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March 18, 2015

Larry Brown

Cannen Cunningham

Ryan Manuel

Yanick Moreira


Q. Cannen, Ryan, you guys have the school record for most games played. How much does it mean to you, A, to do that, and, B, to keep that record up there?
RYAN MANUEL: It means a lot. It's been a long four years. Just hopefully we can keep it going. Hopefully, we can keep on winning games and just trying to play it one game at a time.

CANNEN CUNINGHAM: I think we've played so many games because of our postseason appearances and that's what really means a lot to us because, when we first got here, that wasn't happening. Last year we turned that around, and hopefully we can build on our record a little bit in this tournament.

Q. Ryan, can you talk about with the loss of Keith, has your role changed any?
RYAN MANUEL: It's changed a little bit. I've been asked to do a little bit more and shoot a little bit more. Other than that, I'm just doing things that Coach Brown asks of me, rebound, run the floor, and just get easy buckets. That's what I'm doing, anything I can to help the team win.

Q. Yanick, from what you've seen of Tony Parker on film, what is it that he does that really makes the UCLA offense go?
YANICK MOREIRA: I haven't watched the film yet. We haven't watched the film yet, but I hear he's a pretty good player. So I'm just going to keep doing what I do every day, which is defend and rebound. So it's not going to change anything.

Q. Coach Brown has a reputation of bringing out the best in all the players he coaches. What has he done specifically for all of you that bring out the best in you and bring you to where you guys are now?
YANICK MOREIRA: For me, he's just trying to make sure I'm focused and play hard every game. He tells me it's my senior year. You've got to play every game just like it's your last one. So every time I step on the court, I keep thinking about maybe today might be my last game. So I'm just going to play hard.

RYAN MANUEL: Like Yanick said, Coach Brown, he's a hard coach on everybody. This year for us, he's just really been telling us that every game is basically our last game. So we've got to play like that every time. I think that's just helped us get the best out of us and changed our mentality, and we're just playing.

CANNEN CUNINGHAM: The same. As a big, he doesn't take it easy on us. As far as ball handling and any skill stuff the guards have to do, he expects us to be able to do. I like that he pushes us in that aspect.

Q. For any of you, if you could talk about last year's postseason and how much that really kind of helped carry over to this year and help you all win as many games as you have.
RYAN MANUEL: It's helped us a lot. We were disappointed last year that we didn't get in. So we had little signs in our lockers showing pictures of us with all of our heads down on Selection Sunday. I think that's just pushed us to play this year harder and play every game like it's a Game 7 in the NBA. That's just what we've done, and I think it's helped us come out and play into the Tournament.

CANNEN CUNINGHAM: I think missing the Tournament last year has kind of helped us to take it one game at a time. We knew every game this season was going to help us build a resume to get here if we weren't going to win the conference tournament. So a lot more focus this year.

Q. Ryan, what were your first impressions when you heard Coach Brown was coming aboard to lead SMU?
RYAN MANUEL: Basically, before this year, I wasn't necessarily sure I was going to stay at SMU. When Coach Brown took the job, I was really happy. I knew, just from watching old playoff games that he coached with Allen Iverson and things like that. I think it was a good hire for SMU. He's helped change the basketball program, and he's just changed the culture around Dallas. It's a big step for our program and also our university.

Q. Yanick, with Nic Moore, is he the kind of guard that makes it fun to run?
YANICK MOREIRA: Yeah, he will find you every time you're wide open. He just tells me set the screen, and I will give you the ball. When I don't get the rebound, he tells me, just keep running. I'll give you the ball. Just run. So it's fun to play with him.

Q. Cannen, you guys blocked a lot of shots at the rim. What's been the key to your frontcourt defense?
CANNEN CUNINGHAM: Coach Brown tells us we don't block enough shots. So that's really it. We have athletic bigs, and we just play to our advantages.

Q. Ryan, two questions for you. First of all, has Coach Brown ever mentioned Allen Iverson or any of the pro players he coached? And the second part is who put up those pictures of you guys hanging your heads last year?
RYAN MANUEL: Actually, Allen Iverson came to speak to us. I think it was really big for us, just as players, just to see a legend just come and talk to us. Just tell us about NBA and also just about his life in general. The pictures were put up by coaches, and it's just something to motivate us. It stands right in front of our locker when we get dressed every day. It's something that we look at and see every day before we go out for practice.

Q. Did Iverson talk about the importance of practice? What did he say really?
RYAN MANUEL: He talked a little bit about practice, but that's something they play on ESPN all the time. He just really taught us about how Coach Brown influenced his life and just how he pushes everybody each and every day to get the best out of them.

COACH BROWN: I'm going to apologize beforehand. I'm a little under the weather. I've had the hiccups for about a day, which is a first on my part. Obviously, we're thrilled to be here representing a really great conference. Last year at this time we were hopeful it would happen, and it didn't. I think, playing in the NIT under the new format really, really helped our team and prepared us to be in this position. I'm thankful for Matt Doherty. I took over the program and inherited four terrific kids. Two left last year, Nick Russell and Shawn Williams, and I have two in Ryan Manuel and Cannen Cuningham, and they've been wonderful leaders and teammates. And then any time you get to play against a program like UCLA in this kind of tournament, it's really incredible because I had two phenomenal years there working under Mr. Morgan and having Coach Wooden around. I never felt comfortable calling myself Coach at UCLA. I realize what kind of program it is, and to think that SMU is playing on this stage against UCLA after only our third year is something we're all proud of.

Q. Larry, if your condition keeps up tomorrow, will you give the green light to players to yell at refs?
COACH BROWN: They probably won't hear my bad words. I don't yell at refs. It's one and done. I think, when you get to a situation like this where you're in the national tournament, you win and advance, lose and go home, it's no need to make people mad at you, and I don't want our kids to be focusing on anything other than trying to play the right way and get a win.

Q. I wanted to ask just how much  what's the line between having fun  you've been here a couple of times in the NCAA Tournament. What do you tell the kids? Obviously, they've never been here. What do you tell them? Go out and have fun in the game or try not to lose or what?
COACH BROWN: I really don't remember ever being here. But I just don't want to worry about the consequence. I just want them to worry about how we play. You don't have a lot of time to prepare for the people you're playing. So we've got to do the things we value and do them well. I want them to feel good about what they've accomplished because this team's been through a lot of adversity, you're aware. If we had (Emmanuel) Mudiay right now, we'd be talking about maybe one loss, might be the biggest story in college. Markus (Kennedy) is ineligible for a semester, and we lose Keith Frazier and Justin Martin. This team has just been able to find ways to bounce back and win. Last year we had some trouble dealing with adversity. We'd get behind last year, had a hard time regrouping. This year, we've been behind a lot, even in the first two games of the conference tournament. I told them, to win the regular season and then go and beat the defending champs on their court, I don't think anybody had to play a conference championship away from home against a quality team, and they rewarded us with a 6 seed. It troubles me that Temple, Tulsa and Connecticut aren't in this tournament. I didn't have a chance to celebrate winning because I was so disappointed that those teams didn't get a chance to move forward. I just want our kids to enjoy this moment and not play scared and respect who we play.

Q. What was so compelling about this job to take? Honestly, why not just play golf every day?
COACH BROWN: I don't want to sound hokey or anything, but these last three weeks have been tough. Losing Coach Smith. But if you look at my background, I played for him and Coach McGuire, (Henry) Iba, (John) McLendon, Pete Newell, Alex Hannum. I've had so many wonderful coaches sit next to me, John and Mark Turgeon, Bill Self. It just goes on and on. I just want to be able to let people hear the things that I was taught. I didn't handle retirement very well, but a lot of people threw me a lifeline. I got to see practices all over the country and watch people that helped me and then watch other people that I admire because, when you pro coach, people come to see you. You start early, and you finish late. Other than the lockout, I never got to watch other people coach. In doing so, I just thought I had something to offer, but more than that, I wanted to be able to teach the things that I was taught that I think, aside from analytics, it probably helped this game a little bit.

Q. Larry, when you were at Kansas, you beat a great Oklahoma team with Manning and a couple others. I think you were probably in the pros when Indiana and UNLV were, but how would you rate Kentucky compared to those? Also, when did you play for Coach McLendon? Was it in the NABL or what?
COACH BROWN: He offered me my first job at Kentucky State. I played for him on the Olympic team in 1964, and I went on a tour with him to the Iron Curtain countries, and he was like a mentor to me. I don't want to put pressure on John. I feel real close to him. I'm so proud of what he's done. I think they'd honestly make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference if they were in the NBA.

Q. The Kansas question.
COACH BROWN: I follow basketball. I'm a junkie. The thing people forget, it's not easy to coach great players. It's probably harder to deal with parents that could have great players. But I've been so impressed with the way they defend and the way they share the ball and the way they don't have an ego. It reminds me a lot of Tark's (Jerry Tarkanian) teams. Tark was so underrated in my mind about what he did on the defensive end and how he got kids committed to do what they did best. For the sake of the team, and I think John's been able to do that. But you have to be lucky. You don't win a championship unless special things happen. My first year at UCLA, we make the layup, we win the National Championship. When I was at Kansas, if Archie Marshall doesn't go down with a knee injury, we might have won three. You've just got to be fortunate. But I think in order for somebody to beat Kentucky, Kentucky has to play as poorly as they can possibly play, and somebody else has to play great because they defend so well. They rebound the ball so well, and he's got them playing as a team. It's going to be a test for anybody.

Q. You touched on it a little bit earlier. Any thoughts as to why the AAC is having a perception problem in the selection room? Any thoughts on how maybe to fix that?
COACH BROWN: I don't know. I'm so thankful Cincinnati got in. Last year we had this big party about us going in. I think we were 46 against top 15 teams last year. Came in third in our conference and didn't get in. When I saw Louisville as a 4 seed last year, I knew what our fate would be. I can't understand it because Temple is the sixth winningest team in the history of college basketball. Obviously, Cincinnati and Memphis and Connecticut have done remarkable things. Tulsa has unbelievable tradition. I can't figure it out. I didn't want to say anything last year because I didn't want to hurt the teams that got in. I didn't think that would be fair. But I'm honest, when we found out we won the conference tournament, looking back, I don't know if we'd have gotten in if we didn't win the conference tournament. Then when I thought about the teams that got left out that mean a lot to me and their coaches, it took a lot of luster off this. But I'm happy for my kids. We've got to do a better job. I think this is a very young conference. If you look at the players coming back, there's some terrific young players coming back, and I think some of the teams that haven't been so successful the last couple of years, I think they'll be much, much better this coming season. Hopefully, that will bode well for our conference.

Q. Coach, the 1980 tournament run with UCLA was one of the more improbable in school history. What do you remember about that run? What was it about that team that helped them come together right at the right moment?
COACH BROWN: I joke about this, but it was true. I was setting records one after another. I think we lost our first home game at Pauley. That's never been done. It happened to be the Number 1 team in the country that year. At that time, it was Coach Meyer, and Mark Aguirre, Teddy Grubbs, Terry Cummings, Clyde Bradshaw, Skip Dillard. I think that was the starting team. We lost to 'SC at home. That never happened. We lost two games in a row. One day I asked Larry Farmer what Coach Wooden would be doing at this moment, and he said, well, he would be playing the better players. And I was real sensitive to that because I followed Coach Bartow and Gary Cunningham, and I was their third coach. I thought I owed it to some kids to give them the opportunity to play. After we were 7-6, something like that  I think 7-5, and we went to Notre Dame, and we were getting hammered by a really, really good Notre Dame team, and I just said, 'Hey, I'm going to play the freshmen with Kiki (Vandeweghe) and James Wilkes.' Those freshmen were remarkable. They played with no fear. And I asked Larry, I said, "Did I do the right thing?" He said, "Well, when Coach Wooden was here, seven guys played." He had one substitute in the backcourt and one substitute up front. The other guys, the only time they got in the game was if they were up 30 or down 30, and they never were down 30. And I said, "Well, how do you keep everybody happy?" He said, "He didn't worry about it." They were at UCLA. I wish he would have told me that earlier, but I don't think I would have done anything differently.
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