The Louisville Cardinals are the 2013 NCAA Men’s National Champions. I get goosebumps just typing that sentence.
It has been 27 years since Louisville has hoisted the trophy. I was born in ’85 so I have no recollection of the great teams of the 80s. My Louisville fanhood can be traced back as far as I can remember. I have lived in Louisville my whole life and both of my parents are Louisville fans. Naturally, I followed the rooting interest of my parents until I was old enough to understand.
Something I learned at a young age was the weather in the Ohio Valley is unpredictable. You don’t like the current weather? Stick around for another day and it will be drastically different. It was a rather mild Saturday for the 28th day of March, back in 1992. As a kid that grew up playing basketball, I love March madness so of course I was going to watch the Kentucky/Duke game that night. I had no rooting interest in it, but my older sister and her friend were teenagers and infatuated by Travis Ford and the rest of the Wildcats roster so they were cheering on the Cats. My older brother and his friend, along with the next door neighbor, were Cardinal fans and rooting against Kentucky. Kentucky was being rooted for at my house, and Duke was being cheered on at the neighbor’s house. I spent quite a bit of my time during the game running back and forth between the two houses, trying to figure out which one I wanted to root for. Ultimately, I chose to go against Kentucky. Something clicked with me during that game about my fandom. A light bulb went off that made me realize exactly what it means to be a fan. I realized on this night that Kentucky is the archrival to the greatest university out there, the University of Louisville.
It was the night of the Duke/Kentucky game that my fanhood for Louisville truly came to fruition. Playing basketball in the driveway growing up, it was always a fight with my brother and cousin of who got to be DeJuan Wheat. Then Reece Gaines came along when I was in high school, and I tried to do the things he did on the court (I was rather unsuccessful). I recall Denny’s last season. I didn’t grasp the magnitude of it at the time, but I remember everyone calling for him to retire and saying the game had passed him by. Maybe it was true, but he still did amazing things for the program and I’m grateful for the foundation he set during his time to help propel Louisville into the elite program status.
March 21, 2001 is a date that not many remember; I had to look it up myself. It is the day that Rick Pitino was hired to be the head coach at Louisville. I remember watching the news coverage of it, and seeing fan reaction at the time, from both Louisville and Kentucky fans, and having a lot of people truly upset that he was our coach. I thought it was great and there would be final fours and championships to come. I could do nothing but shake my head at the fans filled with rage over his hiring, especially Cards fans. His first year certainly wasn’t glorious, finishing at 19-13 with a 2nd round exit in the NIT, but it was a nice turnaround from Denny’s 12-19 final year. The 20 win seasons started in year #2 and in just his fourth year, we were in the Final Four after an improbable comeback in the Elite 8 against West Virginia. That year, I knew we were under seeded, and getting to the Final Four proved that. We finished the season ranked 4th in the AP Poll, and 6th in the Coaches Poll, yet wound up a 4 seed. After the loss to Illinois, things certainly were looking up for us.
The next year was forgettable, missing out on the NCAA tournament. Then in 07-08, we made a run to the Elite 8 again and fell to a good North Carolina team. Earl Clark was rumored to be going to the NBA but chose to come back for his junior (and final) season. We had pieces in place to make a serious run in 2009. We started the year ranked 3rd in the country, and finished the regular season with a 25-5 record, going 16-2 in conference play. They won the Big East regular season, and breezed through the Big East Tournament in route to a number 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Opened with a 20 point win over Morehead State, then a closer-than-it-should-have-been win over Siena. Then… Louisville exploded on Arizona and won by 39 in the Sweet 16. This was the team we had grown to love during the season and expected to see each night. And then Michigan State happened.
Last year, a “bridge year” as Pitino dubbed it many times, the team seemed to be playing well, playing great defense, but lost 5 of their final 7 regular season games. Talk amongst fans and media was discontent with Pitino and fans were already looking ahead to football season. Then the team found its identity to start the Big East tournament, winning 4 games in 4 days in route to a run to the Final Four where we lost to a great Kentucky team filled with NBA draft picks. Louisville had found its way back into the spotlight, and with so many key players returning, many media outlets were pegging Louisville as preseason favorites to cut the nets down in 2013.
This basketball season has been amazing to say the least. After “the broken wrist boogie monster” ran through the University of Louisville, attacking Gorgui Dieng and Teddy Bridgewater, a collective “why us” seemed to take hold in the minds of fans across the city. We lost to Duke in the Battle For Atlantis by 5 without Gorgui on the court. At that time, I hoped we’d see them again in the tournament for revenge. The team managed to keep winning, and winning big. Gorgui returned in time for the Kentucky game, with the Cards being victorious for the 1st time in 4 years. Things were looking great, the team was playing well, and then we forgot how to close a game against Syracuse the same week Louisville earned its first ever regular season number 1 ranking. The emotions of that loss in an electrified YUM Center (except for those 7 annoying Syracuse fans that were behind me…) carried over into 2 more consecutive losses to Villanova and Georgetown. We found our way again in a tight win against Pittsburgh before blowing out Marquette and Rutgers before traveling to South Bend. Timely mental errors cost of a 5 overtime game that has been beaten like a horse.
That’s when the magic happened. I wish I knew the message Pitino gave his players after the Notre Dame game. Louisville closed out the regular season without another loss, winning 7 straight by an average margin of 15.4 points per game. We roared through the Big East Tournament, winning games by 19, 12, and 17 to capture the final Big East Tournament title. We were awarded with the overall number 1 seed again, and confidence in this team was overflowing. They didn’t disappoint in the 2nd and 3rd round games of the NCAA Tournament, winning by 31 and 26. The parallels to 2009, though, were hard to ignore, as we were again facing a number 12 seed in the Sweet 16, in Indianapolis, as the number 1 overall seed. But this team still pulled out the victory, and advanced to face Duke in the Elite 8.
Here I am again, with a Rick Pitino coached team, facing Duke and Coach K in the Elite 8, just like it was in 1992. As mentioned, that game made something click and my fandom kicked in. This time, I would not be rooting for Duke. This time, I’m rooting for the Cards to keep the train rolling to a National Championship. Nearly 3/4 of the way through the first half, Duke brought the ball up the court, and Tyler Thornton attempted a three pointer from the right wing, directly in front of the Louisville bench, and with 6:33 to go, the game stopped. My stomach churned and I had to run out of the room to nearly vomit. My heart sank. Kevin Ware suffered an open fracture of his right leg after an awkward landing trying to contest the 3 pointer by Thornton. All of America it seemed was captured by this moment. Grotesque in nature, but amazed at the selflessness of a kid who’s sports dreams were unstable at that moment in time. I cried. I cried for Kevin. I cried for his future. I cried for this team. Once the gravity of his loss set in, I got angry that once again we weren’t at full health against Duke. And that’s when the #WinforWare inspiration took control over the rest of the tournament. Not to be denied, the Cards won handily in the 2nd half, outscoring Duke 50-31 after halftime in route to a 22 point victory, and a 2nd straight Final Four. Kevin became a national sensation with outpouring of love and support for him and his courage through the devastating injury. Louisville used him for every bit of inspiration he could give in a gutty, 2nd half comeback performance against Wichita State to win by 4 and advance to the National Championship game.
This game was long sought after by CardNation. It had been 27 long years since Louisville had last played in the title game. Louisville was undefeated in those games, and hoped to stay that way. We were going up against the best offensive team in the country. Many analysts and experts were talking about Michigan’s offense and about Louisville’s stout defense, but they were dismissive of Louisville offensive potency, especially in the postseason. Louisville didn’t create a large amount of turnovers or have a lot of transition baskets last night, but our offense shined in a game that we needed it the most. Cool-hand Luke made his presence known throughout the game, and helped will this team to victory and a National Championship. I have grown to love this team over the course of this season, and it is sad to see it come to an end, but we couldn’t ask for a better ending. This group worked their tails off this year, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. Finally, I get to cherish the memories of the Cards cutting down the championship nets. It is certainly something I will remember forever.
I don’t know if I’m going to be recharged emotionally tonight for the women’s game, but we have a chance to win both in the same year, and that is super special.
Follow me on twitter: @hanover23
Please stay tuned as there is MUCH MUCH MORE to come.
I am going to celebrate with my friends & family. I love you all. Get off the internet AND PARTY. For now this pic & transcript should suffice. We have full coverage, pics, video, and of course a highlight video that will be coming.
Please stayed tuned.
Louisville – 82
Michigan – 76
THE MODERATOR: Please welcome the head coach of the University of Louisville, Rick Pitino, as well as Louisville student‑athletes. Coach Pitino will begin with an opening statement.
COACH PITINO: Well, first I want to congratulate the University of Michigan. They are a great basketball team.
You know, a lot of times when you get to the Final Four, you get to a championship, the game’s not always great, not always pretty. This was a great college basketball game.
They are a tremendous offensive team. Fortunately for us, when we started this tournament, and Luke started playing a lot more minutes, we became a great halfcourt offensive basketball team. And tonight was as good as it gets.
They executed almost every play to perfection. They mixed it up well. Can’t tell you how proud I am of the guys, of the moment. 16 straight games from a five overtime, sharing a regular Big East championship in its last year, a tournament championship at Madison Square Garden and then a run to the national championship.
It’s just, for us, been an incredible run with just the most wonderful young men I had the pleasure to be around. So proud of them.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student‑athletes.
Q. You know Chane, how he started the year, the suspension, what does today say about his evolution as a player and a person?
PEYTON SIVA: Chane is a great player. Coach kept telling him for these last 16 games, Chane, you got to rebound. We watched countless number of hours of film on Kenny Faried. Chane told me before the game. He said, Thank you.
I was like, What.
He just said, Thank you.
He came out today, and he was a man amongst boys on the board. He started patting his stats a little bit, trying to miss his layups and get it back, but he played terrific tonight (smiling).
LUKE HANCOCK: He’s developed as a player, but as a person, too. Chane is one of our leaders out there. He showed it tonight. He said he was going to take care of the board. That’s what he did. He stepped up and was a leader.
Q. Luke, you guys are down 12, you hit four threes in a row at the end of the first half, what was going through your mind? Most points scored by a sub in the championship in 49 years.
LUKE HANCOCK: I just try to play off Russ and Peyton, and Wayne today. They’re so good at getting you open shots. Gorgui found me for a couple of those.
But I just tried to play with them. They’re the guys who are usually scoring all the points. If I can step in and hit an open shot, or just help out, I do. Russ and Peyton lead the show, and I just try to play off of them.
Q. Talk a bit about what this actually means to you. It’s the goal at the start of the year. In the end, you did it.
PEYTON SIVA: Well, I just got to thank God for blessing me with this opportunity. Winning this game, the whole game, Coach Pitino kept saying, You’re out of shape, son, you’re out of shape. You need to dig in.
I kept telling him, I got bruises all over my legs from getting hit. He wouldn’t listen to me.
It feels amazing to get this win. Playing for a great guy, not just from coaching, just a great father figure like Coach P, truly amazing.
I baby‑sit his grandkids. It’s truly amazing to get this win for him. I’m just truly blessed.
LUKE HANCOCK: I agree. Just blessed. Blessed to be in this situation. I’m just so happy for our team. I’m happy that multiple guys got to contribute on this great run. Everybody from Tim Henderson on. It’s just great for our team. I’m so happy for these guys.
CHANE BEHANAN: Yeah, I also agree. It’s a one‑time thing in life. You never know if you get this opportunity again. So we just left everything out there on the court.
For me, it’s just a dream come true. Just coming from where I come from, Cincinnati, Ohio, the area I grew up in, any kid would want to trade places with me today. To have the opportunity to come out here to show my talent, win a national championship with my brothers, it’s unbelievable. I love these guys like they my real brothers. That’s it. It’s just a dream come true.
Q. Luke, you got McGary up in the air for what turned out to be a big play, shot faking everybody all weekend. Could you describe that play, that particular move.
LUKE HANCOCK: I missed the free throws. That’s all I was mad about. Missed the first two.
But, I mean, it’s not something you really practice on. I mean, we do ball fakes, individuals, but you don’t practice leaning into somebody and trying to get a foul.
It ended up helping us out putting Trey Burke on the bench, but I don’t know how much help it was because Spike came in and killed us for a while.
You don’t work on jumping into Mitch McGary. He’s huge. When he came at me, he just kind of hit me.
Q. Luke, could you reflect a little bit on your journey. You were a guy that wasn’t recruited out of high school, barely recruited out of prep school. And the personal stuff with what your father is going through this week.
LUKE HANCOCK: All of that?
I wasn’t recruited real high out of high school. I went to prep school and picked up several offers. George Mason recruited me, Coach Larranaga, made me feel like I was home at George Mason. So I went there. Then I ended up needing to transferring when he left.
Coach Keatts and Coach Pitino made me feel like this was a home, that we’d have a chance to win a national title.
I’m so excited for this team to be in this situation. It’s been a long road. There’s really no way to describe how I feel that my dad was here. It’s hard to put into words. I’m so excited that he was here, it just means a lot.
Q. You have come back a number of times this year. The way Spike Albrecht was landing haymakers, did it feel different from other deficits you had earlier this year?
CHANE BEHANAN: It did kind of feel different because he was hitting them back‑to‑back, going to the rim on us. We’ve been in situations like this, Syracuse game back in the Big East, we was down 15 at the half. This game, we knew we was going to get over the hump, but when they had all the momentum going for them, it felt like we weren’t going to come over the hump.
But as positive a coach as Coach Pitino is in the huddle, he told us to dig in, stop the three, we gonna make our run. That’s when Luke came and hit four threes back‑to‑back. I think that’s what changed the game for us going into halftime.
LUKE HANCOCK: Yeah, I mean, obviously this is a bigger game. Means a lot more. I was nervous, how much moment they had, how well they were playing. We know how great of a team Michigan is. It definitely makes you nervous. We were able to come back and our pressure ended up wearing them down a little bit.
Q. Chane, how much did the idea of winning it for Kevin, getting him up to cut down the nets, how much was that a motivator tonight?
CHANE BEHANAN: It was a big motivator for us just for the simple fact I think Kevin Ware would do anything to be back out there. We was all locked in for him, ourselves, our coaching staff, also for our fans and our family.
Kevin was a big part of this team. To see him going down like he did, it was devastating. It was a big motivator for us.
Q. What does it mean to win the national championship this year after your arch rival Kentucky won it last year?
PEYTON SIVA: Well, for us to win this national championship truly a blessing from God. We don’t look at it as who won it last year. We’re living in the present. We got this win for our team.
I told somebody earlier, this is really what a team is. This is really what college basketball is about, a group of guys who are like family. With Kevin Ware going down like that, everybody rallying around him, it showed how much we love each other, that we are a family. We’re truly blessed to be here with this national championship trophy.
LUKE HANCOCK: As a team, we’re just blessed to be in this situation. That’s what we’re worried about. I’m so happy for these guys, my teammates. That’s what we’re thinking about. I just love these guys, coaches, our fans and everything, like Peyton said.
CHANE BEHANAN: What Luke said (smiling).
Q. Peyton, it almost seemed like you were particularly energized in the second half and you wanted to take control of the game. Could you tell us what was going on in your mind and did, in fact, you want to be the guy that got things going?
PEYTON SIVA: Well, this is why I love Coach P so much. At halftime he kept asking me like, Do you know the plays? You keep looking over at me and asking me what plays to run.
Yeah, I know the plays.
In the second half, he let me call the plays, what I saw out on the court. That’s what I do, try to be an extension of him, try to gather my guys, get them in the right position.
As a point guard for this team, it’s my duty to create good shots, take care of the ball, play good ball, play good defense.
Coach P kept telling me, Dig in, dig in, dig in. They was knocking down some difficult shots in the first half. Luckily we wore them down. We got a big win tonight.
Q. Do you have any suggestions as to what Rick ought to do in terms of a tattoo?
PEYTON SIVA: You know, get my name. At the beginning of the year, If you guys win, I’ll get a tattoo. It was crazy to even think about it.
But we won. So he’s a man of his word. I told some reporters he should get a lower back tattoo. He said, Does it sting? I said, I don’t know, I don’t have any tattoos.
LUKE HANCOCK: I don’t have any tattoos. But we have a couple ideas. I don’t think he knew what he was getting into when he signed up for that one.
PEYTON SIVA: I think that was our biggest motivation, was to get Coach P a tattoo.
Q. Peyton, sometimes you would lay back if Russ had something going. Can you explain what it was like to go ‘mano y mano’ back and forth with Burke like that?
PEYTON SIVA: Russ, he was taking the usual shots he usually takes. They weren’t falling. Tonight wasn’t his night. He carried us the whole way. Without him we definitely wouldn’t be here. In the second half, I saw a lot of openings and chances to go and attack, and that’s what I tried to do.
As far as getting in mano‑y‑mano match with Trey Burke, I was just trying to win the game. I wasn’t trying to get into a head‑to‑head competition with him. I know he’s such a great player, such a talented young guy. That’s why I went up to him after the game and gave him a big hug.
I met his family earlier at the Hall of Fame thing. They’re amazing. I told him to keep his head up. He has a bright future ahead of him. I was just trying to get this win for my team.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll dismiss the student‑athletes and at this point and continue with questions for Coach Pitino.
Q. It was a big story with Kevin, with his injury. In U.S. Sports, there are big stories over the year. How would you rate this thing, finally winning the title?
COACH PITINO: Well, after the incident, we knew Kevin was going to be okay, he was then a member of the team. Four years ago we built a brand. I felt if you stay at a school, you have to change your brand. Our school was going to be Louisville first. Everything we do is for our team, university and city, not for ourselves. That brand is the reason we won tonight.
Kevin, without question, I’m not sure I could have, or the players, gotten over that emotional trauma, if he didn’t say to me, Coach, I’ll be fine, we’ve got to win the game. He said it three times.
I said, Hold on. I got everybody in. I’m not sure any of us could have beaten a great team like Duke unless he gathered us all together. From there, there’s so many plots.
We don’t get to the final game if a walk‑on doesn’t step up and hit two gigantic threes. As soon as we started playing Luke Hancock more, our halfcourt offense evolved into something that was very special. Luke is a play‑maker along with Peyton.
Q. Chane started the year with the suspension. What does this game say about his ability to focus and his evolution as a player?
COACH PITINO: First and foremost, it’s no serious matters that they got suspended for. Serious enough to get suspended, but it’s something I’m a big believer in fun, in discipline and love. Chane just needed to grow up, as well as Kevin, mature as an adult.
I’ll tell you something about Chane Behanan. When the chips are down, things don’t go well, that young man rises to a new level. There’s no question, when I looked at him today, he shook my hand and said, Don’t worry about me, I’ll bring it tonight. He always rises in big games. He’s 6’6″, 6’7″. He was a monster tonight.
Q. You’ve coached long enough to be named to the Hall of Fame today. Have you seen teams with this kind of chemistry before? Is there something that you do in either attracting the players or in the way you coach them that builds a chemistry and bond like these guys have?
COACH PITINO: I think when you work as hard as we work, it builds a foundation of love and discipline ’cause you have to suffer together. You’re always pressing.
I knew Peyton. I was all over Peyton the entire night. I thought he’d have to play 38 minutes. He was pressing, running. I knew he was exhausted. I kept saying, You’re out of shape. He looked at me and he knew what I was getting at.
You got to dig in, man. I know what you’re doing, but you’re not in the shape, I thought you were. I had to keep prodding him and prodding him because watching him, I was out of gas. He just gave a brilliant performance, not only from a playing standpoint, but a leadership standpoint, conditioning standpoint. He was off‑the‑charts awesome.
Q. With everything you’ve been through over the last few years, just the emotions, when the buzzer sounded, when you were hugging your wife, talk a little bit about that.
COACH PITINO: You know, you never know how you’re going to feel when you get such a special moment like the Hall of Fame. All afternoon I was just reflecting and thinking. Tonight I gathered my family at the end and I presented my sister‑in‑law, I said, This is the most important item I have in my life, but it’s now yours.
We’ve had a rough go, our family. Mary Minardi, the youngest one, her husband went to a retirement party in New York. The man who was retiring, he didn’t have a way home. He gave his car voucher. And downtown New York, Don started hailing a taxi, got hit by a taxi and died. Five months later, she lost her brother in 9/11.
Unlike Stephanie, who I’ve been able to be an uncle to her children, she lives four homes down, she had to work. She has no money. She has to work her tail off, raise three children, put them through college. I told her tonight, Mary, I’m not the Hall of Fame, you’re the Hall of Fame. This is the most special thing that’s happened to me personally and I want you to have it. I gave it to her on the court. We’re a family that’s had a lot of difficult times.
That being said, no one celebrate like the Pitinos and the Minardis. No one. We celebrate together. My children, they have a lot of Irish in them the way they celebrate.
Q. Rick, with time and perspective, what changes in your emotions from the last one?
COACH PITINO: Well, ’96, I just had to control the egos and understand, It’s not about the pros, it’s about winning a championship. I had a great team, one of the best teams in the history of the college basketball.
This team is one of the most together, toughest, hard‑nosed teams. We played a great team the other night in Wichita State and got outplayed for about 34 minutes of the game. But this team, being down never bothers us. They just come back.
In the tournament, we became a great halfcourt team strictly because we played Luke Hancock more minutes. Gorgui was brilliant tonight. Six assists. He played terrific. I want to encourage all my guys to put their name in the draft, just get the experience of trying out, whether they do it or not, not get an agent.
Guys like Russ, Chane, Gorgui. I want them to learn the experience. Probably two of them will come back, one may go. They deserve the experience the amount they worked.
When we lost to Notre Dame, I said, Guys, we never panic. But mentally you’ve got to become a great basketball team, not just physically. Your superior conditioning, your willingness to work hard is great, but you’re making too many mental mistakes.
I gave them very demanding goals. I said, It’s not probable what I’m about to say to you, but I think it’s possible. I think we can win the next seven games, go into the most special arena in America, win the tournament in Madison Square Garden, then go on, be a No.1 seed and win the national championship.
So we talked about it. We were quite open about it. When you set demanding goals, you really do have to focus in and pay attention to that. That was our goals right after the Notre Dame game. They were down. I said, You shouldn’t be down. Give them credit. Here is what we’re going to do.
To be honest with you, I’m just so amazed that they should accomplish everything that we put out there. I’m absolutely amazed as a basketball coach.
Q. Could I clarify, what is it that you gave your sister‑in‑law?
COACH PITINO: The Hall of Fame jersey I got. Like I said, it was probably the most special thing I’d ever gotten in my life. But to me, she’s the Hall of Famer. The tough luck she’s had in life. Another thing she’s also done, she was an alcoholic from everything that’s happened, and she’s been sober for 10 years. Just her courage, I wanted her to have something special.
I’m so proud of her as a mom, everything she’s had to go through. She’s the Hall of Famer in our family.
Q. In the heat of the game, can you appreciate how great of a game it was?
COACH PITINO: You know, that’s the great thing about it. Sometimes expectations get so high, I knew it would be a great game. You never know if you’re going to win. The other night I knew that Michigan/Syracuse wouldn’t be a great game. I knew our game against Wichita State wasn’t going to be a great game because of the type of defense Syracuse and Wichita play.
I knew this game would be a great game. Two great offensive teams doing battle. Two great backcourts, great front courts, great talent. I was so happy to see that because I knew it would be a great game. Didn’t know we’d win, but I knew it would be a great game.
Q. What did it mean to you to watch that basket come down to Kevin Ware’s level, cut the net down, the place goes crazy for him?
COACH PITINO: It’s been such a rollercoaster of emotions. I’ve been around when guys blow out their ACLs, but I’ve never seen such affection and spontaneous emotion. I look back on it and say, That was really, really special. I was glad to be part of this team.
Q. Rick, in ’96 when you won, you had I think nine pros, maybe six first‑round picks. College basketball has changed a lot. Can you talk a little bit about how this team is indicative of the evolution of college basketball?
COACH PITINO: You know, I think the game today is much better than it was in ’96 for this reason: it’s always about the athletes and the student‑athletes. Now, I’m one that would love to see the guys to see all the UCLA players come back and graduate and do all of that. It’s so exciting because Coach Wooden’s teams, you knew who was going to win. Dean Smith’s teams, the Kentucky teams, my team in ’96.
You had no idea who was going to win going into this tournament. I think that’s so much fun as long as the game is well played. Tonight was a great championship game. They were tremendous. We had to beat a tremendous team.
My tenure in coaching, I’ve never seen, the amount of games I coached in this tournament, I’ve never seen such brilliance from the guys on the sidelines that I coached against. Some of the guys, like Dana from Oregon, Larry Eustachy, from our first game A&T, tonight the coach was phenomenal, phenomenal. I’ve never been around this type of coaching excellence in my coaching tenure. I’m proud to be part of this fraternity.
I think the game is great right now. We have to tweak it to where everybody is not just taking off and drawing offensive fouls. We’ve got to make it where 80% of those are blocks. Then we’ve got to create more freedom of movement. I told you the story last time I was here that we averaged 116.8 points per game with the Knicks, and everybody but one team was over 100 per game.
Then David Stern wanted to do something about it because there wasn’t enough scoring. Now the pro game is better, because they allowed freedom of movement. The LeBrons of the world can truly be great players because they’re not being checked everywhere.
That’s the next step of evolution in the college game. We have to stop all the hitting, fouling and the flopping. I think with the story of tonight where a Kevin Ware can rally the troops to beat Duke with the greatest coach‑‑ one of the two greatest coaches in the history of our game, he was responsible for rallying us against CoachK, who is the best in our game. When Tim Henderson, a walk‑on, will carry you through to a championship game, then these guys to rally for a championship against a great team tonight is something really, really special. It just happened to happen to us, but it’s really special.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, coach. Congratulations.
COACH PITINO: Thank you, everybody.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
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
Pitino, Beilein, Pittsnoggle, Gus Freaking Johnson.
Not the first rodeo for these two coaches. This game was an epic comeback. Still hard to believe the cards won. Will be different styles for both teams this time around, but expect a battle the same.