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March 25, 2016
THE MODERATOR: Coach, an opening statement?
DANA ALTMAN: It's been a long season, and this is just an important time for our program, for our players. They've worked extremely hard all season. I'm really happy for them. To be in this position, to be playing a great team like Oklahoma, to have this opportunity, it's big for our players. It's big for our coaching staff. It's big for our program.
So really excited about tomorrow. We're just going to have to play well against a very good basketball team.
Q. I'd like to ask Elgin and Dillon, when you look at Chris Boucher's development this season, what has most impressed you about it? Where do you think he's made the biggest strides since he came on campus? And what most impresses you about him just as a human being?
DILLON BROOKS: I feel like his confidence has risen to an all-new height, and his confidence in his own game and just trusting us as a collective group.
He's a great person off the court to be with. He's with me, Tyler and Dillon playing Mario Kart on the airplane, and he's just a great person to be around and a great person to talk to.
I feel like where he most excelled is his confidence, for sure.
ELGIN COOK: Yeah, same. Chris has been doing what he's been doing when he first got here. He can run the floor all day. He's an exceptional athlete. And he has a ton of confidence with him. And I love being with him off the court as well. He's a great person to be with.
Q. Tyler and Elgin, Dillon's obviously an emotional player, fiery player. When he's playing like that, what impact does that have on the rest of the team?
TYLER DORSEY: It goes off to us as well. That fire keeps us going, gives us a lot of energy, and we need that from him. He brings that every night.
ELGIN COOK: Yeah, same. The energy is infectious. I love playing with Dillon. He gets us all going, and we need that from him. He picks us up when the energy is not there.
Q. Does Oklahoma remind you of anybody you've played this season? I guess we'll start with you, Tyler, that you've played this season?
TYLER DORSEY: Nobody really that comes to mind. We know they shoot the three as well and we've played a lot of teams that shoot the three well. So we know coming into the game we've got to run them off the line, like we did Duke. But there's no specific team I can think of.
DILLON BROOKS: We haven't seen a team like this with a core group that's been there for all four years. And we've never seen a player who shoots the ball like Buddy Hield. We're going to have to really do the same thing, like Tyler just said, run them off the line and not let them get easy baskets.
Q. Dillon, were you surprised that your conversation with Coach K became such a big story? Did you apologize to him at the end of the game?
DILLON BROOKS: You know, I talked with Coach Altman about this whole situation. Me and Coach K, that conversation should have stayed with us. But overall me and Coach K are both professionals, and I have to move on from this situation and focus on Oklahoma.
Q. Just to add to that, with what occurred at the end of the game, is that just an example of your emotions and is it a lesson learned?
DILLON BROOKS: I don't think so. I've been doing this all season. But like I said, me and Coach K are both professionals and we recognize greatness. So we just have to move on from this. I've been devoting my time all into this team and into finding a way to beat Oklahoma.
Q. Casey and Chris, a lot of teams talk about being selfless, but you guys actually demonstrate that with the way you share the ball. How do you pull that off? How do you guys play that way?
CASEY BENSON: It's just buying into winning. Buying into everybody's role and doing what's best for the team. At the end of the day, we want to win. That's the most important thing. It's fun, so we've had a blast this year. To continue to have this opportunity to play for a Final Four is special.
CHRIS BOUCHER: I think it's just the strengths of our team. Sharing the ball is always great, and we have a lot of guys that are talented on our team, so sharing the ball just makes us a better team.
Q. Dillon, you're expressing great remorse here. I just wondered, what did you do wrong last night, if anything?
DILLON BROOKS: I didn't feel like we did anything wrong. I just played the same game I always played. These guys rallied around me and rallied around the way I played, so I ain't going to change. I don't think anything went wrong.
DANA ALTMAN: At the end of the game there was a difference in the shot clock and the game clock. I told Dillon to shoot it. So if anybody's got a problem with it, it should be directed at me. He was acting on my orders. I told him to shoot it. I didn't think he'd make it. It was a 30-footer, but there was a five, six-second difference there.
Dillon's a competitor. He's been fun to work with. It's a dead issue as far as we're concerned. We're moving on to Oklahoma. I hope it's a dead issue with everybody else.
Q. For what it's worth, just there was some speculation that it wasn't the fact he took the shot, but how he celebrated the shot that may have upset Coach.
DANA ALTMAN: If we can't celebrate hitting the shot, then that's part of the game. Again, it was a 30-footer. He took it. It's done, we're moving on to Oklahoma. I hope he hits a 30-footer tomorrow; it will be great for our team.
Q. Casey and Tyler and Dillon, when you have shot-blocking behind you like you do, how does that change the way you play defense on the perimeter?
TYLER DORSEY: It allows us as guards to pressure up knowing we've got Chris and Jordan back there blocking everything. It just allows us to pressure and put more ball pressure and have active hands.
DILLON BROOKS: I feel like it definitely gives us confidence to really guard and not be scared to get beat. If we do get beat, we have help back there with one of the two best shot-blockers in the nation.
CASEY BENSON: Yeah, definitely just gives us a sense of confidence to get up and pressure the ball knowing that those two guys are flying around behind us and just being so active. So it just gives us confidence on the defensive end that they're going to make a play if we do get beat.
Q. This is for Elgin and Casey: Elgin, you've been with Coach Altman the longest up there. I don't want to make it too awkward with him sitting here with you, but how much do you guys want to move on for Coach? I know what he means to this team.
ELGIN COOK: I love playing for Coach. This is big for our program and for the players in the locker room. We're just going out and playing for each other and trying to compete and give ourselves a chance to play another day.
CASEY BENSON: I love playing for Coach as well. It's been a blast. I love playing with all these guys, and we don't want the season to end. So just going to go lay it all out there and try to continue to play as long as we can.
Q. Your style is similar to Oklahoma athletes, up-and-down, lot of offense. Talk about the anticipation of a fun, high-scoring game that should be entertaining.
DILLON BROOKS: It's definitely going to be entertaining, and that's what basketball at this point it should be. This is all for the fans. We're going to put on a good show. We know what it takes, especially when we've got two teams with so much firepower. You've got to find a way to stop them. Then just find a way to rebound and not give easy baskets to get the opposing team going.
CASEY BENSON: It's a matter of making it tough on them on the offensive end. They can really score, so just making them take tough shots and just limiting their easy baskets, like Dillon said, is going to be key for us. We're going to have to not get into a scoring battle, but focus on stopping them.
CHRIS BOUCHER: I guess right now at this point everybody's trying to go to the Championship and get to the Final Four. So it's for sure going to bring great basketball, and it's good for the fans and good for every program that's a part of it.
Q. Tyler, you and Dillon you guys were out in Hawaii with the Sooners earlier this year. You didn't play but you were in the same event. I understand you were together at some function. Can you talk about your interaction? Did you get to know each other at all? Do you remember much about those days in December?
DILLON BROOKS: I do. I never really had an encounter with any of them. We were just like with our own team and stuff like that. But I know Coach Altman was talking to Kruger a lot because that's his boy. But there wasn't too much encounterment (sic). We watched them play against a very great Villanova team and they really took it to them. So we're going to have our hands full for sure.
TYLER DORSEY: Most definitely the same. We just really didn't have much interaction, we just got to see them play. Seeing them play, we're going to have our hands full, and they're a good team.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Altman.
Q. I ask you this because you have quite a few wins yourself, but Geno Auriemma's going for his 11th National Championship across the country, different gender, same sport. Do you consider that given John Wooden won 10 National Championships not far from here, do you consider what Geno does, if he gets 11, is that the gold standard for this sport?
DANA ALTMAN: I don't know. I haven't given it any thought. The ladies' game has made tremendous progress in the last few years or last 10, 20 years. So I'm sure it means a great deal. To compare the two, I just never put any thought into it.
Q. As Dillon referred to you coaching against your boy here in Coach Kruger, not much time to prepare, but do you have any chance to just sit back for a second and think how cool this is almost 30 years later, after you guys went to the Elite Eight, now you're coaching against each other in the Elite Eight?
DANA ALTMAN: I went to work for coach in 1986, 30 years ago, and I was a junior college coach. I'd never been associated with anything Division I. I was a bad player. I was lucky to walk on at a junior college, so it was my first opportunity. Coach was unbelievable to work for. Learned a lot from him.
As I mentioned before, he's been a great friend and mentor for 30 years, and we've never played each other for a reason: We didn't want to play. When the pairings came out a couple weeks ago, I talked to Coach and we just said at that time if we're fortunate enough to get to this point, at least one of us is going to get the opportunity to go to the Final Four. If we are fortunate to win, I'm sure he'll be happy for us, and if we lose, I know I'll be happy for him.
They've had an outstanding year, and that group of seniors they have is an outstanding group. I'll have someone to cheer for at the Final Four if we don't win. If we do win, knowing the kind of person that Coach Kruger is, I'm sure he'll be cheering for us.
Q. Since Chris came on campus, where do you feel he has made the biggest strides both in his game and socially off the court?
DANA ALTMAN: Chris has been great to work with, unbelievable young man that really works hard in everything that he does. He wants to be successful in the classroom. On the court he tries to do everything we ask him to do. So there's been no negatives with Chris. He's been mature, fun to work with, a young man that has had a number of hurdles and obstacles to overcome, and he's done a great job of doing that.
So I'm really looking forward to working with him next season. I think there is a lot more to his game, and it will be fun working with him.
Q. You mentioned all that Lon had done for you in your career. You actually helped him though jump-starting the stuff at K-State, getting Mitch Richmond there. Could you talk about your relationship with Mitch and the two of you getting to Kansas State at roughly the same time and what that did for that team at that particular time?
DANA ALTMAN: I probably should have mentioned that. I'm not sure he hired me; I think he wanted my team. I had the No. 1 ranked junior college team, and Mitch Richmond, Charlie Bledsoe, Freddy McCoy, and then we picked up Will Scott, a young man from a rival junior college, and they went with me to Kansas State.
So, no, Mitch, I owe so much of my career to Coach Kruger, but I probably owe more to Mitch. We were 69-9 the two years he played for me in junior college. 35-5 his freshman year, and 34-4. Obviously he took us to the final eight at Kansas State. Had an unbelievable career in the NBA. His son, Phil, is with our team now. In fact, Mitch was at the games yesterday.
So, no, I wouldn't be sitting here today if it wasn't for Mitch Richmond. He was unbelievable to work with. Young man out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that had a big, big impact on my career, no doubt.
Q. You mentioned earlier about how pleasant it was to work for Lon. That seems to be a theme throughout his career. Exactly how good of a situation is it to work for Lon Kruger?
DANA ALTMAN: Well, he's unbelievable. Like I said, I'd never been associated with Division I basketball, and any question, anything that I had, he worked with me on. We spent a lot of time in the film room. He's got an unbelievable basketball mind. He would see things during a game and say something, and I'd nod my head like I knew what he was talking about, and run to the film room and see if I could see it.
He's just a good guy. I mean, anybody who knows Coach, he's a wonderful person. All the work he and Barb do for Coaches Vs. Cancer, he's unbelievable. Angie, Kevin, his two children are great. I remember them as small children and now Angie's a doctor and Kevin's a coach.
So just great family, great person, and has had a big impact on my career.
Q. Dana, Lon's been to a Final Four. That's one place you haven't been. Is that something you've thought about during your career, what it would mean for you to get there, and do you think about it now that you're close?
DANA ALTMAN: Oh, sure. That's something that 27 years is a long time. So every Final Four that I've been to, which has been all of them in the last 30 years, you dream about it. You think about it.
So, sure, we want to go. It's important to us but I know getting back is really important to Coach and the Oklahoma Sooners. So I think both teams will compete really hard. I think it will be a good basketball game. But, yeah, we definitely want to go.
Q. I know you said you've never been associated with D-1 basketball before you met Lon. How did you come to meet Lon at first and what were the circumstances that led to him offering you a job with them?
DANA ALTMAN: The circumstances were I had the No. 1 ranked junior college team. K-State had been through a number of down years, so like I said, he wanted Mitch Richmond and some of my players. It worked out. It worked out for both of us. I was going to go to a Division I school. I had been offered a number of jobs. Lon wasn't the only one to realize I had pretty good players, and those guys had played well and hard for me, and I had a great relationship with them. They played hard for us at Kansas State.
Like I said, I owe a lot to those guys, Mitch, Charlie, Freddy, Will Scott, those guys really gave my career a big boost.
Q. Do you remember when you guys first met?
DANA ALTMAN: Well, I had met Coach three years before that. I had a point guard at Southeast Community College, my first junior college job, Leo McGainey, who went to play for Coach at Pan-American before Coach went to Kansas State. So he recruited my point guard off of that team. So we had known each other for a few years, four years, I guess, three or four years.
Q. Coach, probably a weird question to ask coming off getting ready to play for a Final Four, but with such an emotional win last night and the huge name, Duke, Coach K, all that stuff, is there any fear there might be a letdown tomorrow considering last night was such an emotional win?
DANA ALTMAN: Not really. I think our guys are so excited about the opportunity to play that I think they'll bounce back pretty quickly. We've had some big wins here of late and winning the conference title for the first time in a long time and the tournament championship. So we've had a number of good wins here lately and the guys have been able to respond and bounce back. I don't think they'll have a problem getting ready to play. They're so excited. They'll be ready to go.
Q. I've got a feeling you'll say, take away the three-point line and Buddy Hield is what you want to do. Everybody's tried it. Why is that so hard to take away from them, one? And two, do they remind you of anybody you've played this season?
DANA ALTMAN: The first question is he's just a great athlete, and he can keep backing up. He moves so well without the ball that it's hard to keep up with him. So he finds opportunities because of his ability to run the floor. He gets seven points a game in transition. He gets a three-pointer a game on the offensive rebound that they kick out to him. So he finds a lot of different ways to score.
He's one of those players that plays with so much energy. He's always moving. When he penetrates, he flashes back to the three-point line quickly. He just gets open, and then he hits them at a high rate, 46, 47%. So he's a handful.
Q. Coach Kruger mentioned that you guys talk fairly regularly. What is the mix of talking basketball versus just catching up? When you were both in Hawaii, his team was looking pretty good already, but did you harbor any thoughts at that point that maybe they were having conversations that the two of you could run into each other on a stage like this?
DANA ALTMAN: Well, at that time, Jordan still wasn't playing, Tyler had just gotten hurt. Dylan Ennis wasn't playing, but we thought we were going to get him back. December 7th, when we were there, they were really good. They beat a great Villanova team really bad, but we had a long ways to go. So at that time there wasn't much thought of that.
But our conversations are usually dependent on what time of the year it is. If it's the offseason, we're usually talking about golf. In fact, we're scheduled to go to Scotland together in July and early August right after the recruiting period is over. So that could be uneasy for one of us. It's something we've talked for the last 30 years quite regularly. So it is different. Someone I respect as much as I do Coach to play against is different.
Q. After all the talk in recent years about one-and-dones, lack of cohesion, how the game looked, the two winners last night played basketball that was actually really beautiful - spacing, familiarity with each other, veteran teams. I wonder where you think the game as a whole is right now in regard to that?
DANA ALTMAN: I think there is a lot of different ways to play the game. I still get excited about a great defensive battle. I just think there are a lot of different ways to play. Now the most entertaining way to watch for the average fan are for two athletic teams to go blowing up and down. The pressing style, the things that we do, I think make it fun for the average fan to watch. But, again, someone who has followed the game for a lot of years, I get enjoyment out of a lot of different styles and a lot of different ways to play the game.
We have the makeup of a team that needs to spread the floor, that needs to play fast because of our lack of size and big guys. We need to make it a 90-foot game. And Oklahoma's a little bit of the same. They're not a real big team, but they can run and they're athletic. So it should be an up-and-down game.
Q. First off, you said you and Lon are going to Scotland? Is that part of the coaches' deal or are you guys going there?
DANA ALTMAN: No, Coach called me last September and said, "I've always wanted to do this. How about we plan a trip?" And I said, "I'm in." So he started planning it and we're going. It's just us and a couple friends.
Q. You've talked often about watching his games. That's kind of one team you've watched. How many games would you say you've seen a part of, just turned on the TV this year? And is there any sort of different scouting for you going in knowing that you've seen a little more? I assume you've seen more of them than any team outside of the Pac-12?
DANA ALTMAN: Probably so. Probably so. Any chance, yeah, you watch. The time difference sometimes makes it difficult. But I've watched Oklahoma. I enjoy watching them. I like how hard they play. I'm like any fan, I love Buddy. I'm not going to like him tomorrow, but I like him. He's a heck of a player. The way he plays the game with a smile on his face and the energy, if a college basketball fan can't get excited about that, what can you get excited about? He loves the game, he loves his teammates. He loves his coach. He stayed an extra year and played when he didn't have to. There are so many qualities there to get fired up about. I like watching him.
But, no, I did see them play more often. I don't think it's going to give us any advantage. They're not a hard team to scout. They play hard, they spread the floor, they're going to shoot threes. We're not a hard team to scout. We're pretty easy to figure out. It's just a matter of trying to slow them down.
Q. Dana, Lon is such an understated guy, it seems like he doesn't maybe get enough credit for the credentials that he has, which probably rank him among the top elite of college basketball coaches right now. Why do you think it is that he maybe doesn't get the same respect nationally that other coaches of his ilk will?
DANA ALTMAN: I would have no idea on that. I know there are a number of coaches that I feel this way about, but I would absolutely have no doubt in sending my son to play for him. He's a guy that he's going to get after them when he needs to have somebody get after him. He's going to put his arm around him when he needs somebody to put his arm around him. So you'd want your son to play for Coach. There is no doubt about it.
So I don't know. I'm not sure. But his excellence, his standard everywhere he's gone, Kansas State, Florida, Illinois, Vegas, now Oklahoma, he's won. He's done a great job everywhere he's been.
Q. When you were deciding which job offer to take the year you went to K-State, what are some of the deciding factors you can remember about that decision?
DANA ALTMAN: Well, it was a hectic time. My second son was born on the day that I accepted the job, and you can imagine my conversations with my wife trying to decide where we wanted to go. She was focused on Chase and having our second son.
I felt comfortable with Coach. It was close to where I grew up. It was just two and a half hours from my home in Nebraska. Reva is from Nebraska. I spent 16 years at Creighton because it was home. Oregon was way out there for me. Most of it was Coach and how I felt when I talked with him. But being close to Nebraska and being in the old Big 8 and those things were important to me also.
Q. The other night Coach Kruger commented on Oregon as one of the best teams or the best team in the country. Does that comment, can you talk about what that comment means to you? Did you kind of throw it aside or do you have confidence because of it?
DANA ALTMAN: Coach probably is trying to be nice. We have made great progress this year. I'm so happy for our team. Where we stack up against other programs, I'm not sure because I haven't seen enough basketball across the country. You get locked into your conference. Again, the time difference, games are coming on at 4:00, and heck, we're still in practice. So I miss some of the East Coast games.
I'm not sure where we stack up, but we have made tremendous progress. I do have a great group of guys. I've totally enjoyed working with them. They've put up with me throughout the year and they've been a great group, and I'm so happy for them that they've been able to accomplish what they've been able to do. I just hope there's some more, but they've been a great group to work with.
Q. Does it feel like Jordan Bell's just a different Jordan Bell in the last month? And is he forcing you to kind of play him more and to more things with him?
DANA ALTMAN: Jordan's played really well. Last night I don't think I've ever seen his mom with a bigger smile. She was so happy and proud of him. He has made so much progress. You saw him play a year ago and the strides he's made. A lot of that was six months of completely being away from it because he couldn't get on his foot.
So he's such a good athlete. I think his maturity and his hunger for the game have improved so much. I think he can really make some big steps. Just because of his athleticism, and he's a tough kid. He's a tough young man. I think there is a lot more there. But you're right, the last month he's stepped up in some big ballgames and has played really, really well for us.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports