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March 31, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by South Carolina head coach Frank Martin. Questions?
Q. Frank, Duane has been, I think, a very underrated defender all year. How vital has his defense been throughout this season and how vital will it be tomorrow?
COACH MARTIN: Just as your point guard initiates your offense, your on-ball defender initiates your defense. When your point guard's good offensively, your team is good offensively. When your on-ball guard is good defensively, your team is good defensively. They go hand in hand.
Even though he doesn't play the point on offense, he's our point on defense. And he's relentless. Kind of his career, relentless. That's hard. That's the hardest thing in basketball is guarding the basketball, guarding the guy with the ball. That's the most difficult thing to do in the game. And he's just relentless at it. And we're here and the big reason we're here is because of who he is and the way he does that.
Q. You said yesterday that nothing tomorrow will be as pressure-filled as 35 students, 27 desks, 18 textbooks. How on earth did you make that work? And was there anything you learned in the process that is at all applicable to what you're doing now?
COACH MARTIN: It's the same school that educated me, in the same community that raised me. I had no choice but to figure out a way to make it work, because I used to be one of those. And you have a responsibility to educate.
And when you embrace your job, you figure it out. You don't make excuses. You don't pout. You don't blame. It is what it is. And those kids were awesome. They understood the challenge. I had to be creative. It's hard to give homework assignments when there was no technology back in the day for people to go on the Internet and read stuff. That means you had to spend a lot of time on a copier machine making copies of things.
Made me understand -- here's another part of educating in that scenario. Sending homework assignments every night, not very productive. So you have to maximize your time in front of them to educate them. And that's what I try to do every day. I try to use every moment of every single day I've been in education to maximize my message, my vision, the opportunities.
I think we all dwell on negativity too much. We all worry about all the "can't" rather than the "how-to." And my job is to help young people figure out how to succeed, not dwell on the things that prevent them from succeeding.
Q. There's often talk about the advantage of a returning team to a situation or a tournament like this. Is there an advantage and how would you articulate that for a first-time team in a situation as big as this?
COACH MARTIN: I've always felt that experience helps to get back. Experience doesn't help the game you're playing. The game you're playing is a game. And how you manage yourself day to day to day allows you to be prepared to succeed when the game starts.
That's where experience, like North Carolina -- I don't want to speak for the other two coaches -- but that's the North Carolina players, I would think they understood as soon as their game ended -- when did they play? Just like us on Sunday? As soon as their game ended on whatever it was, Saturday or Sunday, those players that went through it last year, they understood what was getting ready to happen from a distraction standpoint, as you go through the week. The rest of us are trying to figure it out as we go through it.
I think that's where experience helps. Experience helps you manage your mindset, your emotions, as you prepare for something. But when the game goes up, everyone's nervous. I don't care how many Final Fours you've played in, every time you show up for that game you're going to be nervous. And anyone who says differently is not telling you the truth. I don't care how many games you've coached. You're always nervous for the next game on the schedule. It just, it is what it is.
But you have to lean on people in your life that have been through things to help guide you so then you can manage it the way you think it needs to be managed. I'm sure that when this week's over I'm going to sit at my house and I'm going to reflect, not just on all the good and the unbelievable moments, but on the things I did that maybe I should have done differently.
And so if ever I'm afforded to be around a group of kids as special as these guys, that take us on this ride again, I'm prepared to make some decisions better than I've made them this week. Right now I don't know if they're right or wrong. We'll figure that out whenever this is all over.
Q. On the distractions you've been talking about, how do you feel like your team's handled that? How have your practices been this week?
COACH MARTIN: This is what you can't gauge. I'm not one of -- if I were to show up and tell our players we're taking their cell phones from them, then they're going to see Frank's changed this week. I've never taken their cell phones from them. So I can't take them from them this week. So I don't know how they've managed this.
I know this has been an unbelievable distraction for me this week. So I can only imagine what it's like for them. But they've been great. They've stayed true to who we've been. I think us being so far away from home has not allowed family and friends to get here yet. I know most of my family, most of our players' families, are getting in today. And they're not distractions, they're the reason we're all part of this.
But they want our time. They want us to go take pictures. They want us to walk around with them, which I understand. We're going to have to start managing that today. And we've got a plan in place. I hope it's respected and it works.
Q. Sindarius said that you might want to limit him a little bit in practice today, but that's not going to be so easy to do. So what will you/won't you allow him to do?
COACH MARTIN: He's being way too nice. If I were to tell him he can't practice he'd probably leave and tell me he's not playing. He's wired to compete. It killed him. He said to me last night, he's probably not going to be happy, I'm going to share this with you, but he said to me last night, man, I feel like I'm letting everyone down. I said, huh? What is wrong with you? Letting who down? The game's Saturday. You'll be all right, man.
But that's just who he is. He feels that our guys practiced and he was not there to help them. That's who he is. But he's in good spirits. I've been giving him a hard time all morning, because I know he doesn't like it, that the rest of us worked yesterday and he laid around in bed and watched TV.
Q. Through all the travel, all the craziness, the issues with your cell phone, how much film have you gotten to watch on Gonzaga? And how does your team match up with the Bulldogs?
COACH MARTIN: Watched them a lot. I don't know how we match up with them. I'm one of those guys, I always feel we can't match up against anybody, but I'm going to make the statement of the year: They're real good. I've gotten to know Fewey off the court, and he's as competitive as anyone I've been around. But he's got an even keel to him.
And when you see his team play, they're as competitive as anyone out there, but if you cover the scoreboard, you wouldn't be able to tell who is up or who is down. If you just watch the game. Because they play every play the same way. They don't make mistakes. There's no bad body language. So if they're down six or up six, it's the same team. It's not -- their sense of urgency is the same way for every play.
And that's why they're so good. And we got our hands full. But we're also thankful for the SEC that they present unbelievable challenges for us every single night that prepared us for moments like this.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by student-athletes from South Carolina.
Q. I talked to Rodney McGruder about your style, your tough love, and he said it prepared him for the NBA. Have you ever thought throughout your career there was a moment where you thought to yourself: You know, I was a little too hard on this kid, maybe because my delivery overshadowed the message? Have you ever had one of those moments where, you know, you come back and think, whatever, my yelling and screaming, that didn't work in that particular case?
COACH MARTIN: You know, what is tough love? It's either love or there is no love. Right? I don't know. I don't know of any -- what is tough love? I don't know what tough love is. If people love you, they tell you the truth. They don't lie to you. So I hear tough love, and I've been hearing it for a long time. I don't know what that is.
If you love people, then that means that you're honest. That means there's trust in your relationship, and that means that there's loyalty in your relationship. All those words are two-way streets. Then you get the love. If you get the love, then you deal with the good and the bad the same way because of the commitment that you have to one another.
So I've never known what tough love -- I don't know what that is. People use that term all the time. Because if you're not being honest with your players and you're not giving them passion, then there is no love. That's phoniness. And, I don't know, it's my experience in 32, 33 years coaching guys like the ones to my left that if you're phony with them, they got no time for anything I say regardless of how nice I am.
If you're honest with them, they give you their hearts because then they realize you're trying to help them as people. When you're trying to help people as people, then you're being genuine. You're not being phony about a scoreboard. And that's what I've tried to do my whole life.
Rodney is a special, special dude. Now, do I think I ever go over the top? Not for tough love. Have I gone home days and said, you know what, I might have been too hard on a player? Absolutely. There's days I think I'm too hard on my own children. That's what an honest relationship is about. I'll come back and tell them, I'll say, man, what do you think? You understand? You realize what we're doing here?
I think that's part of having an honest relationship, which is the only way you can ever have love in it. But I really -- I'm not trying to be a smart you-know-what, I don't know what tough love is. It's either love or there is no love.
Q. Mark Emmert yesterday talked about diversity in coaching being on the downside right now. You being of Cuban decent, how do you kind of hold a torch? Or, like, for the other coaches, how does it change in college basketball?
COACH MARTIN: A kid I coached against, of Cuban decent, when he was a high school player, just got a head job this year, Mike Balado. He was with Coach Pitino at Louisville. It's a big responsibility that we have. Like I tell them, think about the power that these young men have made in our state right now.
You know how many young kids are running around in our state saying, God, I want to be like them. I want to be on that stage one day. I want to represent myself the way these guys represent, not on the scoreboard, but when they speak and articulate, the way they take care for one another. That's part of our responsibility in this journey.
It's not about us; it's about the others that have helped us understand how to manage things to get to this moment. And then for us to give back and open doors for others like us to have the faith, the belief that they can do this one day too.
Q. Back in October you said Chris and PJ were going to take big steps forward. I'm wondering what you saw back then to give you that confidence?
COACH MARTIN: Eight, 31, 52, 58, 64. You know what that is? It's the Power Ball numbers. (Laughter) Those numbers come out, man, we're in trouble if we didn't buy them. I live with these guys. I know what they're about. I wasn't just drawing straws, I wasn't trying to promote something, trying to make people feel good.
I live with them. I know what they're about. I know what they go through every day. I know where their heart is at. I know where their minds are at. I know the commitment that they have to become better. I see it. I live it. I breathe it.
I wasn't trying to predict anything. I was just trying to be honest in what I thought was getting ready to happen. And we don't just show up and high-five each other two hours at practice and kind of go our separate ways.
That's why for the question before about Rodney McGruder, that's why it's a lifetime bond. That's why I don't know what tough love is. It's real commitments to one other.
I'm a better man because I get to coach guys like them. And hopefully, as they go through their journey, I did something to help them in their path.
Q. I was curious, during your time at Northeastern University as assistant coach, what was the biggest thing you took away from that experience? And at that time did you ever envision yourself here right now as the head coach of a Final Four team?
COACH MARTIN: Hard to live in Boston at 28 grand a year. Hard to live in East Providence and not own a car and commute into Boston every day and figure out a way to make it home at night when the commuter train stops running at 6:00 p.m. and practice doesn't end until 6:30.
But it is what it is. It kind of goes back to the question earlier. It's your job. You gotta figure out a way to make it happen.
And then you dream about it every day. If you don't dream about whatever it is that you do in your walk of life every day and trying to compete to be the best at it, then it's never going to happen. And if you dream it and you're not willing to work for it, it's never going to happen.
Sometimes you dream it and you work every day and it still doesn't happen. But you know what? Life becomes a whole lot of fun because you're fearless of your dreams and fearless of the work.
That's what I've tried to do every single day. That's what I've tried to share with these guys as they continue to go through their path and journey to enter manhood here pretty soon.
Q. You talked about family coming in to town. Maik said his parents are coming in Saturday. Can you imagine how special of a moment that's going to be, and how important is it for you and your team to embrace those players that are from other countries that come in?
COACH MARTIN: It's a special moment when these kids that never get to play in front of their families, all of a sudden that happens.
Like the guys from Lithuania we had, you know, their parents never made it in to see them until the very, the last two games of their senior year. They came in for the second to last and then the senior night game.
I remember how powerful it was for them. Every foreign guy I've had, the sacrifice that they make -- I spoke about it yesterday. Especially right after Christmastime, when everyone else gets to spend time with their families.
And as much as these guys try, because they all take these guys to their homes, whether it's my home or PJ's home or Sin's home, these guys do an unbelievable job of making all of our guys included in the journey that we're on together.
But when they leave those environments, they realize, like, that's awesome, that's a great family, but, dang, I miss my family. And so we always struggle with guys, foreign guys, right after Christmas.
But that's going to be great for Maik. And for them to be able -- and the NCAA gets beat up a lot. How awesome is it that the NCAA helps provide so these kids' parents can travel? Because you can ask them, they'll tell you, most of their families couldn't afford on their own four days before the trip to buy plane tickets and stay at $350-a-night hotels to come watch their kids play on this platform. NCAA gets beat up a lot. But I think that's something they should be applauded, the way they've worked to make this happen.
Q. There used to be a guy named Al McGuire, your coach will appreciate, in the late 70s. He said, "One day they're going to be playing basketball in giant stadiums in front of 50,000 people. Have you tried to envision what it's going to be like. You've walked onto some big stages in your career, but give me your take on what it's going to be like to walk out onto that floor?
DUANE NOTICE: I think it's an amazing experience. It's an opportunity -- I never fathomed the fact of playing basketball in a football stadium.
So I didn't think that was possible. So the fact that we're here and we're going to have the opportunity to play in front of a whole bunch of people and a whole bunch of fans and family is going to be an amazing experience that I can carry with me for the rest of my life.
SINDARIUS THORNWELL: It's great, man. The feeling of being here and everything that comes with it, and it's great for the fact that we've been counted out every step of the way and nobody believed that we would be here, and the fact that we're here and we're playing is just a great feeling to be here.
PJ DOZIER: Just the opportunity, man. It's a blessing. It really is. It's a blessing to be able to be on the national stage to play in such a huge game that you dream about playing all your life. It's a blessing.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports