciting. They’re both very exciting. Very proud and happy for Richard, coach at Minnesota. So it’s been a great week in our family.
Q. Just talk about practices, some of the adjustments that you’re making with Kevin no longer being able to play.
COACH PITINO: Well, we don’t have a backcourt substitute. We had a great rotation. All three guards were playing well. Obviously when you press and run as much as we do, it becomes a great concern when you don’t have a substitute. We substitute every game and give those guys breaks. Now we can’t change our style of play because we won’t win or have a chance of winning, so now we have to play a walk‑on. He’s got to do the best job he can do.
Q. Can you talk about Kevin Ware’s recruitment a little bit? Did you follow him when he was in New York or just once he got to Georgia?
COACH PITINO: I believe he moved to Georgia when he was eight years old, so I definitely didn’t follow him then (laughter).
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH PITINO: No, I don’t believe so. I could be wrong, though.
No, I got on Kevin late in the recruiting process. Didn’t really follow him that closely during that process.
Q. You’ve always talked about how perspective has changed for you. In 2006, you got more joy out of watching Billy Donovan win the national championship than maybe your own national championship 10 years prior. Now that you’ve been back to this point a couple of times, has the perspective changed in terms of winning another title because you’re here for the second time in as many years?
COACH PITINO: You know, you always want to win a title. When you have children, and I do consider Billy like a son to me, you’d much rather see your children go through great things than anything else.
This is a great moment for us because we were there last year and we got a chance to come back. Last year we had a lot of fun and now the guys are really honed in on winning it. But it’s going to take a great effort without Kevin to win this thing. We know that.
I would have said we probably were offensively and defensively one of the better teams in the country. Now I think we’ve got some problems that we’ve got to overcome in a game to win. If we can do that, we can win, but we’ve got some problems.
Q. Coach, the Rutgers practice video, how do you think that will change the coaching profession going forward?
COACH PITINO: You know, I think, look, we feel bad in the coaching profession for Mike Rice, for the kids that had to go through that, for his family that’s going to have to endure the embarrassment now.
That being said, this is an isolated incident that doesn’t happen in college basketball. Those things do not happen. As a pro coach, I would go to every city and go see a college practice. You know, I’ve seen some coaches that may use rough language. But that just doesn’t go on. It’s just an aberration that just doesn’t go on in college basketball.
Q. Rick, you’ve talked at some point about being able to switch in the middle of an offensive possession your defense from zone to man‑to‑man. How can you do that seamlessly and how long does it take the players to understand how it works?
COACH PITINO: It takes a few months. You get better at it, better at it as it goes along. Usually by the time February rolls around, they’ve been through enough scouting games, because it does change game to game, predicated on what the other team does.
Q. Coach, Jim Boeheim gave you your first job. What were you doing back there in the ’70s?
COACH PITINO: He didn’t really give me my first job. Hawaii was my first job. He gave me‑‑ actually he probably did give me my first job. I don’t think you consider Hawaii a job. So I did go to Syracuse from Hawaii, that was a job (laughter).
So your question was?
Q. What were you doing back there in the ’70s?
COACH PITINO: Well, Jim hired me back then because I was working the five‑star basketball camp and had a good connection with all the best high school basketball players from working that camp. He also wanted to play more man‑to‑man defense. He was under Roy Danforth, who was strictly zone. Back then we played a lot of man‑to‑man. I was fortunate, I got to learn the zone. So we played probably about 60/40 back then.
Q. You have a guard in Russ Smith who is tremendous at getting to the basket and finishing. How do you compare Malcolm Armstead?
COACH PITINO: I think Malcolm Armstead is one of the best guards in the country. I think Russ Smith is one of the best guards in the country. Trey Burke. Michael Carter‑Williams. The reason we’re all here is we have great guards.
But he gets in the lane. He’s very quick. Got a great hesitation step. They’ve got a great backcourt, great front court, very deep.
Q. You’re here in Atlanta, SEC country. There’s a perception in this part of the country that basketball, SEC is struggling with basketball. Could you talk on that and whether that perception is real or not?
COACH PITINO: Well, they’re struggling the last few years. Back when I was at Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, were all great. I think my first LSU basketball game was against Shaquille O’Neal. Back then, SEC basketball was great.
It’s down. It’s cyclical. You know, new coaches take over. They’ve got to recruit and so on. But it is a little down the last few years. But it will change. Those things are cyclical.
Q. Rick, you’ve often mentioned Nazr Mohammed as a big project to get him from PointA to PointB. Where would you say that Russ and Gorgui rank in terms of the way they had to develop?
COACH PITINO: Well, Nazr was 24% body fat, he had to lose like 80 to 100 pounds. That was a major project. Russ and Gorgui didn’t have those things they had to overcome.
Russ was 147 pounds when he first came in. He really didn’t understand the game very well, even though he played for an awesome high school coach. Russ was just happy. He wanted to score 30‑something points a game. That’s all he cared about. They were a .500 team in high school.
He had to learn to play the game the right way, then he had to get stronger. Russ is one of the strongest people on our basketball team right now. You know, Peyton and Russ had a contest of doing pull‑ups, and Peyton said, You got to wear sand weights on your neck because I have you by 15 pounds. He put it on. Peyton did 38 slow pull‑ups. Russ did 39. Russ bench presses 185, 18 to 20 times. So he’s very strong now. He got physically and mentally stronger.
Gorgui didn’t really understand the game of basketball too well because of the language and terminology. Physically he came in at 190 pounds to this country, 187 pounds to this country. He had to get stronger and learn the game.
They both were similar cases, where Nazr, you had to take off a person.
Q. By no means does Coach Marshall consider his team a Cinderella. What is it about his approach to this game coming up that you’ve seen that makes them a dangerous team?
COACH PITINO: I’ll say this without any exaggeration. They’re the best team we will have faced this year at the defensive end. They are Marquette on steroids in terms of the way they play defense.
If you grab an offensive rebound, they slap it away. They don’t let you go into the paint without four guys attacking you. They are the toughest team to score against.
Listen to what they’ve done in this tournament and who they’ve beaten. But they haven’t just beaten Pittsburgh, like we did, by 3 points, they beat Pittsburgh by 25 points. They’re up 20 against Ohio State. They pound Gonzaga. They pound LaSalle. They’re not just winning, they’re pounding teams.
You can’t do that unless you’re a great basketball team, and they are. They’re ranked in the top 15 for most of the year. But they are a team that can make a lot of threes.
But I’m really impressed with what they do defensively.
Q. Russ Smith, a guy who is second in the conference in scoring, usually when you see scorers, it’s kind of at the expense of the team’s success. What is it about the way you guys play that allows Russ to get his points and for you to get your wins as well?
COACH PITINO: I think we know what Russ is all about. The one great thing, he gets to the foul line, shoots at a high percentage. Russ, when he first came, annoyed a lot of people because of his bad shot selection. He doesn’t do that anymore. Now he’s a big‑time winner, plays to win.
The only problem is he needs a sub, he plays so hard. Peyton needs a sub. We have to use those TV timeouts, steal 30 seconds here and there, because they’re going to have to play a lot of minutes tomorrow.
Q. As you said, you worked with Boeheim early in your career, in his career. What is it about him that makes him unique that he has stayed in one place for so long, and does it surprise you?
COACH PITINO: Well, I set him up with his wife, and that was the greatest accomplishment that I’ve ever done, if that is true. How that could happen, I don’t know.
Jim is coaching a long time because he’s extremely frugal. He’s just a cheap guy that money means everything to him and he’s going to coach till he’s 90 and hoard away every penny he’s ever made (smiling).
Q. Rick, it’s been an emotional week for you guys, the disappointment on Sunday, then seeing Kevin come back. How do you keep your guys in check and get them refocused, knowing you have a big game still to play?
COACH PITINO: You know, I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a basketball team. Obviously I was frightened at the moment, what I saw. Then when I went to the hospital, got the great news that surgery went well, he came back, there was no infection, because that’s what they’re most concerned about for the first 48 hours. When that was all past, I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a group of young men the way they acted and cried their brains out for Kevin, and then the way Kevin got them together and the way he reacted.
I don’t think I could be any prouder of young men, the outward emotion of love that they showed each other was, for me, just a great thing as a basketball coach to witness.
Now we are refocused. Kevin’s with us. We know we have to play a great team. We know we have to have a great night to win.
Q. With Kevin with you, how amazing is it that he was able to travel with you after what you witnessed on Sunday? Secondly, what is his role this week? How much of an inspiration can he be to your guys?
COACH PITINO: I don’t know. He’s such a celebrity right now, he’s doing David Letterman’s top 10. I don’t know if he has time for us (laughter).
I think it’s going to be a great motivator for us. We found out a lot about Kevin that we didn’t know. We really did.
When he went up, I think he was almost thinking that he was going to fall off the stage or something, and he got up really high, was trying to back off a little bit. When that happened with him, we all witnessed a different side of Kevin, something we haven’t seen.
It’s just incredible how adversity brings out the best in people. It certainly brought out the best in Kevin, as well as his teammates.
Q. I know you called what happened at Rutgers this week an aberration. But do you think in any way it may cause coaches to reexamine the concept of the practice tape, who has access to it?
COACH PITINO: I don’t think coaches do that. I don’t think there’s a coach alive that does that, what you witnessed. I don’t think you have to worry about that. I’ve never seen it in my life. As I’ve said, for eight years I went around and watched college practices. I’ve seen guys who were very tough on their players, but they don’t physically throw balls at them, they don’t physically do those things.
I think that it’s an isolated incident. It was a very serious isolated incident.
Q. Do you remember the Loyola/Cincinnati game that occurred exactly 50 years ago? If so, what do you remember about watching it?
COACH PITINO: Was it on TV?
Q. I think it was.
COACH PITINO: You know, I didn’t own a television set until I was like 12. I don’t know if that’s true or not. No, back then, when I was a kid, we didn’t watch really college basketball too much. The only good team back then was St. John’s. We were all Knicks fans growing up. It was all professional basketball. Coach Wooden was going to win it, that was the only thing we knew back then.
Q. It was the year before UCLA got really good. Have you had a chance to read anything about it since? A lot of people think Loyola started four black players that year, and Cincinnati had three and basically started a fourth. A lot of people wonder if that wasn’t the start of the change in course, where coaches weren’t afraid to play as many black kids as they had.
COACH PITINO: I’m old, but probably not old enough to remember that. And I followed basketball for a long time, but I don’t remember those days, being 10 years old.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, coach.
COACH PITINO: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined right now by the head coach of Wichita State, Gregg Marshall. Coach Marshall will begin with an opening statement and then take your questions.
COACH MARSHALL: First of all, it’s great to be back in Atlanta, Georgia, about two and a half hours from where I was born and raised. Great to be back with this Shocker basketball team, a team that’s exceeded everyone’s expectations this year and is playing some very good basketball at this point.
We’re excited about the opportunity to play Louisville, the No.1 seed in the entire tournament.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Marshall.
Q. What, if anything, do you still apply from your days as an assistant at Charleston and also your thoughts on the Rutgers situation, please?
COACH MARSHALL: John Kresse is one of my mentors. In fact, he will be here tomorrow, be sitting in our section near my wife. Stay in touch with him. In fact, I’ve got him looking at a little Louisville tape right now to give me a few pointers.
He’s a big part of the reason that I’m a coach with any degree of success, much less at this point. We run a very similar style to the one I learned from him in my eight years sitting next to him at the College of Charleston. Having moved over those 18 inches into the head coaching chair at Winthrop, it was amazing how much I drew on that experience from Coach Kresse.
He was my CoachK. He remains my CoachK. He’s a dynamic coach. All of his career, but in the late ’80s, NAIA tournament, winning that, arguably as successful as anyone’s ever done it. Just learning from him was incredible, a great experience.
With Coach Rice, I feel bad for Mike. I hope that he can get straight and figure out what he needs to do going forward, and gets another opportunity.
I feel really bad for those young men. I hope it didn’t impact any of them negatively to the point where they weren’t able to be good basketball players and finish their careers.
There’s obviously a line that was crossed. Unfortunately there’s a lot of people that will suffer now, including Rutgers University and the state of New Jersey.
I’m hopeful that everyone can come out of it in a positive way somehow. That’s it, that everyone can come out of this in a positive way.
Q. This is going to be a matchup of guards. Every time you play Louisville, you need ball handlers out there. Talk to me about the role of Cleanthony and Carl Hall for you and what role are they going to play in this matchup?
COACH MARSHALL: You’re exactly right, they’re going to need to be the beneficiaries of some hopeful easy opportunities to score after our guards are able to beat the pressure. They’re going to have to come up and help relieve pressure as outlets.
We can’t play with five guards, because then you’re not going to be able to get a rebound. We’re going to need all the available hands on deck to take care of the basketball, be strong with it, organize and attack Louisville’s pressure in an intelligent and sound way.
If you have opportunity basketball, then you got to deal with the hand you’ve been dealt. If you don’t have opportunity basketball, we need to try to set something up and flow right into a motion offense.
Q. When we get to talk to you, it’s normally maybe once or twice a week. What has this process been like for you and the guys, the constant attention?
COACH MARSHALL: Well, we just know this is part of it. If I have to make that trade to do constant media attention, national radio, TV to get to this point every year, I’ll make that trade.
It is grueling. It’s different. But that’s part of the job. And our job as basketball folks at this point in a season is to reflect positively back on our university and our community and the state of Kansas. I hope that we’re doing that. I hope the applications are rising in Wichita State University and the interest in our great university is just exploding.
So that’s what we can do being the front porch to a university.
Q. Gregg, the pregame and postgame speeches are on CBS. How do you prepare for those? Are they off the cuff? Do you run them by an assistant coach? How do you come up with some of the phrases you use?
COACH MARSHALL: I don’t have any writers. Maybe we can work on that next year. Producers, directors. I just kind of go with what’s in my heart. I really don’t give it a whole lot of thought because there’s so many other things that we need to get accomplished in a day.
But as the team is out warming up, whatever is our keys to the game, whatever I think is important for our team to know, other than play angry and are you satisfied, which they’ve worked pretty well to this point, we write it down and then I let my natural personality come forth.
Q. You have guys from a lot of different backgrounds, different paths to get to Wichita State. Are there common characteristics or threads that you look for in all these different guys?
COACH MARSHALL: I think so. We want winners. We want guys that really want to win, that want to commit to something bigger than themselves. We want guys that are tough and athletic so they can defend and rebound at a high level. And ultimately some guys that can put the ball in the basket.
I think we have a great blend of those guys. But the biggest thing we have are character kids. We really have high‑character young men in our program because they buy into the whole. They’re not interested in individual stats.
But at this point they’re all being interviewed. They’re all getting sized for Final Four rings. They’re all getting new Nike gear sent to them by the droves. It’s just a great experience.
What we’ve been teaching to the victor go the spoils, and when we win, everybody gets a piece of it, can never be more true than right now.
Q. Missouri Valley has been a very competitive league for a long time. How much do you think it helps to get to a Final Four, to have a team here?
COACH MARSHALL: I think it helps us tremendously. I think it was ’79, Larry Bird was the last Valley team to make it. I think Penn was in it the same year, ’79. They were the last 9 seed to make it. Doug Elgin told me he was either O‑8 or O‑9 in Sweet 16 games in the past 16 years or so. Now we’re able to not only get to the Elite 8, but to the Final Four.
There’s more money coming into the league. Shares of NCAA tournament money. There’s more exposure for the league. Ultimately it could help recruiting league‑wide.
I just think in many ways it helps not only us, but the conference.
Q. We all know how effective Russ Smith is getting to the basket. Can you talk about Malcolm’s ability to do the same thing. Secondly, can you discuss the guard matchups tomorrow, how you might play them defensively.
COACH MARSHALL: Russ Smith is like a contortionist with his body. He’s incredible how he can get in and change angles and get to the foul line and finish. Walking past him today as we were leaving the floor, they were coming out, I didn’t recognize him, but he’s just a little guy. I mean, he is so incredibly talented for his build.
For those of you who are familiar with our recruiting, we signed a young man from North Carolina who’s very similar to Russ Smith in stature. Ri’an Holland. That’s kind of a good comparison physically. I hope Ri’an can play like him. We really are excited about Ri’an. But that’s lofty expectations.
Russ is tremendous in his ability to score the ball on the bounce. Malcolm is a little different. Malcolm is more of a mini train, if you will. He’s stronger, stockier, thicker, not quite as shifty. Can do the things with his body the way Russ can, but he can bully a littler guard a little bit.
I’m not saying he’s going to bully Russ Smith or Peyton Siva, but he has tremendous strength in his hands, thighs, lower body. That’s how he gets to the rim.
Matchups, I can’t divulge that. That’s state secret (smiling).
Q. Can you reflect a little bit on your Winthrop days, how that helped propel you to this moment. Also, how are you a different coach today than when you first got that job in your 30s?
COACH MARSHALL: Well, when I interviewed at the Final Four in San Antonio in 1998, I didn’t think I had much of a shot. I left the College of Charleston in ’96. Two years at Marshall University, working for Greg White. So it’s the spring of ’98. I waited a month before calling Coach Kresse. I said, Dan Kenney was relieved of his duties at Winthrop. What do you think of that job?
Coach Kresse bent over backwards at that point to tell me he thought I would be perfect for the job. His words were, Gregg, I would walk to Rock Hill right now to help you get that job and I would tell them that you’re the perfect candidate.
So I had his blessing. Greg White, I had his blessing. So between the two of them, they kind of double‑teamed Tom Hickman.
I interviewed. I don’t know why they gave me the job. But I remember telling them my College of Charleston experience, I was not the architect, but I was the foreman, and I carried some bricks, I slung some mortar, and I could steel the blueprint. They fell for it.
Nine years later, seven NCAA tournaments, it was a bit of a run. I was a little bit younger then, a little bit wilder, if you will. I kind of refer to Cleanthony Early like an electric cord that’s been severed and sparks are coming out of it, flying all over the room. That’s how I was when I got my head job.
It was perfect for Winthrop. We had a beautiful 6100‑seat arena. We probably had 500 fans at the first game I coached. You could hear every voice, every sneaker squeak, you could hear. I needed to infuse some energy into that program and energy into my team. We were able to do that.
But you mellow as you get older, not to the point where I’m sedated, but I’m still a lot calmer than I was at that point, and hopefully wiser.
Q. Fred Van Vleet has come of age the last couple games. How vital is it to have he and Malcolm potentially together at times on Saturday to offset Louisville’s pressure?
COACH MARSHALL: You nailed it. Fred is going to play a lot with Malcolm because we need the ball handlers, we talked about that. My college coach, Hal Nunnally, at Macon, I was a former point guard in high school. College level I played the small forward, at 6’2″ and a half, 175 pounds. His belief was you can never have enough point guards on the floor because generally they can bounce it, they can pass it, they know the offense, they know how to play. That’s what you expect from point guards.
I’ve carried that belief to all of my assistant coaching jobs, head coaching jobs. You better have three point guards, because if one goes down, you need two in every game, because you need a backup.
And Fred has proven that he’s able to go in there, play valuable minutes. He’s hit big shots for us. The three he hit against Gonzaga in the last minute. The runner in the lane he hit to give us the six‑point lead with under a minute to go against Ohio State, that’s a true freshman making big plays.
He and Malcolm will play a lot together. Demetric Williams had a great practice today. He’ll get some time. We need as many ball handlers as we can.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, coach.
COACH MARSHALL: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
|Peyton Siva||Malcolm Armstead|
|6-0, 185, Sr.||6-0, 205, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||41.30%||40.20%|
|Russ Smith||Tekele Cotton|
|6-1, 165, Jr.||6-2, 202, Soph.|
|Field Goal %||42.30%||44.00%|
|Wayne Blackshear||Ron Baker|
|6-5, 230, Soph||6-3, 218, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||42.10%||40.40%|
|Chane Behanan||Cleanthony Early|
|6-6, 250, Soph||6-8, 215, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||50.50%||45.10%|
|Gorgui Dieng||Carl Hall|
|6-11, 245, Jr.||6-8, 238, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||53.30%||53.80%|
|Montrezl Harrell||Jake White|
|6-8, 235, Fr.||6-8, 232, Soph|
|Field Goal %||56.40%||46.80%|
|Luke Hancock||Demetric Williams|
|6-6, 200, Jr.||6-2, 178, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||40.80%||38.50%|
|Stephan Van Treese||Ehimen Orukpe|
|6-9, 245, Jr.||7-0, 250, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||65.00%||47.00%|
|?Tim Henderson?||Fred Van Vleet|
|6-2, 195, Jr.||5-11, 190, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||30.00%||39.60%|
|6-6, 187, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||43.60%|
|6-9, 251, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||55.90%|
|Strength of Schedule||6th||91st|
|Points Per Game||74.3 (27th)||69.8 (104th)|
|Avg Scoring Margin||+16.2 (4th)||+8.9 (28th)|
|Field Goal %||45.6% (52nd)||44.1% (114th)|
|Rebound Rate||52.8% (54th)||55.6% (7th)|
|Blocks Per Game||4.3 (70th)||4.5 (49th)|
|Steals Per Game||10.9 (2nd)||7.5 (67th)|
|Assists Per Game||14.6 (37th)||13.6 (105th)|
|Turnovers Per Game||12.5 (105th)||12.7 (125th)|
|Team Fouls Per Game||17.9 (198th)||17.9 (198th)|
|2-point FG%||51.0% (43rd)||49.7% (79th)|
|3-point FG%||32.8% (218th)||34.0% (157th)|
|Free Throw %||70.9% (121st)||69.8% (167th)|
|Opponent Shooting %||39.2% (24th)||39.3% (27th)|
|Opponent 2-point FG%||43.0% (29th)||43.4% (37th)|
|Opponent 3-point FG%||31.5% (58th)||32.1% (80th)|
|Opponent Block Per Game||3.4 (163rd)||3.0 (73rd)|
|Opponent Steals Per Game||5.7 (53rd)||5.6 (43rd)|
Rick Pitino, Mike Krzyzewski, Regional Final. We’ve seen this before. The two coaches had a chance to discuss the epic 1992 East Regional Final between Duke & Kentucky prior to Louisville & Duke’s match-up in the Bahamas’ Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament.
“We were in a moment in ’92 and he recognized that even though he was on the losing side. It was incredible, It’s really one of the more incredible things I’ve seen an opposing coach do. One of the things that I really respect about Rick is we both understand that the game is bigger than us.” Krzyzewski said in November, “Sometimes the basketball gods you realize they put you in moments as long as it’s not your moment, it’s the game’s moment, they might put you in another one.”
The 1992 game is a staple featured clip for March Madness and makes it’s way into the broadcast, commercials, and even inside the venues as a part of college basketball history. Louisville fans did not have to endure the sting of defeat, but Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino took the on the full burden. Elimination in the NCAA Tournament, regret of not guarding the in-bounds, Cawood Ledford’s final broadcast. Now Pitino gets his first chance at Duke and Krzyzewski in the NCAA Tournament since that game, and he has one of his best Louisville teams up to the challenge.
The Cards are on an impressive 13-game winning streak since their 5 Overtime loss to Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Louisville won the final 7 games of their regular season, 3 games in the Big East Tournament Championship to win that title, and now has beaten North Carolina A&T, Colorado State, and Oregon to advance to the Elite 8. The Cards are 3-5 against the Blue Devils all-time.
Duke is an impressive 30-5 this season from the Atlantic Coast Conference and have been proven difficult to beat. 4 of Duke’s 5 losses have been single digit defeats and most were without the services of Ryan Kelly. The Blue Devils fell to Maryland in the ACC Tournament but have beaten Albany, Creighton, and Michigan State to the Elite 8.
But for this game we were blessed with a preview back in November’s Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. The Louisville/Duke match-up in the Bahamas was the 3rd game in 3 days for both teams. Duke had just taken down Minnesota & Virginia Commonwealth, while Louisville had just dispatched Northern Iowa & Missouri. However, November 24th was “Wristpocalypse” when both Louisville Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater broke his wrist vs. the Connecitcut Huskies AND when it was discovered that Louisville Starting Center Gorgui Dieng had broken his wrist against Missouri. As a result the Cards took the floor against Duke without their biggest defensive presence with less than 18 hours to prepare.
The game itself was played in front of 3511 lucky fans which will stand in stark contrast to the anticipated crowd Sunday of 35000+ fans. The Blue Devils emerged victorious in a 76-71 final score after Russ Smith gambled late in a crucial late possession that allowed Duke to score with 29 seconds on a Quinn Cook jumper. Also a run out on an in-bounds play with 1:15 remaining also made things much more difficult as Luke Hancock (who was on Mars defensively at the time) allowed Cook to get behind for an easy lay-up.
There were other plays as highlighted in the video below that allowed Duke to get the victory. In the end the Cards just did not execute late in the game. Card fans would like to think that having Gorgui Dieng would have made a huge difference, but Stephan Van Treese provided 8 points & 8 rebounds off the bench in 21 minutes of play. Zach Price started the game and is not part of Louisville’s current regular rotation, Price played 19 minutes. Also the Cards collected just 6 steals in the game (all from Peyton Siva) and got very little from Luke Hancock & Wayne Blackshear. Combined Luke & Wayne played 40 minutes and scored just 2 points, had 5 rebounds, 0 assists, & 0 steals.
Louisville was a good team in November. They are even better now. The same could be said for Duke. Ryan Kelly fouled out of the first ball game (late with 1:00 remaining) & Duke got almost nothing from their bench with just 3 Tyler Thornton points. Also it is important to note that the Cards shot 11 more times from the floor & hit a higher percentage than Duke, but the difference was made up from the foul line. Duke shot 27 free throws (made 23) while the Cards shot just 14 times from the charity stripe (made 9). The 13 free throw shot disparity is surprising because Duke actually had 3 more fouls than Louisville in the first meeting.
Rick Pitino vs. Mike Krzyzkewski is a classic coaching match-up that we really should see more often. Krzyzkewski is 957-296 (.764) as a head coach and is 82-24 in the NCAA Tournament with 4 NCAA Titles, 11 Final Fours, and will be making his 13 Appearance in the Elite 8. That’s right Krzykewski is 11-1 All-Time in Regional Finals, with the lone exception being 1998′s Tubby Smith led Kentucky Wildcats knocked off the Blue Devils 86-84 at St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field. Krzyzkewski was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 and also was the Head Coach for two Olympic Gold Medal teams.
Rick Pitino hasn’t been in one place as long as Mike Krzyzkewski and has also spent 8 years coaching in the NBA. Still Pitino has managed compile a record of 661-239 and is 45-16 in the NCAA Tournament with a National Title (1996) and 6 Final Fours. Pitino is still waiting on his call from the Hall of Fame, though he is nominated for induction this year.
|Strength of Schedule||6th||1st|
|Points Per Game||73.9 (30th)||77.8 (5th)|
|Avg Scoring Margin||+16.3 (3rd)||+12.9 (7th)|
|Field Goal %||45.2% (65th)||47.7% (15th)|
|Rebound Rate||52.8% (55th)||49.2% (193rd)|
|Blocks Per Game||4.1 (86th)||3.8 (121st)|
|Steals Per Game||11.0 (2nd)||6.6 (159th)|
|Assists Per Game||14.9 (27th)||14.6 (40th)|
|Turnovers Per Game||12.6 (111th)||10.6 (8th)|
|Team Fouls Per Game||17.8 (187th)||17.8 (187th)|
|2-point FG%||50.3 (56th)||51.3% (40th)|
|3-point FG%||33.2% (202nd)||40.3% (5th)|
|Free Throw %||71.1% (115th)||73.2% (56th)|
|Opponent Shooting %||39.1% (20th)||41.3% (94th)|
|Opponent 2-point FG%||42.9% (27th)||45.7% (98th)|
|Opponent 3-point FG%||31.5% (59th)||29.5% (12th)|
|Opponent Block Per Game||3.4 (161st)||2.9 (53rd)|
|Opponent Steals Per Game||5.7 (55th)||4.8 (6th)|
This game is going to be a real treat. Just looking at the stats it is clear that these two teams are two of the best in college basketball. With the teams remaining the argument can be made that this could have been the NCAA Championship game, but instead it’s the last roadblock to the Final Four. Trying to find tangible differences in the stats is difficult. Duke’s SOS advantage is negated by Louisville’s Scoring Margin difference. Field Goal % is cancelled by Rebound Rate. Louisville steals the ball quite a bit, Duke doesn’t turn the ball over. Both teams are very good passing teams, but the biggest difference I can see is Duke’s 3-point %.
Louisville has been famous in 2012-13 for holding their opponents to reduced shooting percentages all year. In November, without Gorgui Dieng the Blue Devils were able to win the game despite shooting below their normal rate. Duke DID, however, hit 85.2% of their free throw attempts (23-27) which is much higher than 73.2% on the season. Based on paper and what I’ve seen with my own eyes watching these two teams all season I think we are in for a whale of a game.
Player & Bench Match-Ups
Peyton Siva vs. Quinn Cook was an excellent battle last time out. Siva had 19 points on 8 of 15 shooting with 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 6 steals, 6 turnovers and 2 fouls. Cook, however, was clutch & really sealed the game scoring the game’s final 8 points (all under 1:16 to play) and finished with 15 points (4-8 FGS) with 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 4 turnovers and 4 fouls. Siva’s line was better, but Cook won the ball game for the Blue Devils.
For the tournament Cook has just 11 points on 4 of 21 shooting. Cook does have 19 assists through 3 games (11 against Albany) with just 6 turnovers. Siva has 20 points on 9 of 26 shooting with 8 rebounds, 16 assists, 7 steals and 10 turnovers.
|Peyton Siva||Quinn Cook|
|6-0, 185, Sr.||6-1, 175, Soph.|
|Field Goal %||41.00%||42.70%|
Russ Smith vs. Seth Curry BUCKETS? Seth Curry has scored 72 points in the Blue Devils first three NCAA games on 23-46 shooting. Russ Smith has 81 points on 26-47 shooting. Both are red hot and coming off huge performances in the Sweet 16. Russ beats opponents with his lightning quickness, Curry has a killer jump shot and shoots 42.6% from 3-point range. Curry is more careful with the ball, but this could end up as a back and forth battle of two high-scoring guards.
In the last meeting in November Curry struggled from the field hitting 3 of 11 but did manage 14 points, while Russ scored 17 and was 7 of 19 from the floor. Russ gambled a lot on defense trying to turn the Blue Devils over and really forced things on the offensive end. I’m going to be interested to watch how many open looks either of these guys get on Sunday.
|Russ Smith||Seth Curry|
|6-1, 165, Jr.||6-2, 185, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||41.60%||46.70%|
Wayne Blackshear vs. Rasheed Sulaimon was lopsided in the Blue Devils favor last time out. Even with Hancock off the bench Sulaimon took on the Louisville wings and easily came out on top. Sulaimon finished that game with 14 points on 6 of 13 shooting with 4 rebounds and two steals. Blackshear on the other hand had 2 points in 21 minutes with 4 rebounds.
Wayne has been playing better of late. He’s not shooting a high volume, but he’s been taking and hitting the limited looks that he has had. Wayne is also much better defensively now than he was in November. Meanwhile Sulaimon has been consistent thanks to his ability to get to the Free Throw line. Sulaimon has 30 free throw attempts in the first 3 games of the NCAA Tournament hitting 24. The Cards will be smart to not get beat off the dribble by Sulaimon and keep him off the charity stripe. Sulaimon is 8 of 17 from the floor in the NCAAs.
|Wayne Blackshear||Rasheed Sulaimon|
|6-5, 230, Soph||6-4, 185, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||42.30%||43.60%|
Chane Behanan vs. Ryan Kelly is a really strange match-up as juxtaposition on the basketball court. Kelly is a big body who is known for his outside shooting while Behanan is an undersized power forward who does most of his work inside. Kelly missed some time down the stretch for Duke with a foot injury and the Blue Devils lost a few games while he was out. Kelly has been COLD from 3-point range during the NCAA Tournament and is 0-8 with just 18 points during the 1st 3 games. Meanwhile Behanan’s struggles have been on the backboard as Chane has just 8 rebounds in 3 games from the Power Forward position. Behanan isn’t off his scoring average very much but does have just 20 points so far in the NCAA Tournament.
Kelly had 14 points , 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, a steal and fouled out in the first game while Behanan finished with 7 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist on 2 of 11 shooting.
|Chane Behanan||Ryan Kelly|
|6-6, 250, Soph||6-11, 230, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||50.60%||46.40%|
Gorgui Dieng vs. Mason Plumlee is probably the 2nd best marquee match-up of the evening. Many were anticipating a high-profile contest between Dieng & Plumlee in the Bahamas but were robbed of that when Gorgui broke his wrist a game earlier vs. Missouri. Without Dieng Plumlee had 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting with 7 rebounds a steal and a block working primarily against Zach Price & Stephan Van Treese.
For the tournament Plumlee has 47 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and 5 steals. Dieng has 30 points, 19 rebounds, 3 assists, 6 blocks, and 5 steals in the 1st 3 games.
|Gorgui Dieng||Mason Plumlee|
|6-11, 245, Jr.||6-10, 235, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||51.90%||59.80%|
Louisville’s Bench & Duke’s Bench really aren’t comparable. Against Michigan State only guard Tyler Thornton played more than 10 minutes (26) and forward Josh Hairston played just 6 while buying time. The Blue Devils will play Amile Jefferson at times, but he did not play against Michigan State and has logged just 15 minutes during the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile the Cards’ bench has been a catalyst and a major reason for several various runs. The amount of pressure that the Cards are able to apply to teams is greatly enhanced when they can bring in a long and athletic Montrezl Harrell & Kevin Ware. When an evolved Luke Hancock can come in and make athletic plays and hit big-time jumpers, along with a never-ending motor of a Stephan Van Treese. Louisville’s bench allows the Cards to keep the pressure up on any opponent whereas Duke reluctantly has used theirs in 2012-13.
|Montrezl Harrell||Josh Hairston|
|6-8, 235, Fr.||6-7, 240, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||57.00%||44.30%|
|Luke Hancock||Amile Jefferson|
|6-6, 200, Jr.||6-8, 195, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||40.60%||54.30%|
|Stephan Van Treese|
|6-9, 245, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||66.70%|
|Kevin Ware||Tyler Thornton|
|6-2, 175, Soph||6-1, 190, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||43.10%||39.20%|
I predict that this game is going to be a major….MAJOR ball game. The starting match-ups are really close to even while the Cards have an obvious advantage in their bench. In the Bahamas the Cards really had some breakdowns defensively and also had a lot of untimely fouls. Duke is deft at getting to the free throw line. Bottom line, whoever executes wins. We could sit here and split hairs over the disadvantages & advantages and go back & forth. Louisville is going to want to pressure. Duke is going to want to play in the half court. Louisville rebounds better. Duke doesn’t turn the ball over & shoots the 3. Louisville is deeper.
I see this game very close. It’s hard to sit here and predict overtime, but it could very well happen. I don’t see this game outside of 5 points. I think the foul situation will be one to monitor as the Cards will have more available fouls but will not want to send the Blue Devils to the line for easy scores. Curry, Plumlee, & Kelly’s health could come into play, and so could Louisville’s overall team health. Someone has to check Curry and keep him from getting open looks, Gorgui & Plumlee probably neutralize one another. Russ is going to get into the lane & to the line. Will Chane keep Kelly 0-for from 3? Can Luke & Wayne stay in front of Sulaimon? How big is the rebounding advantage for the Cards?
I think if you add it up the Cards go to Atlanta.
Louisville 72-Duke 68
1959, 1972, 1975, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1997, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013
1959-Beat Michigan State 88-81
1972-Beat Kansas State 72-65
1975-Beat Maryland 96-82
1980-Beat LSU 86-66
1982-Beat UAB 75-68
1983-Beat Kentucky 80-68
1986-Beat Auburn 84-76
1997-Lost to North Carolina 97-74
2005-Beat West Virginia 93-85
2008-Lost to North Carolina 83-73
2009-Lost to Michigan State 64-52
2012-Beat Florida 72-68
Louisville Transcript 3-30-2012
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the University of Louisville, and we will have an opening statement from Coach Pitino, and then we’ll go to questions for anybody up here for the first 20 minutes.
COACH PITINO: Well, we’re very excited to be in the Elite Eight. We did not play one of our better games out of the last 15 or so yesterday, but I think that was due to Oregon. We played very good offensively. It was just our weakest defensive game. And the guys basically defensively had a night off, so they’re going to be very, very fresh against Duke.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Gorgui, can you say a little bit about how and when you began playing basketball and how you came to the U.S.?
GORGUI DIENG: I was just like ‑‑ my brothers was playing basketball in the beginning and I went and watched them play, and I fell in love with the game. And I waited for it to play. And I start playing when I was like 7, 8 and I think serious play when I was 16, 17.
Q. How did you come to the U.S.?
GORGUI DIENG: I went to SEEDS Academy, and they had a basketball in South Africa, and after that camp, I think one of the high school coaches was there, and he just asked me if I wanted to come and play here, and I came to high school and came to college. Coach came and recruited me and I just play for Louisville.
Q. I guess for any of you, as it happens, how is the team’s health and how are you guys feeling health‑wise?
RUSS SMITH: I think we’re getting better. We’re all getting better. We’ve been getting treatment and stuff, and this day off is going to give us a lot of time for our bodies to recuperate. So I think we’ll be good heading into Duke.
PEYTON SIVA: I think the game last night helped us out a lot by Oregon running so much ran it out of us all. Our trainer, Fred, has done a great job of taking care of us and seeing us. We’ve been taking antibiotics and I think everybody is getting their energy back and everybody’s become more upbeat. And Russ stopped coughing on everybody, so I think we’re doing better.
Q. Wayne, you’re the only guy from Chicago in this game. What does that mean to you?
WAYNE BLACKSHEAR: It’s no different from nothing else. I got a lot of family coming in tomorrow. So it’s no difference from playing with nobody else on the team.
Q. For any of the players, a lot of the national media are making a big deal about Duke and Coach Pitino and Christian Laettner. Does that name mean anything to you? And if so, what?
CHANE BEHANAN: I wasn’t even thought of when that game was going on. But I have saw the same highlight over and over on ESPN every morning ‑‑ I mean, since this morning. And it’s a new era. Coach, he’s much older now, more wiser. So we know we’re going to do a little things differently now.
PEYTON SIVA: It was a great shot. I just saw it, one of those shots that you just love if you’re a coach and hate if you’re another one.
It’s a great game, probably one of the greatest games in history for Coach P and Coach K to coach in. And we didn’t watch the film on that game, so we don’t really know that one, surprisingly. But it’s a great game back then. We’re in the future now.
RUSS SMITH: Well, obviously, it was probably one of the greatest games ever, and it was a tremendous shot. And like Chane said, I wasn’t even thought of so I couldn’t even really comment on the game. I just seen highlights.
But it’s a new game and hopefully, history don’t repeat itself.
Q. Coach Pitino, how has your relationship with Coach K grown and changed since that shot? Because you two now are forever linked by that.
COACH PITINO: Well, we’ve been friends from that point on. Both of us looked at the game a lot different than the Kentucky fans or, for that matter, the Duke fans. Both of us just sat back and coached and watched an incredible offensive display. Even when we played the overtime without Mash, it was a great game. Anytime you write a whole book about one game, it’s kind of special.
We came on the losing side, but I’ve had the Kentucky fans always say it’s one of the worst losses. To me, it’s one of the best losses I’ve ever had. A bad loss was Providence last year by 31 points. A bad loss is something where you guys play terrible, you don’t play. It was a great loss because my guys played almost a perfect game and just had the wrong ending for us.
But it was one of the greatest basketball games ever played because it was so high‑powered with great play. One great play after another. That was fun to be part of, and I’ve always loved Coach K from before that moment to today. I think he’s everything our game stands for in a good way.
Q. I just want to ask the players to talk about when you met Duke back in November, Gorgui wasn’t there. How much difference does that make, and is there something else that’s changed from the first meeting?
WAYNE BLACKSHEAR: Yeah, like you said, we were not with Gorgui. And it was a tough game, and we still competed and we came up short. But we came out aggressive and played them very well.
CHANE BEHANAN: Like Wayne said, without Gorgui, it was real tough for us. Limited us from offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding and also blocking shots. That’s it.
PEYTON SIVA: I think it was a great game. Both of us have improved a lot more since that Bahamas tournament, and it was a great opportunity to play against them at that time.
Who would have known we’d be playing right now for a chancing to the Final Four. Nobody would know that. With Gorgui back in the lineup, it definitely gives us another dimension to the game. V.T. and Zach and Montrezl has helped us out a lot replacing Gorgui in the game. But you can never really replace Gorgui. He’s playing good right now and is definitely going to help us out a lot.
Q. Rick, when you guys first started ‑‑ announced to be going to the ACC, how quickly do you immediately think about a chance to play Duke every year, multiple times, possibly?
COACH PITINO: It was on the top of my list. Now, you know, I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t even really think about it at all, because we’ve got another year to play. One thing I can tell you I don’t do is I really never live in the future. I really don’t. I just live for today, coach for today. I don’t take anything for granted.
My wife’s got a great expression: Make a plan for the future and you’ll make God laugh. And that’s pretty much ‑‑ I believe in that. So I don’t really think about it. That’s a long way off for me.
Q. Rick, in what ways do you feel like Duke has ‑‑ if there was any big area of improvement, that they’ve made since that November game?
COACH PITINO: Well, I think Curry’s gotten healthier, obviously. He had a stress fracture. That’s the biggest thing. He’s gotten healthier. They learned to play without Kelly and we learned to play without Gorgui. It made us play better without him. It made them more efficient in other areas. Now he comes back and they’re better. Gorgui comes back and we’re better.
We played a very good game that night, had a chance of winning. They were just a little bit better down the stretch.
Q. Rick, what type of challenges does Plumlee present not only as an offensive player, but a defensive factor around the basket?
COACH PITINO: Well, he’s very long. He’s very skilled. He jumps ‑‑ the whole family jumps extremely well. So he’s someone that understands the game real well. He hits his cutters the right way. He’s a very good rebounder, very good outlet person. He runs the floor well.
He’s a very good athlete as well as being a very good basketball player. So he poses a lot of problems for us with one day of prep.
Q. Coach Pitino, tomorrow will be the fifth anniversary of Bill Keightley’s death. I know you two were really close. How tough did he take that first loss to Duke and how much would he really enjoy seeing you beat them, especially on this stage?
COACH PITINO: Well, he enjoyed beating Louisville. He enjoyed beating Tennessee. He enjoyed ‑‑ that game hit him really, really hard. And it did hit all of us hard for about 24 hours until I watched the tape. Then I just sat back and I said, darn, that was some helluva basketball game. I got the guys together and I said, man, that was a great game. Really was a great game, especially playing without Mash.
So I always remember it in a positive light. Bill wouldn’t remember it in a positive light.
Q. Coach, Seth Curry hasn’t fared well this year in games where he’s got one‑day rest. Is that something you incorporate into a game plan is really trying to effectively defend him out of the game?
COACH PITINO: I don’t know what his health status is. I don’t know why that would be. I know he’s playing good basketball. We battled, we’re getting healthier. We battled, about five or six of us, a bad cold for the week. And it showed on our defense last night. But I think it was more Oregon than it was having colds, and we are getting better.
Our guys, I think we’re well rested, because ‑‑ I really mean that. We didn’t play a stitch of defense last night, so we’re well rested. Especially Russ.
Q. I want to ask Chane about what it’s like to match up against Ryan Kelly. Have you faced another guy who can play kind of the European Stretch 4 the way he can with his size and ability to move the ball?
CHANE BEHANAN: Well, it’s going to be real tough. But I got four other guys behind me that’s going to contribute and help. Russ digging, Peyton digging, Gorgui trying to block shots.
Just go out there, give it your all. Playing for the Final Four. That’s basically all I can say. Coming to bring it.
Q. Rick, the first time you guys played Duke, you didn’t have Gorgui. How is he playing right now and what kind of luxury is that to have him this game?
COACH PITINO: Gorgui has really ‑‑ the good thing about Gorgui, Russ, is as the season’s gone on, they’ve been like a great stock. They just keep adding to their games.
Russ, as a freshman, it’s been well documented that he thought about transferring. I thought about shipping him to a different planet. And he stayed and really studied his game and said, okay, I took 18 shots last night and 17 were bad ones.
Now he’s evolved into a basketball player that maybe takes one difficult shot per game, plays good defense, makes good passes, makes good decisions.
And the two of these guys, probably out of ten guys I’ve coached, have improved dramatically as much as any two basketball players I’ve coached.
I said, Gorgui, we’ll work on your mid‑range jump shot. He takes it from not having a good mid‑range jump shot to being flat to being great, not being good. Everything he does, he doesn’t believe in being good; if he’s going to master something, he wants to be great at it.
So both of these guys have improved tremendously. And Gorgui has become an outstanding passer, he’s become an outstanding shooter. We all do shot blocking, become a better rebounder. He’s always been very smart. He’s a highly, highly intelligent person.
But he struggled a little bit in the beginning, because, as you may know, he goes from being able to say hello and good‑bye to me in late November to seeing him again late February and being semi fluent in English. That’s pretty incredible.
I know when I was named the Puerto Rican National coach, I bought Rosetta Stone and was working on it two hours a day. And all I look back on it now, because I had such great difficulty, is how did he do it? He’s highly intelligent and picks up things quickly and knows what you mean.
Q. Rick, what did you think of Duke in the preseason? Did you feel like they were one of the teams that could be right up with you guys competing for a national title? And what’s it like to have to play them in an Elite Eight when they were number two in the country the last week of the season?
COACH PITINO: I think when you looked at our bracket with us, we looked at Colorado State and said five seniors and two of the seniors ‑‑ two fifth‑year seniors? It’s going to be a heck of a basketball game. And then obviously, last night, Oregon. Oregon made us not look as good as we are.
And then now you’re playing a team like Duke or Michigan State. So we knew our bracket was going to be a highly, highly difficult. It was a bracket that you weren’t going to see a whole lot of upsets in, because the teams were so good.
Our respect level for Duke is as high as it gets. Not only for their players, for their coach, for the way they represent ‑‑ their program is run. We know that. We played them a great game there. We know we’re going to have to play a great game to come away with a victory.
But we feel after last night’s game, I think our guys are disappointed in their defense and I think tomorrow they’ll play it much better.
Q. For Peyton, Coach Krzyzewski was in here a little while ago and said this is like a national championship game tomorrow. Do you have that sense? Do you feel as if you beat Duke, you’re likely to cut down the nets?
PEYTON SIVA: Right now, every game is a national championship. You got to win to survive. And that’s how you have to play it, because if you lose, you go home.
So right now, there’s potentially three games left, and each one you have to play like a championship. That’s how we look at it, and that’s how we’ll go out and play. We have to leave it all on the line. We’re trying to play for a potential spot in the Final Four.
Duke’s a great team. They’re playing really well. Like you said earlier, number two when the season ended and he was really hot. They had a couple mishap games, but they’ve been playing great.
We’ve got to come out and play our hardest and play like it’s a national championship game.
THE MODERATOR: We’re going to dismiss the student‑athletes to the meeting rooms.
Q. Rick, as much as you value this game, how meaningful is it to be attached to one of its great moments of all time, speaking about 1992? And everyone else revisits that game often. Do you ever allow yourself to think back when you have a few moments offseason?
COACH PITINO: I do, and I’ve watched the game about five times. The fascinating thing about that game, we lost and it cost us the Final Four. When we got back, four of those guys had their names retired to the rafters the day after that game, which was incredible when you think about it, because Kentucky always puts All‑Americans up there in Farmer, Feldhaus, Woodson and Pelphrey. Were put up there because of the ‑‑ that they all stayed, they didn’t leave, scandal hit Kentucky and they stayed, and they went from a scandal‑ridden group that didn’t play to having their jerseys retired in a loss. So it’s pretty darn special moment for those guys and me.
And it was just a great, great basketball game that I think most of the Kentucky fans just don’t realize when you play in such a great game against a group of guys that didn’t boast, didn’t go out there and make you look bad, all they did was praise their opponent, so they were gentlemen, and I just have such great memories of that game.
But I do think about it often. Not in a revenge standpoint, but just in a great game that I was happy to be part of.
Q. Coach, this has been talked about as a national championship game, but really is a prelude to what the ACC is going to look like in the future. Coach K said when all the teams get in the league, it will be the most powerful basketball conference ever. Can you talk about joining something like that and how this is going to kind of be the norm, playing in that league?
COACH PITINO: Well, I really don’t think about it. I have to be honest with you. I’m sure everything he’s saying is 100 percent correct. But I don’t allow myself ‑‑ it’s just a rule of mine ‑‑ to think about the future. I just don’t do it, because I don’t know what the future holds for me. So I never think, except for the next game. My players know that.
I don’t think ‑‑ I think Peyton gave a great answer. We said it last night. You’re going to play four national championship games, starting with last night. That’s basically it, or you’re out.
And every team left in this tournament is capable of winning a national championship, including Wichita State. I mean, you flip a coin between Wichita State and Ohio State, I’ve watched them play. They’re really, really good. Duke’s tremendous. Florida’s tremendous. Michigan’s great.
Anybody can win this thing. So we’re looking at it starting with last night as four chances. Peyton really said it the way we believe.
Q. Coach, have you thought much about sort of the accidental nature of this team, how many guys that you’re using who committed elsewhere, even signed elsewhere in some instances, and they all wound up in your roster? Is that sort of a reflection of where college basketball is now, how many different guys came from so many different angles?
COACH PITINO: I guess you’re alluding to Luke and Montrezl?
Q. Yeah, Luke and Montrezl, Kevin as well.
COACH PITINO: Yeah. Well, it’s a little bit different, the circumstances were kind of incredible, because most of it was because of Kevin Keatts. Kevin Keatts placed Montrezl at Hargrave’s. So obviously, when Seth got fired, he knew Kevin, and we were lucky enough to get him.
Luke, Kevin coached at Hargrave’s and his brother lived in Louisville. So we got lucky there as well.
With Kevin, he just ‑‑ Central Florida got in a little trouble. He had to go somewhere and that was the only time we really recruited him. We didn’t really recruit Montrezl or Luke. We’re lucky that Kevin Keatts knew them.
Q. Rick, you mentioned the other day that you consider Coach Wooden the greatest there ever was. If Mike’s team should win tomorrow, he would match Coach Wooden with 12 Final Fours. Given how much the nature of basketball has changed over the last half century, is it possible to look at Mike and say, you know, for his era, he’s done as much as Wooden did?
COACH PITINO: I’ve said it about 50 times. I’ll make this 51. Coach Wooden, I felt, was the greatest teacher of any sport of any game. And Coach K is the modern‑day John Wooden. I’ve made that statement over 50 times, and I believe that.
Just in the way he carries himself, in the way he teaches values, in the way he coaches basketball. He’s a fierce competitor like Coach Wooden. You’ll both see their intensity on the sidelines, and it will be saved for a lot of timeouts.
They’re just great coaches, great people, great teachers. They would both be great teachers of biology in the classroom. Obviously, Mike being a West Point grad, has tremendous discipline in his life. Mike is the modern‑day Coach Wooden. There’s no question about it because of the character that they both possess.
There’s more to coaching than just teaching basketball Xs and Os. It’s what they stand for as people. And both of them, I couldn’t put anybody on any higher point than those two gentlemen.
Q. Rick, for those of us that were there in Philadelphia, I think you could realize how good that game was. Over time, it has held up as maybe the best game ever played. Does it surprise you at all to look at the film and say that was really as good as we thought?
COACH PITINO: I think it was such a high‑scoring game with so much perfection in the way the players passed and shot the ball, that’s what made it stand the test of time. It wasn’t a slowdown game. It was a game where two coaches could sit back and watch great players perform at the highest level.
It was like being in Carnegie Hall and just seeing the best musician or the best singer, and just sitting there in amazement of what they were doing out on the basketball court.
Q. Rick, you don’t want to talk about the future. I wonder if you’ll indulge me and talk about the past. If you had never gone to the NBA, you’d probably be 800‑plus victories at this point. You’re six years younger than Mike. Do you ever wonder about what your legacy might have been if you’d done what ‑‑ taken the path he did?
COACH PITINO: Well, I’ve heard that many times from ‑‑ Dick Vitale tells me all the time, every time something happens when we lose: If you’d never left Kentucky, you would have had so many wins. He has it down to the win.
But I’ll say this. I don’t think I could have enjoyed four years more of my life in coaching than New York Knicks. As an assistant coach, I learned more in two years than I have in my lifetime working under Hubie Brown. Then I had a blast as the head coach of the Knicks. I grew up six streets from the Garden. I enjoyed that.
The Boston experience wasn’t great for me, because, like Pat Riley says, it’s winning in misery. But I learned something more valuable from the Boston experience than even working for Hubie wrong. That was humility. It took me goddamn long enough to get it.
To me, humility is the key to achieving any sense of accomplishment, because you really know why you win. And it’s the guys that are to my right, and you really appreciate when you lose ‑‑ like I thought that Dana Altman and watching the film and everything ‑‑ I didn’t know him real well. I came away with the sense of he’s a helluva basketball coach. He’s a great one. Maybe because Creighton wasn’t as high profile, he’s a great basketball coach.
I get a great appreciation when I watch film of other people out there. I’m not sure I would have done that if it wasn’t for the Boston experience.
Q. If you’re watching a game on TV and as it seems to happen a thousand times, the Laettner shot is in a commercial or a promo, do you even look at it? Do you change the channel? How long did it take before you could watch that shot without having some sort of emotion about it?
COACH PITINO: You know, a lot of people thought in that game you should have had a guy on the ball, but you can throw the ball out of bounds. Bob Knight always said he never puts a guy on the ball. I made a mistake in that game, and that’s what I think about.
The mistake I made is I said we’re going to sandwich him, it’s going to him. But watch out, they may shoot a guy on the sideline. He may pass as they’re running down the floor.
But then I grabbed Pelphrey and Feldhaus. I said: Whatever you do, don’t foul him. He hasn’t missed a shot.
I shouldn’t have done that. That was the mistake I made. I should have said: Whatever you do, bat down the ball. I don’t care what the contact is. But go for basketball. And you saw my guys freeze a little bit. So that was ‑‑ it wasn’t on the ball because you remember all the ‑‑ what’s the guy doing the commercial with the astronaut on the sideline? Bryce Drew. And then you remember Tate George when they had the guy all over him on the ball.
So I shouldn’t have said that. Looking back, if I could have one thing over, I would have said to those guys: Bat the ball down, whatever it may be. That’s the one thing I look back on the game, I wish I could have done differently in that game as a basketball coach.
But I did a Vitamin Water commercial with Christian Laettner. A lot of Kentucky fans don’t like him. I got to know him and still don’t like him. I’m only kidding. I’m only kidding. He’s a good guy. I’m joking.
Q. I apologize if you’ve answered this question already a little earlier. How much does the addition of Dieng into this game change the dynamic of things from the first matchup of these guys back in November?
COACH PITINO: I’m not sure, because ‑‑ I’ll tell you why. I know he’s obviously better than Zach Price and Stephan Van Treese. But both those guys played terrific in that game. If one of those guys would have played poorly, you’d say it’s going to be a big difference. But both those guys played very well in the basketball game, especially in the defensive end, the way they screened.
There’s so much at stake at this game because it means the Final Four, that really past performances don’t mean a whole lot. So it’s going to be a hard, hard fought basketball game, and we know that.
The thing about Duke is you got to keep them off the foul line, because they make every free throw. And that’s ‑‑ any team like Duke that plays defense like they play and rebounds and if you put them to the foul line, you’re probably not going to win the game.
Like last night, what was it, 26 times, made 24 out of 26. Michigan State’s not going to beat them letting them shoot 26 and making 24.
Q. Coach, one more about Gorgui. From a personal standpoint, how has it been these years you’ve had with him? What about him is so disarming and appealing to people?
COACH PITINO: His culture is far different. We were talking the other day to Eric Crawford, who was with us, one of the writers. He said that he goes home to his country, and if there’s a 25‑year‑old that doesn’t have a seat and he’s sitting there at 23, he’s got to give the seat up for the 25‑year‑old. And he says his culture is you listen to anybody who’s older than you. Anybody.
And that’s why he’s able to grow so much, because there’s nobody else in his ear. Like I said to him after the season, Gorgui, I want you to put your name in. We’ll see if you’re a first‑round draft choice and we’ll go forward. We’ll decide from this.
He said, I will listen to everything you and Amadou say. Amadou is a young man who works in the NBA from Africa. He says, Whatever you guys tell me to do, I will do exactly. I said, Gorgui, some agents or runners may try to talk to you. He said, I don’t listen to runners. I don’t listen to agents. I’ll listen to Amadou and you. That’s what I’m taught to do. He’s far different than the young kids today.
I took this other guy named Mangok from the Sudan through Australia just because of Gorgui. And then I recruited a young man from Kansas City who has African descent. Anybody from Africa, I go after. I didn’t even see Mangok play. I take them because of their culture to learn. It’s unbelievable how humble they are, how much they’re willing to learn. They soak everything in. And the way they look at adults, they revere adults and the wisdom that they may have to make them better.
Q. Rick, because Russ has played so well in this tournament, and even last night you were saying he basically carried us, do you worry at all that the team becomes overly dependent on him and that if his performance, which has been exceptional, goes down even a little bit, other guys are going to need to do a little bit more?
COACH PITINO: I told Russ this morning, I said, Russ, Duke trapped you every time on a pick and roll, and Duke is going to try to take you out of the game early on. I said, You’ve got to get the other guys the ball. Our guys know that. There’s no jealousy. They know Russ has bailed us out of a lot of tough situations.
We’ve got a lot ‑‑ Russ knows that. We have a lot in our favor. The guys texted me and said, What’s wrong with this Undertaker? He keeps picking the other team. I said, He’s been doing that since I’ve been at Kentucky. Don’t worry about it. They said, Why? I said, Because if he picks the other team, he picked Oregon, we have a great chance of winning. I said, It’s our key to our game and you must understand that Digger, I’ve known him a long, long time. He picked every single game until Vitale told him to pick the Washington Generals over the Globetrotters. It took him a year and a half to realize that they weren’t supposed to win and he still kept picking them.
For us, the Undertaker is going to pick Duke. We have major, major advantage in this game.
Q. Rick, you were talking about the kind of the beauty and the level of play in that ’92 game. And at the time, obviously, you had upperclassmen and older players. Can we see that again because players leaving? Can you match that sort of intensity?
COACH PITINO: Well, you saw what Colorado State ‑‑ they had five seniors. I think the game is better today because of the one and done. Much better. Because you have so much diversity. Here, you have Kentucky who they didn’t win because of the one and done. They won because they had Miller, Lamb, Jones, and then two of the best one‑and‑done guys to ever play the game.
So that’s fine. They’ve proven success doing it that way. But then you have a Colorado State that has five seniors. You have an Oregon who has upperclassmen mixing in with young. You have Butler who always gets seniors. So there’s so many different ways of doing it that you really can’t pick the winner.
Would I be surprised right now if Wichita State won the championship? Absolutely not. I would not be surprised. I would have been surprised if Florida Gulf Coast won it. That would have been a big surprise. But I would not ‑‑ what’s left? And I think that’s what makes it so exciting right now, because nobody really knows. We’re the No. 1 of No. 1 seeds. But I know if we played the remaining seven teams ten times, one team would win six, the other would win four.
That kind of parity is great, because it makes fun games.
Q. Coach, Quinn Cook was terrific against you guys in the Bahamas earlier this season, but his play has tailed off a little bit down the stretch. How do you game plan for him, seeing what he’s capable of, versus what you saw from him last night?
COACH PITINO: I always tell the guys, in March, anybody referring ‑‑ let’s say you’ve taken a ‑‑ 90 3s on the year and you’re shooting 28 percent. The fact that you’ve taken 90 and your coach lets you take 90, we consider everybody a big‑time 3‑point threat. That’s the way we look at everybody.
We don’t look at the fact they’re not playing well or playing well. If they have played well and they’ve taken a volume of shots, we consider them a big threat. One of the reasons we won last night is Oregon was winning with a 3‑point shot. They were 8 for 11 against St. Louis. They won by 20.
We held them to four made 3s in the game. That’s why we got beat off the bounce a lot, because we were pushing up. We were going to take away the 3.
So we consider, although he may not be playing well right now, and the fact that somebody said that he hasn’t played well with one day’s rest, we don’t pay any attention to those things.
We consider Cook a valuable, valuable asset. We’re going to try to stop him as well as Curry.
Q. Rick, I know ’92 was a while ago, but when you look at ‑‑ when you break down the film and prepare for Mike’s team now, compared to the way he was in ’92, are there any differences?
COACH PITINO: There’s lot of differences on offense. There’s not too many differences on defense.
I think Duke has been pretty consistent. You’re not going to see a whole lot of full‑court pressure. You’re not going to see a whole lot of zones. I think you may see subtle changes in the way they defend the pick and roll. I think Duke is pretty much the same type of defensive team ever since Mike started coaching.
Q. Rick, as many upsets as there have been during the season and as unpredictable as things have seemed, seven of the eight teams that are left have won an NCAA championship, everyone but Wichita State. What do you think the state of parity is in the men’s game at this point? And do you think that there really are that many teams that can compete for the title?
COACH PITINO: Like I said, I think the game is much better today. And it’s much better for a lot of reasons. Because we have young coaches in the game ‑‑ like Shaka Smart, like Brad Stevens ‑‑ who now say that money really don’t mean a whole lot to me, my program, my players do.
So the coaches are really staying and building something special and staying part of the organization. During my era, everybody was leaving. When I started out, including myself. Now, today, all these coaches, they really don’t care. They make more than enough money. It’s the program that counts.
I really admire that in them. I think the game is much better today because of the way it has evolved with the young coaches. The young coaches are so good, so talented. I think the game has become much better, the consistency of Colorado State being able to have all those really good players.
Going into next year, you’ll probably rank everybody on how many great players they have coming in. I’ve always ranked it how many great players they have coming back. That’s the way I’ve always ranked it.
And when the rankings started this year, I think Indiana was 1, probably, right? And they more than deserved their ranking because of the players coming back. And then the fascinating thing about this game is I’ve seen Syracuse now have almost three different lives.
Going into the Big East Tournament, they’re losing. Their self‑esteem is really low, not playing well. Then they go the finals and are playing great. They get it back. Then they go into the tournament. They lose to us and they had a big lead and they’re not playing well. Looks like they’re going down again. Now they come back again.
It’s fascinating to witness for me. But I think all these programs with great tradition have an unbelievable chance of winning this thing. I think it’s going to be a matter of, for us, if we put Duke to the line as many times as they went last night, we’ll have a difficult time winning.
Q. Rick, you mentioned Hubie a couple of times this weekend. After all these years, are there a couple of things that have really stuck with you from your time under Hubie that really translate into today’s basketball?
COACH PITINO: He taught me not only so much about how data can help you in a basketball game, what’s important and what’s not important, but he really taught me ‑‑ it doesn’t help me too much today ‑‑ about the pro mentality.
He got me to ‑‑ he understood the pros. He understood how to break down the statistician. He understood how to put the game together, and he taught me about the professional athlete and what’s important to him and how to handle the professional athlete.
Now, from that point on, what the professional athlete was like during the Hubie days and I was his assistant, that’s pretty much how the college athlete is today, that mentality.
So he taught me so much. Really, I don’t think ‑‑ it was the best two years of my life as a basketball coach. I wouldn’t say the ‑‑ maybe the two years at Providence because it was a Cinderella story. Outside of that, it was the two best years of my life because I learned the most about basketball, handling players, all the statistical data that went into things being significant on the offensive and defensive end. The man just taught me so much.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. See you tomorrow.
COACH PITINO: Thank you.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
DUKE Transcript 3-30-2013
THE MODERATOR: We will go to Coach Krzyzewski for an opening statement and then we’ll take questions for anyone who’s up here.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: We’re trying to adjust to a kick turnaround. We left here about 1:00 in the morning, and we’re back. So I’m glad we’re back. We would have been up all night, no matter what. It’s better to be up all night this way.
One good thing about last night, besides winning and playing well, is we didn’t get anybody injured, and we’re trying to get to know Louisville in a very piecemeal fashion. So we’ve watched a little bit of Louisville up to now, and we’re going to do more this afternoon and more tonight and more tomorrow.
When it’s turned around this quickly, you have to kind of do it in stages, because they’re a great team. I think they’re the best team and playing the best right now.
So our guys have done a good job, and we’re going to have to play a great game in order to beat them.
Q. Coach K, you guys played in November, and I know teams change over the months, but what is the benefit of having played Louisville this year?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think the fact just that you were at the same party together. This is a bigger party, so you know how big they are. Even though Dieng was not with them, you have great respect for them. Their guards lived in our paint and they’ve lived in a lot of people’s paints over the years.
They’re better and we’re better. They were interrupted early, and they haven’t been interrupted since then with injury. We’ve been interrupted since then.
But the fact that we played, the fact that we won I don’t think is significant. The fact that we have some familiarity with them helps.
Q. Mason, what does Dieng bring and what kind of things do you need to do to combat him?
MASON PLUMLEE: Well, I think he does the best job in their team of protecting the rim. Obviously blocking shots, but also altering shots. And then offensively he gets buckets around the rim, and then he has a nice little face‑up jump shot.
So I think he gives them a different dimension, but he’s not one of those guys that are 260, 270, where they can just move you on the block.
Q. Coach, same question. Where is Dieng on the list of priorities? How will he change this game?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, he’s one of the best players in the country. I think it helps their defense to have a great rim protector, because they hit you with different types of defenses, and you can be even more aggressive knowing that your basket is protected. I think any team in the country would love to have him.
But then offensively, he’s improved. He’s a legitimate threat to get ‑‑ he’s the second leading scorer and can hit free throws, can make buckets inside and can hit from 15 feet.
His game has really expanded. He’s a terrific player.
Q. Quinn, in the Bahamas, you kind of carried the team down the stretch. You won the MVP award. Is there any carryover, anything you take from that leading into the rematch, how well you played against them the first time?
QUINN COOK: I’m coming to the game with confidence, just playing against two great guys in Russ Smith and Peyton Siva. Our guys know we have to be at the best of our game.
In the Bahamas, it was a battle. All 40 minutes. Guys stepped up at the end of the game, and I was fortunate enough to hit a shot down the stretch and hit some free throws. But my teammates carried us the whole game.
So we know it’s going to be a battle all 40 minutes, so we just want to fight all 40.
Q. For Quinn and Rasheed, what makes their guards so good at getting to the paint? What can you maybe try to do a little differently to prevent that quite as much?
RASHEED SULAIMON: Their guards are tenacious on defense to start off, and their defense leads to easy buckets on the offensive side. And both of those guys, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, are great at getting into the lane and creating opportunities for themselves and for the rest of their team.
And when you have two guards like that, that can create so much havoc, puts a lot of pressure on your defense, and they really are the bulk of their team, and they’re two important pieces that we have to contain.
QUINN COOK: Just like Rasheed said, it starts on defense. Those two guys pressure the ball better than anyone in the country. It starts with defense, and their defense leads to their offense. And they’re tenacious getting to the rim creating for others. So they’re two of the best.
Q. Mike, this is actually the first time since the 1992 East Regional where you and Rick have teams that are going against each other in the tournament. Two parts to the question. One, can you just talk about your relationship with Rick, if there is one. And, second of all, what memories do you have from that game? I guess, obviously, Christian’s shot seems to be the paramount one. Is there something you think of primarily when you harken back to 1992?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, Rick and I are real close friends. I think he’s one of the best. One of the best ever. And our relationship was good before that game.
After the game, it’s grown exponentially. I think when the basketball gods deem you worthy enough to put you in a great moment, sometimes you’re placed in that moment as a winner, and sometimes you lose. But sometimes the loser shines more than the winner. I thought his ‑‑ how he reacted and has reacted since made him shine. And I respect that. I think he ‑‑ if I’m placed in that situation, I would hope that I would be able to do it at the level that he did it.
Rick’s the kind of guy that he knows he’s good and it’s okay for someone else to be good. And then if the other guy who’s good wins, you shake his hand and you know you’ll be good and you’ll get another chance to be good.
I like that about him. Tom’s like that. Tom Izzo’s like that. And they’re two of the guys that I really respect a great deal in our profession.
Q. Mike, what were your thoughts when you saw that Louisville would be joining the ACC and what does that mean for your league?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, for all these schools that have joined, it makes us the most powerful basketball conference, I think, ever. And I hope our league is able to understand the assets that we’ve accumulated and what it does to the assets we already have.
I think if positioned properly, it sets us apart from anybody. And we shouldn’t look at where football is or whatever. We have the best asset as a result of Louisville, Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame, and the assets we have, we’re joining together. I mean, we better know how to make use of it.
Q. Seth, how much, if any, has the condition with your legs improved over the course of the season until now? And does it concern you that in quick turnarounds, where you play in a day or two, that your performance or your production in the second game has dropped off?
SETH CURRY: It’s felt a little bit better as the season’s gone along. The biggest thing is to be able to get used to when I’m at practice and just getting able ‑‑ being able to get in a routine of preparing for games and things like that. That’s the things that’s benefitted me most down the stretch of the season.
I don’t think this next game off short rest is going to be any different. I feel ready to go.
Q. For Rasheed, Quinn, and Seth, as players, how much does it help that you have played against Louisville and you kind of have physically seen them and gone up against that pressure before?
RASHEED SULAIMON: It helps a lot. Like Coach said, they’re a great team and they’re different now. But to have the familiarity that we had playing them earlier in the season is a great help. We know how they are defensively, and we know one of the big keys of the game is to handle that pressure.
And it’s very hard to prepare for a team like Louisville. But knowing that we played them earlier in the season does help a lot.
QUINN COOK: Like Rasheed said, we’ve experienced their defensive pressure and the guards’ pressure. I think they’re a better team now and they’re playing the best basketball in the country, especially with Dieng there. We didn’t see how they played with Dieng. So I know our coaches are doing a great job preparing for those guys, and I think we’ll be ready.
SETH CURRY: You just get the up‑close look at how they attack for 40 minutes. It’s not only playing them, but playing other teams that pressure like them, like, say, VCU or other teams like that, just give us a better idea of what we’re going to see tomorrow.
Q. Coach, are Smith and Siva any ‑‑ are there any similarities that they have with the Durand Scott and Shane Larkin that you faced of Miami?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, you’ve got four really good players. Scott and Larkin are two of the best also. Now, the styles of play are different. The Louisville team really attacks you well in transition. And they play with such a verve and heart when they push the ball up the court.
There’s not a better transition guard in the country ‑‑ I’m trying to think of one in recent memory ‑‑ as Smith. He is courageous, plays with great heart. I’m getting old. If I need a transplant, I hope he would give me his. He could give me part of it and I’d have more courage than I have right now.
But they’re exciting guards. And Miami doesn’t play that way. They’re more in the half court. But these two guys put incredible pressure on you. The whole court, both offensively and defensively. They used the whole court in putting that pressure on you, on both sides of the ball.
Q. Coach K, Rick has said that in the tournament teams don’t get tired because of the number of television timeouts. Do you feel, though, that fatigue could be a factor against their press?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: We’re concerned about our turnaround from last night more so than their press. I think if you have ‑‑ just because your normal clock has been screwed up. In other words, you don’t get to bed ’til 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning from the late game. And then we had drug testing afterwards ‑‑ which is a question to ask for another time, I guess, why you would do that to a team that plays the late game. But I guess I shouldn’t ask that question right now.
That’s what I’m concerned about, is ‑‑ there is enough time in the game to rest. It’s just how do you enter the game. And so we have to make sure our guys enter the game with fresh legs, whatever we can do.
Like we can’t do too much on the court today, and get them off their feet and there won’t be much practice time, as much walk‑through time today.
Q. Ryan, the rest of your teammates kind of spoke of their role. What do you see your role being in tomorrow’s game?
RYAN KELLY: I think it’s going to be huge for me to help handle that pressure. I intend to be the guy that takes the ball out of bounds, and that’s an important position to be in for ball reversal and to help bring the ball up the court.
I think both Mason and I did a pretty good job last time we played them, and throughout the season, handling that type of pressure. But that will be a big part of the game, having poise from that position.
And then rebounding the basketball is going to be huge. Their four‑man, all their four men, they throw multiple guys at you who really attack the boards and are athletic guys. So those will be two huge parts of the game.
Q. Coach K, I was wondering in what ways has Rasheed improved from that November matchup to now?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, he’s had a great freshman year. Playing games like that in Atlantis helped him become better. When you’re playing Minnesota, VCU, and Louisville three consecutive days. He’s a veteran player now. And in the last two games, has really played a complete game, both offensively and defensively. His defensive rebounding the last two games has been a huge factor for us advancing.
He’s our best driver. So last night he was able to take the ball to the basket. And he gives us another ball handler, really good ball handler. So when you’re trying break the press, we feel we have five ball handlers, because all five of these guys can handle the ball.
But Rasheed is an attacker when he has the ball and he can finish, whether it be with a score or with a foul. So he’s become an outstanding player.
Q. For Ryan or Mason, can you describe how it’s different, kind of the role you play against the pressure against VCU against the pressure that Louisville has defensively?
MASON PLUMLEE: I think VCU is quicker to run guys to the ball. Louisville brings it to you more. When you take it to them, they’re going to be aggressive and try to get their hands on the ball. So you just have to be smart. I think you have to be aware of what area of the court you’re in. You don’t want to be thrown into corners, crossing half court in the corners.
You really have to think before you get the ball, where you want to get it.
RYAN KELLY: I think another thing, you have to be very strong with the ball, have great hands, love reaching for the ball, getting steals. And at any point some guy can come running at you. That’s part of the game.
Like I said, I think we’ve done a pretty good job, and we’ll certainly have to play at a high level and do that at a high level tomorrow.
Q. For any of you guys, Ryan said last night that this team realized that after last year maybe you weren’t good enough defensively, maybe not tough enough. How do you make that transformation to be better defensively, to be tougher? And how important is that in a game against a team that wants to treat you that way?
MASON PLUMLEE: I think the first thing is we’re getting better late in the season with our defense. This is a new team. Guys have gotten better individually defensively. But we didn’t have Rasheed last year. Quinn didn’t start for us last year. So I just think our defense as a team has improved greatly, and a lot of that has to do with communicating, knowing where the help’s coming from, and then these guys do a good job of putting pressure on the ball.
SETH CURRY: I think our mindset is better now than it has been middle of the season, beginning of the season.
Defensively, we’re tough coming into games. We’ve been setting tones early in this tournament of getting off to good starts. And that’s just what we have to do going forward.
Q. Mike, would you go back to your comments on the ACC for a second? Obviously, you and Carolina are the only ACC teams to make it this far in the tournament since ’04. Curious, when you say about making the most of those assets, is that as a league or is that sort of getting some of these other teams in the league to keep up with these new teams that are coming in?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think how you use your assets, how we position them TV‑wise. Does our conference develop its own TV network? Where we play the tournament. When do we play the tournament? How do we position our regular season? How do we make ‑‑ how do we have the teams that are playing play schedules that are worthy of being considered for NCAA consideration.
In other words, to take a real close look at our league with the new members and say: Why are we different, why are we better, and how can we be the top league?
And if we don’t do that, then we’re negligent, to be quite frank with you. We’d be negligent. We’d miss out on a great opportunity. These schools shouldn’t be coming in just because we want to do football. Our league was founded on basketball, and that doesn’t mean football isn’t important. It is important. I like it. I want it to be great. But I want ACC basketball to be the best. And we have a chance to do that again.
Q. Mike, I’m curious what your thoughts are on the transfer rules as they’re currently constituted and then the proposal that would allow players to move on without sitting out if they get a 2.6 GPA.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I’m not a big proponent of that one. If there was a players’ union, these kids would go at any time, anywhere. Just like coaches. And they’d get benefits. You couldn’t use their images. I mean, it’s a complex issue. So I don’t have a stand right now.
I think it has to be equal, and right now it’s not equal. We have a kid sitting out who transferred for all the right reasons. They lost their college coach. And he’s not eligible to play. You have a lot of free agents right now. The fifth‑year guys are free agents. That doesn’t mean they’re bad kids, but they’re free agents.
And then there’s not a set rule where every transfer has to do the same thing. And so whatever we decide, every transfer should be treated the same. Not because they’re going home or because of sickness or because their father was fired or anything like that. It should be you’re a transfer, this is what’s allowed to do.
And we as a ‑‑ who do you think talks about those things? Who’s in charge? Well, who, though? No, President Emmert is in charge of the entire NCAA. He’s got a huge job. There should be somebody in charge of college basketball who does this on a day‑to‑day basis and understands everything about it.
And, again, I’m beating ‑‑ just so you know, when they put the dirt on me, inside, underneath the dirt, I’m still going to be yelling for somebody to run college basketball. And for reasons like this. It’s a complex issue. But it’s one that needs really to be studied and be treated in a very equitable manner for all kids, and we should take a look at everything that we’re doing for kids and try to make it as good as possible.
I mean, these guys give a lot. Not just these guys, the Louisville guys. They give a lot, and they’re taken advantage of. They really ‑‑ they are.
THE MODERATOR: We’re going to let the student‑athletes go to the meeting rooms.
Q. Mike, going back to ’92 for a second, as a basketball guy, have you always been able to appreciate just how important that moment was to this sport? Also, when you and Rick have gotten together, have you ever just sat down and talked about that game, your thoughts, your emotions?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I have thought about how important it is. It’s one of those moments in time that helped define our sport. When I’ve talked to Rick about it, we realize we were the lucky guys. We had different roles at that time, but we were both lucky to be there.
And, to me, even though his team lost in a very heartbreaking fashion, the most heartbreaking fashion there could be, it really ‑‑ that group that had gotten them there was elevated even more.
Like they had started in dirt, you know, and all of a sudden they were in the highest moment and they were knocked back. And Kentucky honored them forever, forever.
Just some amazing things have happened as a result of that game. Again, I feel privileged to have been a part of it.
And he and I have ‑‑ it’s like one of those things where you have this ‑‑ you shared something that no one else could share. So we’ll always be real close as a result of that.
I really like that about our relationship, that we both realize that.
Q. Coach, since the topic of transfers came up, what does it mean for Rodney to be here with the team even though he had to travel on his own.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It’s great. That’s one of the things about the transfer rule, that you’re not allowed to travel with the team. Even though it wouldn’t cost you anything more. And he practices every day with the guys. He’s part of the scout team and whatever.
It’s cruel. It’s cruel. That aspect of it, no matter what they do, as far as keeping everything else equitable ‑‑ if you’re one of the scholarship players, you should be allowed to travel, suit up. You should be on the bench. You’re part of the team.
The other thing that happens over the year, when we have traveled, he wasn’t able to travel with us during the year, so when we leave, where does he go? Who’s responsible for him? I am, supposedly, but I’m at Virginia or Maryland. He’s back in Durham.
Something happened to him or whatever, people would say, Well, what were you doing? I’ll say, Well, I was following a rule. No, you’re responsible for him.
It’s not right. I mean, that aspect of it is ‑‑ even if we don’t change a whole bunch of things, that aspect of it should change. No question.
Q. Mike, what is it about Rick ‑‑ you’ve talked about the ’92 game. What is it about Rick as a coach that made you respect?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I really respect everything about him as a coach. One, he’s brilliant. He’s got charisma. His players play hard all the time, and he’s evolved. He keeps evolving his system. He’s not the same guy that he was, and two years from now, he’ll be a little bit different. He’s always looking to get better.
Rick and passion go hand in hand. He’s just a passionate teacher and he’s passionate on the sidelines. I really admire what he does.
Q. Mike, Quinn did not play particularly well yesterday. As a coaching staff, is there anything you guys can do to kind of help him turn it around when he has less than 48 hours to do so?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Players don’t play well sometimes. He didn’t have a good game last night, but Tyler had a great game. So that’s having each other’s back.
A really important thing for any competitor is to be able to forget. Not just forget when you play bad, but forget when you played well. In other words, get on to the next thing.
He’s played really well this season, and I would expect him to play really well tomorrow afternoon.
Q. Personnel changes from year to year, but ‑‑
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: A lot.
Q. Well, with any coach.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Some more than others, believe me.
Q. Are there fundamental differences in your philosophy than Rick’s? Anything that you would point at that he does a little bit differently than you do?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I don’t study it that way. That’s for you all to figure out. I don’t look at it like what am I doing different than Rick. I’m just trying to ‑‑ my philosophy is always to adjust to the personnel that I have. I’m not a system coach. We play a different way every year based on the people that we have, even if it’s the same people, because they change.
And the things that stay the same is we usually play man to man, but we do it in different ways. And how we run our offense, we change our offense every year to get our best players shots.
To me, that’s what I’ve tried to do my entire career. I do what that with the Olympic team. Each of those teams was different. China, Beijing, Istanbul, and London, they’re different. They’re different.
Q. Mike, in the moment in ’92, do you realize the significance of the moment, or how long does it take to hit you?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: No, I don’t think you can realize the significance at that time. Although you saw the ‑‑ to me, I will always remember the stark ‑‑ the difference in emotion, the result of the game. Because really right in front of me Richie Farmer collapsed. And I see our guys jump and I see him fall. And really I was more taken by Richie. And I understood by looking at him ‑‑ I could never understand completely, because it didn’t happen to me, but just how tough that was.
And so the fact that it was that tough and that happy, you knew you’re in this crazy ‑‑ it was kind of crazy. And then it became bigger because we also won the national championship that year. So it led to the top prize. We would not have won two in a row.
I mean, it could stand on its own, but adding that made it that much better.
Q. For as good as your teams have been and for as good as Rick’s team has been, this is only the third time you’ve played each other and the first time in the tournament since ’92. Is that surprising to you and have you guys tried to schedule ‑‑
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: That’s why we got them in the conference. Got to start doing this a little bit more. Those things don’t surprise me as much, because there’s only so many non‑conference games you play. I guess when you say it, you say, wow, that should have happened more. But you don’t sit around thinking why you haven’t played Louisville. I can’t remember ‑‑ well, we played UCLA. Like the top programs.
I do think it’s cool, the thing that we do at the start of the season with the four teams, Kansas, us, Kentucky and Michigan State, so, you know, they probably should expand that if you’re looking to ‑‑ if you’re looking to see what would promote basketball even more.
Q. Mike, should your team win tomorrow, you will match Coach Wooden for numbers of Final Fours. For those of us of a certain age who grew up thinking nobody would ever come close to a lot of what Coach Wooden’s done, what would that mean to you?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I don’t really think of history while I’m coaching. If you do, I think you’re looking in the rearview mirror, and I got to be in the moment of my guys. So for Quinn and Rasheed, Seth because he wasn’t a player, he was a transfer on the team in ’10, it’s important just to be in their moment.
So I don’t want to count championships or games or Final Fours or anything like that, Elite Eights. That would be a mistake, and I’m not going to do that.
Q. Mike, I know by seeding you’re the underdog in this game, maybe by other means, I don’t know. It’s for the first time in a long time you guys have been in that situation. Anything helpful or liberating about that?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Liberating? No. No, we know going into every game that we’re a target, and we’ll be a target tomorrow. And Louisville has been. So you’ve got two programs that are accustomed to people playing their best against you all the time. Now we’ve got a chance to play our best against one another.
So it’s ‑‑ for an Elite Eight game ‑‑ Elite Eight games are huge anyway. But this one, I think it’s like a national championship game.
Both teams have had great years, and the two years ‑‑ the two seasons of the two teams could match anybody’s in the country. And to have ‑‑ just to have it work out that we’re playing right now against one another, I think it’s great for college basketball.
I hope we both live up to the game.
Q. You were talking about the quick turnaround. In ’86, when you were in the Final Four, you talked at that time about you weren’t experienced enough to help your team make that recovery after a tough game with Kansas. Can you talk about what you’ve learned and how you are better suited now to handle this?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, that’s a good question. Again, you don’t know if it will work, but we’ve just been in a lot of these situations. And what I’ve been doing for the last seven years with the National Team helps you too. Quick turnarounds and learning from different people what they do, the players like at that level, what they do. The mistakes and the good things that you’ve done over the years, and you come up with a plan.
So you never know if the plan is the right thing, but it will be better than the one we had in ’86.
THE MODERATOR: Coach K, thank you.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Thank you very much.
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