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NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 31, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Williams.
Q. The old adage, good guard play gets you more mileage as you get deeper into March, but is it better to have veteran guards now because it's a younger game in terms of younger players?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think everybody would take experienced talent over anything else, but I think they would take talent over just experience. At this level with the four teams that are in, what you have is you have basically experienced talent on every team.
And I think guard play is extremely important. There's no question about that. And generally when you get to this level, one of the teams or two of the teams is not a No. 1 seed that necessarily doesn't have it as much. But I think in this field right here I think everybody's got it.
Q. We've talked about this many times. It's finally coming to happen here that you're going to meet the Jayhawks. Wondered, yesterday, did you watch their game and what kind of feelings were going through your mind if you did?
COACH WILLIAMS: I Tivo'd it. I didn't watch it all the time because I didn't want to watch all the commercials. But it was a great game to watch as a fan. You and I have personally talked, and I've talked to other people, if I was ever going to play Kansas again this is the only way I would want it to happen. In fact, I wish it would happen on Monday night instead of Saturday.
But they're a great team. I've said it all year long. I'm so impressed with what they're doing defensively and the balanced scoring. They can play slow, fast, defend, score with inside shooting and score outside. I'm really impressed by them and when they would show the sideliner sights of the crowd. I was able to see some people that really, really enjoyed having them team for my team for 15 years.
So it was a good feeling. And I know the general public that are not Kansas fans probably like the long-shot idea of Davidson, and Davidson has to feel great about what they did. But it was a big-time basketball game.
Q. You've been to a few Final Fours. Is this the most talented or the most talent you've seen in a Final Four and can you talk about how high the level of play might be this weekend?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think it is the most talented. Obviously you can say it's the only time there have been four No. 1 seeds. But I do believe probably -- and I would say it strongly -- the teams that have had the four best years in the country. Tennessee, Louisville, those guys could say some things about that as well. And Texas, too. But I think those four teams that are there have really had great years and deserve to be there.
In 2003 I was involved in a regional that I thought was like a Final Four because it was Kansas, Notre Dame, Arizona and Duke out in Anaheim at the regional. But I think this is a Final Four that who knows what the game is going to be because those teams are so good defensively and different styles. It could end up being ugly games, but they're awfully talented teams out there.
Q. Five years after the fact, how would you describe, I guess, the feeling that's left there? Or do you care? What kind of feeling do you have with those guys?
COACH WILLIAMS: I definitely care. I gave some school, some basketball programs, some state, whatever you want to call it, and especially the players, 15 years of my heart, body and soul. So I'm never going to lose that. Some of the greatest memories in my life were at Kansas. I'm never going to lose that. I'm never going to lose their appreciation for basketball, their passion for basketball.
I'll always appreciate that and love that. Each and every year it gets different because the players that I left there are gone. We recruited Jeremy, but everybody else is gone. And we knew Darnell, he used to come up to games. We knew Darrell used to come up for games. But this is Bill's team. This is the University of Kansas's team without Roy Williams.
I can put it to you this way: In my summer camp we have a lot of little kids running around and they're instructed on the first day they can wear North Carolina stuff or they can wear Kansas stuff, but they can't wear anybody else's stuff.
And that's the way I'm always going to be. I'm going to be always be a huge Kansas fan. There were some things said or done that hurt at first, but time has a way of healing things and I am hopeful it will heal with some people that still may have some bad feelings.
But the good news is it's a wonderful Kansas team playing a wonderful North Carolina team on college basketball's biggest stage. And I wish it would be Monday night as opposed to Saturday.
Q. If I missed your answer to this, I apologize for reasking it. You said that you wouldn't schedule Kansas, and I'm wondering why you wouldn't do that given all the years that have passed. And are you worried about a reaction if you went back there? And do you also dread all the questions you're going to get about this for the rest of the week?
COACH WILLIAMS: I'm hopeful we'll put all the stuff behind us, because it is about this year's North Carolina team, this year's Kansas team. It's not what happened five years ago. The reason I say that I wouldn't schedule them is very easy for me: Because they're my second favorite college team.
And those people gave me a chance. It's a place that I loved for 15 years. I never scheduled North Carolina when I was at Kansas because for those 15 years North Carolina was my second favorite team.
And just I have too many great memories to consider somebody a foe on the other end of the court. As I said, we took Smith. I always felt like if we played North Carolina we hoped it would be at the Final Four. And really wished I'd said I hoped it would be at the national championship game and that's the way I feel about Kansas.
Q. Just talk a little bit about Kansas's defense, what makes it so effective? What's the biggest challenge there for you?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think a couple things. I think, number one, Bill's just got a great philosophy and a system of everybody being willing to help everybody. Their big guys. They can make switches and get out on the floor. It's really a defense that can guard you and put pressure on you. They can also block some shots. They can be physical with you.
To me it's just a marvelous defense. I think it does start with the pressure that the guards can put on you and their ability to just take your basketball away from you and go the other direction.
But I do think their athleticism is just wonderful and the way they buy into the defensive end of the floor is probably just as important as their athleticism.
Q. I know you've been in this experience as late as last year. Bill was talking about losing in the Elite Eight is probably the worst -- he could say the worst feeling you have because you're sort of in no man's land, then the Final Four and all the hype. What's that loss like in comparison to anything else?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, I think Bill's right. You go to the Final Four because it's our coach's convention and you're supposed to go and you say, daggone, we were one game away from here and nobody realizes you had a team that played, because it's college basketball and the Final Four is the big deal. The regular season and what happened up until then just doesn't mean nearly as much and you're sitting there saying, hey, I was only one game away from this spot.
No, it hurts and it lasts longer. Takes longer to get over. Sometimes you don't ever get over it. But also it makes the feeling of exhilaration when you get there and have that Friday practice in front of the public, it makes that pretty special.
Q. Obviously a lot of people in the North Carolina area know about how tough it was for you to leave Kansas. Do you have a sense at all, though, of the difficulties Bill Self had coming into Kansas and trying to step into the large shadow that you had cast there?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, I think two things. I will say this, too, it was awfully difficult the first time to stay at Kansas because I loved both schools and will always love both schools.
But I think Bill was -- I think it would have been more difficult if it hadn't been a guy who had accomplished the things that Bill had already accomplished, the success that he had had. I'm sure that different folks looked at it different ways, but, I mean, here's a guy who had done a great job at Illinois. Left a great Illinois program and came to Kansas and they got a quality coach from day one.
I don't know that Bill really felt that feeling that you're describing or not because we never talked about that because he's such a confident guy and should be. He's extremely competent and that's what makes him confident. So I don't know the answer to that question. But I think it would have been more difficult if it had been a guy like Roy Williams trying to come in after they just won a national championship. That was pretty difficult.
Q. Coach Self was saying how much he certainly prefers running up and down the floor just like you guys do. How familiar do you think the philosophies are?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think they're very similar. I think Bill does want to run. He does want to guard people. And hopefully on my tombstone that's what they'll say about me, that he wanted his teams to run and he wanted them to guard people. They're a balanced team, not one guy getting 35 shots a game. That's the way we like to play. They play more than five guys.
So I think there's a lot of similarities and I think it's telling once you get out on the court and start playing against each other.
Q. Tyler, like you and all of us who saw him in the high school world were amazed how hard he played and got after it. Once you got him in the gym every day and saw the things he did, not in front of public eyes in terms of that he did it all the time, did it amaze you even more than when you were recruiting him?
COACH WILLIAMS: It did. But I saw him play a lot at high school, and every all-star game he played in he was MVP. Every all-star game he was in he played harder than everybody else. So the quick funny story is that we do our basketball conversations in fall and Jeff Lebo, head coach of Auburn, was here and I'm saying, this is what's going to happen, we're going to do this with Tyler and do that with Tyler. Jeff left and felt like, my gosh, Roy is really counting on a freshman.
About two months into the season, called me and said, now I know why you were counting on him so much.
Q. You've come through the regional okay health-wise?
COACH WILLIAMS: Yeah, the crazy thing is the very last play of the Louisville game Ty tweaked his ankle a little bit. I was scared about that. But he came yesterday for treatment and said it felt fine. But it scared him a little bit and scared us a little bit. When we were on the bus coming back and watching the game tape on the bus, half the players were asleep and the whole bit, but as soon as he did that we sort of looked at each other as a coaching staff.
But other than that, knock on wood, I'm hitting my head right now, but knock on wood, we're about as healthy as we've been in a long time.
Q. It's Monday and we're dredging up the Kansas thing. Are you going to be all right with this all week?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think -- I'm hopeful it will die down. I can only say the same thing so many times. And they're my second favorite school and six years ago they were my favorite school. And that part won't ever change.
Q. What was it like for you when you first went there? Can you remember those first days?
COACH WILLIAMS: Oh, yeah, it was a wonderful place. And the surprise to me was the passion. I'm a guy that grew up in North Carolina. Never left North Carolina. This is all I'd known. And I had heard Coach Smith and Coach Harp talk about it and the passion that people had.
And I got out there and found out that they had not exaggerated at all. It was even more important to Kansas basketball was even more important to the people than I had imagined and that's something I loved about the place. I loved the field house and I loved the players and the whole bit. But that feeling at the university of Kansas fans have for that basketball team is unique.
Q. I was wondering if you could tell me what you remember about the 1991 game, what the feelings were like participating against Coach Smith and I guess the way that it ended?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, two things. First of all, Coach and I in '93 we came back and said, hey, the first day at the press conference, ask me questions, and then after that it's over with. And we tried to do that in '91. But we weren't as forceful with it. So I do remember all the hype about the pupil, the mentor, the whole thing. But the game is about the players.
The game itself, I remember being so upset at the end the way Coach was thrown out of the game because, number one, I didn't think he deserved it. But, number two, and more importantly, I thought it would take away from a great win for our players. And that people would ask questions about that more than they would the game. And I didn't think that was fair for my Kansas players.
Q. Just a few minutes ago Andy asked you about the significance of getting to the Final Four. Can you just talk in this day and age you know how hard it is? Ben Howland has been able to get there three years in a row. Can you kind of put that in perspective?
COACH WILLIAMS: It's mind-boggling. On your staff, we're coming back on the bus and one of the guys said, Coach, this is four of the last seven years we've been in the Final Four. And I said, that is unbelievably hard, but Ben Howland has been there three years in a row. It's mind-boggling what Ben's done. It's extremely impressive. And, guys, this is hard to do. And to be able to do that three years in a row is just mind-boggling. I don't have enough adjectives, enough vocabulary to describe it.
Q. I just want to talk about the game a little bit. Let's put you in Saturday night after the game you're looking at the stat sheet. What's the one thing that will be telling about this match-up? You all have -- both teams have plenty of talent. Both teams have plenty of speed. What stat do you think will be a telling factor come at the end of the game?
COACH WILLIAMS: I'll give you two. It's what I look at. I look at the rebound totals and field goal percentages for both teams. Because we need to shoot a good percentage and make the quality of our shots really high and need to get a few more rebounds to get more of those shots. And if you get offensive rebounds usually those are pretty high quality shots.
And the same thing just opposite is checking their field goal percentage and their rebound numbers because we've got to make sure that the quality of their shots is not as good as ours.
Q. April 6, 2005, can you talk about your exhaustion level and how you stayed wide and awake and detail the itinerary you had in those days to go see some of the kids that are now helping you into this next stage?
COACH WILLIAMS: Dan, it was no question it was all a little bit of a blur, but I can remember winning on April 4th, coming back here on April 5th, have a little celebration here at the Smith Center and take the staff and our wives out to dinner and everybody's falling asleep at dinner.
So we go home and Joe Holladay and I meet at 6:00 a.m. to head on the recruiting trail and we go to Oak Hill to see Ty. I was concerned the only time in my life -- I think I'm right -- probably think a little bit slower, but the only time in my life I've ever gotten a car service to take me because I didn't trust my driving for three hours or Joe's driving for three hours when we hadn't slept. We got a car service to take us up there. We're both in the back seat trying to sleep.
Q. Bill said that he hoped basically that the fans at Kansas -- it's been five years now. He hoped that they could kind of get beyond some of those feelings and everything. Do you feel the same way?
COACH WILLIAMS: There's no question that I hope so. Because it's something that's bothering me. But I did. I gave my heart and soul for 15 years. I loved that place, will always love that place. People pass me in the airport and say "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk," and I say "Go KU."
It should be about the players and this year's players, and I think that as we go along, we'll hopefully be able to make that happen.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Coach.
End of FastScripts