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March 23, 2018
BRUCE WEBER: Well, obviously just excited to be part of this, to move on to the Elite 8. It was a very short night, long night, and the thing I emphasized to these guys, they really got to kind of block out everything that's going on around them and really focus on preparing for Loyola. You know, we've got to be in -- we can't worry about what happened yesterday, can't worry about next week. We've got to take care of business right now.
They've been so good at focusing and really taking into the game plan, and that's got to be there tomorrow. We've got to get our mind set right, our heart right, and play at a high level tomorrow because they are very good, tough, 31 wins. I don't care what league you're in, that's big-time. Won 13 in a row, 20 out of 21, something like that, and then they seem to make a lot of big plays, three game winners since they've been in the tournament. So we have a tough challenge ahead of us.
Q. For any of the players, there was some controversy about the handshake last night with Kentucky. Were any of you offended by that, and what was your vantage point on that situation?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: Well, I mean, I think we were just cheering too much and didn't really get kind of organized to be able to get in that line and shake their hands. Maybe they just walked off just because they didn't think that we were going to get organized and be able to shake their hands.
Q. Barry, there's great video of you hugging Ernie Barrett in the locker room. What does he mean to you guys, and what did he say to you, and how important was it for you guys to get the vindication that he wanted so badly?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: It means a lot to us and this program, to the K-State history. He's been to a lot of our practices just to be there and see the hard work that we put in. Knowing the history and knowing him not being able to play in any game versus Kentucky, we just wanted to go out there and just do it for him. And once we got it done, I knew he was so proud, was so happy. He just kept saying in the locker room and in the huddle, just hugging everyone. So ultimately I think we all did it for him.
Q. Xavier, Coach touched on this last night, but has playing the 4 opened up some things for you as opposed to playing the 3 in this tournament?
XAVIER SNEED: I believe so. You know, just spreading out the court more with more guards on the court helps us out a little bit, and just having different points of attack. We still have an inside presence with Mak and Barry and being able to dribble and drive to the hoop. And, of course, we have shooters on the court at all times, so I believe it helps us out a lot.
Q. Cartier, you being from South Carolina, how has it been having probably more family being able to see you play here in Atlanta than maybe they would be in Manhattan?
CARTIER DIARRA: It's been great. It's been fun. The fans' support, the love, all the people that went to school with and grew up with, getting to come see me play has been a joy. But just enjoying the moment, living in the moment, and ready to get this next one.
Q. Barry, you all were here in this position when you played the hot mid-major in UMBC and they were winning games, they were dangerous. Now here you are playing Loyola in a similar situation. Do you think the UMBC experience maybe helped this team refocus and realize the challenge ahead?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: Guess you could say that. I mean, we know that every team right now is trying to make history. I've been talking to my guys about just making history for K-State, worrying about us, and worrying about what we can do to stop each and every opponent, respecting them, and just going out and playing K-State basketball.
Q. Barry, what is K-State basketball?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: First off, it's defending. We take a lot of pride on defense. Got to get better at rebounding. Once we get that stop, pushing ball transition, making the right pass, playing for each other. Just making open plays, staying confident no matter what the situation is, what the score is, and what's going on in the game. Just staying together, never getting away from each other, and picking each other up when we're down.
Q. Xavier, what, if any, is there like a moment with Coach Weber that's kind of like defined your experience with him or just kind of getting to know him over this time?
XAVIER SNEED: Coach Weber, we've been knowing each other a long time. He recruited me. So just being around him all the time to pick his mind. He's a great coach, great guy, and just him being around and getting some of his wisdom is great.
Q. Kam, how plugged in are you guys to the history of K-State basketball, in that for 40 years up until the early '90s, this program was shoulder to shoulder with the Kansases and Kentuckys, and maybe what this game tomorrow means for the older fan base and the history of the program?
KAMAU STOKES: You know, I think that win yesterday meant a lot, especially to the older families, like you said, and the people that played before us. We knew that we could compete with anybody in the country, and I felt like we showed that today, and we've just got to keep moving forward. I mean yesterday. My bad.
Q. For Xavier, there's been a lot said about the grittiness and toughness of this team. When did you first see that evidenced in this team, and that showed yesterday with the success late after the foul trouble. Did you worry as the fouls grew last night?
XAVIER SNEED: I had confidence in all the players and being able to step up in the moment. But I found out about the greatness of this team back all the way in spring around this time last year. Just guys being in conditioning, getting up shots after conditioning, dead tired, doing all the extra things, and just helped us to get to this point right now. And that grittiness and fight really just came from each and every one of us, and just having that desire to win.
Q. Last night your coach said you guys only had 15 minutes to celebrate. Maybe Stokes and Brown, you can answer this: What's the balance like of knowing you're so happy, thrilled to have gotten this far, but you really have to calm it down because you still have so much more to accomplish?
KAMAU STOKES: You can't be satisfied. You've made it to the next round and you know you've got a tough road ahead of you, so you can't be satisfied. You've got to enjoy that win, like you said, it was for short period of time, and we've just got to focus on the next game.
Q. Barry, with how much basketball is trending towards fast-paced, chucking three-pointers, you guys really dig down for defense. Coach says you take pride in it. Why is that? What made you guys recognize that that was the type of game you had to play?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: Just knowing their style of offense, they like to get up-and-down, use their length and athleticism just to get easy run-outs and dunks and kind of make a lot of flashy plays. But we knew with our principles and the things we learned since I've been here my freshman year, defensive-wise, that we could guard anyone, no matter the height differential or the weight and size. We knew that just being in the gap, helping each other, helping a helper and rebounding would be a big task, and we were able to go out there and do it.
Q. Barry, what have you seen or what have you learned from Loyola so far in your preparation for tomorrow night's game?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: See that they move the ball a lot. They trust one another a lot. Got a lot of good pieces, inside-out presence. They have a good player in -- I think it's Custer, Clayton Custer, I think. Yeah, he's a good player, will score from all three levels. So it's going to be a great task to defend him and do my best.
Q. Barry and Kam, this is your third year in the program; you guys have really grown in and through this. Was there a time where you felt like you could get to this particular point? If so, when would that have been? Would it have been this year or maybe prior to this year?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: I mean, I knew coming in, the program had some rebuilding, but I knew with the pieces we had, we just needed time to get a little bit of experience, gel together, and come together and really buy into the program. And I feel like this year is the first year we have just that experience that we need and everyone buying into it, and not really worrying about their own individual accolades and goals and stats and stuff like that. I feel like we're all really here to play K-State basketball. I knew this time was coming. It was just a long time coming, a lot of hard work and dedication and preparation.
I knew it from the start.
KAMAU STOKES: Like Barry mentioned, I felt like experience was the biggest thing. Freshman year, we came up short; sophomore year, we made it to the tournament, didn't get as far as we wanted to get, and we learned from those situations. And I felt like this year, we were able to overcome a lot of things, just based off our experience.
Q. Cartier, what is the most difficult part about this type of turnaround that is so quick? As Coach mentioned, you're getting ready after the euphoria of last night's win in such a short time, you're turning around and playing a team that's 31-5.
CARTIER DIARRA: I think the biggest turnaround is just you don't have a lot of time to scout. But we have a lot of faith in our coaching staff, and everybody does a great job. I know they stayed up all night getting ready for it. But we just have to be locked in in the little bit of time we have and just be prepared and be ready to go out there for a dogfight.
Q. Cartier, obviously being from Florence, not terribly far from here, you had some people come in. Are you expecting even more, and is there anybody that surprised you that maybe came and showed up that you weren't expecting?
CARTIER DIARRA: Yeah, I'm expecting some more. My mom came out, so that was nice. She thought she couldn't make it, but then she made it, so I was happy about that.
Q. Barry, it was no surprise that there was a lot of blue in the stands last night, but now that you guys have sent Kentucky home, are you kind of hoping maybe neutral fans adopt you, or on the other side, do you kind of wonder if Loyola as the feel-good team, getting a lot of national pub in that respect, if maybe the neutral fans here from Atlanta will kind of adopt that team?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: I don't really think it matters, especially to me and our players. We've played in super tough arenas. We also play in Bramlage which is a top arena. So we know the home feeling and we know the away feeling like we're nowhere near home. I don't think it matters, but we're going to feed off the energy from our fans that we know our fans, and just try and get this win.
Q. What's the song that you play before you go out onto the court? Do you have a pregame song that's your favorite song?
BARRY BROWN, JR.: Sheesh. Can we start with Cartier?
CARTIER DIARRA: I've been really listening to "Don't Give Up" by Gunna. Y'all can go Google that.
XAVIER SNEED: For me it would probably be J. Cole, "January 28th."
MAKOL MAWIEN: I'd probably say Drake, Look Alive.
KAMAU STOKES: I don't even think I have a specific song. Yeah, I don't have a specific song. Migos, something like that. I don't know.
BARRY BROWN, JR.: I'd probably say "I Get the Bag" but Gucci Man, featuring Takeoff and Quavo.
Q. Bruce, how sensitive have you been over the course of your career to criticisms about recruiting when you're not sort of operating in that five-star level? And is there any sort of extra satisfaction for you, given all the controversy around the sport this year that you bring a team here that is not a team full of five-star type kids, it's been a more developmental type team?
BRUCE WEBER: You know, I don't -- it doesn't bother me. Obviously I'm human, and I really try to stay away from social media, from papers. I used to listen to talk radio and then I became a head coach, and I had to go to country music, so -- just to have something to listen to and not hear people talk about me.
I just try to do it the right way. You know, at Purdue, years and years as an assistant, we got a lot of kids that weren't top 100 that ended up in the NBA. We did the same at Southern Illinois, took it to the Sweet 16 with guys that weren't even recruited by other Division I schools. Illinois, I think we've done okay there. We did some special things, had some guys play in the NBA.
You know, I just tried to do it right, the way I feel it should be done. I don't like what is going on in our business, to be honest. You know, but it is -- I just kind of -- you can't do anything about it. If it is that bad and some of the stuff comes out, it needs to be changed, and I hope it does get changed.
But all I can worry about is myself and making sure that I do things the right way and help them develop, and I know when the paper comes to your door or the news comes on, my kids don't have to worry that I did something I'm not supposed to.
Q. Did you have any problems with the Kentucky players or coaches in the handshake --
BRUCE WEBER: I'll be honest, I shook hands with everybody, and I don't know -- I turned around, and like the guys said, I didn't see what happened. Maybe our guys were celebrating and didn't get there. You know, it's done and over with. It's such an emotional game for both teams. Obviously it's tough to try to keep your emotions.
I told our guys, hopefully we act with class and do things right, but all we can worry about now is what's coming up, and that's got to be our focus, getting ready for Loyola.
Q. I'm sure on some level you've been conscious of the early skepticism of a segment of the fan base, and this was a little different than the last question. I wonder how you process that in terms of their embracing you, and how different it feels now to have turned this this way. I don't know how you've contended with that through the years.
BRUCE WEBER: You know, no matter where you are, there's always somebody that doesn't like you. Jud Heathcote, years ago he would call me when I took a job. He would say 10 percent of the fans don't like you, and it's going to increase every year, and that's every job. It's so hard with social media now, faceless opinions that can go negative, and then that influences other people, even though they might have no knowledge.
It's part of it all. Again, all I can do is do my job right, recruit my butt off. I think if you go and look, I go out more days maybe than anyone else as a head coach, and I've always done that. We recruit good kids, and they graduate. For the most part, we've won. I think you go back, and some of the greatest -- the greatest part of Purdue's history, greatest part of Southern Illinois's history, greatest nine-year run in Illinois's history. And now we won a Big 12 championship that hasn't been done in 36 years, and now we're doing something special here.
All of it -- it is what it is. I just care about our players, to be honest. You've got a guy, hometown product or state product in Dean Wade who's one of the best players in the country, and I hope people appreciate that. And then our other guys, how hard they've worked and how much they've improved, and I hope they're cheering for them, to be honest.
Q. This whole upstart thing has obviously been a theme throughout the tournament, particularly this region. But we're going to have at least three low seeds in the Elite 8, which seems extraordinary. As a guy who's been involved in college basketball for a while, are you surprised by this at all, or should we expect more of this in the future?
BRUCE WEBER: I'm not surprised. There's such good balance. You know, you just look at our league: Ten teams, all of them probably could have been tournament play, seven in the NCAA, two in the NIT, and Iowa State, if they don't get a couple of guys hurt, they might have been in the NIT. You've got such good balance, SEC, the ACC. There's just so many good teams.
And so much is match-ups, and there's so many good teams not playing this weekend, and that's what I kept emphasizing to our guys. I don't care how we got here, we're playing. UMBC beat the No. 1 team in the country in Virginia. So they must be pretty good, at least on that given night, they are and that given weekend.
But I think you've seen it more and more, the balance, the guys leaving early. The teams that keep guys and get older, they have a chance of beating people. Our guys talked about experience is such a difference maker.
You know, so I think it's part of college basketball. It's what makes March Madness special.
Q. What is your reaction to facing Loyola in the Elite 8, a 9 versus 11, given your history at Illinois, and do you feel vindicated as a coach somewhat based upon the way things ended with the Illini to be back on this stage?
BRUCE WEBER: Well, I'm happy for our guys to be here. This is a great group, and they've worked so hard to get here, and it's -- I'm glad they're being rewarded. But they've rewarded -- they've earned it. They've rewarded themselves by how hard they play, how they play together.
To play Loyola, we can't -- I told the guys, you can't look at the name, you can't look at the league. You've got to look at the team. They're a good team, and they've -- I mentioned they beat Florida at Florida earlier in the year, they beat Tennessee who won the SEC; they beat Miami out of the ACC. So they've got to be pretty good, and whatever they've done here as of late, they're hot. They play together. They've got -- it's kind of interesting, experience, but then they've got some young guys that have really stepped up.
You look at them, great togetherness, Porter has done a great job with them. They guard, they scheme, they play off each other. So it's -- you know, it's going to be a tough game. We're going to have to play special, and that's what I keep emphasizing to our guys.
Q. What kind of relationship have you had with Porter Moser over the years as your paths have crossed?
BRUCE WEBER: You know, I've known Porter just obviously being in the business, being around him. We played one time. He was at Illinois State and I was at Illinois. We had to play our butts off. In fact, Illinois fans, Deron Williams broke his jaw and had it wired, and we weren't going to play him, but we were struggling and Deron came and had to play with a wired jaw and pretty much won the game for us.
He's got -- I know because of Tony Barone, because of Coach Majerus, guys that he had gone through. I think he's got a little bit of both those guys, the toughness, the defense, the scheming, the discipline, the shot fakes, all those stuff I watched those coaches do. And he does it, and that's why they're good.
You know, he's a good guy for the business, and I'm happy he got a second chance, and he's been able to have success because, as I said, he's a good person, good coach.
Q. If I understood you correctly last night, I think you alluded to some things you might have derived from Coach Snyder, maybe particularly on points of focus. But I just wonder in general to what degree you've borrowed from him or learned from him and been influenced by him?
BRUCE WEBER: Well, one, when I got the job, Roy Williams -- I've told this story -- called me, and he said, two things: First, it's a long way to the Kansas City airport. And he said, the only -- he said it was long to Lawrence, but the only good thing is right when I got off, I saw the sign 94 miles to -- or whatever it is, to Manhattan at that point. And I said, Coach, I'm sorry to tell you, but we have direct flights now in and out. And he said, no way. And I said, yes, we do, so we can go to Dallas and Chicago. But he said the other thing, you'd better grab on to Coach Snyder and learn as much as you can.
I think you guys know he's not somebody that's going to bring you in his office and -- but I've gone in, talked to him, obviously just watching him, listening to him, whether it's media, press conference, after-game, being around. I learned a lot from our radio people, Stan and Wyatt, because they're around him so much, and how he prepares, and how important is the game, one game at a time, all that stuff.
And believing in -- when everybody else, like this year, thought they had no chance, and they go to Oklahoma State, and all of a sudden they're kicking their butt. And he was the one who focused on the game plan and getting them ready, and those guys were ready, and that's -- I've kind of learned from that. There's no doubt about it.
But just amazing what he's done there, and he deserves his name to be on that stadium.
Q. I'm sure you've seen things and players who wound up playing at the next level in their college days that led you to believe they could. Do you see anything with Xavier, especially after a game last night, that kind of lends a glimpse at his potential maybe?
BRUCE WEBER: Yeah, I don't think there's any doubt. If he continues to make the progress that -- when NBA guys come, and we've had more come -- we had obviously Wes last year. And we had some guys with Rod and that group before that. When they come and watch, when they watch Wes, right away they brought up Xavier. And obviously they look at athleticism, they look at his size, and he's got to make that progression.
He took a big step this year. He knows -- and I've told the story before. He came into the office, he said, Coach, don't even say anything when we had our year-end meeting. I know what I need to do. It's much harder than I thought, and I've got to work at it.
And I hope he has the same mindset this year because he's taken one step, now you've got to take another step. If he keeps making that progress, he has a chance to do it. Like Wes, because of his versatility and athleticism. He has a chance to play at the next level.
Q. Bruce, if you could take us back to the 2014-2015 season when you kind of had the culture reset in the program, how difficult was that knowing that perhaps by letting some of these talented players go that you wouldn't even be around to finish it through and to still be coaching there?
BRUCE WEBER: Well, I believe in doing things the right way, and I said many times, K-State, Coach Snyder has created -- there's a culture there. There's a pride. There's a family. When people say family, everywhere they are, this nation, this family, it's truly there. It's special. Until you're part of it, you don't really realize it.
You know, I've said, we want guys that make K-Staters proud. Our guys weren't acting the right way. A couple of them came, I thought were pretty good kids, and things happened in life and they changed. And then another couple we maybe didn't look into it enough or trusted people that were in their little circle that they were going to do things the right way. We had to make a decision, a hard decision, but at the same time, it was not fun to coach.
People have asked me what's the best thing about this year. It's fun to coach. We have kids that I don't have to fight them every day. I haven't had to raise my voice, maybe a handful of times. I didn't have to every day wake up and worry are they doing the right thing. You know, are they taking care of business. That's no fun to watch.
I wanted guys that wanted to be there, wanted to do things right, wanted to get better and improve. It was hard, it was difficult, but our staff should get some credit. They stayed the course. We did. And now we've got some guys that have made the strides to help us get here.
Q. At Illinois you met a guy like Jim Fannin who became somewhat of an advisor, I believe. I wonder how he's helped you throughout your career, especially in some of those more difficult times.
BRUCE WEBER: Actually talked to him this morning, and got some little ideas about some themes. I always try to have themes, quotes, things for -- actually it started at Southern Illinois. We brought him in kind of before he even got on to the scene, and he talked to our guys and latched on to us and did a great job.
You're always looking for motivational guys, speakers, that can help the players, help the coaches, take them to a new level. And he does a great job with that.
He texts me off and on during the year, sees things, watches our games, gives me little tips, ideas. And I love that stuff, and I think our players buy into it also, some ways to focus on the game, but also the week, the season, whatever it may be.
Q. Kansas State basketball, much of its history has been forgotten by the nation. Four Final Fours, but the truth is the last one was 54 years ago. What would this mean for the program and kind of etching your name in this team's history into that legacy?
BRUCE WEBER: Well, it would be special, there's no doubt. When you talk about some of the greatest coaches in the history of college basketball, obviously Tex Winter, Coach Hartman, Jack Gardner, Cotton Fitzsimmons, it's amazing. And when people come to our practice facility and walk in and see those guys, I don't think people realize it.
And as you said, it was a while ago, and people -- we'll say names of -- we'll say Michael Jordan to our players or to young kids, they don't even know who he is. That's how things change.
But it would be great. I mean, you saw the emotion of Ernie Barrett yesterday, and he's a special man, Mr. K-State, done so much for the University. Obviously it would be -- he's one that's alive and experienced and been part of it. For him it would be special, there's no doubt, and for our program.
Q. Is there one player that you can point to who's set the example for the defensive toughness that this team has, and if not one player, is there one factor that you attribute that to?
BRUCE WEBER: Barry Brown, there's no doubt about it. When he was a freshman, I said, who's going to be our defensive stopper, and he's very stubborn. He's a little bit confident, overconfident, but he said, I am going to be, Coach. And he got cooked a little bit as a freshman, got better last year. He was one of the tops in the nation in steals a year ago. And then this year, he kind of has taken it on, just to be the stopper. He hasn't probably gotten as many steals because he's been locked in on so many guys.
You just look at the tournament, Big East Player of the Year, Marcus Foster, Lyles, American East player, last night Alexander, SEC, I think MVP of the tournament, if I'm right. And then even last night, we had to switch him on Knox.
He's been the leader. Xavier has really taken some pride as the season has gone on in being a stopper. We've convinced him of that. And then the other guys just have kind of bought into it.
Q. Did you come up with your pregame quote yet for this game. And a side question, I wonder if you could describe what was going on with Kam last night. You were on the court, you had both arms around him and you were laughing. It was kind of a tense time. You got him laughing.
BRUCE WEBER: Well, with Kam, I was just trying to get him to calm down. He had kind of messed up on the defensive side and didn't run a play, got going fast. I just said, hey, you've got to calm down, just relax. You've got to smile. You've got to enjoy it. We're not mad at you. We just want you to do well and do what you're supposed to, stay calm and poised. I guess I got him to smile a little bit, and he made some big plays.
Obviously he's not where he should be or could be and where he was, but we keep telling him he can help us, and he's done great things to help us to be here.
And then with the theme, actually I was talking to Jim this morning on the phone a little bit, and the coaches, we always think of some ideas. But for tonight, we'll probably talk about mostly, really don't worry about yesterday, don't worry about tomorrow, worry about today, and preparing. We've talked all this last stretch about your body, taking care of it, your mind, your preparation, and then your heart, playing for your teammates. And that's kind of what we've kind of stuck with as a general thing over this last month.
Q. You're a 9 now in the Elite 8, and in 2002 you were -- Southern Illinois in the Sweet 16, but you also had the No. 1 team in the country in 2005 that was very close to being undefeated. When you're on a run like this, is it more fun if you're the one that is not supposed to be here than the one that is?
BRUCE WEBER: Well, I think both of them are obviously enjoyable, just to advance each time with each group. But you know, there's no doubt when you -- like Southern Illinois for what we did, you know, just to win one and then to win two and then to go -- I mentioned the other day, we walk in there and it's UConn, it's Maryland, it's Kentucky and Southern Illinois. You know, our guys were all giggling when we were running out for practice. I said, what's the matter. They said, Coach, look at those banners. We don't belong here.
But two of those guys were at our Charlotte games, a couple were here last night, and they just said, make sure they don't get tight, that they enjoy it, that they're ready to play. I thought our guys were very, very focused.
You know, the run with Illinois, just amazing how our guys stayed the course with all the attention. I mean, every day we had this many people doing stories about us because we had a chance to be undefeated. I know the week that I said I am not going to allow any media on, I got hugs, kisses -- into the practice facility. They were so happy, because they just wanted to relax and be young men.
But all the runs are special. There's no doubt.
Q. I was just wondering with Barry, how did you come across him on the recruiting trail, and how has he sort of developed for you?
BRUCE WEBER: Well, our staff does a great job of finding guys, and we don't have a great big population base in Kansas, and we got one pretty good player from there. If you look at the rosters of Kansas, Wichita, and us, there aren't a lot of Kansas kids. They've had some great history in Kansas basketball, Kansas City, Wichita basketball. But it runs in cycles. It runs in cycles, and it's been a little bit of a down cycle. Hopefully it'll pick up. So we've got to go all over the place.
Barry was actually the eighth man on his AAU teams but he was on a team with kids that went to Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, I mean, all the top kids. And we just appreciated how he was patient. He stuck with that team because a lot of guys, if you're eighth man and you're good, you're going to another team, and he stuck with them, and when he got his chance, he always did good things. And that summer, he got away from his team one weekend, and he was the leading scorer at the Oladipo camp, and there was no doubt in our mind that we wanted him. And Coach Frazier did a good job with him and his dad.
And then when other people came in, some of the bigger schools, the local schools, he already committed to us, but he -- the dad said, hey, where were you guys before, these guys have been here the whole time, so we appreciate their loyalty, so glad to have him, and glad it's worked out for him.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports