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March 15, 2017

Mark Few

Nigel Williams-Goss

Jordan Mathews

Przemek Karnowski

Salt Lake City, Utah

Q. There was an article in The Guardian about Spokane and how Gonzaga is the shining beacon of light in a town that desperately needs basketball. Could you tell the real world what Spokane is like, and it's not as bad as I guess this write-up would suggest?
PRZEMEK KARNOWSKI: There's so many great things to do. I'm an outdoor guy. So I like to go out fishing, stuff like hunting. I think that's a great place to go to and you'll enjoy it, for sure.

And obviously just being there for so long I think people can come here and experience stuff that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

NIGEL WILLIAMS-GOSS: Just the people are so nice there. I think it's been a real shock for me. I've been a lot of places and just the reception that you get when you walk down the street, not just us as basketball players, but I feel like it's a real sense of community in Spokane. And there's a lot of things to do outdoors, a lot of places to go hiking, go to the river in the summer and go to the lakes, so it's a lot to do and the people are great. I feel like any place with great people is a good place to be.

Q. What's this moment like for you guys, going through this kind of historic kind of season? Is there pressure to finish it off or is it going through and doing something that's never happened at the school before?
NIGEL WILLIAMS-GOSS: We haven't really felt any pressure the entire season, we've been very goal oriented all year. Compartmentalized the season; broke it up into nonconference, regular season, conference tournament, and now the NCAA tournament. So far we knocked off three out of our four goals. We wanted to have a successful nonconference; did that. We wanted to win the league; did that. And we wanted to win the conference tournament; and also did that.

We're just excited to have the opportunity to finish off what we all came here for and the vision that we had for ourselves starting the season. No pressure, just really excited and ready to play.

Q. I don't know if this is an easy answer, but what was the worst part of all of the bad things about having to sit out injured last season?
PRZEMEK KARNOWSKI: First of all, just not being able to play basketball for such a long time and not being able to be with my teammates. I had a great support system at the school, starting from coaches to all my teammates and to all the people in the Gonzaga and Spokane community. But when I started doing my rehab and things were going well at the rehab, no real setbacks, I was just happy to start jumping and start running, and then start playing with contact. I felt that those are huge steps for me. And now I'm back with the team, which I'm really happy about.

Q. You're now the all-time leader for wins. What does that mean to you? That's what the game is about, how did you get there?
PRZEMEK KARNOWSKI: I'm really happy. I'm excited about it. But at the same time I'm happy whenever I play my team wins, and that means a lot to me. And just being there on top, that says a lot about our program and what this program is all about. It's about winning. And I think when I got there I can give credit to all my coaches and all my teammates throughout the five years that I had a chance to work with.

Q. Do you guys get sick of hearing that your conference isn't as strong as maybe some of the other conferences out there and does that help, especially at a time like this in the season, motivate you to prove them wrong, and you really are a very, very good team?
JORDAN MATHEWS: You're going to hear the noise. When we were undefeated, everybody always had something to say. That's just the nature of sports. Someone is always going to have something negative to say about you. If we saved the world, someone would complain we didn't do it fast enough.

Staying ready and staying focused, staying with the inner core of guys, and not listening to the outside noise. It hasn't affected us at all.

Q. Gonzaga for many years has been the little guy playing big teams. Are you one program that can look at this kind of game and say we have to watch out, because for many years you guys were on the other end of the spectrum?
JORDAN MATHEWS: It's new for us. We approach every game like that. We never look down on a team or look at them like, Okay, it's going to be easy for us. South Dakota State is a great team. All the teams we played have had different weapons that have come at us.

It's not one of those things we're looking at, we're the big dog now, that chip is still the same. We've got to come out, compete, and do what we do.

Q. What makes Mike Daum so good? And going through this whole week, looking at his tape, what is the key to slowing him down?
PRZEMEK KARNOWSKI: He's a great offensive player. He's a big guy who can basically score from anywhere on the court, the dribble, going to the basket. So we practice a couple ways to guard him in practice -- I cannot share that -- but we'll be ready for tomorrow.

COACH MARK FEW: It's great to be invited back to the tournament. I think this is our 19th straight. We're very proud of that streak we have. And it's something that means everything to the program. And this team has done just an amazing job all year of putting us in position, night in and night out to earn their way back to what I think, and I think our team thinks, is the greatest sporting event in the world.

So hopefully we can come out and play well.

Q. How dangerous is it for you guys to be playing a 16 seed that basically has nothing to lose?
COACH MARK FEW: You know, that's one of the tough aspects of the tournament, where this isn't a seven-game series, where I think we'd fine. This is a one game, one night. And they have some very, very capable, talented players, dangerous players. And they're a hot team. They've won, I think six or seven in a row. And so it's 40 minutes. That's why you roll into this tournament, you've got to be good on Thursday morning, Thursday afternoon. I think that's what makes this tournament so special.

Q. The whole thing about it's always good to get a loss under your belt. I guess that's easy to say now. But at the time?
COACH MARK FEW: Didn't feel like it at the time.

Q. Did you get anything out of that?
COACH MARK FEW: It's really hard to say. One of my friends and people that I leave on and talk to, he said, we won't know for four or five weeks whether it was a positive thing or a negative thing. I don't know how you would. The thought that everybody was running around with prior to that, Well, it would be good for them to lose, I just thought that was ludicrous. You never coach or think about losing a game, especially when you're in that position.

But we chose to just take the positives out of it and understand we have a process in place, 29 times prior to that game we had stuck with the process and crossed the T's, dotted the I's and did our jobs. We kind of deviated from the process and it cost us that one game. And it's been nice to get back on track and doing what we're supposed to be doing.

Q. Does the tournament have a different feel as the No. 1 and as the program has evolved, the goals have increased through the years?
COACH MARK FEW: No question, yeah. No question. We came in, much like the question in the back, we had guns a blazing, nothing to lose, and especially that first run to the Elite 8. It was all new to us. And we were excited and giddy and felt like we were playing with house money. And now it's more a measured, leveled, and we know we've got a job to do. We've got to take care of the job.

But then I also think it's our job to make sure that we are still having fun. And 18- to 22-year-old guys that are -- that need to be excited, need to show emotion, and these are the best days of their lives and they need to enjoy it. So we have talks about that a lot. And it's really no different than our season very much became like that, also, now, too. They start out with very high expectations, and they continue to build and build and build. And so it's very much kind of on the plane with that.

Q. After that loss, was there someone on your team, in your locker room, whether it's you or the player, that kind of takes the reins and regroups and gets the team back on track?
COACH MARK FEW: It's basically my job, but we have a great system/organization at Gonzaga from me down to my assistants down all the way to the players are very much involved. And we've got some good leaders this year. And so it was everybody. It starts at the top.

Q. I'm sure you haven't had a chance to read it, but there was an article, wasn't flattering about the city of Spokane in The Guardian, and basically talked about how Spokane is a struggling town, I'm paraphrasing here, and Gonzaga is the only thing going for it. As a person who knows and loves Spokane, could you please let people know how great the city is?
COACH MARK FEW: Well, I thought this was a basketball press conference, we're going to social issues.

I have no idea what you're talking about or what the article is. But Spokane is a phenomenal place to live and call home. It's one of the big keys to this ascension of Gonzaga. It happened in a city that the people there are so loyal and so eager to have something that they can root for and pull for. But I find it to be a phenomenal place to live, just with all the outdoor recreation and activities and the climate.

The only bad time of year is when we're in the gym six and a half days, ironically, it starts warming up right when the season gets over, and starts cooling down right when the season starts. I find it to be a phenomenal place to raise a family, to have a basketball program, and seems like it's booming right now, business-wise and building-wise. I don't know who wrote it. It must be fake news (laughter).

Q. What are your impressions of Mike Daum and how does he compare to some of the better big men that you face?
COACH MARK FEW: Really, really impressed with Mike Daum. And totally reminds me of Kyle Wiltjer, just scores the ball so easy, ball goes in, never seems to get rattled. Has the ultimate green light. Has great confidence, shooting out to 28 feet is not a problem nor is it maybe a bad shot. And then he actually has a little bit -- getting going downhill, a bit like Adam Morrison could, he has a high shooting pocket like Mo had. We have some good guys over the years that were pretty good, like-type players.

Q. You guys mentioned the 19 consecutive tournament appearances. SDSU has made 4 in the last six to help raise the profile of mid-major basketball in the Midwest. What have you seen out of their program and how have you guys built the model that in some ways they're following?
COACH MARK FEW: I always cringe kind of when everybody -- when they want to be the next Gonzaga or do this or do that. I think every situation is unique. We've been in just an incredible growth mode since that first day when we made it in '99. And the school has been incredibly on board with that. As I said, the city of Spokane has been phenomenal and a great launching pad for that. Every situation is unique.

But that being said, South Dakota State has done a great job with building on their success. And you can tell in that conference tournament their guys kind of understood it was March now, and this is what we do, and we win these things and move on. They just had the look of a team like that. Anytime you get your program or your team to that point where they kind of expect to win those games and start chomping at the bit to get going deeper into March, that's a good thing.

Q. You sort of alluded to it earlier, but no matter how much you ignore it, the seed is looked at. Do you kind of just have that old cliché, throw the numbers out the window?
COACH MARK FEW: They do. The number is not going to get us another basket, not going to get us another rebound, not going to get us another stop. Once we get through all this stuff, it turns into a basketball game tomorrow at noon, and guys got to play, and guys got to make plays. And we've got to stick to our process and win those aspects that we talk within our program.

Q. The last time that this team was a 1 seed it was here in Salt Lake City. Was there any experience from being the 1 seed before that kind of helps out to be it again?
COACH MARK FEW: Well, I don't know that any of these guys were even on that team or around. Przem has been around for a while, but it's a minor role. Certainly none of these guys have been a part of that.

And the thing that I told them is they just need to be prepared for it's probably going to be a road type environment. It's just the nature of sports and everybody likes to root for underdogs. And if you're No. 1, there's not going to be a whole lot of people rooting for you, except the Gonzaga people. Just prepare for that. We've been great on the road all year. And just understand we need to come out with that type of hardened exterior and play great.

Q. Kind of following up on that, I know you're a favorite, but do you still -- do you think you don't get a little bit of love because you're Gonzaga and you're not Duke?
COACH MARK FEW: Well, we're not Duke. I'm not even close to Coach K.

Look, nobody could have given us any more respect than a neutral group of people granting us the No. 1 seed, a national group of basketball people on a committee gave us a No. 1 seed in this tournament. So I don't think we need to look for anything more than that.

But like I said, that's great and we'll be able to look back on this and it's another notch in the belt. We've already done it one time, but to follow it up and do it again is something that I think everybody, especially with the program, should be proud of. Again, after today, it just doesn't matter. We've got to play. We've got to play.

Q. What is it about the guys that they've been able to stay so focused throughout this historic run, because it's very easy when you have these expectations to just have an off night?
COACH MARK FEW: That's a great question. I think that's one of the other things with this team that has been truly remarkable. And I've been blessed to have great groups of guys and great teams, but these guys really haven't had a bad night. They've been really, really focused. We had that bad ten-minute stretch against BYU, but we also came out at the start of the game and led 20-4. We were ready to go.

So on the road, in the dog days of January, February, these guys have been focused, focused in games where maybe you might see them have their guard down when they were heavy favorites, they weren't. I think that's been really impressive. And it literally speaks volumes about their focus, their attention to detail and their ability on game night to rise up and make sure we're doing what we're supposed to be doing. But it's rare. Like I've said, some of my best teams have had those nights where they don't even look like your team. Like who the hell is this?

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