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March 31, 2008

John Calipari

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon and good morning, in some cases, to everyone and thank you for joining us. We have a short time with each coach this afternoon, so we'll jump right in.
First want to congratulate Coach Calipari and his team for advancing to the Final Four, and we'll turn it over to the first line of questions.

Q. Antonio Anderson, Joey Dorsey and Robert Dozier all went to Laurinburg Institute. I was wondering, when you were recruiting those guys, did you go down there specifically to look for one and the other two caught your eye? Or what was the dynamic of that? And the other, as a follow-up, even though they're different kind of players, do they share any kind of similarities, any kind of shared characteristics because they played under Chris Cheney down there?
COACH CALIPARI: Chris is a terrific coach and was really rough on the kids. Wasn't afraid to coach them. Wasn't afraid to tell them no. Wasn't afraid to counsel them aggressively, which we loved when we watched. We saw Joey obviously down there first when we met with Chris and saw what he did with Joey to get him prepared to be a college player.
And it led us to say, hey, he's going to have these kids prepared. The year they won 40 in a row, just did a great job and had nine major college players. Maybe 10 on his team. So it was a great experience.
The characteristics, you know -- they're all different. These kids are all different. Joey is different than Robert in that Robert's pretty quiet all the time. Joey comes and goes with that, and Antonio likes to chatter all the time. Prior to the game in the locker room if you're a fly in the room, you're hearing mostly Antonio and the other guys laughing.

Q. Just day after, if you could just reflect on, A, having some time to just realize that you're back with this group after three straight Elite Eights and, two, how well you guys played over the weekend in Houston.
COACH CALIPARI: This stuff that we're doing, it's like you don't even have time. We were on the plane. We were coming back. You know I was reading a book and every once in a while my mind would go to like, wow, this group of kids really, really did some special things this year. And then you go home and you go to bed.
And this morning, now, all of a sudden you're thinking about UCLA. But I will say the way we played this weekend, we deserve to be in the Final Four the way we played. We were really defensive minded and we were really unselfish and took care of the ball, and offensively we really executed.
And you got to see the true gist of the third and fourth drive, the back door cuts, the post-ups, all the stuff we do, you got a better vision of it for those that didn't really know about it.

Q. I wanted to ask you a little bit about how you handle the UCLA, to do the same thing, a really talented and well-known and media-savvy freshmen, when you have veterans on your team who are also, accomplished, maybe going to the NBA. How do you juggle maybe not playing time so much but personalities, making sure Dorsey or Dozier doesn't get upset if all the media attention goes to Derrick, the same thing that's happened at UCLA with Kevin.
COACH CALIPARI: Depends on the two young men. Kevin and Derrick are out of the same mold; they'll defer everything to their teammates. We were at the podium after the game or maybe before our Texas game, the day in between, and any time anybody asked a question to any of us about Derrick, he would start to moan, oh, geez, because that's how he is.
And the players know it. He's not trying to steal anything from anybody he's trying to add to the mix. He's one of the great teammates I've coached. One of the others was Marcus Camby. And when a guy that good is that good a teammate, you got great synergy.
Our team are friends first and teammates second. It's amazing. It starts with him that he shares that he tries to defer. He congratulates and he would rather have the other guys on the team happy than himself.

Q. Over the past two years it's been the (indiscernible) have made the Final Fours, six 1s and two 2s. Those are also the first two years with the NBA rule. Is that coincidence or is there anything to it where better teams are going further because of these freshmen coming in for one year?
COACH CALIPARI: I think this year is just the first time ever. But I will tell you that if you -- there were a lot of people that picked us four at the beginning of the year to be the best four teams.
So this year maybe we were just a little bit better than the field. But there were still eight other teams that were right on our heels. But I think the four of us had separated from the field.
Next year it may be different. Next year it may be two 6s and a 3 and a 2 that are in the Final Four. I just hope we're a 2 or 3 or one of those 6s. But this year was a little different.

Q. You used kind of an "us against the world" mentality pretty well. I'm wondering if that can carry over to the Final Four?
COACH CALIPARI: I really didn't. I mean, in this information era, they hear and see everything. And when the majority were picking all the -- all the pundits were picking us to lose like every game we played and focusing on one area of our basketball team -- and I mean focusing to the point of ridiculous, it just got to them a little bit.
Now, I laugh about it and say, you know, you're helping us if you want to continue to help us keep doing it. But I'm not in the locker room talking in those terms.
What I'm talking about is it's our time. It's our time. They gave us a tough road. We had to play Texas in Houston. But it's still -- it's our time. This is our time.
And I also talked about they play on a dream team. So let's keep this going. So I'm not talking about everybody hates us and all that. You saw what was written and what was said and what they were doing.
Our style, we roll our balls. No organization to what we do. They're seeing it and hearing it. It's not me doing it.

Q. I was wondering what you've seen from UCLA's defense and some of the challenges they pose for you guys?
COACH CALIPARI: The one thing I'll tell you, I just respect what Ben has done. We played Ben early and we beat them in New York when he was just getting going. And between then and the final game we played them two years ago, there was a cultural change, a basic change in the mentality of the team which meant they bought in.
Now the thing they've been missing is the Bill Walton, the center, Kareem, and they've got one now: Kevin Love. And so all the mentality is still there that Kevin Love gives them Bill Walton, the Kareem they want to have. Collison is as good as it gets, an NBA player. And you have Westbrook and Shipp and all these other kids that come in and do what they're supposed to do to help their team win.
It's been a phenomenal year. Ben and I have mutual friends back in Pittsburgh. I grew up in Pittsburgh, worked at Pitt as an assistant for a couple years, Ben obviously was the head coach and did fabulous things at Pitt, which I loved because I loved Pittsburgh. And we've got mutual friends and I've always respected him.
So we know the challenge. They're great defensively. It's body to body, mano-a-mano, you're going to have some hands on your body, you're going to drive and there are going to be two hands around your waist. You better be ready to go and play a man's game, because that's how they play.

Q. You mentioned a little bit there about Kevin Love. I wanted you to talk a little bit about his outlet passes and is there anything you're going to do defensively to try to prevent that from happening against you guys?
COACH CALIPARI: I'm going to call Wes Unseld and say, what bothered you the most when you grabbed it and threw it off the other back board so the guy could run it down and shoot the layup? Because it's incredible. When he takes it out, he's got the arm of Elway. He just fires it. And it doesn't have a side spin on it. It just goes. I don't know what you do.
There's some things you say that's going to happen a couple of times. You almost have that in your pocket and throw it out. You just say that's happening twice.
If it happens four times, you're really angry. But the two times it's just going to happen. And Westbrook sprints like he's Jerry Rice. He takes off now. What do you do? You hope somebody fast enough can run back there with him.

Q. I know you've said in the past in recruiting, nobody ever asked you about Conference U.S.A. one way or the other. How much more difficult has it been for you to build your program at this point than, say, a school with -- schools with deeper pedigrees and higher profiles than you're seeing here in the Final Four?
COACH CALIPARI: Obviously, you know, there's challenges wherever you are. And I always say the reason I'm for coaches and the reason I promote coaches is I know how hard this business is. I've been in it a long time. I've been fired. It is a hard job.
And it doesn't matter if you're a Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, and you're supposed to win the national title or you're just fighting for an Elite Eight. If you ever could do that, it's like winning a national championship. What Bobby McKillop did to get his team to that point, come on, everything we do is hard.
What happens for us is it's true. I've never, when I was at UMASS, no one ever asked me about the league. We never talked about the league. The only league they talk about is the NBA.
So what we're trying to do is let kids know here's how we play, this is what we do. I don't tell them I've got a magic wand. I don't do that. I don't make commitments I can't keep. I don't promise starting positions or minutes. I don't do that.
But we tell them if you really want to be challenged, you want to expand your game, you really want to push yourself to the limits, then you want to come here. We don't play zone. You're going to be in the weight room. You're going to go to class. We've graduated 15 of our last 17 seniors. So you're going to go to class. You're going to do what you're supposed to do. Whenever it's time for you to go, I'll be the first one to tell you it's time for you to go.

Q. Talk about Kevin Love and through the years as an assistant, as a head coach and all the different levels, is there anybody he really reminds you of? Everybody talks about, quote/unquote, he's not a great athlete, but obviously athleticism isn't just a vertical leap and things like that.
COACH CALIPARI: There's potential and performance. He performs, he performs well and he gets it done and he can shoot it. He can pass it. He has great -- his eye-hand coordination, the quickness he reacts to things on the basketball court, it's scary. And he's more athletic than you think, because he's quick.
So, yeah, he may not in a foot race outrun you, but we're not running marathons and we're not running that way. All he's got to be is quick from the top of the key to the basket. And he is. That's where most of the game is going to be played.
For him it's played from the 3-point line to the rim. And you know what? From there to there he's fine. So I'm really impressed. I'm impressed with Collison. I'm impressed with their team.
Again, I mean, Ben -- they're a little bit like a cat with nine lives. Two now. But you know what? Now they're hardened to that and I think that they just have a mentality that they're going to win.
And I think my team has that, too. Which means probably whoever has the ball last is winning the game.

Q. Any injuries that have come up at all that we need to keep an eye on?
COACH CALIPARI: No, we're all healthy. We're healthy. I'm giving the kids the day off. We'll have dinner at my house tonight. We'll start up again tomorrow. No, we're banged and bruised. I'll tell you, the two teams we played, Michigan -- let's go back to Mississippi State. Unbelievably physically strong. Then you go to Michigan State. What? And then go to Texas. We've got bloody lips and busted up noses and it was rough. It was a rough three games, I can tell you that.

Q. I know a lot is made up of guard play this time of year (indiscernible) go deep, do you need -- in this day of the young game, do veteran guards count as much as they used to?
COACH CALIPARI: Oh, yeah. In this tournament, absolutely. In this tournament, if you have poor guard play, you're not getting where you need to go. Or you're lucking out and eventually you'll get shot. I mean, it ain't -- you're dodging bullets if your guard play is weak.
When you look at these teams still there playing, really, really good guard play. But then you go to each team, interior defense for all of us is pretty good. Our interior defense is pretty good. And, now, some of them have better interior scoring than others, but that interior defense for all is good and the guard play for all is good.
This is going to be a crazy Final Four. And I've been in the tournament a few different times, and I don't remember where it kind of played out like this. There was maybe a time in the mid-'90s, early '90s that it did a little bit. But this stuff is crazy.

End of FastScripts

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