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April 2, 2003

Tom Crean


BILL HANCOCK: Thank you, media folks, for calling in today to visit with the four coaches. I just want to give you a quick review of the schedule. Tom Crean is first, Roy Williams is at 12:15, Jim Boeheim at 12:30, and Rick Barnes at 12:45. Coach Crean, are you on the line?

COACH TOM CREAN: I am, Bill, thank you.

Q. Thank you very much for your ability; we really appreciate it. Congratulations.

COACH TOM CREAN: Thanks a lot, Bill. I look forward to seeing you. I saw you from a distance, but didn't get a chance to visit with you.

BILL HANCOCK: Absolutely. Andy, do we have questions in the queue?

Q. I was talking yesterday to Coach Williams. He was talking about his own team. He said one of the biggest differences - in fact, the biggest difference - between this year's team and last year's team is relative bench strength. He feels that what he's got this year is not nearly what he had last year. Is that your impression as well?

COACH TOM CREAN: Well, no. I mean, he would know better than me because he's with them every day. For the players that he's playing, they're very effective. At this time of year most benches are a little smaller anyway. I think, what I see is, you know, the five starters do a great job. Then when you come off the bench with the way Lee is playing and Nash, those guys bring a lift. Certainly, they miss Wayne Simien. They had some excellent seniors last year, well, in Bushy and a junior in Gooden. But I think they're very talented. I mean, I think they're very talented. I don't think there's a ton of drop-off when they go to the bench. That's a sign of a team that works well together, a sign of a well-coached team, obviously, and a team that continues to get better as the year's gone along.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about Nick Collison, what makes him a little different?

COACH TOM CREAN: Well, you know what, the more film we watch - and I've always appreciated his game, I was never involved in recruiting him, but I watched him over the last couple years - when you sit down and really watch him, to coach against him, it's amazing the versatility that he has. He's about as skilled with his left hand as he is with his right when he drives to the basket. That is a real, real rarity, and speaks a lot about him and the way he's been coached and his years and with what they do to develop players at Kansas. He can drive the ball. He's very good at reading situations. He slips a ton of screens. He's got great quickness when it comes to sealing his man. He plays very, very smart defensively. He understands angles on both the offensive end and defensive end. He's a relentless rebounder. You add that to the fact that he's a really good athlete, and as all the other intangibles, good foot speed, great hands, and he's really, really a tough matchup. He's going to be an excellent pro. I was telling our team that the other day, as I think Hinrich will, too.

Q. Question about Travis Diener. You know, a lot of times you hear that a point guard is an extension of the coach on the floor. I guess, one, with Travis, I guess I want you to comment on that. Two, I'm just wondering, you know, a lot of people talk about your intensity, as well as Travis' intensity. I'm wondering if perhaps when you were recruiting Travis if maybe that was part of the attraction, you know, for him as a player?

COACH TOM CREAN: Well, I'll answer the second part first - without a doubt it was. All he did was win. He won in baseball, he won in basketball, with his high school team, he won with his summer team. He didn't just win games; he won championships. To me, that was a really, really big thing to him. He's very hard-nosed, very tough-minded, certainly is gaining strength and will gain a lot more strength as the next couple years go along. But he's really such a tough person that he just continues to get better. That fearlessness he has provided since he was in high school to his teammates, to whatever team he was playing, has carried right over to Marquette basketball. As far as him being an extension on the floor, I really think he is. I think I've learned how to coach him better this year, especially to center on exactly what he needs to get better and not assume that he knew certain things about running the point, to really try to help teach him and let him loose. He's done a great job of that. He really sees the floor. He passes the ball very well. Certainly, he shoots the ball extremely well. He's gotten better at pulling up and better at going all the way to the basket. He's really become a top-notch defender for us. All of those things are a big part of our team. I would like to think that when you really look for a point guard to be an extension of the coach, he certainly is.

Q. Tom, I was wondering, do you sense that your kids have an appreciation for Al McGuire and his legacy there at Marquette?

COACH TOM CREAN: Oh, absolutely, without a doubt. Even though I don't think there's anyone on our team that ever met him personally, they're certainly aware of it. I mean, how could you not be, living here? We have kids that have grown up in the state that have been a part of it, and they have tremendous respect for the past. Can you hear me okay?

Q. Yes, I can.

COACH TOM CREAN: I was breaking up a little bit. Coach Hank Raymond is around a lot; they have an appreciation for him. They know what Rick Majerus did in this program. They know what the former players have done in this program. A lot of it is the respect that they just have for the game itself and for people that are above them. They've done a great job of that. I've really been happy with the way our guys talk about the past. I bring it up, but I don't enforce that or, you know, say, "Hey, let's make sure we remind everybody how much we think about the past." They do that on their own. That really, really is a tribute to them and is one of the proudest things I could feel coaching these guys.

Q. What have been the keys to the development for Dwayne Wade over the last few years? How has he handled his multiple roles of player, student, husband, father?

COACH TOM CREAN: He's gotten better at so many things. He's always been an outstanding athlete with a great first step and an explosive ability to get from Point A to Point B pretty good. But what he's done is really learn to take what the game gives him. He's worked tremendously hard on improving his shooting, whether it be his range shooting, his mid-range shooting which has become very, very good, or going all the way to the rim. When he first got here, he probably wanted to go to the basket a lot more. Now he's really learned to pull up and read it. Defensively, he came here as a very active defender, especially off the ball. He's turned into a really good on-ball defender. At times he's really brought the rebounding to the forefront, especially this past Saturday. I think that's still another step he can continue to improve upon. As far as the second part of your question, dealing with all the different roles, I think that's all part of the same process. He just matures. He continues to take each day for what it is. He's a father, he's a husband, he's a teammate, he's a student. He's got his family in Chicago. He just does a great job of it; he really does. I think his wife Savan (phonetic) really helps him a ton, and his little boy Zaire (phonetic) is his pride and joy. All you've got to do - I know most of you don't get a chance to see that because you don't see him with his son - but when you see him with his son, if you're a father you know exactly what he feels like. That's how I look at it, because I am a father, too. That's how he is with his little boy. If his little boy is sick in the night, he's up with him. I try to be real cognizant of that as we go through the process, the daily process here. But he never makes an excuse, he just continues to get better, and it's really showing up in a big way.

Q. I was curious, throughout the season, did you ever think you would be in the Final Four? At what point in the season did you say, "Oh, man, I think we have a chance"?

COACH TOM CREAN: Well, we always, you know, from the very beginning of the recruiting process with these young guys and with the season, we've talked about it. I mean, I think a lot of programs talk about it. We try to do different things to put it in their mind, at the same time never getting away from what we had to do on a daily basis to get ready for each practice and each game. But I don't know if there was any point in time where I thought, "Wow, we're a Final Four team," because I think so many things have to go right for you to make it. You're so fortunate to win every game in an NCAA tournament setting. To win four in a row like the four teams have done to get to this point is nothing short of remarkable, whether you were expected to do it or not. I have so much respect for a guy like Roy Williams who keeps going to the Final Four, has been there as an assistant, been there as a head coach. That's just an amazing feat. To me, we're just trying to -- we're trying to enjoy the fact that we did something special, but, you know, not sit back and take a breath right now and say, "It's okay, we made it, let's go see what we can do." Our practices have shown that. The extra film the guys have been watching at night or in the morning has shown that. We just really keep -- we're just really trying to focus on the next game. I know that sounds boring, but that really is the way we've been all year.

Q. Your name, with all the coaching vacancies, is being thrown out there either with or without substance. How do you handle that right now, especially with your team and coming into this situation this weekend?

COACH TOM CREAN: I don't see it as a distraction; I really don't. The only time it becomes a distraction and annoyance is when it comes up in recruiting, which it does a lot. I think other coaches go through that. I'd rather have them saying that than saying I'm going to be fired, so there's that trade-off. But I don't really deal with it much. Our team is so focused on practice and we're focused when we're sitting there, watching film. Today, we'll watch some film, we'll practice, they'll go lift weights, then we'll get on a bus and go to the airport. I don't get caught up in it. I don't think they do either. We've gone through this a little bit, they just stay with things the way they are.

Q. Tom, I think most people considered Hinrich, Wade and T.J. Ford to be about the three best guards in the country this year. Do you think it's any coincidence they're all in the Final Four?

COACH TOM CREAN: Probably not. If you add in Hollis Price to the equation, you have the other one I think is really in that class, too. You know what, Tom Izzo said it best with the four keys to winning this time of year, he put guard play as high as any of them. We're certainly getting very good guard play from Dwayne and Travis Diener when we bring our guys off the bench. I know Kansas -- I mean McNamara at Syracuse is an excellent guard and belongs in that class, or is going to belong in that class very soon. Certainly, T.J. Ford is the guy that runs that team and does such a great job of it. Kirk Hinrich's been doing it for years. So I don't think it is a coincidence. I think it has a lot to do with it. I think if you go back and look at a lot of the really good Final Fours, there's been really good guard play in it.

Q. Do you think that because so many kids are leaving school early and teams are younger that guard play is even more important when you're surrounded by a bunch of freshmen and sophomore front court players?

COACH TOM CREAN: I never really thought about that question. I think more importantly than that, I think you've got to have people that have a lot of confidence. The three you mentioned, Travis Diener, Hollis Price, I see that when I look at McNamara, those guys all have a ton of confidence. And you either have it or you don't. You're going to develop confidence. A player like Dwayne Wade is a great example. He's always known he's a pretty good player. He's got to develop more confidence all the time, and that comes with experience and improvement. But seeing some of these guys in the summertime in the recruiting process, they've been carrying around that swagger and that confidence for some time. It just really carries over into their team. I'm not sure it's age-related as much as it is personal traits.

Q. Right before the tournament began, there was a lot of publicity about I don't know whether it be scandal or just kind of impropriety in college basketball. That was kind of the story going in. I wonder your reaction to the fact that's kind of been overshadowed by basketball. And now, as you get to the end, that seems to kind of be forgotten?

COACH TOM CREAN: Well, I think basketball and the way this tournament has been run and the way it's gone has really been what the story should have been about, and I think what everybody hoped it would be about. I also think, more importantly than basketball, what's going on in this country right now with our troops fighting for everybody over here is the main story and really should be. I think what basketball has turned out to be is a pretty good diversion for people to have something to look at. And that means a lot; it really does. I don't know how to read e-mail, but I got an e-mail from a trooper that's stationed overseas. I don't know how they got it out. I've had a ton of e-mails the last couple days. I don't know this person. They're an MU grad, but it was a meaningful thing. It was quick, which I would assume it would be. I don't mean to trivialize it, but I think that's where the focus should be, what's going on in this country and what's going on on the floor. I'm glad that that's what's happening as far as what's going on in basketball.

Q. Good, thanks.


BILL HANCOCK: Thanks, again. We really appreciate your time. We look forward to seeing you this weekend.

COACH TOM CREAN: No problem, thanks a lot.

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