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March 17, 2016

Fran McCaffery

Brooklyn, New York

FRAN MCCAFFERY: We're just thrilled to have the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament, represent the Big Ten. We have a team that I think this year performed extremely well. We've got an experienced starting five and a young group that came together behind them. We're playing a terrific Temple team with a fabulous coach in Fran Dunphy, and we're looking forward to the opportunity.

Q. Hey, Fran, talking to the team before about the way the season ended, Jarrod said you could attribute it to the wear and tear of the Big Ten season. Do you agree with that? Or do you have another explanation for it?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Well, I think that's as good an explanation as any. You look at the scores, our losses were very close games, a couple possessions here or there. You get to a point where teams scout you and you play them for the second time sometimes. We also were in first place for part of that time, so teams were coming after us pretty good.

But I'm a little more pragmatic when I look at it. Pretty much lost to good teams. Okay, we lost to some teams that we were probably supposed to beat on paper, but you lose on the road at Penn State, Malcolm Hill hits a big time stepback jumper and you lose a two-point game against Illinois, those are things that happen in the Big Ten.

Q. You spoke about your counterpart on the sidelines tomorrow. Curious, as someone who's social with him as well, if there's a Fran Dunphy story that sort of stands out in your mind when you think of him. If you could just speak a little bit about how you view his legacy just as a coach.
FRAN MCCAFFERY: You know, I don't know if there's any one story. I mean, I've known Fran Dunphy for a very long time. I played against teams that he coached in high school. He coached at my alma mater. Obviously, his legacy there is to the point where they could put his name on the court. I was happy to get to see him get the opportunity to move over and coach Temple. It's been a great experience for him.

But you look at his record. He's averaged, I think, 21 wins for a very long period of time. It's really hard to do. And he's been able to do it in the city that he loves, where he grew up and where he lives. His teams consistently perform a certain way. They don't beat themselves. They take care of the basketball. They rebound the basketball. They move the ball. They share the ball. All the things that, as a coach, you want your team to do. So it's really not a surprise that they consistently win wherever he's coaching.

Q. Just going back to Lehigh, first time that you were in the tournament and through today, what's changed about the tournament? And what has changed about your preparation for the tournament?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I don't know how much has changed with regard to the tournament. For us, it was a different experience. In '85, I was an assistant. We went to the tournament for the first time at Lehigh. That was a big deal. You can only imagine what that was like on our campus. But the nucleus of that team went back again in '88, and we played the number 1 team in the country at that time, which was Temple. So that was an experience. Literally, they were the 1 seed, we were the 64. So that was a challenge in a big way.

I think, if you look at the growth and how the tournament has evolved, the interest level continues to grow. In '88, you had selection Sunday. It was a big deal. Everybody watched. You didn't know where you were going to go. You were thrilled to have the opportunity to be in it. You felt like, if you were in it, you had a chance to win. We lost to a really good team.

I look at it like this. There's no such thing as an upset when you get to this tournament because you won your way here one way or another. And I think that's the beauty of it.

Q. Could you just talk about the unique bond that Philly guys seem to have, and also Fran said he thinks it's amazing that you both have been in the profession so long and have never crossed paths before.
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Well, you understand it probably as well as anybody and could probably explain it better than I could, but if you grew up there, you know, you competed against each other somewhere. In those days, it was the Sunny Hill league, the Hibernian League, whatever, the catholic schools, the public schools, the Conshohocken Tournament. There's a family feel there, and everybody that kind of came up that way looks out for each other. We spend time with each other at the Final Four, and it's gone on for years and years.

I have coached against Dunph before. I coached against him when I was at Siena. We lost to them in the Palestra, and I coached against him again at Siena and we lost at their place in Rob Kennedy's Christmas tournament. Dave Duke, his assistant was my assistant at Lehigh when we played Temple in '88. So there's a lot of camaraderie there. Dave's a dear friend.

So it's interesting that we would end up here with Temple and Villanova as well, as Jay Wright is another guy that I have tremendous respect for and have known since we were kids. So there's a mutual respect but also understanding on that day we're going to try to beat each other up, and then we're going to be best friends when the game is over.

Q. You have the reputation as kind of a fiery guy during the games, and I was talking to Dave Duke, and he mentioned that one of his jobs was just to make sure that you stayed --
FRAN MCCAFFERY: You know, I had to watch out for him too, Bob. Dave can get a little cantankerous himself.

Q. Is that a product of just your competitiveness, do you think, or is that like -- you know the old players, having been a player and players coach type of thing.
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I think there's only one way to play the game. You've got to compete. I will be honest, I think sometimes I'm unfairly categorized as a guy that's constantly fiery. If it you watch me coach, about 85 percent of the time, I just have my arms folded, and I just watch the game.

What will upset me is, if we have repeatedly gone over something and then that aspect breaks down. So in other words, if you play for me, I'm not going to ask you to do what you can't do, but if I ask you to do a certain thing and you don't do it and I know you can do it, that's going to be a problem. We're going to have an issue there.

So I'm not the kind of guy that's constantly yelling and constantly griping. You shoot the ball, and I tell you you should have drove the ball. You drove the ball, you should have passed the ball. I'm not that guy. I'm not in your face. I get out of your way, and I let you play. But when we have a game plan and there's a certain expectation, how we're going to defend ball screens, what we're going to do in transition defense, how we're going to play a certain guy in the post, well, I expect to you do that to the best of your ability because I know you can do it, and that's why I have you in that position.

So I don't think it's any different than any other coach in terms of holding your players accountable at the appropriate time and not being unreasonable.

Q. I actually have two things. One is can you tell me what you've seen of Temple, especially a guy like Obi Enechionyia, 6'9" and sort of like a stretch four and can really shoot it from the three-point area?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I've been really impressed with Temple's team because I've watched a lot of games, as you can imagine, the next couple of days. They play a unique style in terms of they're never rushed. There's never any panic in anything that they do. And one of Dunph's greatest characteristics, he gets those guys to play with supreme confidence. So whether they're the primary point guard or whether they're a wing scorer or whether they're a post-up player, those guys accept their roles, and they go out, and they try to do it to the best of their ability.

Obi, he can win a game all by himself. He gets going, and you don't find him in transition or you lose him on a pick and pop, but he's not just a standstill shooter. He can go off the dribble a little bit. He can post up a little bit with his size. So it creates some problems for you in terms of switching and things like that.

But you watch that team play -- and we always go back to the same thing, they don't throw it away. So you have to guard them when they come down the floor and stop them from scoring and rebound the ball because then you've got Bond, who's as good an offensive rebounder as there is.

Q. One other thing, what's it been like to coach Jarrod and just to be around him and to see his development?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Coaching Jarrod is a unique experience in and of itself because he's a different kind of person, and I mean that in a very good way. He's very casual in some of the things he does. He doesn't get uptight. He's a fun loving guy. His teammates love him. He plays relaxed. Yet at the same time, he's a competitor. He'll make big shots. He'll take big shots. He'll carry our team. But the thing that I love about him is, here's a guy who as good of an offensive player in terms of overall repertoire as there is in the game right now, but he might be a better defender than he is a scorer. He's all league defense, led our league in blocked shots. A.J. Hammons was the defensive player of the year, and he had fewer blocked shots than our forward did, and he can move his feet and guard a two. He can guard a three. He can guard a four. And I think that's what I love.

I love how complete his game is. And I just let him go. We give him the scouting report. Occasionally, we'll have a conversation, but he's very professional in everything he does.

Q. Just alluding to Jarrod, letting him go, that Iowa State game -- I think it was 30 points in the first half. And then Peter Jok in the Big Ten Tournament. You're a balanced scoring team, but on any given night, one player can have 30-plus points in the first half. You're coaching philosophy, I guess, with that, if you're in a good position tomorrow where somebody is on that hot streak?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: When you have a guy like Jarrod, not one time in the time that I've coached him, and I've coached him for three years, have I said, okay, that's a bad shot. Don't shoot that shot. And you watch him you say, okay, he pulls up from 30. He will pull up from 30 and shoot the ball, and he's made some, and he's missed some. He had one that it didn't come very close, but he didn't look over and say, hey, is Coach going to be upset with me now? No, he knows you have the green light to shoot the ball. Whenever and wherever you want to shoot the ball -- early in the clock, late in the clock, late in the game. I'm not going to say a word to you.

And I want him to have that kind of -- I want him to know that I have that kind of confidence in him because ultimately then I want him to have that kind of confidence in himself.

Q. During this last stretch, the six losses in eight games, whatever it was that was the problem for your team in that stretch, do you think it's been addressed? Is it still a concern whatever was nagging your team?
FRAN MCCAFFERY: I think any time you lose, you're going to be concerned. I think part of your question was, okay, what was the cause? It's never one thing. You look at a couple of those games, we had more turnovers than assists. Then you can look, okay, that was the problem in that game. Where was the rebounding in that game? What were the shooting percentages? What kind of production did we get off the bench? Did we do a good job defending their key personnel? Did we do a good job defending the things that they like to do, whether it be set plays, transition? And you've got to put it all together.

And that's the thing as a coach. When you lose a two-possession game essentially, Indiana came into our building late in the season with a chance to win the regular season championship. If we won, we would still be in contention for the league championship. And we have the last shot of the game down three, and it's in and out by our best three-point shooter. So that's how close we are.

So it's not panic city by any means, but it's basically what our job is, is to coach and figure out how can we make three or four adjustments, five or six adjustments that will help us win a close game rather than lose a close game?

Q. Coach, if you could just maybe talk about the two Michigan State wins, the two Purdue wins, and what you guys did in those four victories and maybe add your overall two or three biggest strengths collectively of your team throughout the year.
FRAN MCCAFFERY: Well, the first Michigan State win, they were ranked number 1. Valentine didn't play. So nobody really paid much attention to that one on a national level. Although I will say I think we played about as perfect a game as you can play defensively, and that enabled us to really get clicking offensively. Now, when we went up there to beat them, we got some attention because he was back, and we beat them, I think by 17 up there. We shot it well. We moved it well. We defended well. And I think we defended the way you need to defend to beat good teams.

The Purdue games were different. We go on the road, we were down 19 in the first half at Purdue. Packed house, place going crazy. We didn't panic. We came back and won the game. We got a lead. They came back and won that game. We played very well in both of those games.

I think all four of those games you were referring to were indications of how we're capable of playing against really good teams. So when you play defense, take care of the ball, move the ball, get good shots, and get production off from a variety of different people, if that happens for any team especially this time of year you have a pretty good chance to win.

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