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November 24, 2019
Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
DAVE ODOM: Good morning, everyone. There we go. All right. We have gotten these coaches up awfully early here, so they're all fired up and ready to go. And look forward to hearing all from them in just a moment or two.
My name is Dave Odom. I am the chairman of the tournament. This is starting my second decade, so it's an exciting time for me and I've seen everything change as we go along. I want to welcome you to the head coaches' press conference and our charity free throw contest. We're going to do that in an orderly fashion here. Here's a quick run down of what you can expect this morning.
First, we're going to hear from all of the eight coaches that are going to be participating in our tournament today. We're going to have them sign some surfboards and take pictures as we go along. We'll have our charity free throw contest as we always do and, of course, we're going to have some of the local Maui Middle School students here to pair up with the coaches and we'll see which one can shoot. Coach Bovaird usually is the premier shooter for the group. We'll -- Bill Self, you got to watch him, the guy shoots well, he really does. So we look forward to seeing that.
Finally, we'll have a 15-minute roundtable Q&A session with the coaches. You'll have a chance to speak to the coaches one-on-one. They'll be assigned an area. You go find them and they will spend about 15 minutes with you at the conclusion of this. We'll ask that you hold all of your questions until the very end of the session. We plan to be wrapped up here by 9:00, if at all possible. We have got two of our schools, two of our teams, Coach Crean and I believe Coach Grant, both have to be at practice, so we want to try to get that moved along as best we can.
Now without further adieu, I would like to introduce our moderator for this morning's press conference. I call him the hardest working man in sports because he's everywhere and literally all over the globe. His voice has become synonymous with the memorable moments, both on the court and on the field, since he's been with ESPN since 1995. He was the voice of Sunday Night Baseball for many years and now calls Toronto Blue Jay games in his hometown of Toronto, Canada. In addition, he has called the World Series on ESPN Radio for the last nine years. Amazing. He is in his 25th year calling college basketball for ESPN, has won awards for his work, both in Canada and in the United States. We're excited to welcome him back to Maui once again. Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm and very well-deserved welcome to our friend Dan Shulman. Dan.
DAN SHULMAN: Thank you, Coach. Thrilled to be back here again. And on behalf of everybody at ESPN we're so fortunate to do this great tournament year after year and we can't wait to get the games going. I also see that all the coaches, you all have your Maui Jims on. You're ready to roll. I'm not allowed to proceed until we all have our Maui Jims on. We want to thank Maui Jim for being the sponsor of this great event. And as Coach Odom said, the coaches have to get to practice, so we're going to keep this moving quite a bit.
Just a couple of treetop things. We have got iconic programs, we have got a couple of Hall of Fame coaches here, we have got a National Player of the Year candidate in Cassius Winston, we got one of the great freshman in the country in Anthony Edwards, we've got Obi Toppin, a breakout candidate, who is going, if he's not already, will be a household name very soon. We got a lot of exciting things to look forward to over the next few days here in Maui.
We're going to hear from each of the coaches, just a couple of quick comments, and we'll go in order of the games as they are going to start tomorrow. So Coach Crean, I think you're my leadoff man here today. Your second year in Athens with Georgia. You've been here in this tournament before. You were here with Marquette, you were here with Indiana. What does it mean for you to bring a program here to the islands?
TOM CREAN: Well, it means an awful lot. Actually, 25 years ago I came with Tom Izzo for our first games. Tom, being the head coach at Michigan State and I was his assistant. And we got indoctrinated into what Maui was all about back then. So it's a tremendous honor any time you can bring your team and represent your university, but it's a little more special when you're in a place like Maui.
DAN SHULMAN: Did Izzo shoot free throws 25 years ago? Did they have that contest?
TOM CREAN: Before practice. I don't remember that part. I was too busy in the film room. But he's got an advantage over everybody here because he shoots at least a hundred free throws a day before practice starts for 25 years. So he's got the 10,000-hour rule working in good effect for him.
DAN SHULMAN: Tell us about Anthony Edwards, the highest-rated recruit Georgia's ever brought in.
TOM CREAN: Well, he's a very humble and driven young guy who should be a senior in high school and he decided to come out a year early. Works extremely hard, wants to learn. He's got a real energy about him with the way that he plays. He loves to move the ball, which I think endears him to his teammates. And he's learning a lot. The good news about him is while he's learning, most importantly he knows he has to learn, and I think that's what, that's where the humility comes in. Because he's very talented, very athletic, but really, really wants to be great and he's learning a lot about that.
DAN SHULMAN: So you talked about learning. What do you hope to learn about your team? A lot of young kids a lot of new faces this year. What do you hope to learn in the next few days?
TOM CREAN: Well, I think the thing that stands out to me so much, and this is why I'm not sure we're ready for this yet, is the physicality of the teams in this tournament. There's experience here, there's physicality. We play Dayton. Dayton is not only deep, physical, but they're so active, and just tremendous activity and movement. And their offense and their defense, the way they support each other. We're in a big-time learning stage with 10 new players. We have seven scholarship freshmen, two walk-on freshmen, and a grad transfer. So we're trying to indoctrinate 10 new guys into this. But I think we'll learn a ton about what we have got to get better at. I'll never forget 25 years ago we came in, we went 1-2 in the tournament at Michigan State, and we learned an awful lot about where we had to go. And a week later we turned around and we beat Arkansas who was the defending national champion. So, to me, it's unreal learning that you get from coming out of this if you'll apply it the right way.
DAN SHULMAN: Thank you. And good luck out there. Georgia will take on Dayton. Anthony Grant is the head coach at Dayton. And I think one of the coolest things in college basketball is when a guy goes back and coaches at his alma mater and you're doing that, Coach Grant. What's it like to be coaching at Dayton?
ANTHONY GRANT: Well, it's an honor, obviously, for me having played there 30 years ago. The thing that attracted me as a player was the atmosphere, the support, everything that Dayton encompasses in terms of both academically and athletically. So to have a chance to come back as the head coach is really one of the honors of my life.
Q. For people who don't know as much as they should maybe about your program, the passion around your program is great. 12,000 plus every game. What sense do you get of how well your fans have traveled out here for this tournament?
ANTHONY GRANT: I think really well. I think there's a history with the University of Dayton of traveling really well. So I think we got a nice group that's out here and should be a great atmosphere there with all the teams. I think everybody's excited to be here.
Q. I mentioned Obi Toppin. Tell us what we need to know about him.
ANTHONY GRANT: Well, he's a guy, I think the first thing that you notice about him is that he plays with great passion. He really enjoys playing the game. I think he really enjoys competing. 6'9", really athletic, and has a diverse skill set. So I think he's a guy that is an engine for us and we're excited to have him.
DAN SHULMAN: And we're excited to watch him play tomorrow. Good luck in the tournament. Thank you.
Our next coach, Mike Young of Virginia Tech, his first year in Blacksburg after 17 years as the head coach at Wofford, 13 years as an assistant before then, and a tremendous amount of success there.
Coach Young, what's it like for you this early in your tenure at Virginia Tech to be in this kind of a field out here in Maui?
MIKE YOUNG: It's incredible, Dan. I wish the organizing committee would go back and find another first round opponent for the Hokies rather than Coach Izzo's team. But a tremendous tournament and a great opportunity for our program. We're excited to be here.
DAN SHULMAN: I'm not giving away any secrets. Michigan State has obviously watched the tape, but you guys made 21 threes last game, you're small --
MIKE YOUNG: Great coaching, Dan.
DAN SHULMAN: Great coaching. You got them great looks.
MIKE YOUNG: You got it. Absolutely.
DAN SHULMAN: How important is the three ball? And you have a small team, so how do you try to compensate for that?
MIKE YOUNG: That's just where we are at this point in our development. I would like to be able to throw the thing in the post and get fouled more often. I can't. But we do have a number of guys that can shoot the basketball and I think we pass the ball pretty well, very good point guard that has been good for us through five games, Wabissa Bede, that, his assist/turnovers 32 to 7, something like that. So our turnovers have been down and our kids are willing to share the ball and we, again, we do have a number of guys that can shoot it.
DAN SHULMAN: We wish you the best of luck.
Our next coach, as Coach Young mentioned, is one of the two Hall of Fame coaches we have here, Tom Izzo. His 25th season at Michigan State. And, Tom, you played Kentucky in your first game, you're here, you got Duke next week. When are you going to start scheduling up a little bit and stop taking it easy in the non-conference play?
TOM IZZO: Yeah, it's been interesting, but like Tom Crean said, you know, it was 25 years. It's hard to believe. That means he's already established himself as a great coach and it means we're getting old, Bill, as we get older here in this whole deal.
BILL SELF: Speak for yourself.
TOM IZZO: Good point. But I've been here many times. But my first one, you know, I'll never forget it, it was against Chaminade and we blew you guys out by two and Jud Heathcote and Magic Johnson were sitting right behind me and you talk about pressure. That was pressure.
DAN SHULMAN: The expectations around your team are large this year, as they often are. Do you welcome that?
TOM IZZO: You know, I do. I mean, it's been an interesting year for us so far, losing what I consider maybe our best two-way player, Josh Langford. And then with the tragedy that happened to Cassius, we're kind of trying to figure out where we are, trying to figure out when we can practice. But I do have a hell of a point guard. He's different than most. I've never seen him touch the rim, never ever seen him dunk, so him and I have something in common, maybe that's why we have a good relationship. But he's an interesting player. I've got another guy named Xavier Tillman, who is just kind of a solid. He's Draymond Green-ish. He just does all the dirty work, does a lot of things. So we got a good team but we're still trying to find ourselves, like a lot of these teams are.
DAN SHULMAN: Your team, your players won the cornhole contest last night.
TOM IZZO: That's the first shot they made in three weeks.
DAN SHULMAN: We had ESPN research look into it. Nobody's ever won the cornhole and the coach free throw shooting contest in the same year. And like Coach Odom said, like Coach Bovaird's a ringer, so are you up for this?
TOM IZZO: That's why you guys from ESPN get paid all the big bucks, man. You come up with some incredible stats. I mean, incredible. And who won the tournament when they won the cornhole?
DAN SHULMAN: We didn't delve that deep into it. Would you rather the tournament over the free throw contest?
TOM IZZO: Yes.
DAN SHULMAN: Good. That's why he's a Hall of Fame coach. Thanks, Tom.
Another Hall of Famer, Bill Self, the head coach at Kansas. And Bill, like Tom's team, big, big expectations. Tell us what kind of a start you guys are off to this year.
BILL SELF: Well, we played well in New York and had 28 turnovers, so we weren't, we didn't get off to a great start. We have been a little better since then. But I like our guys. We have a good blend of experience and some young youthful exuberance, so to speak. And we do make mistakes but we usually make mistakes trying. So I do think we have a chance to be a pretty good team in time. We're not close to being a team yet. But this tournament usually lends itself to allow teams to become much closer, getting away and having a chance to experience threes three games over here, so we're excited to be here.
DAN SHULMAN: You have something that isn't very common in college basketball anymore. You've got a 7-foot big man, plays with his back to the basket. How is Udoka Azubuike doing so far?
BILL SELF: Well, he's doing great inside three feet. You get him to 15-foot, he's not quite as good right now, which would be a free throw. But I love him. I love him. He's bouncy, he's in the best shape of his life. He's lost 40 pounds since the start of the summer, so he's taking this very, very serious.
DAN SHULMAN: We appreciate the time. Good luck over the course of the week.
Next up is Eric Bovaird, the head coach at Chaminade entering his ninth season with Chaminade. He's guided the Silverswords to three NCAA West Regional appearances. And Coach Bovaird, you're back in the main draw on the islands this year. What does it mean for your program to be part of this?
ERIC BOVAIRD: This event is so special to us. It's something we talk about, we plan for a long period of time. It's what we're known worldwide, especially in the basketball world. So it's an incredible event. I don't take it for granted. I woke up this morning, looked outside and just thankful to be in an incredible place like this.
DAN SHULMAN: What do you tell your kids this week or pregame, whether you're playing Kansas as you will tomorrow or whoever else you'll meet over the next few days, what do you tell them going into these games about the opportunity they have got?
ERIC BOVAIRD: Yeah, to stay locked in on the court. They hopefully don't have the tendency to pay attention to the fans and everything like that. As long as they're in tune with what we're trying to do and what defense we're in, what offense we're in, I think they got a chance to be successful.
DAN SHULMAN: Give us something to look for, a player or something about your team that fans should look for.
ERIC BOVAIRD: My first six guys have a lot of college basketball experience, some of them, fourth and fifth-year players and have been at Division I schools. But a guy I'm really proud of is Tyler Cartaino, that's been in my program for five years now. He was the Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year of our conference. Not only a great student but a great basketball player. Four years ago he didn't even see the floor for us, but continued to work really, really hard and now he's a preseason All-American and first-team All-Conference player. So I love to see a guy develop like that.
DAN SHULMAN: Good luck this week.
Next up Mark Pope, first year as the head coach at BYU. Was an assistant there for several years. He's now come back as the head coach and, well, we have got three head coaches in their first year with their new team. So what's it like, Coach Pope, two weeks into the job, once the games have started, to be out here in a field like this?
MARK POPE: It's awesome. It's an unbelievable opportunity for us. The legendary Coach Rose left us with an extraordinary program and unbelievable tradition and ridiculously difficult schedule. So I'm so grateful for that.
DAN SHULMAN: Well, two out of three ain't bad. Tell us about your team, the style of play you like, and then how it's going so far.
MARK POPE: Well, we have a veteran team with some really talented players. Jake Toolson is a special offensive talent. He can score at all three levels, is an unbelievable finisher around the rim. T.J. Haws is a proven veteran point guard. We have to play a little bit different. We're pretty small and we're not very deep right now, but we have some veteran guys that know how to play this game and are excited about playing it a different way and trying to figure out how we can win that way.
DAN SHULMAN: And without giving away any secrets about the challenge of facing UCLA in game one.
MARK POPE: Yeah, UCLA is pretty good. They're long and big and athletic and they have an unbelievable coach. Not the prettiest dude in the world, but he's a big-time coach and we have been friends for a long time. And it was an unbelievable hire, we actually had a chance to talk about it this morning, what an unbelievable hire for UCLA to maybe take that program to really, really the most elite level.
DAN SHULMAN: You know, insulting a guy when he gets a chance to speak after you is generally not the way you're supposed to play this.
MARK POPE: Watch your back. Let's throw down right now, boys.
DAN SHULMAN: Thanks, coach. Good luck this week. And Mick Cronin, first year at UCLA, after a tremendous run at Cincinnati. Playing a little bit hurt today, got a sore arm shoulder?
MICK CRONIN: I'll live.
DAN SHULMAN: You'll live. He'll tough it out, just like he'll ask of his player. Talk about what the first few weeks few months have been really like at UCLA.
MICK CRONIN: It's been a very smooth transition, just -- Mark took a job, didn't have to get a new house, I moved across the country. But it's been great. I keep trying to remind myself is that these guys, they didn't play for you. So I go home every night, I think the pressure's on me, not my players. Because when you take a job and guys, you're speaking Greek to guys, and you're not speaking Greek to yourself, so you have to try to invoke what we're all so good at up here which is patience. Coaches, we have a plethora of it, we really display it all the time with officials. But, yeah, that's just the biggest challenge is just trying to have patience and focus on the journey, not the result sometimes and making sure that you're doing the right things every day, because that's what you can control. And really trying to help my players through the transition is my focus.
DAN SHULMAN: You were out here I think it was 2009 with Cincinnati, took Gonzaga to overtime in the championship game. What do you remember about the experience and what do you hope to learn about your team this week?
MICK CRONIN: You're really putting the pressure on me with that. What I remember about the experience is we got fouled at the buzzer and there was no call (laughing).
Dave Odom and the Kemper guys came in, they were praying that I wouldn't say anything about it in the press conference. I promised them that I would thank you for inviting us, I won't say a word, please invite us back. I held up my end. They did too, they just waited for me to get to UCLA and take that job. No, it's just a great, when you're younger -- and I was a great high school player, my dad held me back. Mark was a great player for our guy, Coach Pitino. When you're back then, everybody watches Maui and everybody's tried to replicate this, but whether it's ESPN or the multitude of tournaments and other tournaments, there's nothing like the Maui Invitational. So when you're a young kid, you coach, whatever, you're always sitting there, this is the tournament that you want to be in. So I'm looking forward to four years from now.
DAN SHULMAN: Well put. Thank you for the time. Good luck to all the coaches, thank you for joining us. There will be some breakout interviews going on in just a few minutes, but good luck to all of you, we look forward watching you play this week, and I will hand it back over to Coach O.
DAVE ODOM: Thanks, Dan, we appreciate that.
I want to go off script for just 30 seconds. Bill Villa, stand up. Bill Villa is a long-time athletics director at Chaminade who does so many things to help the tournament. He's really on island, actually Oahu, all year long and there are so many things that we as a staff can't do because we're not on island. We call Bill, he gets it done. Bill, I just want to thank you for all that you do, but also for being a great friend. Let's give him a big hand.
Okay. Next thing and we want to try to stay right on schedule here as best we can. We are going to usher the coaches right over to the boards and have them, have a, get a picture with the surfboards and what a great backdrop we have got for pictures. And from there they will go to the free throw contest, which is going to be held to my immediate left. So lets everybody join them and we'll keep this thing moving right along.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports