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NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 30, 2009
Q. From the time I guess it was last Thursday when you were talking about asking Ty the questions about a scale of 1 to 10 where he was. Were you concerned Friday going into the game about how strong he was physically, and what do you think transpired to make him play as close to 100% as we've seen in a while?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think Thursday I was more than concerned. That's when I told you that 6 to 6 evaluation on a scale of 1 to 10. Looking back on it, I think the travel, when you get on an airplane. My feet swell, my hands swell, everything. So I think that happen something to do with it.
And the fact that the Thursday schedule was so crowded with all the trying to practice, and all the media responsibilities. You're tied up for like six straight hours that we were not able to allow the toe to heal anymore or to get back to where it was before the flight. I think looking back on it, that was the biggest problem.
Once we got him back in the pool and he was able to do things there, in his mind, which could be part of it, too. But in his mind the pool is the best thing for him right now, and it relieves more of the pressure than anything else.
So after we got him back there and a little more consistent basis Thursday night and during the day on Friday since we played a fairly late game Friday, that helped it as well. So we were able to do that again Saturday.
I'm concerned about the flight up there if It's going to do the same thing. It was a little more tender last night after we came back here. But hopefully with the time in the pool and the extra time he'll still be fine.
Q. Tom Izzo said maybe your team reminds him of one of his teams where guys came back to school to win a championship. Do you feel like you've had this fortune kind of happen to you twice? In 2005, it was the same thing. Guys could have left and didn't?
COACH WILLIAMS: Well, I would probably agree and disagree. 2005, nobody was even thinking about going. It's got to be a two-way street. Nobody on the NBA side said they should leave. They didn't have the testing of the waters kind of thing.
But after my first I can't remember here, we had two-minute discussions with two guys and it was over with. That's all we did. So there was no coming back to school in 2005. I remember at the press conference in Denver where we lost, an NBA coach heard one of the questions did I expect hem them to come back. And the NBA coach said why would they think about that? Who would want them.
We had to play better. We had gone 19-11, and 19-17 the year before. There's no comparison there at all. The second part of it, and I can understand what Tommy is saying. There is no question that was a factor. But it was not the biggest factor. It sounds good cute and makes for a good story. So people are going to write what they want to write.
If Ty had someone who told them he would have gone in the top 15 picks, he would have gone. If Danny and Wayne had been convinced they would be first round picks, they would have gone. They were not convinced of that. Ty was not convinced. And we had no one come forward to say he was going to be their pick, so they had a great option. That great option was to come back and win as many games as they could possibly win and have another chance.
So after the decision was made for those personal reasons, they did collectively embrace the idea of, hey, we've gotten to the Final Four and didn't play very well last year. Let's see if we can do better this year.
But, again, that is the facts of the matter. Some of the questions at the press conference sort of get turned around. And as all of you guys know. Sometimes your questions are phrased the way you want them to be answered. And the kids answer them that way.
Q. Could you address the improvements you guys have had defensively? In what ways are you playing well defensively? And can you share with me any of the fun stuff with the Guitar Hero filming there?
COACH WILLIAMS: I think from the first day I've tried to push this team to concentrate and to invest in it on the defensive end of the floor. And I think we have over-the-air year. We've had times we didn't play as well, and didn't have that sense of urgency.
But we've had some games where at big moments we've really stepped up. So that, itself, has given the coaching staff and players some confidence that they could do it. So the next push was to try to get them to do it consistently. And over the course of the last month we've had some good moments defensively.
So it's been a sales job on my part, the team's part from one individual to the next, understanding how important it is. They're buying into it more each and every day, and seeing what it can do for us. And we have gotten better over the year. And you would think after 90-something practices, you should be getting better. And we're going to get better on it as we practice this week.
The Guitar Hero, it was fun. It was frustrating, because I didn't feel like I was doing exactly what they wanted to do. It probably would have been more fun if all four coaches had been there at the same time as opposed to each of us doing our part individually.
But if you had all four of us there at the same time, it would have probably taken 30 days to do a 20-second commercial, because it would have been so hard to get all of us to do exactly the right thing at one time.
Q. Following up on that point -- so you were just basically on -- when did you do the filming of that?
COACH WILLIAMS: I was trying to figure out what point. I thought we were still talking about our defense, Roger.
Q. Sorry about that?
COACH WILLIAMS: That's all right. Oh, gosh, it was two or three weeks ago. I know probably a little longer than that. It was three or four weeks ago. I know that I was the first one there at the studio for about two and a half hours, and about an hour after I left, Rick was coming in. And then I think Mike and Coach Knight did theirs the next day.
I think they had everybody in in the two-day period. But I don't know about Mike and Coach Knight. Their paths may have crossed. But I was done and out before Rick got there.
Q. Where'd you have to go?
COACH WILLIAMS: It was easy for two of us because they did it over in Raleigh.
Q. Jay is the only Final Four rookie in the group here. Talk a little bit about what it does for a coach reputation wise and recruiting wise to call himself a Final Four coach and National Championship coach? And the second part would be an overall assessment of how their team plays and what do you see as a reflection of Jay and what you see in Nova in general?
COACH WILLIAMS: Okay, the first part when you first started the question about the Final Four. I thought Jay's also the only one that is undefeated at the Final Four. And I remembered that Jimmy is, too, he's been twice and won the whole thing both times.
Tommy and I, I lead us in losses at the Final Four. We've been there a couple more times but have more losses. There is no question in my mind that it does something for you. I can't put a finger on it and say legitimize. Because there are too many great coaches that have never gone to a Final Four.
I don't want to say it puts you at a different level, because some of those great coaches that have never been to the Final Four are still as high as you can possibly be.
But in saying all that, to the public, to the fans, to the recruits, there is a specialness about this time because of the attention is so big at the final Final Four. I went as an assistant in '82 and we won the National Championship, and I didn't go back until '91 as a Head Coach. And it was amazing how much bigger it had gotten in those nine years. The media attention, the fan attention. It was mind boggling how much bigger it got in my opinion.
My vocabulary's not good enough to put it. It's not legitimacy, because I think that downgrades some great coaches that have not been there. But there is definitely a different stamp of approval. Whether or not the one about winning it, I made the statement and I just copied it from Coach Smith in '82.
I made the statement that I wasn't that much better of a coach three hours later before I was before the start of that game. Yet the people do perceive you a little differently. It's weird. There's no question when you sit back and think about it.
It's a fact. I go through the airport the first two years after, and maybe even still now and people are -- more people are g yelling at me than before 2005. And they're saying good things. So there is something to it. Jay has done a wonderful job. I don't know him too well, but I've really enjoyed him.
Larry Brown spent a whole year going to his practices all the time. And I know Larry very well, so hearing about Jay's practices, talking to Jay about Larry being at practices. We get a laugh out of that. He's really one of the good guys in coaching.
I feel very fortunate, I think I've got a lot of friends in coaching. Jimmy Calhoun and I play golf together. Tom and I enjoy each other's company. And his wife, Lupe, and my wife, Wanda, really enjoy each other. And Jay being the youngest and best looking of the crowd, there is no question that he's a guy that I do enjoy the times that I've been around him.
His team, I think you could make the case for the fact that his team is playing better than anybody right now. Just what they did to UCLA, and to Pitt and Duke, it's hard to imagine anybody playing any better than they are right now.
I have not had a chance. We returned home last night and got here to the Smith center at about 12:30. So I did not go home and start breaking down tape. I went home and got some cookies and some milk and sat on my rear end for a little while and went to bed.
But we'll start looking at it more today. About you just from a distance, while your own team is playing, you don't have time to sit there and study somebody else.
One of my assistants has been in charge of Villanova for the past week, and I'll get more information from him.
Q. As Tyler heads into his last one or two game, I was wondering from your vantage point, will his imprint transcend North Carolina? Does he live an imprint, do you think, on the college game? He seems maybe like a Battier was a number of years ago. To have been kind of the quintessential college player.
COACH WILLIAMS: I think you're right. I think he will have an impact. I've said all year long from last June to today that every college coach in America should want Tyler Hansbrough to have a great year. So people or agents or runners or somebody won't say well, you better jump out while it's hot. You never can tell what's going to happen.
This kid chose to come back to college because he loved college basketball, loved college life. He's done very well. The NBA has not folded. He'll still be a number one NBA draft choice. Every coach in America should have been pulling for him all year long so we can keep the agents and runners and those kind of people from trashing college basketball.
But he's a unique young man. That is the best word that I can describe him. To me when something is really unique, that means you can't find many of them. And I don't think you can find many Tyler Hansbroughs. I've said before, and I'll say many times I've been awfully lucky.
But he is the most focused individual I have ever seen. The most driven to be the best player he can be. To try to get the most out of his potential. To listen to what his coaches say and to try to work on those things. He's just been an unbelievable joy to be with.
And I made this statement in Memphis. Somebody asked about the Blake Griffin-Tyler Hansbrough duel, and would I pay to see them play one-on-one. And I said no, I think that would be ugly basketball. I care a less to watch them play one on on one. I'd pay to watch their teams play.
I said Tyler Hansbrough, if our team wins and he only scores six points, he's going to be happy. I wish I hadn't said that, because he only got eight. But he was ecstatic with our team, and he's ecstatic with where he is, and knows that he did some good things and some things not so good. But he's focused on our team.
Q. Wayne Ellington was saying when the all ACC team came out a couple weeks ago and he was left off, he was disappointed and he spoke to you afterwards. I wondered what did you tell him and what has been the difference in his game postseason? Seems he's turned it up a notch?
COACH WILLIAMS: We talked about it quickly. And I said I've seen some great players that not make this team and turn around and play great the next couple of weeks. You have that opportunity. Just use it as motivation.
And there were some other things that we shared that would be more private. But I think, you know, if somebody doesn't appreciate you, you can let it roll off your back and work harder to make them appreciate you. Or you can be worried about it and think that it's something wrong with them as opposed to accepting some responsibility.
Wayne has just played better. He didn't have a great game yesterday against Oklahoma, but he's been big-time, big-time the last three weeks to say the least.
Q. What is your specific memory of Coach Smith asking you to come to Carolina? Was it a phone call, was it in person? What are your memories of that?
COACH WILLIAMS: We were in a basketball camp. Forget which summer. Guess it was the summer of '79. So it was in June. And it was the last week of camp. And each week we'd have a staff party on Thursday night and camp would end on Friday.
Coach asked me if he could visit with me for a few minutes on Thursday night at the staff party. And talked to me at that time. Before I left to go home on Friday after camp, he said I really want you to think about that. I would love for you to come and join us of the .so it was a face-to-face conversation down here on campus during a basketball camp.
Q. Was it surprising at all? Or did you expect him to do that?
COACH WILLIAMS: No, it was a little bit out of the blue. When I came to camp, needless to say, I was coming to work my tail off and learn some basketball and have a good time and play golf with my buddies in the break during the afternoon. So I had worked every week of every camp for five years I guess at that time.
So it was a routine or a ritual with me that I just enjoyed being here. But I had no idea that that was coming.
Q. Can you talk about Danny Green and his progression throughout his career? Especially his performance in the Oklahoma game, coach? And when you first recruited him, what did you like about him and what type of player did you think he would be?
COACH WILLIAMS: He was great yesterday. I think what he did yesterday is a little bit of what I saw when I recruited him. I saw a youngster who could shoot, put the ball on the floor, who had an ability to get his hands on a lot of balls from the offensive backboard. Did not see the shot blocking ability that I've seen develop over the last four years. But he probably had it in high school, too, I just didn't see it.
But we really felt we needed a small forward who could do a lot of things including shoot. And we felt like Danny was exactly what we were looking for. And I think over the four years each and every year he's developed some things on both ends of the court that's really helped us.
Every year he's played big for us in some really big time games he's handled the adversity extremely well. And he's a youngster who can line up and play every night.
Q. When you say "lot of adversity," can you go into that a little bit?
COACH WILLIAMS: No, I think It's been documented a great deal. The adversity off the court with his personal life. He's faced adversity on the court of wanting to start and me putting him in the substitute six-man's role. And stepping up this year and being a starter, and missing some of the little things that go along with being the sixth man. It hasn't been the smoothest ride in the world, but he's done very well with it.
DAVID WORLOCK: Thank you Coach Williams. Congratulations and safe travels to Detroit.
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