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March 24, 2017
San Jose, California
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Gonzaga head coach Mark Few and student-athletes Josh Perkins, Nigel Williams-Goss, Przemek Karnowski, Johnathan Williams and Jordan Mathews.
COACH FEW: We're obviously excited to still be playing in what I consider, and I think these guys agree, the greatest sporting event in the world. We feel fortunate but also I think satisfied that we got through that thing last night. Have the ultimate respect for how tough and physical West Virginia is, but, like I said, these guys are every bit as tough and resilient, shown it all year.
And definitely Xavier has our full attention. I mean they are on an absolute roll, shooting the ball probably as good as anybody in the tournament right now. And so we've got our hands full with a short prep.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Their changing defenses and how quickly they can do that, what is the challenge then for you and your staff in this short window? And maybe if one of your guys could speak about them having to execute and recognize those changing defenses on the floor then?
COACH FEW: I think we're just -- we'll just keep doing what we do, which is -- I don't know how concerned we'll be. These guys are pretty intuitive about the difference between a 1-3-1 and a 2-3 and how to attack it. And so I don't think we're going to get too caught up in that. And just keep doing what we do as far as moving the ball and trying to get it up and down the floor and turn down a good one for a great one and hopefully we'll shoot it well tomorrow.
Q. Nigel, you've played at a school that has a pretty prominent football program and a school without a football program. Could you compare and contrast those experiences as a basketball player?
NIGEL WILLIAMS-GOSS: Gonzaga is absolutely a basketball school without a football team, and the whole school, the whole community really rallies around our program. It's a special place to be because of that support. They're a huge motivation for us. We just feel blessed and honored to have such a great fan base. And, like I said, there's a huge motivation for us to go out there and compete at the highest level every single night.
Q. Mark, Chris Mack said he found your monkey and wondered if you wanted to arrange to pick it up later from him.
COACH FEW: Nice.
Q. Could you talk about the problems that Trevon Bluiett presents any opponent?
COACH FEW: I mean, I don't know, maybe Josh Jackson or somebody or Mason is on as big a roll as Bluiett is right now. Some of those, it doesn't even look like he's looking at the rim and they're going in. And tough shots, closely guarded shots.
So I think the big thing for us is to try to make him work as hard as he can so he doesn't just get easy touches and he doesn't get any easy looks. And if he makes closely-guarded shots and we do everything we can with a hand up and it's contested, that's all we can do. But the biggest thing is taking away some of those easy ones off of some of their actions.
Q. I'm just curious, how often do younger coaches sort of seek your counsel about their careers, who maybe are in the position you were in back in 2000, 2001, when you're the, quote/unquote, hot guy? And what do you tell them?
COACH FEW: It's sad that I'm not considered younger anymore. (Laughter) I think one of these guys even called me middle-aged this year and I had to take a step back. It's true, though.
Yeah, we get asked that a lot. I think not just me. I think Mike Roth, my AD, and our administration get asked a lot on what can we do to be the next Gonzaga. I mean, I think they should be asking what can we do be the next Gonzaga or Xavier, when you look at the success Xavier's had.
I just think it's unique. It's unique to our school, where it was at that point in time, their willingness to grow. It's been unbelievable how they've understood that a winning basketball program can really build a brand that opens up all kinds of opportunities for the entire school. And it's a win-win for everybody when it's done right.
And I think the community has also realized that, too. And I think it was a unique point in time in Spokane that we came on the scene, and we've been fortunate to feel all that attention and feel that love. And it's just been a combination of all those things.
Q. How did you know that it was the right time -- how did you know back then it was the right time to sort of build it as opposed to bounce like some other coaches might do?
COACH FEW: I didn't. I didn't. I mean, I just knew that first time in '99 we didn't want to be a one-hit-wonder. And I knew if we could just keep growing incrementally every year -- and the challenge is still to do that, quite frankly, is to not be satisfied and happy.
And as long as the school, the administration and everybody's willing to keep growing, the program has shown that it can -- it's a 2X, 5X, 10X investment if you want it to be for everybody. And I had no idea at the time what it was going to do it. We were just trying to get better every year, try to be a little bit better in every phase we could.
Now, obviously you look at this group of guys now, up here, the recruiting level has picked up and that's not a slight to our other guys. We've had some great talent back in the days, but those were more evaluation situations where we really evaluated high-level talent like Matt Santangelo, who's in the back of the room. That guy could play anywhere, but maybe wasn't recruited as hard as some of these others.
Q. Przemek, could you speak to the transition when you moved came to Gonzaga and adjusting to life in the U.S.? And obviously you're very comfortable now, how that happened, evolved?
PRZEMEK KARNOWSKI: It was a tough transition for sure, not only from the basketball standpoint but also from cultural standpoint and language and all that kind of stuff. So, first year, I had a great support system with Kevin and Rem who, helped me to just kind of adjust to all that stuff.
And probably one of my biggest worries when I was coming here wasn't playing basketball here but just to become eligible and do good in classrooms. So I thought our academic advisor and the entire academic team helped us a lot. And just to be able to be here five years later and never really had problems with school and play with these guys year-round, I think it's been huge -- it's been huge for me and for all the people that helped me.
Q. For J3 and Przem, now that you've tasted a little bit of the promised land about bringing the ball down the floor, are you going to be able to get back in the paint tomorrow, I mean, a point forward and point center? And for the guards, are you worried? Are you going to get some limited touches now that J3 is knocking down 3s and Przem's bringing the ball down the floor?
PRZEMEK KARNOWSKI: For me, I took two dribbles and called timeouts. I don't know if you can -- I don't think you can call it point guard skills. But I thought J3 was great with that, just kind of making sure that we don't get the 10-second count, and when the guards had problems and they were denied, he was huge for us, just making sure that the ball goes over the half court.
NIGEL WILLIAMS-GOSS: If I can play on the block for 30 minutes of the game, Coach knows I would be happy.
COACH FEW: Definitely, definitely.
NIGEL WILLIAMS-GOSS: So if we want to switch roles, we could definitely spark a deal.
Q. Mark, can you speak to Przem's personality? That answer seems to convey the spirit he has and what sort of impact he makes on this team beyond basketball.
COACH FEW: Hey, again, I think hopefully everybody's familiar with everything that he went through. A year-plus ago, a couple months, we weren't sure he was going to ever play basketball again. We were just all hoping and wishing he'd get back to moving and being able to handle just general activity in life.
And for him to be all the way back where he is now is a total miracle and is a credit to him and the doctors and the trainers and everybody involved because it wasn't looking good there in January/February. So great story. And I think all of us are overjoyed that he is back and just feel blessed to be able to coach him, play with him, and just I think everybody realizes just how effective a player he is on both sides of the ball and so instrumental to our success.
Q. You guys played in so many lopsided games this year. How do you kind of keep your team prepared for the intensity of these last five minutes of close games in the tournament?
COACH FEW: You know, I think early on we had some games like that. When you look at our games in the Orlando tournament, the Ohio State game was very, very much like the West Virginia one, the way it ended. We had to switch out everything and guard the 3 line.
And it was a competitive game with Florida, if I remember right. And even the Arizona game was highly, highly competitive possession by possession. So we had those. And then actually once we got into our league tournament, those were not easy games for us. There were ones we really had to fight through some adversity of some sort, whether it was offensive or defensive or a little bit of both.
And then obviously these games in the NCAA Tournament have been very close and hard fought. So I think we've experienced enough of that now that we're kind of battle tested.
Q. Back when the Big East was coming together, with Xavier, when they went in, there was some talk that you guys might be interested in some sort of arrangement with them, whether it was membership or affiliate or some sort of thing. How close was that ever to becoming a reality? And how much input did you have on whether or not you guys could do that?
COACH FEW: I don't really know how close it was. I know there was talk, and how serious it was, who knows. And again it's kind of above my job description and grade. But I certainly voiced -- my message to them has always been whatever's best for us, whatever is best for Gonzaga that will continue to grow us at the highest level is what we want to do.
So I think we're open to anything. The West Coast Conference, it gets maligned sometimes at times this year, but I think everybody got to see how good Saint Mary's was. And it was nice to have another top-20, top-25 team in there you could play three times. And BYU was a top-100 team. And Santa Clara rose up as did San Francisco.
That helped better -- our metrics were really, really good this year coming into the tournament. But that being said, whatever is going to be best for Gonzaga moving forward is what we're going to do. Just kind of the way it is.
Q. To piggyback off that you were talking before about how you and Xavier are similar programs. I think at this point it's probably safe to say outside of the traditional Big East schools and Power Five schools, you are the two preeminent non-football schools in this country at this point. Given how often we see the later rounds of the tournament filled with teams that are from these Power Five conferences, with the football infrastructure that they have, is there any sense of pride for you tomorrow in the regional finals? It's going to be a showdown between two elite schools that don't have that infrastructure behind them?
COACH FEW: I obviously am happy and hope it's us that moves on, but I've always had a healthy respect for Xavier, just all the way back -- we played them when Sean was there in the NCAA Tournament. I think we had Adam Morrison, and we knew how good they were. And we watched when they made the runs to the Elite Eight.
I think the little, kind of sneaky dark, little secret sometimes with the NCAA Tournaments is how many of the non-football schools end up playing each other within this tournament and knocking each other out. And nobody seems to ever talk about that. And so I think that makes it a little hard. If we were displaced differently -- which again is too tough to do in the bracket, but it seems like that plays itself out a lot in the earlier rounds, too.
We had Dayton playing Wichita State and things like that. So I think nobody ever talks about that; they just kind of compile the numbers and line up the stats that benefit their argument.
Q. Along those lines, you mentioned Dayton-Wichita State game. There was a lot of talk about that --
COACH FEW: That was a great game. That was a possession-by-possession game. I watched that entire thing. I was totally impressed with both teams.
Q. And there were a couple other matchups like that. There was --
COACH FEW: There was VCU-Saint Mary's.
Q. There was a lack of seeds really from, outside the Big East, from a lot of these other conferences this year. Is there anything you would suggest to try to change the way that this is approached moving forward, to try to better balance some of the stuff out?
COACH FEW: It's hard. Look, I'm on an NABC ad hoc committee that's trying to help with the tournament, and it's been great. There's a group of us on there that we have these discussions and it's interesting to see all the different places that people come from, whether it's seeding, whether it's getting into the tournament. Whether it's -- I think we made some really, really nice steps here.
I like what's happening, revealing the top 16, I think was good for the sport. And I think probably having that transparency opened up some things. I think that's all coaches want is just tell us -- that was the message that came out of all of our meetings was just tell us what we need to do, whether it's road wins or top-50s and all that.
Then we got into the top 50s and I think we're making some real ground up with the composite, combining all these things so we don't have these crazy outliers that we have with the RPI, which happens kind of year in, year out. I think we use more of the indexes you won't have as many outliers.
So I think it's a tough deal. You're comparing apples and oranges and games with players, without players. And I think the committee's done an awesome job, and it's just tough. It's really tough.
Q. How are your views on the role of transfers changed over the course of your career? And how big of an impact have your transfers had on this team?
COACH FEW: Well, I think back in the day, when I first got started, there was almost like a scarlet letter on people's foreheads on someone who transferred. Everybody thought it was bad guys or something went wrong or weren't good enough.
And over the years, we've came to find at Gonzaga, especially after you communicate with them and go through the process and really get to know each other, it's been a really, really valuable aspect to our recruiting and our program. I mean, they've all been phenomenal teammates for us.
And we've had some really, really good players that have really helped push us over the edge. And the ones, the guys we have this year, I don't even consider them transfers anymore because they've been here and in the family, they've just been great. They bought in and they wanted a culture like ours. They were longing for a culture like ours. And they really wanted to win. And they more than anything wanted to play in something like this. And cool thing is they delivered on their end and we delivered on our end. So that makes it pretty cool.
Q. Since you brought up the ad hoc committee, I don't know if you've been following the NIT or got a chance to see how that rule, the experimental rule they're putting in about resetting the fouls has worked. Especially in a game like you played last night, if that's something that you think maybe deserves a little more consideration?
COACH FEW: I haven't looked at it enough. I was watching one of those NIT games, and I didn't see exactly what the effect was. But there was a lot of fouling going on last night. Let's not kid each other. And that was a really, really difficult game for officials to try to work and officiate. And I thought they did as good a job as you could possibly ask anybody.
Those guys, they communicated with us. But we weren't going to give any ground on the physical side of things. And they sure as heck aren't going to give any ground there. And it was just two teams with an iron will and just trying to get through it. I don't know how that would have went with the new rules. But we're just dealing with the NCAA committee stuff. So fortunately.
Interesting group though. Hugs is on there, and Calipari is on there and some interesting personalities, makes for good discussions.
Q. Do you ever get a word in?
COACH FEW: Yeah, I don't want to bore you guys with it, but the irony is they look at me as this composite -- the composite guru, the index guy. I don't have an e-mail. I do not have an e-mail. I don't know how to do Snapchat. I don't know how to do Twitter. I don't know how to do any of these things.
And they all: Well, Few, he's a computer guy. He's got -- like, Hugs and Calipari are always giving me -- I'm like, I don't know what you're talking about; I know nothing about any of these things. So you're talking to the computer guy of the ad hoc committee here.
Q. In talking to you over the years, I get the sense that you probably care less about your legacy than maybe other people around you do. Is that a fair way of putting it, and can you explain would making a Final Four change the way you view your career at all, if you guys are able to win tomorrow?
COACH FEW: Again, my legacy is I guess built on a lot of other things. I mean, it's built on the respect my players have for me and how they feel about they were treated and coached and developed and all that.
I'm schlepping along right now like vastly far behind my father who is 54 years a Presbyterian minister, man. He's saved thousands of souls. He's helped hundreds and thousands of people through all their tough times, you know. And that's kind of the legacy that I'm looking at.
And just, like, I've got a long ways to go to get to first base living up to that guy's standard. He's a titan of a man, talking about the impact he's had on people. I've always just wanted the guys to just have the best that they could possibly have at Gonzaga.
The year they were there, the four years they were there, the five years they were there, the two years they were there, I want it to be absolutely the best. And that's all I cared about.
Never at one time have I focused on my record, my winning. So as far as going to a Final Four, I mean, I want it, desperately want it for this group of guys. I desperately want it for everybody who has played at Gonzaga, the players who have been such a huge part of that.
It would be awesome for the school and for the Spokane community to be able to feel good about and hang their hat on. But my legacy is going to be about other things, at least as far as I'm concerned.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports