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November 18, 2018
Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
DAVE ODOM: Good morning, everyone. Aloha and welcome to our head coach press conference and our charity free throw conference, which will take place after our coach's interview.
Excitement reigns everywhere over the islands as well as beyond. We're delighted to be the host, KemperLesnik, for the 35th year here on the island. The tournament just continues to grow and get bigger and more exciting as we go along.
This morning we're going to hear from all eight coaches. It will be followed by photo op and a press conference with the media over by the stations over here. Each coach will find a table, and the media will be available to come and visit with them.
But this morning, before we get to that, it's my pleasure to introduce a friend of the tournament, a friend of college basketball, a voice that you hear often on all of the big games that ESPN does.
Every year when we get our field released, we start thinking about staff, one of the next things is, are you going to send our guest over to do the games? Of course, we're always delighted when he's included in the tournament itself.
So I want to turn the microphone over to a person who I used to describe as the hardest working voice in all of sports, because he did baseball, Sunday night baseball, the World Series on radio, ESPN radio. But he now is focusing pretty much on college basketball. He lives in Toronto, Canada, so he gets a lot of air miles in. But he really studies the game of college basketball.
We're glad to have him. He knows these coaches personally. I'm going to turn the mic over to him and let him answer the questions. I think you'll enjoy his conversation and exchange with the coaches.
A nice round of applause and welcome to Dan Shulman.
DAN SHULMAN: Thank you, Dave. Believe me, it's my pleasure to be here, much more than it's your pleasure to introduce me to be here. This is the fifth or sixth time I've been lucky enough to be here. You can see the field for next year. Every year we're excited, who is coming next year. Last year when we found out who was coming this year, it was even an more exciting event, obviously to see the quality of the programs that are here. We're going to talk to all of the coaches who are participating here.
Before we get to the eight coaches who are playing the games here, we want to talk to Eric Bovaird, the host of the tournament, and obviously I think everybody is familiar with the history, the victory over Virginia in the early '80s. Really led to this tournament being created, and Chaminade beat Cal last year in a game here on the islands.
This year, the SilverSwords played games against San Diego State and Arizona, had the opportunity to go to the mainland and play a couple of games.
Eric, I shouldn't say welcome to you. This is your turf in a sense. Thanks for being here. Tell us a little bit about the two games you played against Arizona and San Diego State.
ERIC BOVAIRD: Yeah, it was a remarkable experience. Typically we play in front of maybe a couple hundred fans. To go into both of those very unique arenas and play in front of close to 10,000, 12,000, what an experience. We walked out, I was a little bit star struck myself, when you walk out and see all the names up on Arizona's rafters.
But it was a really neat experience. We cherish that experience. Hopefully it was good for them, preparation for their season. I know it was really good for us. Thankfully it helped us. We're 3-0 right now.
DAN SHULMAN: Next year you'll be back in the games here. It's an alternating situation. I looked at that banner when I went into practice yesterday, saw Kansas, UCLA, Michigan State. I'm sure the kids you have next year are already excited about that.
ERIC BOVAIRD: Yeah, without a doubt. I know Coach Odom is probably going to put us up against Kansas again. A few years ago, that was one of the worst losses we've ever received. Hopefully we can give them a better game.
DAN SHULMAN: Let's get to the games. We're going to go in order of the games as they will be played tomorrow.
The first game we'll see tomorrow will be Auburn against Xavier. If you know anything about Bruce Pearl, you know he doesn't need to manufacture the energy. It comes naturally. He's got an energetic team, one of three top-10 programs that are in this tournament.
Coach Pearl, tell us a little bit about the group you brought to Hawaii this year.
BRUCE PEARL: John, I'm just blessed to be able to be here, bring our Auburn basketball team to Maui. When I talked to Dave Odom several years ago about trying to get Auburn in the field, he was honest with me. He said, Coach, the program just isn't up to snuff. I don't know that you're going to travel and be competitive. I was so glad that we were able to travel and we are competitive, able to represent Auburn here and the SEC.
I really like my team. Kids have really worked hard. I think they're trusting each other, trusting the system. We know that this weekend we're going to get exposed. I mean, three nights in a row. But it's going to help us get better because once we get through this tournament, we will have seen just about everything that there is to see.
So our kids are excited about playing against the quality of the players, and I personally am excited and incredibly challenged to go up against Hall of Fame coaches, guys that I knew when they were assistant AAU coaches or players or assistant coaches along the way.
The only thing I can say is when I first walked into the meeting of coaches, I said, There's a lot of miles up here, guys, a lot of miles.
DAN SHULMAN: A lot of great qualifications for the coaches up on the podium today.
You had a pro day today, you have terrific guards, a lot of interest in them. Tell us a little bit about the guards and how instrumental they are to the success of your team this year.
BRUCE PEARL: I think sometimes coaches get too much credit when kids develop. I've got a terrific backcourt in Jared Harper and Bryce Brown. They were not highly recruited kids. Think just worked so hard. They just put the time in the gym. Their dads are in the gym with them, not always the assistant coaches.
They probably didn't get highly recruited because they're a little bit on the smaller side of things. But they got a big heart, they're tough. I think they play the game the right way.
So we've got some good quickness on the perimeter, and we have a little bit of size now on the inside with Austin Wiley coming back.
You hope that you can be a tough matchup, yet at the same time I look at the things that these coaches do, how in the world are we going to guard that, you know. But it makes you better.
DAN SHULMAN: Your first challenge is Xavier. Let's go to Travis Steele now, the first-year head coach at Xavier, after being on the staff the last 10 years, an assistant coach for the last nine years.
First of all, congratulations. To be at a program for 10 years, then to take over as the head coach, Xavier has always been a program of continuity and culture and tradition. What does it mean to you to be in charge of that program right now?
TRAVIS STEELE: It's an honor. Obviously I always say thanks. Sean Miller was the guy who brought me to Xavier 10 years ago. Then I was lucky enough to work under Chris Mack the last nine years. So very grateful, honored for everything that Xavier stands for both on and off the court.
Obviously we've had a lot of success on the court, but we're even more proud of our graduation streak. We've graduated 109 seniors straight in a row, dating all the way back to 1986. We try to do things right both on and off the court.
So very honored to be here. Obviously this is the tournament that growing up you watch every year. Almost the kickoff of college basketball in a lot of ways. Been a lot of great players to come through this tournament, a lot of great coaches. Really honored to be here.
DAN SHULMAN: Tell us a little bit about your team so far this year.
TRAVIS STEELE: We got a lot of new faces, got guys in new roles. We lost a lot off of last year's team. But I think we have a good crew of guys returning with Quentin Gooden, Naji Marshall, Paul Scruggs, Tyrique Jones, guys who played big roles on our team last year, on a very successful team, a team that was a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
We have a lot of new faces as well, three grad transfer guys that are really impacting our team on both the offensive, defensive end. Think we got a talented group. Still trying to figure ourselves out, but it's obviously early on in the year.
DAN SHULMAN: Good luck. First game tomorrow is Xavier and Auburn.
The second game, the noon game, is Duke and San Diego State.
Coach K is obviously no stranger to coming here to Maui. The Blue Devils have come five times and are undefeated out here, 15-0 in Maui, won the championship all five times.
Coach K, maybe before we talk about this year's team, what has this tournament meant to you and your program, the kids, the fans, everybody over the years?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I think it's a tournament that gives every program amazing visibility. People watch this tournament. They watch every game. They get a read on many of the top teams in the country. So just from a visibility standpoint, I think it helps. It helps our sport to have this level of tournament at this time of the year.
As far as coming here, it's been an honor to come here. We're fortunate to win some very close games here, and hopefully we'll be fortunate to win a few close games here this time.
DAN SHULMAN: The game against Kentucky a couple of weeks ago, it was kind of like the college basketball season got shot out of a cannon in that game. Your program always deals with a lot of attention, probably even more so now with what's happened so far now. We've seen the players, tell us a little bit about the kids themselves, the people that you're coaching right now.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: We've been lucky that we get a lot of attention. It's extreme, one way or the other. It goes the other way, too, just the other way. So that's part of the game.
If you're playing in our program, you have to keep balanced. We have a lot of good, young players. But our upperclassmen have really been the key for us in developing an atmosphere where the younger guys can be themselves.
I think our upper class is very secure. Our freshmen are secure. So that creates a good environment to get better. Hopefully when we get on the plane on Thursday, we'll be secure, too.
DAN SHULMAN: Good luck this week, this season. Duke taking on San Diego State in the second game tomorrow.
Brian Dutcher is the head coach of the Aztecs, a program that was here four years ago in 2014. You were the associate head coach then to Steve Fisher. Tell us a little bit about what your team is like, what you're hoping to get out of this week here in Maui.
BRIAN DUTCHER: Well, I was going to complain we're young with three sophomores in the lineup, but we're playing a team with four freshmen in the lineup, so that won't work.
But I like my team. It starts with my two senior guards, Devin Watson and Jeremy Hemsley, if you're going to be old at the guard position. I think this is my fifth trip to Maui. I came in 1988 with the University of Michigan as an assistant with Steve Fisher. Worked with Coach Fisher for close to 30 years. I feel blessed to take over a San Diego State program with a really good foundation and a really good young team.
DAN SHULMAN: Jalen McDaniels is a guy that I think a lot of people are excited to see. For people who haven't seen that much of him, what are we going to learn about him in the next few days?
BRIAN DUTCHER: Jalen plays with a high motor, which just means he plays hard all the time. He's a little bit thin, but he makes up for it with energy and effort. He rebounds the ball at a really high level. He has improved three-point shooting. Will just be fun to watch. Excited to get him on a national stage where he can continue to grow his reputation.
DAN SHULMAN: Maybe just one quick thought, if you could, about the challenge of playing the No. 1 team in the country in your first game out here.
BRIAN DUTCHER: I said before we came, we didn't want to come all the way out here and not play Duke. I would have preferred it be in the championship game, but part of what we sell our team on is that we're going to play a national schedule. To have an opportunity to play a Duke on national TV is just a great honor for us and our team. I think we'll be up for the task.
DAN SHULMAN: Coach, thank you. Good luck.
The third game tomorrow features Arizona taking on Iowa State. The Arizona head coach is Sean Miller.
Welcome to Maui. You were here, we were talking yesterday, in 2014, won the championship, beat the Aztecs in the championship game. You've been through this before. What does this tournament mean to you because of that experience?
SEAN MILLER: Well, you're right. I think the biggest thing about us being here is it's quite an honor. We're one of the lucky programs that I believe from day one of this tournament, Arizona has been a fixture every four years. Obviously Coach Olson brought some great teams to this tournament, had a lot of success.
This is actually our third time. Last time we were here we won the championship. I think more than anything you learn a lot about your team. It's a great experience, win or lose. If you win a championship, great. But when you leave here, you know a lot more about the group that you have. I think you're a lot more prepared to move on and improve.
DAN SHULMAN: A lot of new faces for you this year. Tell people a little bit about the players you have this season.
SEAN MILLER: We're really a blend of like three different groups. We have a group of transfers, a lot of guys that you haven't seen coming from other programs. We have a group of guys that are kind of throwbacks, guys that were here last year as freshmen, didn't have as big of a role, but they've all worked very hard to return as sophomores, much improved. Then we have an incoming freshman, Brandon Williams, who I think is a very exciting player, off to a very good start. Put it all together, that's our team.
DAN SHULMAN: I'm sure you're looking forward to see how it all blends together.
Steve Prohm is the head coach of Iowa State. Steve and Brad Underwood and I, we're the guys that are benefitting the most from a weather perspective being out here in Maui right now. It's the Iowa, the Illinois and the Canadian guys who are happiest.
Tell us a little bit about your team, coach, what you're looking for out here in Maui.
STEVE PROHM: I told our guys it's a great privilege and honor to be here. We have a lot of new guys in our roster over the last two years. We're here because of the past success. Fred did an amazing job in his time here. We've had a great run of guys like Monte Morris, Abdel Nader, Deonte Burton, Naz Long, the guys that put this program on the map, kind of back on the map, to get this program here.
Now it's our job to go honor those guys the right way and play the right way. I like our group. We have a couple starters right now injured with Lindell Wiggington and Solomon Young are out, a couple of out due to suspensions. But we have eight guys, we'll play a lot of young guys, some freshmen.
But I like our leadership. I think the biggest thing we're doing a better job this year of being selfless, playing together, really sharing the ball. That starts with our point guard, Weiler-Babb, then a senior transfer from Virginia, Marial Shayok.
DAN SHULMAN: When you saw your draw, what was your reaction to what you were going to experience this week?
STEVE PROHM: Regardless of your first draw, everybody is good. Like Coach Pearl mentioned, you have Hall of Fame coaches, coaches that have won at a high levels, been to Final Fours. Every game Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday is going to be a great draw.
The great thing for us is we have an amazing fan base that is going to travel out here extremely well. The environment for all of our games will be terrific. Hopefully we'll play well.
DAN SHULMAN: A little Hilton magic out here in Maui?
STEVE PROHM: Hopefully it will be Hilton far west.
DAN SHULMAN: The fourth game is Gonzaga and Illinois.
Let's welcome in Mark Few, the head coach of the Zags. 19 years as head coach, 19 trips to the NCAA tournament. You were saying yesterday that people in and around your program say, When are you going to Maui next? This is like a constant major thing within your program.
MARK FEW: Yeah, I mean, I think this is a big thing in all our programs. I think it's one tournament that really moves the needle with your own players, obviously with your fans, at least ours are always asking what year are we going back to Maui. I think even in recruiting. I think if you mention Maui in recruiting, even at the highest level, the kids are very excited about getting over here because they know the type of games they're going to be in, the type of attention, like Coach K referred to. It's the one tournament you want to be involved with.
DAN SHULMAN: Tell people a little bit about your team, maybe for folks who haven't seen much of Rui Hachimura as they should have, what they're going to see with him in the next three days.
MARK FEW: We have a great blend of some guys that have been in some big moments, in some big games, dating all the way back to the national championship game. We got a starting point guard, Josh Perkins, that started that game. Obviously we're leaning on him.
Both Rui and Killian Tillie is not going to be playing this tournament. Very important part of our team. When they opted to come back this year, we knew we were at least primed for a pretty special year. Then to throw in Zach Norvell, who started pretty much all year for us last year, kind of a blend of experience and some youth that hopefully we can put it all together.
DAN SHULMAN: Mark, good luck.
Coach Few knows he'll be up against the pressure that Illinois is going to provide with the style that Coach Underwood plays.
Brad Underwood evidently will only take a job if he gets to Maui shortly after getting the job. Took a job at Oklahoma State a few years ago, now here in his second year with the Illini. Welcome back to Maui, coach. Tell us a little bit about the team that you're bringing here.
BRAD UNDERWOOD: First of all, it's very, very exciting to be back. This is the elite event. As Mark said, this moves the needle. We feel honored. Illinois is a special place. It's a program that is very rich in tradition. We're excited to be back in this event, especially in this field with all these teams and great coaches.
But we're young. We've got two freshmen in the starting lineup. We're a heavy guard-oriented team. We like to play up-tempo and fast. I think we're a team that can be a very good shooting team.
Again, we've got a nice blend of four or five guys back in the program who were parts of what we did last year, who are leading. Then we have six freshmen who are all getting minutes. They're finding their way. Two of those guys are in the starting lineup, Ayo Dosunmu and Giorgi Bezhanishvili, I'll have everybody have fun pronouncing his last name. Those two guys are very good basketball players. We know we have our hands full with a great Gonzaga team, but we're excited for the opportunity.
DAN SHULMAN: Brad, with the style you play, obviously the kids have to be in great shape, with the pressure you put on other teams. Are they excited about three games in three days, really finding out about how deep they can dig here in this tournament?
BRAD UNDERWOOD: Yeah, this is a unique opportunity. Really the only time that you get to do this again is in the post-season, in your conference tournament. We've talked about that a little bit in conditioning, taking care of your body, recovery, so on and so forth.
But we go, we practice hard, and we get after it. We look at it as an advantage for us. Hopefully it will be.
DAN SHULMAN: Coach, good luck.
Good luck to all the coaches. Going to be a great three days, 12 great games at the Civic Center. We wish you all the best of luck this week and this season. We look forward to seeing you out at the gym.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports