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March 29, 1998

Michael Doleac

Drew Hansen

Alex Jensen

Rick Majerus

Andre Miller

Hanno Mottola


CHRIS PLONSKY: If we could begin to have people seated. We are about five minutes away. If we could move people into position, it would be great. If you could indicate your desire to ask a question by raising your hand. Once again, this is open questioning for any of the individuals here on the podium. Raise your hand high and we will get started. Questions. Go for it. Right here on the right.

Q. Rick, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about this year as far as your attacking of the press. Is it more due to Andre Miller's development and maturity? I know you used a different scheme against Arizona.

COACH MAJERUS: Nothing works unless the players are good. I play that Madden football game once in a while. That always works. You know, it works a lot better with better players. Andre is a very good guard and these guys are very smart at deployment. They have committed errors of comission rather than omission. We are able to use several different alignments. I think it is difficult for you to say we are going to do this, because we have so many different looks. I don't know right now what look we are going to start out with. If Kentucky guesses right, that doesn't make much difference because we will change every time anyway.

Q. Michael, after a long talk last week of the gimmick defense against Arizona, does it feel good going straight up man-to-man, taking it to the supposedly more athletic Tar Heels and taking them out of the game?

MICHAEL DOLEAC: I don't know if it felt good playing that defense. It felt good winning. That's always one of the main goals. I know we can beat guys we can defend. Against Arizona, we played the triangle and they didn't have a very good attack. In North Carolina, they did okay but we were pretty successful man-to-man. You stick with what works and we were able to hang on and win the game. Our man-to-man came in strong for us.

Q. For Drew, Rick always calls you the best ball screener. Explain what that is to the people. Also, if you get up for the challenge, a lot of times you are the chaser. You go to a gimmick defense and everyone would assume that a guy can beat you up on dribble but you always come through.

DREW HANSEN: I think it is a blend. I don't know if it is ball screening. I think he wants me to get the ball to Andre, the ball to Mike, let those guys be as good as they could be. As far as defending people, I get a lot of help. The coach is a great coach because if the guy is quicker than me, he wants Andre to help. I think we have a good rotation. That's what makes the defense grow strong. Not to stop him, but if I do get beat and Hanno steps in to help, it is a team effort. Our entire defensive scheme and offensive team scheme is a team effort.

Q. For Michael, is there any extra incentive other than the obvious championship game going against Kentucky given what's happened in the last couple of NCAA tournaments?

ANDRE MILLER: Now we are a better defensive team and a better rebounding team. Since the last couple of years, you know, we didn't attack the press and play great defense but, you know, offer our defensive effort by everybody and we look to go out and keep teams under 60 points, and if we can do that we have a great chance of winning the game.

MICHAEL DOLEAC: I don't know if there is any more incentive playing Kentucky. How much more incentive do you need than playing for the national championship? I don't know how much more you can have. It would be nice to beat them but it would be nice to beat anybody in this situation. We are playing for a national title. We will play our game plan and play hard.

Q. Andre, is it more important for you to get assists or rebounds?

ANDRE MILLER: It doesn't really matter to me. I just try to be wherever the ball is on the court and help my team out as much as possible. If it comes to getting down to a rebound, I try to go in and scrap for loose balls. If it comes to driving and making the extra pass, I have to do that. My main thing is, just, you know, once the ball goes up to the basket, just to follow it wherever it goes on the floor.

Q. For Andre and Michael. What do you see in this particular brand of Kentucky team, having had a new coach in Tubby Smith, than what you saw when it was a Pitino team?

MICHAEL DOLEAC: I don't know. I think our sophomore year we saw Kentucky and they were just unbelievable. That was kind of an overwhelming game. I think they are still a very aggressive team, very quick. They have a lot of talented players that can go at you and a very balanced attack. They don't have one guy going out there but every guy can score. They are balanced that way and can defend very well, too. So it is a similar style, I think, and we are ready to play all aspects of the game.

ANDRE MILLER: They don't have one dominant player, you know. The past couple of years they had Delk and Walker. The year after that they had Mercer. Now anybody on the team can step up at any time and now they are stopping the whole team defensively and blocking everybody out.

Q. Rick, Coach Majerus, can you talk a little bit about Jeff Sheppard's game and the problems he will present to you all defensively? Does he remind you at all of Rex Chapman?

COACH MAJERUS: I don't know much about Rex Chapman as a Kentucky player. I think he is an outstanding shooter, great range, tremendous athlete, ideal size, good first step. He does a nice job of letting the team come to him and being a potent scorer. Last night he stung Stanford with the 3s. He got NBA range and should be -- like Chapman -- he should be a career NBA player.

Q. Coach Majerus, Coach Smith said he would like to be as funny as you are. How would you compare your personalities and coaching styles?

COACH MAJERUS: Coach Dean Smith? (Laughter) I don't know Tubby that well. A good friend of mine, Jim Crews, knows Tubby. He thinks Tubby is really funny. I don't know about coaching styles. I've just been looking at them and trying. It's really -- the question right now is too hard to answer. I don't know about personalities. He makes so much money. If it's me, I will write a few lines for him.

Q. Rick, can you assess the pro-potential of Michael and Andre and Hanno and maybe if there are players in the NBA who they might develop into, or like?

COACH MAJERUS: I don't know if that's fair at this time. Particularly so with Hanno and Andre being underclassmen. I'm a realist. I said this last night. At the end of this tournament, not unlike Keith Van Horn, I told Mike last year, if you want to come out, you can be a first round draft pick. If it is good for Andre to come out and the money is there and the situation is secure, and Andre wants to do that, I'm all for Andre. That is an interesting business in the NBA. I've seen guys, stars, rise and fall in Phoenix and at Portsmouth and Chicago. They don't take the body of a season for the most part. They kind of ride the star. If that would be good for Andre -- and Hanno has an opportunity that's not available to these guys. As a member of the European community he can play in any European country and not count them as an "American". So at the end of the season, I'm going to go over to Europe -- and Hanno is not aware of this -- but I've already contacted a team, and I want to see whatever it is I can do for Hanno that's best. Then I'm going to sit down with Andre, if he's fortunate to be in that circumstance, and Mike and his father and I have already talked about it. A couple of weeks after the season I'm going to sit down with Mike and select an agent and I think Mike will be a career NBA player, and right now it would be inappropriate to perhaps forecast something for Andre and Hanno at this point in time. But I really believe, and I've told them this, and I told Hanno this from day one, his dream is to play in the NBA. Then I will do everything I can to help him realize his dream, and he has kept 100 percent to fulfill that dream, too. Obviously he wants to play in the NBA. I have introduced them to coaches and I embrace the NBA when they come into practice. There is only one person in the NBA that will not be welcome, one person, and that would be it. The rest of them, I introduce the kids to. And actually I have them speak to the players. I don't have that NBA paranoia. I don't look at them as adversaries. I look at them as partners. Us and the Jazz are probably the best relationship in basketball. Frank and Scott are extraordinarily close to us. Their players come to our gym. We go to their place. We play with each other all the time. Frank came down to Rice University and spent a half hour on the court talking about Press "O". Frank comes to practice a lot, and Scott does, too. It is probably a unique relationship. I can tell you that there is no one in Utah happier for our success than the Jazz. Conversely, there will be no one happier than we will be for the Jazz, as we were last year, when they were in the playoffs. We love basketball and we are all really tight. We support each other. Saying all that, I think that, yes, three of these guys for sure will be able to play in the NBA.

Q. Rick, some of the local guys have heard this a few times. But can you trace through your career, how you became accustomed to Utah, the people, the land, and how you grew to like it and why you would stay there? You don't seem to be a fit personality-wise?

COACH MAJERUS: You are talking about it as if it is a Stepford Wives community. It is different in a sense that, first of all, the topography of the land, the mountain range and the high desert valley, and you are quite out in the middle of nowhere to a certain extent. It is a big city with a small-town environment. The rest of it, obviously, there is not a lot of black people there, not a lot of ethnic diversity. The Mormon religion is the prevailing religion. But we represent the University of Utah, the State of Utah. It's a great place. I'm sad we are going to get the Olympics there, and it will get discovered and Californiacated. (Laughter) Really, it will be overrun because people will say, you know -- Andre, how many times has your mother told me she would like to move there?

ANDRE MILLER: Since I've been there.

COACH MAJERUS: Andre's mother would love to move there. It is just a nice place to live. There is not a lot of crime, not a lot of traffic, a lot of nice people. I call it the Green Bay Packer Syndrome. It is Green Bay, Wisconsin, in the Rocky Mountains, is what it is. You couldn't live in a nicer place. I'm not going to go to church on Sunday, but it's nice. (Laughter)

Q. Following that, though, as a Bay Area guy I saw that story, and I don't know what the truth of it is, you wouldn't mind coaching Saint Mary's and living at the Lafayette Park Hotel?

COACH MAJERUS: If you can get me a nice suite up there, I have always liked Saint Mary's. I've always said that. I like small Catholic schools and I like Catholic schools. I invited my two priests to come on my bench and come here. Neither one of them could make it. They are the greatest guys in the world, Father Kelly and Father Walsh. They had religious commitments or they would have been here. I would love that one day, to end up in a place like that. I don't think I'm ready to do that right now. First of all, I can't afford it.

Q. Rick, considering the competitive nature of college basketball currently, can you comment on the University of Kentucky making it to three consecutive national championships?

COACH MAJERUS: It is mind boggling to me, almost incomprehensible that you can play in three of these games consecutively. It is a great tribute to the program. First of all, to Kentucky and its fans, C.M. Newton, the Athletic Director. I couldn't imagine working for a better guy. You have to give Rick Pitino a lot of credit for his drive and determination. Like Van Horn helped us, he helped them. You have got to give Tubby a tremendous amount of credit because I'll tell you what, to come into that situation new, I think that speaks to what a really great coach he really is, because he had to kind of combine new players with existing players with a new staff into a system that somewhat resembled Pitino, and yet add his own discernible touches to it. To me, it is an incredible coaching job on his part and it speaks to what Kentucky basketball is. If you didn't like the -- it is the premier basketball program in the country. You can get an argument out of Duke, Carolina, Indiana, but I think that that program -- I was asking Tubby and he didn't know himself. Is that 13 Final Fours, 14? Since the inception of Final Four, one out of every four years they are in the Final Four. That's, like, unbelievable. That would be to say to a kid, look, if you come here, on average you will play in the Final Four. Arithmetically, this is what has transpired. That's an amazing thing to be able to say to somebody. Can I say one thing? I'll stay here until I go to practice. And I'm not trying to be rude or anything like that. I would really love for you to ask the kids questions, and I don't mean that badly. You know what I'm saying. I'll answer this question, but these guys are great. I can give you lines from EN for Tubby Smith right after this. (Laughter) I will answer this one and maybe the next.

Q. Rick, can you talk about Andre's development and did the redshirt year help him get to the point where he is?

COACH MAJERUS: I think it helped Andre more in the discovery of self, in the sense of self. I think when something that you love very much is taken away from you, Andre loves basketball. He's a gentleman at it. He loves the game and loves to compete. I remember him taking him off the night he didn't make it, and he was so hurt and crushed. I think that probably gave him a greater appreciation for the game, for life without basketball. I said, it is going to end one day in your life, for the sense that it plays in your life. And I still remember telling Andre, if this is the worst thing that happens to you in life, it will be a great life. Many more tragic things happen to you in the course of a life. Was it fair? I don't think so. This is a very bright young man and a hard worker who has demonstrated the fact that he will graduate. Of all these guys that are honor rolls, a Walter Byers Award, a candidate, I'm proud of Andre's academic achievement, and I think everyone would echo those sentiments with me. I think the Prop. 48 is the worst bias in America. I don't think it is a racial bias but an economic bias. Who is victimized by the school systems in which they have to go to libraries in the neighborhoods, the quality of education that they are able to garner? It's people in poor economic environments. You know, Andre is, to me, an academic giant. I will tell you this. He has done more for the kids in his dorm in the University than the University has done for him because of the character of the person that he is.

Q. I was wondering, after beating two number one seeds, do you think if there are some Utah non-believers, what would you say to them?

HANNO MOTTOLA: I have had a chance to show the whole world that Utah is a great team. The first time I ever heard about Utah. I knew of North Carolina, Kentucky and Duke, that's about it. If you ask people on the east coast, they probably do the same thing. But now you see that Utah has an unbelievable program, coaching staff is incredible, and 13 guys there who go out every night and just win games.

CHRIS PLONSKY: Alex and Drew.

DREW HANSEN: We would like to play the next game. We don't care who it is. If the fans or media, they don't think we are a good team by now, then they never would think -- they would think we are overachieving. And Kentucky is playing the best ball in the country right now and we have to rise to that challenge. I think we are capable of doing it.

ALEX JENSEN: It works to our advantage sometimes when they say things about teams like that. If you asked me before those games, I wouldn't have picked us to win. Like Drew said, we have done a good job all year long, taking it one game at a time.

Q. Could I ask the seniors Drew and Michael, what's it like having Coach Majerus as your coach and the king of the one-liners? Does that help for you guys?

MICHAEL DOLEAC: We don't hear the one-liners very often. We are not normally up here to listen to this. Our practice is a little different. There might be one-liners, but they're not quite as funny. (Laughter) But the good thing about Coach is that he comes into practice every day, giving 100 percent. He has his practice plan laid out every day, and he demands 100 percent every day in practice. It makes us better players, and every day we make an improvement because every day we come out and give our ability mentally and physically. With the type of players we have, we have to improve and be at our very best in order to win these kind of games. I think that's what's gotten us past Arizona, past North Carolina, and will give us a best chance to win against Kentucky. When we walk out on the practice floor, he is ready to teach us the game, make sure we are playing the hardest and to get everything out of us.

DREW HANSEN: I think as you grow older and progress in your career and graduate, you come closer to the Coach and there is more of a relationship outside of basketball. When you first get here the first few years, the Coach rides you and breaks you down and gets you to think like he wants you to think in a game and make five players become one. It is hard to do and difficult. He is really tedious in that task and just can go over it and over it until you learn. He is really hard when you come in but once you figure out if you play hard, he is not going to ride you that much. He wants you to play hard all the time. As far as other aspects of life, as I get older and I'm looking toward law school, he has been a tremendous help in that area and the Rhodes Scholar and the Walter F. Byers, trying to get through other awards. I know there is a guy on our campus and calls Coach Majerus about a specific award and Coach got me into it, and I have a chance to get a lot of money in scholarship because of that. I know for other players, he has tried to help them get jobs. As you graduate, it switches from basketball to more of a social relationship where you are just really good friends. I know as a captain, I have become closer with the Coach, and us as you get older, the bond becomes tighter.

Q. This is for Andre. I'm asking this in a very light-hearted funny manner. But even white guys denigrate other white basketball players sometimes. And there was the SI story about what happened with the white athlete. I don't know if you saw that. But do you think that in general black basketball -- is this working?

COACH MAJERUS: It's God sending you a message. (Laughter)

Q. Do you think black basketball players in general have stereotypes about white guys and do you ever see reactions when you guys get out on the court from other teams, particularly from outside the WAC, and, boy, we will beat these guys?

ANDRE MILLER: We go out. Every time we do play we look at the other end and we see how those guys jump around the court and they look at us and we are just doing layups and shooting jump shots. Once you get on the court, you know, basketball doesn't have a color. You have to go out and compete and regardless, white, black, Asian, pink or whatever, you have to go out and compete. We are not there -- I'm playing with some slow white guys, but once I got on the court, I was like these guys are for real and they want to win. That brought me up, and I want to compete and show these guys that I was a good player. I mean, basketball doesn't really have a color.

Q. Michael, there was some comments last night after the game that you all were not only surprised but felt very confident playing North Carolina. Do you have the same degree of confidence for Monday that you had yesterday?

MICHAEL DOLEAC: I think so. This team plays very well and we know what we have to do to win. We have been able to do that and we are good enough to do that. I think mainly it is just defend and rebound, first of all. We know that we think we are the best defensive team in the nation. We know that all the guys can be there on rotations when someone needs help and we are very confident in each other as far as helping. We know there is a block out, too. As far as defensive rebounding, we will be there for each other in that area of the game. That's what we need to win. Offensively, we have been playing very well and Andre leading the attack. We are very confident going into this game. We know we can get some things done. We can't stop everything they will do but be able to stop enough and execute on offense. The same situation as Arizona and North Carolina, they're a good team and we will have to play a great game to win, but we are confident we can do that.

Q. For Andre and Michael. Tell me what you remember about the past two Kentucky games.

ANDRE MILLER: The first time, you know, we really didn't have time to think about what's going on because we were losing by 30 or 40 points. The first time, I was basically a spectator watching Antoine Walker and Tony Delk showcase their talents. The second game there were some lapses and we didn't have the defensive players that go out -- to shut Mercer down because he was really tall. This year we are better defensively and a better rebounding team.

MICHAEL DOLEAC: Boy, the main thing I remember about those games, we lost. That's about all you need to know. Like Andre says, sophomore year is more like we were just watching Kentucky play instead of being in the game. I never thought we were in the game even from the opening tip. That may have been when the game was still in question, before the opening tip. My junior year, it was a lot different. We could play with those guys. We did play with them. And then at the end they gave it like it was too many fouls and we wound up losing the game. It was a bad memory, especially getting knocked out of the tournament. This year we are a different team and a lot better defensively, a great block out and a great rebounding team. Hopefully the outcome will be different this year.

Q. Question for Rick. How is your health and are you sticking to your exercise program and diet in 1998?

COACH MAJERUS: My health is pretty good. I do exercise. All you got to do is look at me and know I'm not sticking to my diet.

Q. This is for any of the players, and maybe after one of them answers, if I could get a comment from Rick, also. It goes back to the white men can't play question. Were any of you aware what was going on last night between Johnsen and Ndiaye on the court? There was a story in the paper this morning about that. If any of you were aware what was going on and Rick, also, if we could get a comment from you on that.

COACH MAJERUS: I read the article, and I'll say this: I thought it was an unfortunate situation. I do not believe Britton Johnsen -- never heard him nor have I heard his brother Jeff nor has Andre and David Jackson -- Britton Johnsen never called anyone "nigger" in his life, and if they want to get a lie detector test set in North Carolina, and I'll fly Britton Johnsen there. Let's put it on. I know this: Britton Johnsen is one of the nicest people and one of the highest character guys, and I can say without reservation or hesitation that he did not call him a nigger, and I think that word is reprehensible. Now, did they have words? You know, you can ask Britton. You have a chance to ask Britton that. I think some things were said, but I stand behind my player 100 percent. However Carolina wants to -- I have the utmost respect for Carolina. Dean Smith, Guthridge -- Guthridge could not have been classier last night in defeat, nor handlers or coaching staff been happier for us or our players. I think it was a very physical game, and I feel that Ndiaye was out of place in doing that because I can assure you that Britton did not say that.

Q. Can you tell the players your favorite recruiting process for Coach Majerus?

HANNO MOTTOLA: What was the favorite recruiting process. What I see was the first time, and he likes it. That's probably the funniest part and the part I always remember, and then I did come here in Utah and see these guys play BYU, and all the people and that got me into the program. These guys wanted me to play here and I wanted to play here.

Q. For Mike or Drew. Can you envision doing what Andre did and going to a school where you obviously are in a very significant minority, and as a result what have you taken from the respect you have for Andre as a result of that?

MICHAEL DOLEAC: I don't know if I can envision doing that myself because I've been pretty fortunate my whole life. I think it took a lot of courage and effort on Andre's part to come out to a school like Utah, which is obviously a lot different than LA. And not even be able to play ball. He came out here for the sole purpose to play ball and go to school and then they tell him he can't watch practice, can't be around the team. That obviously was very hard. Being his roommate my freshman year, it was amazing to see how hard he studied and did whatever he put into the classroom and how he kept his spirits up. To come into a situation, that's hard, and must have been very difficult, but as far as I could tell, it doesn't bother him that much, and kept his spirits up. He had a good time and made the best of a bad situation, which is impressive.

CHRIS PLONSKY: Let's take a minute. We will break. Five players will be available in their individual breakout rooms. There will be a moderator in each. Rick will remain here until 2:50.

End of FastScripts....

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