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November 20, 2019

Tom Crean

Athens, Georgia

Georgia - 82, Georgia Tech - 78

TOM CREAN: First, I want to thank our crowd again and for them to be here early like they were, especially with that accident that was out there near Village Avenue, it slowed me up. It probably slowed some of you up, slowed other people up. To have this level of crowd here to start this game, I was really worried about that driving in. And people were fantastic. They were into the game. They told me out front: This is the second highest crowd attendance mark we have had. And the last time it was like this it was '80-'81. And I believe Kentucky was one of the games that was in there and the arena was bigger. So I love it. I love the way our fans are responding to this, I love the way our students are coming to this. And that's how the program gets built and that's how the team gets better. Obviously, the team's got to practice, they got to improve, all those type of things, but that's how it happens. We had recruits here tonight just like we do most days and nights, but most importantly the energy that they are bringing to the team is outstanding. And hopefully our team is bringing them some too, because our team is working to get, working -- the chemistry never happens quickly. It takes a long time for it to come. I know, I'm not going to go too long, I'm not going to hit my 27 minutes. But it takes awhile to get -- I'll always going to think about it -- it takes awhile to get that chemistry down. We're trying to do a lot of different things as a team and play a lot of guys. The bottom line is Georgia Tech is good. He's doing an excellent job with that team. I mean, this is the best team that, you could see it, this is the best team that he's had in his time there. They're deeper, they're shooting it so much better, they're improving, they're big. We were very, very concerned about not being able to move the zone, move their big guys around. That had to be key for us tonight. And at times we did that, we were good, we had to get them out of the way. Banks had 11 blocks going into the game, had six tonight. Obviously, both teams have to get better, both teams will get better, but they have a really good team.

But for our team to figure out ways to figure it out during the game with as young as we are, as many young guys as we had on the court and some of the injuries that we were dealing with. Ray hadn't practiced full, and yesterday wasn't even really full since he got, he injured himself a little bit on Friday night. So he didn't have anything really for the last couple days. Christian Brown is battling something injury-wise. He wasn't at his normal speed and pace. But we found a way and I'm proud of the way that we did and now we got to turn around in a short period of time and get ready for an incredible three days of basketball and go ahead.

Q. Ant said, you said something in the pre-game about you wanted to be Georgia's team and he said that really resonated with them and kind of --
TOM CREAN: Absolutely. We're the University of Georgia, right? And that's something that we have got to do. Right? And we got a lot of Georgia kids. And I'm not from Georgia. I want to be Georgia's team. And it's not just because of a job. It's because of the time that you put into. And that's really, really important. And this is a huge rivalry. It really is. And I also said to them that it's, there are going to be things that will always be so much bigger than you. And a game like this is. Right? Because it means so much to the fans on both sides. It means so much to the players on both sides. It means a lot. That's what we got to establish here. There's a lot of things that we need to establish that truly we're on the ground floor more or less of trying to get to, but you got to be able to build it. And I'm proud of the fact that we have another group of seniors that haven't lost that game. They will carry that forever. There's a lot more left in their careers. Jordan Harris and Tyree Crump. I know Jordan didn't play, obviously, but they never lost to Georgia Tech. That's a huge thing. And there's certain things that you want to be able to walk out of here with. And being respected in this state is certainly one of them. Huge, as big as any.

Q. What your team did tonight against this level of competition. You win the rebounding battle, got four guys scoring in double figures. What did you learn tonight about your team and maybe the depth that it has at this level?
TOM CREAN: The coaches -- there's a lot of things we got to get better at. We got to get way better in the low-post defense. We gave up too many straight line drives. We just got to keep shoring things up. Our transition at times, transition D was not as good. But they found ways. We made cuts. The big thing offensively was that we didn't want to stand. When we stood, okay, we didn't attack the zone very well, we didn't get it to the corners, we didn't get our cutting right. When we cut, when we moved, when we got reversed, and we played through the paint, we did a lot of really good things. So I liked that part of it.

But defensively we have got to continue to understand as a young, a bunch of young guys, and other guys that haven't played a lot, you know, Ray has played a lot, Tyree's played a lot, Donnell played a lot at Northeastern. Toumani and Tye didn't play that much. And then you throw in all those freshmen. They have got to understand the urgency that it takes to get back on defense every time, the urgency that it takes to run the floor every time, and then how competitive, physical, and athletic you got to be to rebound the ball against good teams. So these are things we made progress in, but we've got to get a lot better there.

Q. You talked about finding ways. Kind of, how much of a part is that is leading by 8, scoring 35 points in the first half. When you talk about finding ways and all that kind of stuff, how much of that is leading by 8 at halftime when Anthony didn't really have it going in the first half?
TOM CREAN: Yeah. The thing about Anthony is he wasn't as aggressive, but you got to account for him every time. He'll learn. It's real easy sometimes -- again, that's a happy kid on that court tonight, just like he was on Friday night. And he impacted the game in a lot of different ways. He's learning. He's learning. Certainly he's projected to be where he's going to be. Certainly, he's got tremendous -- there's notoriety of him. But I remember what I leave every day with is he's a very young 18-year-old. Should be a high school senior, in all honesty. And he's got a lot to learn about what it takes on a daily basis when you're getting the other team's best shot, like he's going to get. And he'll learn. But I thought that he found, he found different ways to impact it tonight. He's having to do a lot for us and it doesn't always involve scoring. Sometimes just being there is enough that it will help. But there's a lot of room for improvement. And as long as he keeps that attitude that he has about improvement, he's just going to keep getting better and better here.

Q. Having coached in places where, obviously, basketball meant everything, what's it been like coming to this state and trying to build this program where it obviously hasn't been as high profile?
TOM CREAN: I think it's -- you know what -- I think it's been energetic. I really do. Because like tonight, that's why I come in here and say that. Like, I won't try to look out before the game but I did tonight and I thought maybe I was jinxing myself because I hadn't done it all year. And I was really concerned that we were going to be, we were going to have a really late-arriving crowd, coming from Atlanta. And then the place was, it was jumping. To me, that's, I think, to me, it -- you don't lose sight of how important it is to be absolutely concerned, cornered, as much as you can, I don't want to say obsessed but it's somewhere there on how do we build it on a daily basis, not only on the floor but how do we build the environment. Because I've been, because I have been where it's been built, and yeah, hey, built up at Marquette. And it had to get rebuilt back at Indiana. So I've been a part of not only big crowds, but been part of the rebuild of that. I think that helps me. I think that helps me, that helps keep me focused on home court stuff. Because we had a lot of people really helping. We had a lot of people. The marketing team, IMG, the ticket sellers, John Bateman. I mean, we got a lot of people that are really, really working together. Video. All those people are working really, really hard to make this a great environment. So when you have that happen, now that even energizes you that much more, that you know you got team effort to come across. But I'm enjoying it. I'm enjoying the building of that.

Q. Speaking of, going back to Anthony here, about how he kind of stepped forward there when Rayshaun went out with four fouls in the second half. Speak to how big that is in his development and also getting back to Rahshaun, how big he was stepping forward early on when you guys were having so much trouble scoring.
TOM CREAN: Well, Ray's not -- I'll start with Ray -- Ray's not played much. I was concerned that how rusty was he going to be. Because he did some, he did some non-contact on Monday, but he didn't do anything contact-wise over the weekend or Monday. And he did some contact yesterday. He was in a pretty good rhythm from Friday night. And he picked right up because he's not, he's not forcing anything. He's letting it come. He's playing with speed, he's playing with aggressiveness.

Anthony really doesn't get rattled. He's not always playing the way that he needs to play yet, okay? And I understand that. But he's a very, very diligent want-to-learn guy. He really is. Whether it's the film, he can take it in those film sessions. He understands where it's coming from. He understands why we're pushing. And he figures things out in the game. He really does. In all honesty, we're only scratching the surface with him. And I don't mean that in a, that he's -- he's doing a good job. We're not even scratching the surface of where he's going to be when it comes to his ability to play with speed, decipher defenses, push the ball, move without the ball. I mean, that one cut he made, that was a cut he made into the lane and got that bucket, that's just from him having to cut and move without the ball all the time. But does it happen all the time in games? No, not yet. So that's part of the growth that he's got to go through. But very few things phase him on that court. And he has, he really, really wants to be a winner. And that's the bottom line. And that's easier said than done. It's four games in, but he really wants to be a winner. And we stress that all the time.

Q. Were there play calls for Anthony when Ray went out at 10:15? How were you able to get that, I think it was a 10-2 run you went on when Ray went --
TOM CREAN: There's certain things where we're going to get a downhill drive where, yes. But a lot of it just becomes off the movement of the offense, right? Because they were switching defenses on misses and makes and we didn't want -- early on that bothered us in the game and we didn't really want to let that bother us. But it did. And we didn't move as well. So some of it, like the play Sahvir comes down the lane and he finds Anthony on the cut. He was supposed to replace and go to the other corner, but he cut out of the, he cut out of the same corner that he was in and gets a layup, right?

So there's some play calls that much more of it for us is movement because, again, I said this before, and it's so imperative for us, it's got to touch that paint for us to have a success rate. It really does with this team.

Q. You obviously coached Dwyane Wade and Victor Oladipo in your time. How would you compare Anthony to both of them?
TOM CREAN: I wouldn't do that. He's 18. He turned 18 August 5th. I wouldn't do that to him and I wouldn't do that to them. And he's got a lot of good characteristics and I didn't compare to Victor Oladipo to Dwayne Wade. There's characteristics that they have. There's certain things that you see that I think that the benefit of me coaching them is having an idea of what it should look like with him, where he should be going with it, what should be coming next, those type of things, but I don't do the comparisons in here.

Q. When you talked about team chemistry in the pre-season, you said there were a lot of roles that had to be filled --
TOM CREAN: Still are.

Q. Have you seen some of them begin to get filled?
TOM CREAN: It happens. It's natural. It has to be organic. And we have competitive practices. A lot of guys want to play. And I got a text from an administrator, that I didn't even really see this, commenting on how good they were and how, you know, um, how quick they ran to pick each other up. Those are all things that, that's what you want your culture of your program to be, right? But I'm not really paying attention to that in the heat of battle. And for to somebody to see that, that's a good sign. I was appreciative again. So that becomes part of chemistry. But I'm more concerned right now about the urgency that it takes to do the things that you got to do a lot of to do it better. And the chemistry will come from that.

Q. Looking ahead to Maui, what's your level of excitement for showcasing your the program?
TOM CREAN: It's tremendous. I was with Tom Izzo, at our first games together as a staff, his first three games coaching, and the timeline was different then and now we're in Maui and here he is, he's bring a team, I'm bringing a team, this will be my fifth team there and fourth as a head coach. I love it. Hawaii is incredible, there's, it doesn't ever get old, I don't know how anyone could ever think it could get old. But the level of basketball that you have to be at in this, the level of competing that you have to be at -- I'll use that term urgency again, that urgency that you have to have in this is unlike anything these guys have ever been a witness to in this point in their career.

Q. What do you think of showcases like that, what do you think their significance is?
TOM CREAN: Well, I think it's important. I didn't have anything to do with it, so this is all goes to the administration, John and the administration, certainly, and the respect that people have for the Georgia program, so I can't take credit for us being there at all. But to be able to take your program to a prestigious tournament like that, and then be able to measure yourself against those programs that are there, and see what you got to do against -- to find ways to win and see what you got to do to be able to win long-term, you leave there -- I left there losing by three or four in the championship game to Duke at Marquette, I left there 1-2, left there underdogs, left there favorites, it didn't make any difference. When you get there, none of it matters. You have got to be at a high, high level of competition, of competability, if you want to succeed in that tournament. I'm looking forward to that.

Q. Not trying to challenge you, but you did mention how you felt that this was Josh's best team at Georgia Tech.
TOM CREAN: I do, yeah.

Q. What makes you say that?
TOM CREAN: Well they're deeper. They, they're skilled. Devoe is really improved. Jose Alvarado is a winner and obviously he wasn't himself tonight with what he was dealing with his ankle. Bubba Parham has got tremendous range, tremendous speed and quickness. Banks is improving he was a key focus for us. When you go to their four-man -- and they're bigger, right, they're bigger and stronger, they have different ways to win. They won at NC State, that's not easy. You go to opening night in the ACC and you find a way to win that game, and they were down early in that game -- this, this, this was never comfortable until we hit those last two free throws for me. It's just the way that it is. I think he's doing a really, really good job there. I think that he's building it the way that he wants it, I think he's got guys in there you can tell that are really responding, they're listening. I thought they were really together, not that they weren't before, but I really noticed it in the flow. So I think he's doing an excellent job.

Q. What kinds of things does winning or losing games like this have on recruiting specifically?
TOM CREAN: I'm not sure. I'm not sure. I think it is better for the current players. I think it's -- there's such a thing as bragging rights, and I'm not sure -- there's -- you want them to have moments that they will always look back at. And I didn't understand that when I was a young coach, but I understand that so much more now, and I think this is something like that. When those seniors can say they haven't lost those games, just like last year, that's a big deal, that's something they will always have. And it's all about stacking successes. You don't win a championship right off the bat, but you're working towards it all the time, so you got to have some things that you can stack successes and some other things that you can carry with you and I think games like this do that. So I think it's probably important to the recruiting, but it's far more important to the current players and to the fans and alums.

Q. Do you like the game being played earlier than it has been in the past?
TOM CREAN: Yeah, it's good for the students. We did it so the student base could be there. I want to say I was shocked that it wasn't picked up by a network. That was a bit of a surprise. But I don't spend any time worrying about that, we just got to go win the game. I think it was really, really important -- did I like doing this before we go to Maui? Probably not. Because it would be very easy to get distracted before you make that trip. But we didn't. But this, this really, the bottom line for us was putting this in a time where both school's student bases wouldn't be on a break type of thing where they could see it.

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