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March 14, 2018

John Beilein

Wichita, Kansas

THE MODERATOR: We understand, Coach, your first trip ever to the city of Wichita.

COACH BEILEIN: I thought right away our reception yesterday was terrific coming into the hotel. Got some great weather. We've had a pretty busy winter in Michigan, and the weather is great. So we're looking forward to this experience.

Q. With the long layoff for your team, where do you feel they're at mentally and physically heading in?
COACH BEILEIN: That's probably been the most asked question, and rightfully so. Because I think most of the power conferences you're used to some rhythm here. But I think back, Wichita State's been doing it for years when they were in the Missouri Valley and Gonzaga has been doing it out in the West Coast conference.

We used it as a time to -- we took three days off in a week, but never three in a row. We went back and worked on some things we really wanted to work at. We tried to play a scrimmage on Friday that simulated a game. I'll be interested to see how we do, but it will not become an excuse no matter what the results are.

Q. In your 40 years of coaching, have you ever had a ten-day layoff between games in the middle of the season?
COACH BEILEIN: Yeah. When I was both at Richmond and Canisius. In fact, a couple of times at Canisius and Richmond we were in the NIT as well. So it's happened five or six times.

You just go through it, but I've always looked at it as this is a great time for us to get healthy, and it's a great time for us to work with our guys, especially the young ones. It's almost like you have the practice before a bowl game in football. It's great time to develop your team.

So we were able to do some things with some of our younger guys in 20 hours a week that worked pretty good. Watched some film but also really get rest for some of these young men.

Q. Coach, in the time you've had to prepare for Montana, what jumps out at you? Any player specifically or style of play that makes them tough?
COACH BEILEIN: No. This is as solid of team as there is anywhere. They're only playing seven people, but I'm telling you those seven are fitting the pieces perfectly. Really impressed. They remind me, we had two great teams that made the NCAA from Canisius and Richmond. I think Richmond actually was a 14 seed, and we upset South Carolina who was a 3 seed. And they really have outstanding guards. They have just the right pieces up front, mix of inside, outside. The style is terrific. And they really guard you. They create turnovers, which is something that is always concerning to a coach. We're really good at not turning the ball over. They're really good at creating them. So that's going to be a big battle to watch tomorrow.

Q. Obviously I know don't want to think too far ahead, chance you could play San Diego State, a program built by Steve Fisher. He's retired now. I think he's been back on Michigan's campus once since he was fired, and that was for Bo Schembechler's funeral. Do you think it's time for him to maybe be recognized for his contributions to the university? Will you work maybe to bring him back now that he's retired?
COACH BEILEIN: Steve Fisher and I have been friends long back when he was Michigan coach, and he has gone out of his way over and over again to when I'm on the road, I'm traveling, whatever, the Nike trips, we have actually spent a lot of time together. Steve's a close friend, and I know that's in the plans.

Q. Can you elaborate a little bit?
COACH BEILEIN: I'd rather keep it right there. He's a great friend, and he did a fantastic job at Michigan, and he's a great friend of mine. And we're always thinking how we can bring former coaches and former players back. We've really done a great job. He's been coaching at San Diego State. So he could never make it back to some of our reunions. That's something we're very hopeful to do in the future.

Q. When you were at West Virginia, you guys played Montana in a tournament down in Florida when Wayne Tinkle was head coach. That was your last year at West Virginia. So how would you say you've evolved as a coach since then, or do you have any stories about Wayne or any other Montana coaches you might know?
COACH BEILEIN: That was when we were probably playing half the game 1-3-1 zone. Now we call 1-3-1 zone -- it's Bigfoot. Everybody talks about it and nobody sees it anymore. And we did a lot of that. The only reason I'm still coaching some 43 years later is because we changed like crazy. So that is 11 years ago. If you looked at our teams now and 11 years ago, they're very different. If you look at them 22 years ago, they're a lot different than they were 11 years ago.

And that's what you have to do if you're a coach. You gotta continue to grow, and you gotta keep up with the game.

Q. Obviously the Griz are excited to be here at this stage. What do you remember from being at the smaller schools, making the NCAA Tournament, how special it is?
COACH BEILEIN: They have -- some of the places I have been at, especially Canisius, I think they've only gone one time in 50 years or something. So it was a really unique experience. Montana's got a great tradition of being one of the tops in the Big Sky. And Wayne Tinkle is a friend of mine. He texted me right away as soon as he saw the draw and said take it easy on the Griz. I said, I don't think we have to worry about that. They're a very good team.

So it is -- it's a great experience, and they should go in it to win it, because they have talent, and I think most teams -- that's the only approach you can take right now, is so many things can happen. And I'm sure their fans are excited just like the Michigan fans are excited. And it should be a great game.

Q. Coach, your team has struggled at the free-throw line this season, and now at least in the pressure situation of being in the Big Dance. What's your approach with free-throw shooting? Are you a coach that doesn't talk about it, are you worried about it at all?
COACH BEILEIN: We just keep working at it. We don't talk about it a lot. We just work at it. And there are some things that are evolving in the right direction. 50 percent guys aren't going to go to 80 overnight.

But I thought in the Big Ten tournament when the pressure was on, 21,000, 20,000, whatever it was, playing Purdue and Michigan State, Nebraska, all teams that are either on the bubble or in the NCAA, Iowa, we had to win an overtime game. We weren't super. Like last year's team was tremendous. But we got enough done.

So hopefully we've worked hard enough on it and they can go up there and get the job done, because it's not good to have a bad foul shooting team at this time of the year.

Q. Coach, the players that came up for you have all played multiple games in this tournament before. Montana has nobody who's played in an NCAA Tournament. How much of an advantage or how much of a factor does that play in here?
COACH BEILEIN: We got three guys that have played really in the NCAA. Zavier Simpson played a little last year. We got some young guys now, too, that are getting in there for the first time. We lost four of our top six from last year's team, four of our top seven I guess you would say. So we're a little bit new in some areas, but I can't tell you just like with Montana. Once you go through a Big Ten tournament, a Big Sky tournament. They had to win three in a row, we had to win four in a row.

The NCAA Tournament is certainly special, but I don't think these kids like have to get ready for it now. They're already ready. They're seasoned. And by playing at such high-leverage situations like they were. I mean, it's not like they were going to get at-large bid, right? They might have deserved one. But they're not getting at-large bid. They played some pressure games. They're ready, and we went in there really to win four in a row. You gotta have special kids, and they did that.

Q. 14 seeds have had some success here in recent years. You're one coach that has experienced that. What makes them such difficult teams to knock out?
COACH BEILEIN: Really good players is the big thing. If you have really good players that perform well, that's a big difference. I think that the -- and many times it's about a matchup, because everybody will -- you'll always see the upsets -- see, to me, I think there's a big difference between 1and 16. And there might not be. Right. Penn is a really good team. Kansas -- Penn is a really good team. And Kansas is a really good team. But there may be some big differences there. Once they start seeding these teams, 2 through 6 and 7 through 10 and then 10 through 14, there's very little difference in those areas.

And so sometimes it's just a matter of the matchups were good or maybe your team's had more experience in it. So that's why it's so popular. This is very unpredictable. And teams might have success. But not success like their John Wooden success that they're always in the Final Four. People get -- really good teams are out in this first weekend.

Q. Coach, whether you're a 3 seed or a 14 seed, to get to this point in the tournament is fun for these student-athletes to be a part of this tournament. As a coach, what's your message between allowing them to enjoy themselves and have fun and also treat it like business and get some wins?
COACH BEILEIN: Yeah. That's a good question because as coaches we have to guard against that. But it is still business right now for us. And so I think we've been able to do that when we travel on the road and we do whatever, you know. Our kids are in an incredible hotel here. They're going to do a shoot-around today in front of a lot of people. They're playing on national TV. I think they understand that and enjoy that.

But this is not about having fun. This is about just the fun comes after you win. And our kids have to be focused on doing their very best. And winning does not come just by saying it. Winning comes because you focused just on doing your best. And that's all I want, our kids to play our best. And then if the end result is a win, then we have fun.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, best of luck.


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