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March 27, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Oregon Ducks head coach Dana Altman.
Q. Dana, Roy was just talking about kind of some of those Kansas State battles, and he talked about you guys had some rides together to the Big 12 meetings. What is your kind of past and friendship relationship with Roy?
COACH ALTMAN: You know, that was a long time ago. But, yeah, we had some good games back at Kansas, Kansas State. Unfortunately, for me, he won most of them.
But he was doing a great job at Kansas. And we upset him a couple times. We did have some times off the floor at the old Big Eight meetings. He and his wife were really good to Reva and I. And he's had a great deal of success.
We've done some fundraising for Coaches Vs. Cancer together in the last couple of years, along with Coach Kruger and his events. So I've had some time to spend with them and some of the Nike retreats. So spent a lot of time with him. He's a great guy and obviously a great coach.
Q. You mentioned you were in Kansas City last week. That win over him when they were ranked No. 1. Sound like you can run through that entire game in terms of your memory. What sticks out from that one at Allen?
COACH ALTMAN: That was a good one for us. That was '94. They were the No. 1 team in the country and we went into Allen and played a really good game. And our guys stepped up, and, like I said, it was one of the times we got him. It was a big upset, and really happy with the way the guys played that day.
Q. Looking back at your ties with Kansas State, Frank Martin's ties and Roy being there, is there something special about this that kind of feels like old-home weekend?
COACH ALTMAN: Well, I'm not sure it's that far. But, no, I've known Frank since his days at Kansas State. And obviously known Coach Williams a lot longer.
But a lot of our past has run through the state of Kansas. And we all share that in common. No doubt.
Q. What do you draw on, what do you think you draw on most from your days at Kansas State as your career has moved along and now you've gotten to this point?
COACH ALTMAN: Well, that was a long time ago. I had 16 wonderful years at Creighton. I really enjoyed my time there and seven years here. So going back 23 years, I worked for Coach Kruger there for three years, went to Marshall for a year and then came back to Kansas State for four.
And I enjoyed my time, my seven years there and very early in my career. And so a lot of good times. Real good time for my family. Two of our children were born in Manhattan. So a lot of strong feelings towards Kansas State.
Q. Dana, I remember in the press room after the Civil War after the regular season, you were really sounding concerned about the rebounding back then. You had a lot of reasons to be happy about your team, but rebounding you thought was something that you guys could be better at. And then you go ahead and lose Chris, and yet ever since his injury you have actually been better at limiting opposing offensive rebounds. Is there something -- obviously Jordan has been playing exceptionally well -- but is there another answer there for how rebounding which was obviously a concern, really turned into a strength for you guys this tournament.
COACH ALTMAN: I think all the guys have picked it up a little bit, just knowing that Chris isn't there, we've relied so much on Chris and Jordan to block shots and rebound.
When Chris was out of the lineup, obviously Jordan's picked up his numbers dramatically. And I think our guards have done a better job. At halftime the other day, I think Tyler Dorsey didn't have any. And I got on him and Dylan Ennis a little bit to rebound, and Tyler had five the second half.
So I think our guys are more conscious of it because Chris isn't with us. But we will have our work cut out for us on Saturday.
North Carolina is probably the best rebounding team that we faced all year. And their offensive rebounding gives them an opportunity to score. They score pretty good on the first shot, but offensively their offensive rebounding numbers are off the charts. So we'll have to do a great job on the boards Saturday.
Q. Just talking about Roy Williams and your relationship with him, what have you learned or admired about him just in coaching and as a person?
COACH ALTMAN: His consistency year in, year out, first of all, the longevity. I mean, he's been there and done that for a long time at Kansas. Now at North Carolina.
Outstanding teams year in, year out. And the consistency with how hard his teams play game in, game out.
So not only are they consistent from year to year, but game in, game out, they just perform. And obviously his relationship with his players and relationships with other coaches, he's very well respected in the coaching ranks.
And he's done an outstanding job for a long, long time. And as a coach I admire that like I think the coaching profession does.
Q. You got asked some questions about your early coaching days. I want to take you back a little farther to what got you to Eastern New Mexico University to play, and what do you kind of remember about what are the highlights you remember about your time playing there at Eastern?
COACH ALTMAN: Well, the reason I attended Eastern, I played junior college ball in Nebraska, and I was going to go to Chadron State.
But Larry Riley took the job at Eastern New Mexico, so I went with him. I owe a lot to Coach Riley. He's still one of my mentors, someone I still stay in touch with all the time.
And so my two years at Eastern, I didn't have many highlights as a player. I was awful. I would have sure hated to coach me, that's for sure.
But I really enjoyed my time there playing for Coach Riley. I really enjoyed -- and, like I said, I've stayed in touch with him throughout my coaching career. In fact, I talked with him this morning. He lives in Phoenix now and is going to come to the games.
So it was a long time ago but I had a great two years ago and really respect and admire Coach Riley.
Q. One of your assistants, I had covered when he was the interim head coach at New Mexico State, how has it been like to work with Coach Stubbs?
COACH ALTMAN: Coach Stubblefield is an outstanding coach. He's a big reason we're in this position. Outstanding recruiter. Outstanding teacher on the floor. Big part of our staff. He's been with us all seven years here at the University of Oregon.
And he's done an outstanding job. I've been able to do this for a long time and he's one of the best, there's no doubt about that.
Q. I think there were 26 Canadians in the tournament to start. You obviously have three of them on your roster. Could you just say a little something about the talent you've seen coming out of Canada, and specifically the CIA Bounce program in the last few years. And obviously if you could talk specifically about what Dylan Ennis has brought to your program at his age.
COACH ALTMAN: Well, first of all, we've been here seven years, and we've had seven young men from Canada on our team. And they've been great to work with. The three on this year's team, Dillon Brooks and Dylan Ennis and Chris Boucher were a huge part of our team. All three of them over the last two years, Dillon Brooks for three years, have been a big part of whatever we've accomplished. They've been great to work with.
Really enjoyed having them on campus, all seven of them. It started with Devoe Joseph and Olu Ashaolu our second year here.
We started a pipeline. And they've done a great job for us. We do have a commitment. We've signed a player from Toronto again for next year. And so it's been a strong relationship and they've done a great job for us.
In Dylan Ennis's case, he's a young man that transferred in as a graduate transfer from Villanova. When he went down a year ago with a foot injury, it was a devastating loss for our team.
But Casey Benson and Tyler Dorsey really picked it up a year ago, enabled us to still win the Pac-12 and go to the Elite Eight.
NCAA gave him a sixth year, which was great. And he's come back and been a big part of our team. Played really well against Kansas the other night. But his maturity and leadership has really helped us this year.
Q. Dana, what kind of numbers did you put up at Eastern New Mexico?
COACH ALTMAN: Ooh, they were awful. I'm not sure what they were. I came off the bench. I didn't start many games in either year.
And we weren't real good. So it wasn't a very impressive career, that's for sure.
Q. What I wanted to ask you was North Carolina was obviously in the Final Four, national championship game last year, and Roy's been there a good number of times. Does that give North Carolina a tangible advantage over Oregon, Gonzaga and South Carolina, just the fact that they've been on that stage and the other three teams haven't?
COACH ALTMAN: I think so. I think it does. Their players are experienced. They went to the final game last year. Coach Williams has been there, done that. This is a new experience for our players, for our coaching staff.
And I was on the phone with Lon Kruger last night trying to get some advice, and Mike Montgomery this morning, two coaches been to the Final Four, just trying to get some thoughts on what to avoid and what to embrace.
Because it is a new experience, like you said, for our coaching staff and players, and we want to try to help our players as much as possible. And make them as comfortable as possible.
Try to get the routine the same, and hopefully it will be very similar to the last two weekends, which are we just went into a four-team tournament.
But this is a bigger stage. Our guys obviously are aware of that. And the crowd's going to be much bigger. Much more open arena. So our guys are going to have to make that adjustment.
Q. Do you think in some ways playing in Kansas City in front of all but a handful of the people there being Jayhawk fans, even though you may not run into the so-called, being the visiting team like you were there, do you think that all helps in some ways the fact that you were going against a hostile crowd?
COACH ALTMAN: I think it did sharpen our focus. Our guys realized that we had a little bit more of an obstacle to come in Kansas City with all their fans. I think our guys prepared for that, realizing that it was going to be noisy and we weren't going to get the support that we would get on a neutral floor or at home and thought our guys did a good job.
I think we'll have a good contingency there. North Carolina, obviously, their fans are used to going to the Final Four. And I'm sure there will be a lot of them there, but we'll have a good contingency from Oregon and it will much more of a neutral court there than it was in Kansas City.
Q. Since you play there every year, I wondered what you thought of Las Vegas, it's in the news today with the Raiders going there.
COACH ALTMAN: Well, our conference tournament, we moved there five years ago. And, man, it's unbelievable. The crowds. Our fans wanting to go to Vegas. And it's been great for our league, our conference, we played in the new building this year and the place was full. And Arizona travels well.
But all of our schools' attendance has picked up just because it's easy to go to. You can price range different on where you want to stay at a hotel and so you can go as a family. And it's been really good for our conference.
I think Las Vegas is a great place for athletic events. Just because people can go there and if their team happens to lose they still have something to do for a few days and it's been really good for our league.
Q. Could you see an NCAA, not regional, but first round being played there, because that would be the building?
COACH ALTMAN: You know, I can. I know there are other concerns that the NCAA will address. But that facility, without a doubt, is big-time facility.
We were really fortunate in this year's tournament, we played the conference tournament in a new facility in Vegas. Sacramento, great facility, new. And then the Sprint Center in Kansas City was a great venue. So we've played in three outstanding venues the last three weekends.
And all the buildings and the support in each of the cities was great. So we've been very fortunate.
Q. Also real quick, Jordan Bell, talking to him on the floor Saturday, Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey, brought up the fact that this was big for West Coast basketball. Is that something that's big to you, do they take pride in it, do you? Go ahead.
COACH ALTMAN: Well, they're both from the West Coast. Tyler's from L.A. and Jordan is from Long Beach. So it meant a lot to them and it means a lot to our conference. It's been 2008, UCLA in the Final Four.
So our league has addressed it. We needed to get further in the NCAA Tournament. And fortunately we were able to represent the Pac-12 this year.
And I think West Coast basketball this year was very good, obviously with Gonzaga, not in our league, but UCLA and Arizona, especially Arizona the last five years, six years since I've been in the league, Arizona has represented our conference really well. Sean's done an outstanding job, and our league, our conference needed to get to the Final Four and we're very happy that we're the representative.
Q. You mentioned a moment ago that Ennis has given a lot of maturity and leadership to your team. He's 25. And there's a big difference between someone who is 18 and 25 or even 20 and 25. Do you find that your younger players are listening to him or following him, and will they be more interested in some things he has to say than the coaches have to say?
COACH ALTMAN: I don't know. I think they do respect his experience. But we have other experienced players on the team. Jordan Bell has been with us three years and Dillon Brooks has been with us three years, and Casey Benson. So those guys all have a tremendous amount of experience that's been positive. They've been in the NCAA Tournament three years in a row, Elite Eight last year and Final Four this year. So I think they all feel confident about their experience level.
The only freshman who is playing a lot is Payton Pritchard who starts at the point for us, and Kavell is coming off the bench as a junior college transfer. So it's their first year.
But the other guys are pretty experienced but Dylan Ennis does give us some leadership. He's a very vocal young man. He does emphasize and reemphasize what the coaches say. And so he's been a solid leader for us throughout the year.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports