March 29, 2021
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Lucas Oil Stadium - Unity Court (South)
Elite 8 Postgame Media Conference
Baylor - 81, Arkansas - 72
COACH DREW: First and foremost, I want to congratulate Arkansas on a tremendous year and Coach Musselman is a great coach. He's done a great job with that team. Second, our players for accomplishing something that hadn't been accomplished since 1950 and getting us back to a Final Four. And then for all the Baylor fans that have stayed with us in the lean years, Mack and Linda and their staffs that support us so generously. And then our staff, I'm blessed with the best coaching staff in the country.
So very happy for everyone to have this opportunity to celebrate. Been to two Elite Eights before and seen Duke celebrate and win a national championship, Kentucky celebrate, win a national championship.
It's nice that these guys were able to celebrate especially after last year when we were on the verge of having the first No. 1 seed in school's history and not having a chance to compete in the NCAA Tournament. And as Obim, who was on our team last year and is now a GA, said, Freddie and Devonte, a piece of that net is coming to you.
Q. In the first hour since you've made the Final Four, what emotions are going through your head, and what's it like to be in the Final Four now?
COACH DREW: I was worried that I was going to be able to stay up this late. But anyway just pure joy, excitement. Obviously tired because it's late. And it was an emotional game. But again seeing our guys having a chance to cut down the net and celebrate, doesn't get much better than that come March.
Q. You guys, you had seen Arkansas have those comebacks. You guys never panicked or didn't look like you panicked when they got it down to four.
COACH DREW: I thought it was really crucial in that first half when Davion picked up his third that their pace and to their credit I thought we got a little tired. And we're used to rotating our guys a little bit more. And we were able to have a lead and that was important.
And then second half we knew they were going to make a run at us because that's what they do. That's what any team in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight will do. They're well-coached and they don't want to go home either. Credit our upperclassmen for not panicking.
I thought every time they made a big play, our guys really answered. MaCio's big three, Adam big three. Davion getting to the cup. I just have one question for you, Jerry. Are we going to see your dance tonight, because hopefully it's posted? Stretch first. I don't want you getting injured.
Q. You guys got off to a great start. How important was that, considering how much offensive firepower Arkansas had?
COACH DREW: I thought it showed how focused and ready to play we were. And we got great looks. Guys made good shots. And Arkansas is a great team. We knew they'd make a run, and they did. And credit our guys for having an answer. But I really thought we were focused from jump and really had a good game plan. And credit them for adjusting.
They didn't trap as much because we were hurting them on that for a minute there. And then they got in a set, a horn set that really hurt us. And again, when you're playing a team in the Elite Eight you know it's going to go down to the wire. And just happy our guys had the last answer.
Q. The team was never shaken. You say they don't panic; they are always calm. That obviously has to do with you and the coaching staff. But are there moments where you feel panicked or because they are so calm, does that, is it like a circle of just calmness and it's going to be okay?
COACH DREW: First of all, nothing is ever perfect. I'm sure they get a little nervous at times. I know our coaching staff gets nervous at times. But I think what's great is they really work together. And I think we really trust them.
And when one of us makes a mistake we admit it and we move on. And everybody stays together. Stays positive. And at the end of the day they believe in each other and when you have a team that does that you have a chance to be special.
Q. You look back at this season, I mean, you tested positive early in the season. Your players and staff went through that 21-day pause. What's this whole journey been like from what you guys have gone through?
COACH DREW: Well, just like every team's had to deal with it. And, first of all, thank you to the medical staffs from each school that have fought hard to give us an opportunity to play in a safe environment. Thank the NCAA staff for being able to put on an NCAA Tournament, and giving these guys a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and memory.
And then I thought with us, there is no book to this because no one's gone through it before. And just really appreciate our players trusting and believing in us when we came back from the pause and we weren't really ourselves, and we still found ways to win games and be able to win a Big 12 championship.
We lost to a very good Oklahoma State team in our conference tournament, which was a blessing, looking back, because we were able to practice and really get better at our defense, which at the end of the day we wouldn't be here today if we second half didn't lock down and do a really great job down that stretch.
Q. Take me back to the day, I asked your wife this a little while ago, take me back to the day you got the job in 2003, if you can, just what it was like having the conversations and if you were at all skeptical of taking the job.
COACH DREW: No, I prayed about it. I felt led to come here. I really believed in the vision of the school, from the president and the administrators during that time and what they wanted Baylor to continue to grow and become.
And I wanted to be a part of that. Obviously once we got into the season and you found out that most of your team were walk-ons and most of them weren't over 6'2", then you realized it might be tougher than you originally thought. But obviously the goal was always to build a program that could consistently compete and have an opportunity to play in March.
Q. Along those same lines that Jeff was asking you, you are perpetually upbeat and optimistic. At times others of us aren't, perhaps. What allowed you to keep plugging along like that? Because you have faced plenty of obstacles along the way.
COACH DREW: I get the positivity from my dad. My dad is the most positive person I know. And I think that's rubbed off on me. And then I've had a staff where iron sharpens iron, and we wouldn't have been able achieve any of this. You just see how good Coach Tang is, because he's been here 18 years. We wouldn't have been able to do what we've done without him.
You've seen Grant and Coach Mills and Coast Driscoll have successful careers leading their programs. The head coach is only as good as his players and staff. And I've been blessed to have some great ones. In those moments when you're down, they do a great job inspiring you. And the last thing I'll say is I did learn about coffee and that helps, too, the older you get.
Q. Wonder if you can quantify for me the energy that Davion Mitchell brings. This is the first time I saw him, just a presence to him and ability to attack. And the second part would be just what you did on Moody, he was 2-of-10 obviously the focus of your defensive plan and I think some of that energy transferred over?
COACH DREW: Good question. With Moody, first of all, we just tried to make everything as tough as possible.
Third leading scorer in the SEC. He can get buckets in a hurry. Thank goodness we played good defense and had great attention on him, tried to make things tough.
As far as Davion, you saw in the first half, he only made eight minutes. You saw at the start where we were able to get to. Where he's so critical for us is -- I mean, he's final four for Defensive Player of the Year. And obviously I think he's the best defender in the country.
And with him on the ball -- and you couldn't really see it because when you have three fouls in that second half he wasn't as aggressive as he normally is. And hopefully you're here for next weekend and you can see just how special he is on the ball, because, I mean, that would be a person -- we call him Off Night, because people tend to have off nights with him. But he's a nightmare to bring the ball up against. And he sets the tone for our defense. He's the pace car. Everyone sees him working. So that leads to everybody else working. So that energy he brings, and he's got unbelievable speed. You could see versus their trap, their pressure, it's really hard to keep him in front. Unbelievable God-given ability and speed.
Q. You mentioned a little bit before, but you guys weren't the same team coming off pause. How much concern did you have that you guys might not get that edge back that you had before the pause? Was there any thought of for the second season in a row things outside your control have taken away your team's chance at history?
COACH DREW: Definitely I did my research. I talked to several coaches. And they were great and giving great advice. And most of them it was four games over a two-week period.
And with us, over a two-week period gives you practice days. When we came back, I think we had six games, 14 days, nine days on the road, 3500 miles. It was basically prep play, prep, play, recover. We had no practice time. And we all use analytics.
And you see your defense go from one to three to five to 12 to 20 and eventually got to 44. And once we lost to Oklahoma State, I believe in that game we only got two or three stops in the last eight minutes of the game.
And I thought our guys really bought into what we did in practice, which was basically beginning-of-the-year practice drills. And we returned to the basics and worked on our rotations, worked on our closeouts and everything and our defense has gotten better and better since that time.
And obviously prior to the pause we were elite defensively top three in the country. And as a coach did I want to believe we'd come back, yes, but there's no book. So you don't know for sure. You lose one game and you're out.
Anyway, I'm glad we're playing, and I think we keep getting better. And we get a couple of practice days. That's what's great about the bubble, we don't go back and forth. So we actually can get better during this time.
Q. You guys were obviously pretty close last year to where you wanted to be before COVID hit. And you got four starters back, which is unusual in this day and age. But you know a lot has changed for those guys. Davion has emerged on offense, and Jared coming into it. And MaCio probably doesn't get enough credit. And Mark is playing a little bit less. How of those small sacrifices led to this moment for this group?
COACH DREW: That's what makes this group special, is all of them work extremely hard on their craft. They're gym rats. If they can't get to a gym, that's a bad, bad day. They just love to get better in basketball. Couple of them sleep with balls. They just always got a rock in their hand and want to get better.
So individually it's one thing to get better. It's another thing then to sacrifice for the team, because when you're a good player you feel like I can make this shot or I can get by my man or I can do this because you've put in the work and you want to show what you worked on.
And our guys were really unselfish. We had 17 assists, nine turnovers. And in the last game I think with Villanova we had six, Wisconsin we had four. But when we are at our best everyone is sacrifices for each other. And this year that's why we won. Their character is impeccable. As good a players as they are, they're better people. And if you're going to be in the bubble with someone a couple weeks, you want to be with people you love. And this couldn't happen to a better bunch.
I know their families are awful proud of them because they really raised them right. I know our university is extremely proud of them in the way they sacrifice for each other. That's obviously why we're still playing.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports