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April 1, 2016

Jim Boeheim

Trevor Cooney

Michael Gbinije

Houston, Texas

THE MODERATOR: Coach Boeheim is here from the Syracuse Orange. We'll ask coach to tip things off with an opening statement, then we'll take some questions.

COACH BOEHEIM: I think we've said enough. I'll take questions.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Coach Boeheim.

Q. What do you take from the first two meetings with North Carolina? In general, what is it like to play a team for a third time in a season?
COACH BOEHEIM: Well, I think we know how good they are. We played pretty well in both games, and still couldn't win. We know that. We also know we were close in both games.

Obviously we're familiar with them. They're familiar with how we play.

I'm not sure, other than that familiarity, how much it plays into the game. It still comes down to who plays well tonight, tomorrow night, and whatever happens.

They're a tremendous team. They've got, you know, tremendous size, depth. They can hurt you inside or outside.

So, again, we know how good they are. But at this stage you're going to go out and try to play your best no matter what, you know. You don't have any tomorrow if you don't play well.

Q. The length at the top of your guys' zone is often associated with defending the perimeter. How important can it be in this game to denying their guards in the high post?
COACH BOEHEIM: Your defense, whatever defense you play, obviously North Carolina gets the ball inside as well as any team in the country. They always have. They get the ball up the court as well as anybody in the country. You have to be prepared for those things, those two things particularly, when you play North Carolina.

Q. How and when did you come to the philosophy of playing a tighter rotation? Is depth overrated?
COACH BOEHEIM: Well, if you look carefully, during the year Kansas played 11, most of the 10, 11. During the tournament, they played seven. If you look at most box scores, you may see nine guys there, but most of them play two minutes and seven play. I think that's pretty true of almost everybody. It always has been. It's just something that's overlooked.

I'd like to have seven. I'd like to have eight. I'd like to have one more guy. But as long as players can play different positions, and we have two or three guys that can play different positions, I think you can get by with seven.

You tend to get fewer guys into big foul trouble with zone. In man-to-man there's a lot of situations where teams are going to be isolated, driving. If you get a guy with two or three, they're going to try to isolate and drive that guy.

You can't really do that against a zone, so we can protect guys better. Foul trouble is less of an issue for us, although it can be. But I think the number of players you use in tournament play goes down for everybody.

We feel that we could bring another guy or two off the bench if we had to. But if we don't have to, we won't.

Q. You've known Mike Hopkins is going to be the head coach-in-waiting since 2007, probably earlier. What informed you then he's going to be a good future head coach? Has anything changed 10 years later considering the nine games he took over?
COACH BOEHEIM: The nine games has nothing to do with it. That was my team. You can't coach somebody else's team, especially a team that as in such flux as ours.

If you coach the last six games, then they would have said he can't coach because he lost five of the six. Oh, I coached those games.

So, no, that's not a good sample.

Mike has proven to me over and over again that he understands the game, the players, the other things that surround what a head coach has to do. He's much better than I am with the media, which probably isn't hard to be. He's great with the players. Probably better than I am. He's a great recruiter. He's really good with the fans and alumni. Again, much better than I am.

He understands what we do, how to coach. He's worked with great pro players, with the Olympics, the World Championships. He's done everything you need to do to be prepared to be a head coach. He's much more prepared than I was to be a head coach.

I always thought it's better to get a great assistant who you really see that potential in to be the next head coach rather than hiring a head coach from another place who has had a completely different experience, maybe a smaller school. That doesn't translate all the time. Sometimes it does, but not all the time.

But if you look at the great coaches I've seen, whether it's Mike Krzyzewski or Bob Knight, I mean, you can go quite a bit further. They got their head coaching jobs from being an assistant, and were pretty good.

Q. From a coaching and leadership standpoint, how do you approach managing the different personalities and players that you have on your time, different skill levels?
COACH BOEHEIM: Well, every player's different. I think every player has different skill levels. You can have a little bit different expectations for every player on your team. You handle players differently.

The old saying that you treat every player the same is not true. I don't think it was ever true. I don't know who came up with it. Probably a football coach, who they deal with a hundred, and we deal with seven or eight.

But everybody's a little different. You know, you have certain basic things everybody does. Everybody comes on time. Everybody, you know, has to do certain things. But everybody's a little different.

I think the key to being a good anything, coach, manager, teacher, whatever you want to say, is the ability to be flexible, not only with your players, but with everything you do, your strategies, to have some flexibility.

Probably could run for president with that attitude. We seem to have a lot of those people, pretty flexible.

I think that's a hard thing to do, to be flexible. I think anybody can be black-and-white strict, this is the way it's going to be done. It's easy to do it that way, but I don't think it's better.

I would say we try to be flexible and work with our guys. We do treat them a little differently. I try to be hard on guys when we first get 'em, really hard, to try to get 'em to what we need to do. Some guys, like they come in that first year, you never have to say a word to them. We like to coach those guys.

I remember Stevie Thompson. I don't think I ever said a thing to Stevie in the four years he was with us. In fact, Rony Seikaly got mad at me one time because he said, You never yell at Stevie.

So I said, Stevie, why are you working so hard? Why are you doing what I ask you to do? Why don't you make any mistakes?

I yelled at him for a couple minutes. Rony didn't like that.

Q. At the start of the season, Malachi was shooting a bunch of threes. Obviously he took over against Virginia driving the ball. How did you get him from Point A to Point B this year?
COACH BOEHEIM: He likes to get to the basket. I think he's at his best when he does both. The Virginia game, we talked at halftime that we were not getting to the basket, we were going side to side too much. We just talked about him going.

I think once he goes and gets to the basket, gets to the foul line, I think it loosens him up a little bit. He starts to feel better about his three. After he got the basket, he hit a couple threes.

But he's at his best when he really does both things. That's what we like to see him do.

Q. When preparing for a team to play them the third time, knowing you both do what you do, do you try to change things up to give them a different look or do you say, Here is what we do, stop it?
COACH BOEHEIM: We just try to do what we do better. That's all. It's a little too late in the year to be experimenting.

Q. Talking to your players yesterday, they seemed very businesslike. I know this is a business trip. They're extremely focused. You don't see a whole lot of emotion out of them. You spoke about personalities of individuals. Talk to the personality of this entire group.
COACH BOEHEIM: Well, they take after their coach, who has no personality, so...

They've been a good group all year, through the adversity. They just kept going. I think it's hard for a team when you lose. Most of the good teams, and certainly the good teams that are here, they had a glitch here, a glitch there during the season. You talk 'em through that.

I've had teams like that. You talk 'em through that one glitch. We've had, like, a series of glitches this year where we've had to kind of get through it.

Through it all, they come in the next day and they work hard, try to do things better.

I think we've really been a consistent team from that aspect. We haven't been a consistent team as far as winning. But there's a lot of reasons for that, including the difficulty of the league, the teams in the league, the schedule that we played in the league was very difficult.

So I think to get through all that, you kind of have to be on an even keel. If you were getting up and down a lot, it would have been a real rollercoaster.

I think they've been good. They haven't gotten that excited. I mean, they're happy to be here. But, you know, they're not just happy to be here; they want to play well and do well here.

Q. This is also Todd Blumen's fifth Final Four. He started in '86. What has he meant, even though it's a role not many people talk about?
COACH BOEHEIM: Todd was here about ten years before I even realized he was still here. I think he was undergraduate for about nine. He's been our video coordinator for a long time. It's always good to have people who know the program, know what the drill is, know what I like.

The great thing about having assistant coaches that played for you, you know, they know your personality, what there is, and they know how to adjust to you, what you need done. They get things done on a daily basis without asking, without having me to talk to them about it.

To have Todd and the coaches that I have who have been through it, know what we do, how we do things, how I'm going to react to things, I think is a big, big plus for our program. The consistency that the players get year in and year out I think is so important.

We've had the same strength coach now for quite a few years, the same trainer for quite a few years, and the same people in the office. All that I think just makes it easier, makes it easier.

Q. I know you and Steve Fisher are good friends, both 71. Who is going to retire first? As a corollary to that, what is the secret for both you guys? You seem so refreshed?
COACH BOEHEIM: I feel the same as I did 10 or 20 years ago. I probably feel better. I'm doing pilates two times a week now for two years. The 10 or 15 years before that, I didn't work out. I'm probably in better shape now. I'm in the weight room a little bit now, which I didn't do for the 20, 30 years before that, since I stopped playing.

So I feel healthy. My kids, you know, they keep you going. Teenagers, I got three of 'em. I think all those things, you know, they help you.

But I've always felt the same. I feel the same now as I did 20 years ago or 30 years ago. I might have a couple more aches and pains, but I feel mentally the same. I feel better in terms of doing the job because you're putting even more into it because you know you're not going to be doing it that much longer.

But I've never known how long I'm going to coach. I still don't know how long I'm going to coach. You know, that's not something I think about. I've never talked about my contract or the length of it for years. I'm still not talking about it. I just know that you could retire tomorrow. I mean, I don't know. It just depends what happens.

Al McGuire once told me, One day I was driving to work, I come down the ramp and I turn right. The day I turn left, I'm not going to work anymore. He turned left one day. That was it.

So I'm going to turn left someday, too.

Q. A lot of the guys were talking about defensively they feel like you guys have gotten better since the last game in Chapel Hill. From your perspective, what is better about the defense now than that last meeting?
COACH BOEHEIM: I think we're rebounding a little bit better over the last few games in the tournament, a little bit at the end of the year, too. I think our defense is pretty similar. I think it's been pretty good all year long. Our offense has been the weak spot for us over the course of the season.

We really shot the ball well in Atlantis. That's why we won the tournament down there. We shot close to 50% from the three and 50% from the field. We haven't done that since.

But, again, I think overall our defense has been pretty good this year, given the personnel that we have.

Q. After the Dayton game you said Ty Roberson could have four rebounds the next game and the 18 wouldn't matter. Is the eight, nine and 12 he's had since then been the consistency you were talking about for him?
COACH BOEHEIM: Yes, we need every player to be consistent. For the most part our players have been consistent. And their effort has been consistent throughout. Tyler's effort has gotten better, and that's important that is has gotten better.

I think he's learned to fight through adversity and maintain his consistency better this year. Obviously I'd hoped for that last year. Sometimes it just takes a little bit longer.

But I think, as I said many times, we need seven guys to play. We need production and effort and results from seven guys to be effective at this level.

We have weaknesses, more so than we would like to. Everybody has to be in. Everybody has to be all in. One guy or two guys aren't going to carry this team anywhere.

Q. Has your full-court press ever been as effective as it was last weekend in Chicago? Is that something that you only use when you're down late or do you ever use it early or ahead?
JIM BOEHEIM: We used to press all the time. We had better personnel for it. Our personnel is not suited for it right now. It was good for four minutes against Virginia and two minutes against Gonzaga. I wouldn't trust it too much longer than that. I didn't.

We took it off when we took the lead with five minutes to go in the Virginia game because I didn't think it was that good, even though we got a couple steals. Virginia shot themselves in the foot. They missed a layup. They walked. They made a bad turnover. They did the right things, they were in the right position, but they didn't execute.

When you give a team two-on-ones and they miss two or three of them, they're a good team, the odds are that they're not going to miss the next couple. That's why we got out of the press.

Our press is very, very not good. That's what it is. It's very not good. We used it once this year that it was successful, Virginia Tech. It was successful because they went down and missed two layups. That's not a good press. That's bad offense.

We tried it against several other teams, and we gave up about 90% shooting in those other situations. If you actually went back and documented it, I don't do that because I got a pretty good idea. Probably wasn't 90, it was probably 80. But our press was not effective. People went through it like it wasn't there. Louisville comes to mind. A few other teams come to mind.

I think a press can work. We work on it. It's not like we don't work on it, then we're going to use it. A lot of teams do that with zones. They don't work on it, they try to use it in games, they wonder why it doesn't work.

We practice our press from the first day. You know that. Actually, we practiced almost every day for four weeks, then during the season we don't use it as much. But we do practice it. We practiced it one day before the Virginia game.

But the players did an unbelievable job in it. Virginia's players made a couple mistakes that they normally wouldn't make. The reason we wouldn't press in the beginning of the game is because we know we're going to be in a tough game, we know that they're probably going to be ahead of us, because the three times we played them, they've been ahead of us.

We don't want to press them, give them two baskets that they can get ahead of us easier. We'd like to make it hard for them to get ahead of us if they're going to.

That's why we don't use it. Even really good pressing teams don't press some teams because they don't want to give up easy baskets. We're not a really good pressing team. There are not really any good pressing teams anymore because it's hard to press good teams.

Whenever you press, you double-team the ball. If you're double-teaming the ball, there's a guy open. Good teams find that guy.

But, again, in a desperate situation, at least we have something we can go to. If we didn't have it against Virginia Tech, we definitely wouldn't have been in this tournament, like people thought we maybe shouldn't have been. If we would have lost that game, to a pretty good team, we wouldn't have been.

They would have been 11-7 in the Big -- ACC -- woops, almost slipped. Damn that word. 40 years, what do you want, you know?

But anyway, they would have been in the tournament, we would have been out of the tournament if we didn't make those plays.

So, yeah, I mean, the press always seems to help you once or twice, but if it's not a really good press, it's not something we would use.

When I played, we pressed every game for 40 minutes, every game. We had some guys. We had Dave Bing and a couple other guys who were pretty good at it. So that's the press. I guess we covered that one.

I can do a clinic here, if you want (smiling). I only do clinics on the 2-3 zone, so I can't really do it on anything else. 200 I've done in the last number of years.

Q. Speaking of 40 years, do you keep in touch or have you with Roy Danforth? Do you have any recollections you'd like to share?
COACH BOEHEIM: We had the whole team up right at the end of the year. We had a little party afterwards with those players. Great memories. At that time, it was the greatest thing that ever happened to Syracuse basketball. We beat the No. 1 team in the country, North Carolina. Phil Ford, Mitch Kupchak, Walter Davis, Tom LaGarde, I think Kuester was our fifth starter. Might not have been. Anyway, I know four of them, that's pretty good (smiling).

It was an unbelievable win, an unbelievable team, how they played. Beat Kansas State, tied the game with five seconds to go, down two. It was a great thing. It was great to see Roy. He's been back a few times. He was a freshman coach when I was on the varsity. Of course, I worked with Roy.

It was really good to see all those guys back in Syracuse.

Q. What is your introduction in your clinic on the 2-3 zone?
COACH BOEHEIM: You know, it's pretty much standard. Like this is Jim Boeheim, this is all he knows, so we're going to have him talk about the 2-3 zone.

I tried one clinic to start with something else. There were 400 coaches there. They started getting restless. I knew right away, Okay, we'll talk about it.

It's amazing. You do four, five a year. Probably I used to do ten. High school coaches come up to me every clinic I've ever done and say, Thanks, coach. We used it. We won the state championship. That's a good feeling when that happens.

College coaches aren't going to use the zone because they played man-to-man as a player. They coached for somebody who played man-to-man. They got their first job playing man-to-man. They're not going to come in and change their philosophy.

I think more coaches are using a little zone now as a change when the other thing isn't working. So I think it's a little bit.

But coaches are going to pretty much stick with what they've always done, I think.

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Syracuse student-athletes.

We'll continue with questions.

Q. Jim, what does this mean for someone like DaJuan Coleman to be a contributing member? What does he do well against UNC specifically?
COACH BOEHEIM: DaJuan has really improved as the season has gone along, which you would hope, after not playing for two and a half years practically. I think he's had a great year. I think he's got potential, now that he's getting this time, he stays healthy, to even be better.

But he's a very important player for us in the middle. I'm really happy for him because he's a guy, I know we've never had a guy that couldn't play for two years, had to rehab every day for two years.

His rehabs, it's not like what adults get hurt and they have to rehab an injury. They go to the guy for 30 minutes, that's the rehab. He rehabs for three hours a day. He did it every day for two years, summer, spring, fall, winter, without the ability to play in a game. I don't know if I could have done that.

I mean, it's a hard rehab. I mean, he never hesitated. I don't think he ever missed a day in two years. I'm happy that he's been able to get back and be able to play really.

Going into this year, I would say we were 50/50 that he would last 10 games. So we're happy that he's been able to get through this. It's been great. I know his teammates really admire what he's put himself through.

Could you see yourself doing that, Trevor and Mike?

TREVOR COONEY: Not the way DaJuan did it, no.

COACH BOEHEIM: It's a great story, really is. It's a great story.

Q. Michael, what did you get out of the experience you had at Duke? In what ways have you grown most since you've been at Syracuse?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: I think the whole Duke experience was just an eye opener for me. You know, coming out of high school, I thought I was ready to play. I kind of found out that I wasn't.

I think one of the biggest things I took from my whole Duke experience was just how to approach the game of basketball from a work-ethic standpoint. Coming out of high school, I wasn't in good shape. I was always tired when I was at Duke. That was just a huge focus for me leaving, just making sure I was in shape.

Q. In what ways have you grown most since being at Syracuse?
COACH BOEHEIM: Best thing is I don't yell at him anymore, right (smiling)?

MICHAEL GBINIJE: That's definitely a good thing (laughter).

As I've been at Syracuse, I think I learned a lot both on and off the court. I think from a maturing standpoint, I matured into a young man.

Q. Trevor, you were part of the team that went to Atlanta a couple years ago. What lessons have you been sharing with the younger guys that haven't been through an experience like this?
TREVOR COONEY: That was just an amazing run we went on as a team. I've told the guys, I learned from that experience, how to come together as a team, as a group, to play for each other. That's what I've been telling these guys.

But when you get to the Final Four, you kind of have to take everything in. The courts are a little bit different. Good we had a good practice day yesterday.

Q. I asked Coach Boeheim about the personality of this group. He said he thinks maybe you took on the personality of the head coach. If so, what would that be?
TREVOR COONEY: Uhm, I don't even know how to answer that one (smiling).

COACH BOEHEIM: I was joking a little bit. These guys have a good personality, they really do.

TREVOR COONEY: I mean, we're laid back, I would say. Everyone enjoys everyone's company. Everyone hangs out. It's definitely a fun group to be around.

MICHAEL GBINIJE: Yeah, overall the personality I think of the team as a whole is a very fun environment, but still competitive.

Q. Michael, your time at Duke, now you find yourself in the Final Four playing their rival in this Final Four, is there some strange symmetry for you? You're in one school, now playing their rival for a different school?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: Playing in the ACC, Carolina, Duke, Louisville, there's a bunch of good teams at the top. Carolina's definitely one of them. You get excited for games like these.

But when I was at Duke, the Duke-UNC rivalry was something special. I kind of moved on from that. I'm just approaching this game as I would any other game right now.

Q. Mike, you have a great relationship with your younger brother. It's been well-documented. What does it mean to you you'll be playing in a Final Four in front of him?
MICHAEL GBINIJE: I consider him and my mom to be good luck charms. Whenever they watch me play, I think me and the team overall have good success.

So for them to participate in the stands and watch us play, I think it's good for us.

Q. Trevor, you played Carolina tough both times this year. What do you learn from those two games, what do you take from it to get over the hump?
TREVOR COONEY: I think it gives you some confidence going into this game. I mean, we can play with these guys. We had them at home. They went on a run at the end of the game. We went into Carolina late in the year and played well. Once again we were there at the end. We just couldn't get the stops we needed or score enough to really get back into the game.

I think it just gives us the confidence to go into this game, that we can play with these guys. If we play the way we've been playing defensively, I think we'll be fine.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us.

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