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March 17, 2018

Eric Musselman

Nashville, Tennessee

THE MODERATOR: Head coach of the Wolf Pack is here, Eric Musselman. We're going to ask him to open up with a statement in this day between games and then we'll go to questions. Eric, please.

ERIC MUSSELMAN: We feel fortunate with the outcome of last night's game, obviously. Texas played phenomenal and controlled most of the game, and we were able to get hot towards the end.

You know, as we told our team last night, we have to turn the page and have great maturity. Obviously, we enjoyed the win last night and it was the first win in a long time for our program in the NCAA tournament.

And so now, we have to get ready for Cincinnati, which is one of the best teams in the entire country. They play with great consistency, great toughness. They're one of the best-coached teams in the entire nation, have great talent, and one of the best rebounding teams playing college basketball.

Q. Coach, Cincinnati is statistically one of the best defensive teams in the country. From your point of view, what makes them so effective on that end of the floor?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: They have a great matchup zone. They switch everything. Any time a team can switch things and keep the ball in front and then defensive rebound, it's going to make you really good. They do a great job of defending the 3-ball.

They create turnovers. Their steals ignite their offense. For all those reasons, again, the switching, matchup, zone, ability to defensive rebound and then, you know, they have three guys that are high volume steal players. All those things are what I think ignite their defense, and we're going to have to do a great job taking care of the basketball.

We're still going to be who we are. We're going to try to take 3s. If they take the 3s away, just like we did against Texas, we've got to do a good job of driving the basketball and not settling for 3s if they do a good job of closing out and taking away the 3-ball. They've done a tremendous job all year, taking away 3s from opponents.

Q. Asked the players this when they were in here. For you, though, getting transfers on campus, what makes getting them working together so quickly, building chemistry, what is the big challenge in doing that and what's made it so effective?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: I think for us, you know, the transfers, all of them have sat out a year. So we've had a year to try to get them involved with our terminology and get them involved in our culture.

To me, it's easier than a freshman because a freshman comes in, and he's in uniform right away. With our transfers, again, they have 12 months to practice. They have no games. Their practices become their games.

We don't call it a, you know, a transfer year, a sit-out year, a redshirt year. We call it a player development year. It's all about our staff investing in that player's career, trying to get him to become a better basketball player, looking at his deficiencies and trying to turn those deficiencies into strengths.

And so, for us, the transfer thing, even though it's really hurt our depth over the last three years, having four transfers sit-outs each of the three years. When you only have 13 scholarships and four guys are sitting out, it's going to, you know, have wear and tear. You can't get in foul trouble and all these other things.

Having said that, we had a plan that in year four, we wanted to be as good as we possibly could. We're in year three, we've made steps each year in the development of the program.

And then I think just from my standpoint, being a coach who comes from the minor leagues, you know, if you're coaching the L.A. Lakers D-League team, they might take a guy up, send a guy down, take another guy up two weeks later, send another two guys down.

So it's a constantly revolving door. So, for me, the roster changeover is, I think it's pretty easy and there's really not much change.

Q. How you doing, Coach? You've heard this adage, you've been around long enough. You dress ten, play eight, trust five.
Your depth issues have necessarily worked in your favor where you consolidate your lineups, but you play them heavy minutes. And even in the chaotic style that you guys are playing and running and shooting 3s, it really hasn't hampered your efforts.

ERIC MUSSELMAN: I think a lot of it begins in the summer. We go up to Lake Tahoe and do our training. One thing we talk to the guys about over and over is the conditioning. If you look at last night's basketball game, we played six players, we got better in overtime.

As a coach, you have to evaluate what you're doing. In year one, year two, the lack of depth didn't hurt us at all. One thing I know, when I walk in that locker room after each and every game, everybody's happy because everybody's playing.

One thing, when you're able to sit back and be an assistant coach, I couldn't figure out, coming from the world I came from, which is pro basketball, where there's a 48-minute game instead of a 40, you're playing four to six games a week, it felt like in the minor leagues or the NBA.

You've got to have some depth just because of the 82-game schedule compared to a 30-game schedule. So I think the most overrated thing in college basketball is depth.

Now, having said that, we can't afford to get in foul trouble, and we understand that. We didn't plan on Lindsey Drew, a three-year starter, blowing his Achilles out. Obviously, you know, we wish we still had Lindsey and our depth would be a little bit different because he was a guy who played 30-some minutes every single night for us.

So that injury has taken a big-time toll on us. But we've kind of adjusted on the fly. Our power forward is now our point guard, and we've done an incredible job taking care of the basketball, regardless of who our point guard is.

And, obviously, getting a shot on goal is extremely important against Cincinnati. We can't turn the ball over and have live ball turnovers and let them get out and their athletes get out and finish in transition.

Q. Coach, Kendall said that your pitch to him was, you know, playing the NBA style. How did you identify him? And can you talk about the recruiting process with him and, also, how he has worked so beautifully into your system.
ERIC MUSSELMAN: Well, the recruiting process with Kendall, his father, Everette, played for the Pacers and played in the minor leagues in the old CBA and I coached in the old CBA against Everette. So that helped a lot.

I mean, when he was on his visit, his dad winked at me and said, Kendall's coming here. He doesn't know it yet, but he's coming here. So that helped a lot.

We talked about how he would have a green light if he came to Nevada, there wasn't a yellow light or a red light. It was going to constantly be green. He had three green lights.

So, you know, when we got the job, our program was like 320th in 3-point shooting and we knew that that was a big-time deficiency. And we wanted to play fast and stretch the floor out, and he was perfect. Our ideal player is a 6'6" guy who can play multiple positions. Obviously, Kendall can play the 2, 3, or 4 for us. We makes a couple more 3s and he's going to go down in the history of the Mountain West as the greatest single season 3-point shooter ever.

He had a really good year prior to his last year at Purdue. He went through some things off the floor where a friend had passed away, and so I looked at that last year at Purdue and we kind of threw those stats out because of his mental state, because it was a really hard year for him.

So we watched film of him the year before. When he did have confidence and when he was getting consistent minutes and we felt he was going to be a perfect fit for us, his attitude was going to be perfect, and he's -- you know, he's helped us with our identity and style of play. And I love reading The Fieldhouse, by the way.

Q. Cincinnati's kind of known for its toughness. It's a program that's built on that with the defense and rebounding. How would you describe the toughness of the team you're going to face tomorrow?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: Coach Mick just does an incredible job. I've watched from afar for many years. To get his guys to play as hard as they do, I think that's a number one, you know, trait that you look for in any coach, whether it's the NFL, college football, any sport, MLB. Like, how hard do your guys play?

That's more important than X and Os. And then how hard can you get them to play over the course of an entire season? Nobody can respect what he's done more than I do because, you know, I think that for our program, that's one of the things we talked about from day one is how do we gain respect from opponents, how do we gain respect from referees, how do we gain respect from national media members that we play really, really hard?

Cincinnati's one of those teams that you know year after year after year after year, you can turn their game on in November, December, January, March. Doesn't matter. Those dudes play hard. We're going to have to play harder than we've played all year to stay with them.

Q. Coach, you've got to be one of the most hydrated coaches on the sideline. You always have a cup of water or something in your hand going up and down. The question is have you ever had to use the restroom while coaching a basketball game and seriously thought about leaving?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: Yes and yes and yes. They're small sips that I'm taking. As you get older, you've got to use the bathroom a little bit more. And so I do worry, especially when the timeouts are longer in this tournament. It's been a great concern of mine. Our staff's well prepared in case I have to leave. So far, so good, though.

Q. You mentioned that the team was a little bit tight in the first half of the Texas game. Do you feel like they'll be looser in this game, just being out on the stage once? You guys are the underdog in this game. The pressure's not on your guys, per se.
ERIC MUSSELMAN: I think as long as we can keep me out of the locker room and not do pregame, they'll be a lot looser, because I'm wound pretty tight.

One of the assistants said, maybe I should chill a little bit before the game and the guys will chill. At halftime, I looked over to my left as I was writing on the dry erase board ask Cody was throwing up. Which happens almost every game. He was not sick. But Cody finds a trash can every game and throws up.

I looked at Caleb, and Caleb said, Hey, coach, he's cool. Don't worry about him, just ignore him.

I do think we were tight. I don't think we'll be tight because I think every team -- I think Cincinnati's going to feel freer. I think we'll feel freer. I think anybody that advances, new arena, you're playing in an NBA-type arena, sold-out building. You know, incredible for the student-athletes to be able to play in this environment.

So, yeah, I think that, you know, we should be a little bit looser. I don't think it matters who we're playing. I think that it was trying to get that first game out.

But I do know that, you know, the more film we watch on Cincinnati -- maybe we should stop rolling the film on Cincinnati, because they can make you a little bit tight too, the way they play and how hard they rebound the ball.

Q. Cody is kind of known for his halftime throw-ups. What was your thought process when you first saw him do that?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: Our trainer said don't worry about it. Ignore it. At first, I thought the guy had the flu. But then you can't have the flu for 31 games. So now it's just part of our routine.

Q. Mariah was a little bit of a social media maven, was trending for her little hit during the game. Says she wants to be a sports anchor. What's your advice on her future career?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: I just hope my daughter can make as much money as my wife did at broadcasting. That would be awesome. Really, really be great for our family if she could start on her broadcasting career as soon as possible.

Last night was a great start. It was a great interview process for her. We have tape now that we can roll and send to people.

It was a big, big moment for her, Chris, for sure. Big moment for our family.

THE MODERATOR: Before we dismiss, we had Mick comment on the big upset last night, 16 over 1. Do you have a comment on that game? Observation?

ERIC MUSSELMAN: My only observation is that's why this is the greatest sporting event in the world. When things like that happen, it's so cool. So cool for all of us to be a part of this environment.

I played in two of these -- well, I don't know if I played, but I was in uniform in two of these. I'm 53 years old, and it's still putting on a uniform. And walking out for an NCAA tournament game as a player or coach, there's nothing better.

Coaching in an NBA game doesn't compare to what goes on here. When you see an upset like that, it's absolutely incredible.

Q. Mick also was correcting media members who don't know how to say Nevada and his players who don't know how to say Nevada. Did you always know how to say the name of the state correctly? What is your reaction when people call it Nevada?
ERIC MUSSELMAN: I always knew because I took a visit, and Coach Allen, Coach Sonny Allen made sure the day I got off the plane for one of my five official visits that I knew how to pronounce it.

I give Coach Mick a lot of credit for being on top of his states, knowing exactly how to pronunciate our wonderful state.

THE MODERATOR: We have the Wolf Pack tomorrow against the Bearcats at 5:10. Thank you, Coach. Good luck.


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