March 16, 2023
Columbus, Ohio, USA
ANDY ENFIELD: Our team is excited to be here, compete in March Madness. Came a long way to Ohio from Southern California, but the weather has been pretty nice.
We're looking forward to playing Friday, tomorrow, early game. And Michigan State is a great team, a great program. And we're excited to play against them.
Q. You guys have played a ton of late games on the West Coast. How do you prepare your team to play an earlier game? Is that something that you're concerned about going into this one?
ANDY ENFIELD: Our television schedule this year, a lot of tip times 8:00 or later on the West Coast. So that was 11:00 p.m. So a lot of family and friends, I'm from Pennsylvania, a lot of people try to watch our games on the West Coast will have a little trouble at 1.00 in the morning when they end.
But this is an early game. Told our players no excuses. It might feel like 9.00 a.m. in the morning but we're in March Madness, you have to get ready to play mentally and go compete at the highest level.
Q. You mentioned obviously a bit of a flight from there to here. In two years that's going to be the norm for you guys. I know you're focused on the here and now, but have you thought about that at all, that this is going to be what's going to be the future once you join the Big Ten?
ANDY ENFIELD: Actually, someone reminded us when we landed Tuesday night, when we landed in Columbus, said, hey, this is going to be the normal trip. It's a longer flight. Colder weather.
But we haven't really thought about that yet. We have one more year in the Pac-12. We were so focused on competing for a Pac-12 Championship this season. Ironically we do play a Big Ten team in the first round.
But we'll get to that in a year from now. Two good conferences. One is just a little further away.
Q. There's a lot of style differences between Pac-12 basketball and Big Ten basketball. Wonder what you see what those differences are and how you prepare your team?
ANDY ENFIELD: I don't know what style the Big Ten plays. I think it's just a basketball game. You get on the court, Michigan State's a lot like us. We have four guards. We start four guards. We started two bigs the last three or four years.
We have (indiscernible), the sixth pick in the draft; Evan Mobley, the third pick in the draft; Isaiah Mobley, drafted last year. We had Nick Rakocevic. Before that we had Chimezie Metu, plays for the Sacramento Kings. We've had a lot of big men.
This year's team is different for us. We're not really concerned about what other perceived styles are in other conferences. We're just concerned about USC and what we have to win games.
Players change every year so your style of play. At least we try to adjust to our strengths. This year our style is different than it was last year. The previous years with some really good big men.
Our big men are capable this year. They're better defensively. Josh Morgan was first-team all-defense in the league, leading shot blocker. Vincent Iwuchukwu, our 7'1" five-star had some issues this summer, hasn't playing a lot due to back injury.
We're a different team than we were last year which was different than the previous two years, but still very successful.
Q. I covered the Mobley brothers. They send their best. I read that you said this is your most improved team at USC. Where have you guys made your strides this year?
ANDY ENFIELD: As I just mentioned, we had an issue this summer with Vince. So we had some plans to play two true big men together like we have the last few years. But then we realized that our best offensive players were guards, including Drew Peterson and Boogie Ellis, who are returning guys and had big game experience. We anticipated them being our leading scorers, which they ended up to be.
But we were not very good in the beginning of the season. We had a lot of new faces, a lot of -- five freshmen, four sophomores. Even our younger sophomores had not been relied upon to do what they are doing now.
We knew it would take some time for this team to develop and improve and get some experience. And they did. Give this team a ton of credit because, you say who is your most improved player? We have a lot of most improved players including Boogie Ellis who is a senior.
If you would have seen boogie last year compared to what he did this year, especially the second half of this season, it's a really dramatic improvement. And he spent so much time focusing on how to lead a team how to make plays for his teammates. His assist-to-turn ratio went up, his scoring went up, his shot selection became more efficient.
So we have a lot of improved players. But he's a key part because even though he's a senior, he improved as much as anybody else.
Q. Will Vincent be able to play tomorrow?
ANDY ENFIELD: Vincent is day to day. He had a back issue. We're hopeful. He may or may not play. We'll probably know tomorrow morning when he wakes up.
Q. Michigan State over the years has been a team that pushes the pace and runs on the break. This year not as much. Do things change? Can teams make a change between conference play and the NCAA with the refereeing? And is that something that you kind of look at, the historical aspect of how they play in the tournament versus what they do during the conference season?
ANDY ENFIELD: I think it's very difficult to just change your strengths or how you play when you go into the NCAA Tournament. So I assume Michigan State will push the ball. They'll try to shoot 3s early in transition because they have great shooters. They'll play their style like we will.
We have strengths and we'll try to play to our strengths, like Michigan State. I find it very hard -- it's very difficult as a coach to say, hey, we've been doing something for 31, 32 games and now we'll do something different because of who we play or now we're in the postseason.
I assume most teams in March Madness will play to their strengths.
Q. I don't know if you had a chance to watch a little bit of Arizona State last night. Impressive win. What do you say about the overall strength of the Pac-12 teams in the tournament. Aside from them, are you anticipating a strong weekend?
ANDY ENFIELD: I think one of their players or coaches, I'm not sure who it was, made a comment after the game, said their last five games were against Arizona twice, USC twice and UCLA. Now they get to play Nevada, who is also a good team, but just a different league.
But the five games against the toughest teams in the Pac-12. So they were mentally and physically ready to go play this game and they played great.
I said after we beat them the last regular season game that they deserve to be in the tournament, which I really believe, I thought they did, because they had 20-some wins and were a very good basketball team. So I was happy to see them do well last night.
They played excellent offensive basketball, scored 98 points. And I think our league over the years has been, I just mentioned my first comment, when you tip at 8:00 at night or 9:00 at night, the East Coast really doesn't get to see Arizona State too often.
So I'm happy for them. They played a great game last night. It was good to see for our league.
Q. This is the time of year where in addition to these postseason tournaments now they're also players entering the transfer portals, whose seasons are already over. How do your and your staff stay balanced at the task at hand but roster building is basically a 365-day-a year effort now?
ANDY ENFIELD: That's why you hire good assistant coaches. It's their job to get up at 5.00 a.m. in the morning and look at the transfer portal. I get to sleep in.
Q. With the starts you've had, has been inconsistent, even last year, you got off to a slow start. How do you come out with the intensity necessary to play March Madness basketball?
ANDY ENFIELD: Our players, that's on them. They have to get ready to go. We've had a lot of fast starts this year we've had some slow starts this year. You never know as a coach. You can't go out watch warmups and say I've tried that many times over my coaching career.
You have no idea how your team -- they may make every shot in warm-up and miss your first eight. They may look lethargic in warmups and go out and go on a 15-2 run. You just never know.
As I told our players this is what you play for. This is what you dream about. As a young player growing up, you're on the biggest stage and competing for a national championship. So they better be ready. I'm sure they will.
Q. Playing at 12:15 in Columbus is something you'll have to do in 18 months regularly. Wondering what you think of everything you've got to do this morning this early for your guys and everything and have to do this morning for you guys and the fairness of having to come this far east and play at these times and how that affects them?
ANDY ENFIELD: We're on spring break this week. So I guess the first part of that question, our players have nothing to worry about except basketball.
18 months from now, when you have class, five days a week and you're playing a mid-week game, it will be a little challenging for the academic side. But that's why we have great learning specialists, tutors. And we have an academic advisor.
That's the biggest concern, I think, we have looking 18 months from now when we join the Big Ten about traveling. It's the academic side of it.
The basketball side, your body needs to get adjusted to the time difference and go compete. So we have no idea what the scheduling will be like, the scheduling models for the Big Ten. But I have not spent more than two minutes thinking about that in the last year or last nine months since this was announced.
Our job is to run a basketball program in the present. And that present was play in the Pac-12. Now we're in March Madness. I'm sure with two days here on the East Coast, our players will be energetic and ready to go tomorrow. We'll get them up early and go from there.
Q. When you look at Michigan State's guards, now that you have a chance to break down tape, what do you see from them, particularly with Tyson Walker, and the amount of guys that they have that can handle the ball, how does that affect who they are?
ANDY ENFIELD: Tyson Walker is an elite scorer. He can shoot it with range. Very quick. And just a really good player. He's all-conference player in the Big Ten. He's one of their leaders. But they have a lot of other good players that complement what he does.
Tyson Walker will be a big focus of any team that plays Michigan State. We were impressed on watching video on him. He's a terrific player.
Q. When you coach for a significant period of time you'll have ups and you'll have downs. I wonder what it takes as a coach when things are not going well, when you go through a rough season or two rough seasons, what does it take to kind of continue to coach to what your convictions and strengths are, and also recognizing maybe that's not working at the moment? What's that balance like when you're going through a rough time?
ANDY ENFIELD: I think our first two years at USC, 10 years ago we took over a program. In our first year we went 2-16 in the Pac-12. We were dead last. And then we improved to 3-15. We were a much improved team that year but still last in the conference.
I think when you're building a program or trying to any way you have to believe in what you're doing, believe in the future and convey that to recruits as well as your current players and staff.
I had a terrific staff then as well as now. And Chris Capko was on my initially staff 10 years ago. He's now my associate head coach. But when you go through that, I can remember one of my assistant coaches saying, in that second year, hey, we've done this before at Florida Gulf Coast; you've been around this game a long time. You know what you're doing as a head coach. Just keep doing it because we'll get there.
And that was great advice from one of my assistant coaches, Kevin Norris, because he realized that, hey, it's tough losing. It's tough when you go out there and your talent level is not good enough to compete at the highest level.
And we had to start recruiting players and then bring some in and develop them and put them in position to succeed hopefully. And that third year we turned the program, won 20-some games and went to the tournament.
On a yearly basis, like this year, you have highs and lows every year. I think a lot of coaches, they appreciate the wins a lot less than they -- they take the losses a lot harder than they appreciate the wins, if that makes sense.
When you lose a game, the world's coming down. You lose two in a row, oh, wow, we may not win a game the rest of the season. So I think what I've learned as a head coach, and my first job was in 1994 with the Milwaukee Bucks, that's a long time ago, almost 20-some years ago.
I think what I've learned is try to have more of an even demeanor with our players, whether we win or lose, because you can't get too excited when you win, and certainly you have a lot to play for even when you lose a couple of games.
For the most part, our team has bounced back when we lose and has done a really good job of refocusing and that comes from the commitment to our players as well as a great coaching staff.
Q. It's been 10 years since the Dunk City Run. How often do you reflect on that, and do you share some of those memories with the guys you have now?
ANDY ENFIELD: It's amazing, it's been 10 years. Dunk City Team was a group of young men that came together that had no clue what they were getting in for. We were a young staff and a brand-new school. So I'm still, every day -- or every time I think about that team, which since it's the ten-year anniversary, I've been emailing and texting a lot of the highlights. We actually showed some of the highlights to the team two days before we left what March Madness is like.
We showed some highlights of our USC teams from last year, the Elite Eight year two years ago. Some of the Dunk City. Just to get them pumped up to play in this tournament.
And the Dunk City players have gone on and have had great careers. Couple of them are coaching like Brett Comer, the point guard from that; Bernard Thompson, Chase Fieler is still playing overseas. I think Sherwood Brown is playing overseas off and on.
And other guys have gone on into the business world and have done well. It's great to keep in touch with players who have meant so much personally to me. First of all, because we recruited them and loved them all as individuals, but then what they did on the basketball court was special and to do that in March Madness was incredible.
So Dunk City will always be remembered. I usually think about it this time more so than June or July when I'm on a golf course. But what just a special group of young men, and it's really nice that my family still has a relationship with a lot of those guys.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports