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March 17, 2018

Jim Boeheim

Tyus Battle

Frank Howard

Detroit, Michigan

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Syracuse student-athletes Tyus Battle and Frank Howard as well as Coach Jim Boeheim. Questions for the student-athletes?

Q. Tyus, seeing what Michigan State was able to do yesterday, go up big against a Bucknell team, what do you know about them? What's the best way to take a defensive standpoint and stop them?
TYUS BATTLE: We know they're well-coached. Have some really good players. They're going to be a tough team. They have good bigs, good shooters, a good point guard. So just a good all-around team. But if our zone is active, moving, we'll be fine.

Q. Yesterday before halftime you allowed Butler to score a lot of points. Anything you're going to be doing tomorrow to stop Michigan State from scoring before halftime?
FRANK HOWARD: We've got to be active, use our length, use our athleticism. I think when our activity level is high, I think that's when the zone is very effective.

And shoutout to you, too.

TYUS BATTLE: We're a defensive-minded team. We know we win our games based off our defense. We put teams well below their average when we're playing good defense, and that's what we're going to have to do tomorrow.

Q. Frank, how do you see your role? When you're doing your job for Syracuse, what are you doing? And what are your thoughts so far on Cassius Winston with what you've seen from Michigan State's point guard?
FRANK HOWARD: My role is to first lead the team, be a leader first, command the offense, kind of be the spark on defense as well, kind of do whatever I need to do to help us get the win. Some games I have to score the ball more. Some games I have to facilitate more.

So I just try to do whatever it takes to get the win. And I know Michigan State, they have a lot of great guards. And we've just got to keep them out of the lane, use our length to our advantage and just be active.

Q. With the two games that you've played during this week, is there any kind of fatigue or mental wall, physical wall that you hit going to Dayton to play Arizona State and then playing TCU?
TYUS BATTLE: I don't think so. We're a mentally tough team. We're used to playing a lot of minutes. We're used to battling the entire game. So I don't think there's any fatigue.

FRANK HOWARD: I think at this point in the year we're kind of used to it. It's kind of routine. Just gotta take care of our body. This is what we wanted all year, we want to be in this position. We're happy to be here, just ready to attack.

Q. With this kind of short turnaround is there anything special in particular that you guys do to take care of your bodies during your off days?
FRANK HOWARD: Just sleep a lot. Getting a lot of rest. Drink a lot of fluids. We have a great staff. Brad Pike and Ryan Cabiles, they do a great job of stretching us out, icing up after each game. And we've got to be smart about it.

TYUS BATTLE: Like Frank said, stretch, ice, a lot of sleep and just mentally preparing yourself for the next game.

Q. Obviously your guys' zone is unique. Do you find opposing teams early on sometimes get frustrated, or do you kind of wear them down frustration-wise over the course of a game?
TYUS BATTLE: I mean, if we're playing the zone the correct way, we're moving, active, talking, we definitely frustrate a lot of teams because we're so long and athletic and with shot blockers down low. And when you finally get that open shot, you start second-guessing it because you haven't got an open shot the whole game. So it makes things tough on the opposing team.

Q. You guys will play a team that last night played 11 different guys; you guys usually play the whole game. Will that affect how the game plays out? Do you think that helps or hurts you?
FRANK HOWARD: I think every team is comfortable with at this point in year with what they do. We go seven deep. So we're used to playing minutes. The other team making subs is nothing but a personnel issue for us.

So we just pay attention to who comes in the game or what they do on both ends of the floor. But for us we've just got to stay focused on our tasks, get some good movement on offense, try to get some penetration and just be active on defense.

Q. Do you guys think that playing the zone helps you guys stay fresh in this sort of a compacted schedule?
FRANK HOWARD: Shoot, nah. The zone is, to me, almost kind of a tougher demand. I haven't played man in college. But the zone, you guard an area, you don't guard a man, you know what I mean?

So in man you kind of gotta worry about your man, help side. And in the zone you might have one or two dudes in your area that you've got to take care of. So I think the zone, it's a tough thing to do, but I think when you get it down pat it's really effective.

TYUS BATTLE: Like Frank said, the zone, you're constantly moving, never stopping, constantly talking. And if something breaks down, the next guy picks up the slack and get to the correct area. So it's tough. And you're constantly moving.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We're joined by head coach Jim Boeheim. Coach, an opening statement.

COACH BOEHEIM: We're excited to be in this game. It was a heck of a battle last night. And we're really excited to be able to play again.


Q. Wondering, how did you find Marek and how difficult is it to project what he might be able to do --
COACH BOEHEIM: I've only taken one player off tape and he was before Marek, he was the worst player I had. He looked great on tape. Normally we wouldn't even think about taking somebody off of tape. But we were in the summer. We had lost a player late or knew we were going to lose a player pretty late. So our numbers were really sketchy at the time.

We had got some tape and we liked what we saw. We knew that he was a productive player on his junior team. And you watch him on tape, he is what he is. He's quick, he runs. He's got a good feel for the game.

He's one of the only European players that can't shoot that I've seen in the last few years. But he's more athletic than a lot of European guys. He came in, Adrian has worked with him really hard. I've tried to help him a little bit. We changed his shot a little bit.

And he's pretty good from about 15 feet in. He makes his free throws and he's got a good touch from 15. When he moves out, he goes back a little bit to his old form. But last night, maybe because he had to hurry it, the 3 he made he shot perfectly.

But he's a really smart player. If he weighed 200 pounds, 210, he'd probably be one of the better players in the country. He weighs 175 and he's a good player, but he gets muscled. He has some games where he gets muscled.

We have a really good three-man offensive team that people try to help on our other guys, and it creates openings for him, and he sees where those openings are. And he can be very productive in those open situations. And when people play him straight up it gives our other guys a little bit more room to work out there. But he's gotten better all year.

But he's pretty much what we thought coming in. Really knows how to play and has a good feel for the game. And at the time, again, it was a necessity move. And the way things worked out, it became even more of a necessity move.

Q. Frank Howard, what do you say or do to help him cut down turnovers? And your thoughts on Cassius Winston's game?
COACH BOEHEIM: He started out the year at a horrific rate but he's been really good. He's been really good over the last half, three-quarters of the season. And Cassius Winston, I've had him with USA Basketball when I was the chairman of that committee. He's a tremendous player. Really, really good player. But he's one of 10. Michigan State's a team you can't focus on one guy or two or three or four; you have to play the whole team.

Q. Could you please share some memories of when you coached against Jaren Jackson, Sr., and maybe your thoughts on his son who you're going to be seeing tomorrow?
COACH BOEHEIM: Yeah, he was a really, really good player at Georgetown. Didn't like him too much. I don't like anything about Georgetown. But he's a really good player. His son's an even better player. He's a really good player.

Q. I'm curious how you think the fact you've got so many guys playing 35, 40 minutes a game affects the personality or the character, I guess, of this team?
COACH BOEHEIM: I'm not sure I understand that.

Q. Do you think that they enjoy that or it affects the way --
COACH BOEHEIM: I've never had a play that didn't enjoy playing every minute of every game. You ask them if they're upset playing every minute, I don't think you'll find one of them upset. I remember I had a player once, many years ago, he was playing 36 minutes a game. His father came to me and said, you know, he's not happy. I said, what do you mean? He wants to play the whole game. Well, we're up 30.

They all want to play. Obviously -- in reality if you play, the really good players play about 37 minutes. I mean, you're telling me you can play 37 and you can't play 40? That's three minutes. It's not like if you're not playing 40, you play 28.

The really good players -- Michigan State's an exception; they have tremendous depth -- but the really good players, if you look at the top three players on every good team, they play 38 minutes, the top three guys -- Duke, Rhode Island, they're playing today. They play those guys the whole game, virtually. They only come out when they get in foul trouble.

Our defense keeps us out of foul trouble for the most part, for the most part. Not always, but usually. But players want to play. And as I've said many, many times, every four minutes you've got, seems like about a five-minute timeout. It must be two and a half to three, whatever it is now. I'm sitting there for at least two minutes, I know that, not saying anything, because they're going to get about 30 seconds worth that they're going to remember. So the other two and a half minutes is just looking around.

So they get that rest. That's very helpful. But there's no question, our players are going to get tired at some stages. And a really good, tired player is better than a average fresh player. Tyus Battle has made five or six 3s to either win the game or keep us in the game. If you're really tired you don't do that. But whenever we lose, somebody will say, well, you're tired. We win, I guess they're not tired.

Q. Do you remember when you sort of had an inkling that Tom Izzo would get the program rolling at Michigan State? I know you faced them in 2000. Did you know that before that?
COACH BOEHEIM: I knew him when he was an assistant coach. I knew Tom when he was an assistant coach. He knew the game. He was a hard-charging guy. I knew when he took over Michigan State, he'd do a great job. I loved Jud Heathcote. Jud was a great coach, but he wasn't the kind of recruiter that Tom would be and has become.

But there was never any doubt that he'd be a great coach. He's an absolutely -- one of the great coaches we've ever had. And I think he's even better off the court. He's one of the nicest people I know. I've known him -- I've been on the board with him. I've been around him for 40 -- probably close to 40 years now, and -- from when he was an assistant.

And there's no guy that has better character that you would want to be your head coach more than Tom Izzo. I've seen countless situations where I've been around him where he always does the right thing, 100 percent of the time. Tom Izzo would never do the wrong thing. And anybody that thinks other than that, they don't know Tom Izzo. I know him.

I've been involved in stuff -- you're not supposed to say things -- but Tom Izzo is not going to do things that aren't right, 100 percent of the time -- on the basketball court, off the basketball court. He's a great guy. He's a great leader. And I'm very proud that he's a friend of mine.

Q. Going off your comment on timeouts, what's sort of the key to running a good timeout organization-wise --
COACH BOEHEIM: I think if they get one thing that you say, you had a good timeout. There's many times that we put one thing in and we're coming out of the huddle and I see one guy going, what play are we running? You get one thing across or so -- usually you take a timeout, it's better if the other guy takes one, you don't need one. But if you take one, you're just trying to sit them down and get them on track.

I never used to believe it really helped that much. But I think I've learned over the years, I think sometimes it does help. Coach Wooden used to say whoever takes the first timeout is going to the game. I'm not sure that's really true, but he was pretty smart.

Q. With Michigan State having the five starters averaging double figures scoring, what's the best way for your team to slow down a fast-paced offense like Michigan State's?
COACH BOEHEIM: Play good defense. Make them take time, make them have to work for their shots and then make sure we take time and get good shots on our end. Those two things.

Q. You were pretty eloquent last night talking about the Virginia situation. A lot of people have been coming at them, the team and the program, pretty hard over the last 16 hours --
COACH BOEHEIM: Yeah, there's a lot of idiots out there. I know that.

Q. When people say that they would rather have had a 15-16 season than to have what Virginia had, what's that say about our sense of perspective and what would you tell those people?
COACH BOEHEIM: That group of people, if there really is a group like that, probably are unemployed or idiots, never went to school. Or they're really, really smart lawyers and doctors that think they know everything and really, in reality, probably know what they're doing and know nothing else.

And Tony Bennett is in my top two or three coaches in the country by far. Unfortunately, in our business, it's all about the tournament when you're a good team. When you just get in, like now I'm a great coach. I'm, shit, I'm no better than I was two weeks ago. But, oh, you won two games, he must be really -- no, nothing to do with that.

I've seen coaches win games in this tournament, two, three, four games and they're terrible coaches. Things just went right. And it's what you do over the course of 35 games that determines what kind of coach you are. You win 17 games in the ACC, win the ACC Tournament? He's got -- I think he's got one guy who was hurt that will be an NBA player. The other guys are -- they're pretty good. There's a couple. They may sneak in. I don't know. They may sneak in there.

But he's won the ACC against Duke and North Carolina what four or five years? I don't know what it is. It's beyond even trying to understand it. With maybe two recruits in the top 40. And he's playing against 15 guys on each team over those period of time that were in the top 20 or top 10 or top 5 in wins? Come on. It's one game. It's one game.

I can, no, I can't -- but a reasonably good player on the pro tour can beat Tiger Woods in one round. When he was in his peak he got beat a lot.

This is college basketball. I saw the Spurs get beat in their first game of the playoffs one year. They won the championship. Golden State, I think, got beat in the first game. They won the championship. It's one-and-done. You're off your game a little bit, you know, and it's not that, like, people will say, they're just good in the regular season they're not good -- that's just stupid. That's just stupid.

You look at every year they've lost -- and I'm not going to recite the whole thing, but they lost to Michigan State in the Garden when Michigan State had a great team. I don't remember all the other ones. But, I mean, you play in this tournament, you're going to get beat.

Pittsburgh, they didn't like their coach because he didn't win the tournament. They're doing really good now, aren't they, in Pittsburgh? I know all those people were yelling, too. They wanted him out.

They pay this guy about $10 million, which they're trying to renege on, which is great for a university to do, you have a signed contract with a guy and then say, well, he yelled at his players. That's -- 350 coaches are going to get fired tomorrow for that.

Come on, the tournament is -- I've lost in this tournament, everybody has. I've looked at the list of bad losses, and I couldn't believe we weren't even on it. But Mike Krzyzewski has lost, I've lost, Roy Williams has lost, Bill Self has lost. Dean Smith lost. There's nobody that hasn't lost.

I think you could easily make the case that Tony Bennett's way overachieved in the regular season and they played like they probably are in the tournament. You could possibly make that case. This year's a little aberration, obviously. That was a bad -- but the other losses, you know, it's a tough tournament.

And really good coaches, good teams get beat. Tom Izzo is one of the best tournament coaches ever, and I sat there two years ago and watched Middle Tennessee beat them. They played a perfect game. We beat Middle Tennessee the next game by 30, by 30. It's just basketball.

We lost to Vermont and the next day Tom Izzo, next game Tom Izzo beat Vermont by 20. It's just the game. It's a crazy game and the tournament's a crazy thing. We all know that. We all say that, but then we don't follow through on that.

If I could hire a coach in this country and I could get Tony Bennett, there would be nobody in second place. Nobody. He's kicked our ass every time we've played him except we got lucky once.

Q. Going back to Marek, how have you seen him adjust to a new country, never mind the adjustments that come with --
COACH BOEHEIM: Seems to be doing pretty good. He's doing well in school. He's got a blond cheerleader for a girlfriend. He's starting on a team in the 32 in the country. I guess he's doing okay. She drives him all over, too. It almost should be illegal. Probably is. (Laughter).

Q. Obviously Michigan State is going to have a tons there. But you're going to have Dave Bing and Derrick Coleman?
COACH BOEHEIM: If I could play them we'd have a shot, a really good shot. (Laughter) had dinner with Dave and Derrick the other night. And it's always great to see those guys. Great guys, great people.

Dave Bing was my roommate in college and he taught me how to do a lot of things that have helped me in life, really the most mature, most well-rounded individual that I've ever been around in my life. And made a huge impact on me. I was from Lyons, New York, 5,000 people. I didn't know who the Supremes were when I came into my room. And he taught me an awful lot.

Although the first day of practice, I thought I was pretty good, I guarded him, he had 15 straight baskets against me. And I called my mom. I said, mom, I don't know about this situation. My mom was pretty smart. She said, well, how about the other players? I said they're not that good. Then you'll be okay. (Laughter).

Q. Happy Saint Patrick's Day. I'm wearing these clothes today because I'm proud of who I am and where I'm from. And I wanted to know what are you proud of for who you are, where you're from and for your team?
COACH BOEHEIM: That's a great question, best one of the day, which figures. I'm proud to be from Lyons, New York, town of 5,000 people. Small little town. And got to Syracuse when I was 17. And didn't know much about anything. And I remember I was a freshman playing on the freshman team, one of my best friends said, you're doing okay, but why did you come to Syracuse? You're never going to play here.

So, he's still a good friend of mine today, but I do remind him of that about every time I see him. But I'm very proud to be from Syracuse. Syracuse is a great place. It's a great city. The people are great. Four months the weather is bad and we play basketball then. So I don't really think about that too much.

But it's a great community. They support our basketball program and they support all our causes. We raise a million dollars a year in Syracuse for charity, and most coaches can't raise 100,000. So we're very fortunate to be in that city.

200,000 people in the city, and we averaged 22,000 people a game this year. So tremendous support. We have parking for 500 cars. And it gets cold. It does get cold. I don't talk about that a lot.

Q. You have a few guys that play, obviously, a lot of minutes. Tyus says he doesn't even look at the bench anymore. He doesn't even look over there. How much do you see it as a point of pride for those guys -- they don't even think about coming off the floor?
COACH BOEHEIM: No, they know they're going to be out there. And there's a comfort to that, too. As a player, I never liked to come out. You always want to be in the game. And when I would come out I hoped the guy that came in played bad so I could come back in -- unless it was a close game; I might not do that. But all players want to play. They want to be in the game as much as they can.

And they're going to get worn down. They're going to feel it sometimes. You've just got to play through it and go from there. That's all you can do. You can't think about that. You can't think about the negatives in this game. You've got to think about the positives. And this team's been great at that.

We shot the ball horrifically last night. Against Arizona State, we did not shoot it well. And we were able to get, at the end of the day, get the win. And they've been good at that all year. We've had a few good shooting games and we're probably going to need one pretty soon here.


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