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April 2, 2004
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
JOHN GERDES: Good afternoon. We are now joined by Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt. Coach, congratulations on reaching the Final Four. We'll ask the coach make an opening statement, and then we will open up to questions. Coach Hewitt.
COACH HEWITT: Good afternoon. I do want to say one thing before I start talking about basketball again. I read this morning in one of the papers about Georgia Tech's graduation rate, and it was in there wrong again. Let's make sure we get it right. It was 60% that year. The two kids that didn't graduate that year, they transferred and graduated someplace else. All five of the kids that came into Georgia Tech in 1996 all got college degrees, three from Tech, two from other schools. Tired of reading about this 27%, it's wrong. Let's correct it. Our team is obviously very, very excited to be here. We've allowed -- we've wanted them to take advantage of the opportunities, see a little bit of San Antonio. We did that yesterday. Last night we really started getting serious on our preparation with Oklahoma State, watching a lot of tape on them. We had a walk-through this morning. I wanted them to break a sweat out here so they could take in the environment, feel comfortable tomorrow, especially when the game really gets going hot and heavy.
JOHN GERDES: Questions.
Q. Will Bynum, he hit maybe the two biggest shots for you both games. Has he made a habit out of that? Secondly, could you discuss his influence since he's joined the team maybe in helping the other guards, that sort of thing?
COACH HEWITT: I'll take your second question first. Since last January when he transferred in, he has really challenged Jarrett Jack in practice. We knew just watching him the first couple days in practice that he would mean an awful lot to Jarrett's development as a point guard because Will is a competitor. Yes, he does have a habit of doing that. He's one of those guys that is not afraid to fail. He's got so much confidence. There were times in the year I would argue with him, he had too much confidence. When you're in situations like that, it's nice to have a good -- it's a luxury to have a guy like Will Bynum that can come in your game after one of your top scorers gets hurt and he's not going to go out there and shrink in the moment, he's really going to play big.
Q. Both teams are athletic, depend on defense. Are they similar?
COACH HEWITT: They are very similar. Over the years you hear about Coach Sutton's defense, how good they are. They've been very strong. You go back to Arkansas days to now here. But the thing I've really been impressed with is how well they screen, how well they execute halfcourt offensively. They do a very good job. Our guys are really going to have to be aware of their personnel. Tony Allen and Joey Graham can go off the dribble and score as well as anybody we've seen this year. Lucas and Bobik, shoot the ball extremely well.
Q. You looked at some tape. The Eddie Sutton defense, how impressed are you?
COACH HEWITT: They're physical and strong. We're going to have to make sure we cut really well. They're the type of team when you try to make a cut, they're going to knock you off your rattle a little bit. We can't take a bump and all of a sudden start staggering around. We got to make sure we cut hard and strong so we can execute the things we want to execute.
Q. Can you talk about the problems of overcoming the numbers game when you first got there, the eight-five rule, maybe specifically about a certain player?
COACH HEWITT: When I took the job, you probably know as well as I do, Bobby Cremins had signed, a very good class, including a young man named Brendon Plavich (ph). He signed on, was a point guard. Let's face it, if you're a point guard, there's no better coach to play for than Bobby. When I got the job, he wanted out of his letter of intent. I could have taken the route of the tough guy and said, "No, you have to stay here." I thought to myself, here is an 18-year-old kid trying to make the decision that's best for his life. I'm at a place where I like to be in life, let's give him a chance. We released him thinking that the NCAA would honor our appeal. We had 10 guys, as you know, on scholarship that year, my first year. We went to the NCAA tournament. We were losing five to graduation. We appealed thinking we would get a sixth scholarship. The eight-five rule, for those of you who don't know, limits how many scholarships you can give out over a two-year period, five in any given year and eight over two years. One of young men that visits us was Emeka Okafor. We thought we had a great shot at him. He visited Rice, Stanford, and Georgia Tech -- I'm sorry, Rice, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt. I think he really wanted to go to Stanford, but they had taken another young man. He decided he wanted to sign late. We felt there was a center out there that wanted to come, we had to take him, because we couldn't take the chance. Had we had the scholarship to offer him, continue to recruit him, who knows. He's made a great choice. He's had a great college career. I know one of the reasons we liked him, he was an outstanding student and thought he was a good fit at Georgia Tech. We didn't have a chance to see how that process would have ended because of the eight-five rule. There are so many rules out there right now that really deny access to a lot of good students. I think we've run afraid now of kids who may not be the most well-prepared coming in. That sometimes is not the kids' faults. We all know that the greatest indicator of early academic success, is socioeconomic background. I think we are taking the route now that says let's try to create a system where we have a lot of suits, lot of early success. Sometimes kids don't have an awful lot of say in how they're prepared coming out of high school into college. Now, two, three, four years down the road, it's on them. I think there's some things we can do other than the eight-five rule, and our new academic reform policy, that will still give kids a chance to get a college education, to mature in college, and enjoy this experience that a lot of our kids are enjoying.
Q. Now that you're here, can you talk about what's the toughest part of reaching the Final Four, then talk about maybe how you've been able to compensate for this being your first time here, facing Eddie Sutton who has been here three times.
COACH HEWITT: The toughest part probably is having your team develop this mentality that regardless of what's going on in the previous play, you got to try to win that next possession. Every team that makes this tournament has had a great season. They've been a success story. All of them, when they come to this tournament, have a lot of confidence, they play with the heart of champions. Right start with the Northern Iowa game right through the Kansas game, we played four hard-fought games where teams refused to let up. Especially in our last three games, we had times when we had three big leads and thought teams would go away. They kept battling back. As far as my first time here, I've just had to rely on people who I've relied on all my life. George Raveling is a somebody who gave me a chance at the University of Southern California, I spoke to him about how to handle this. I've talked to other coaches. I spoke to Tubby Smith because he was here in San Antonio, asked him about the venue, where he stayed, how he thinks it affected his team. Both those guys in particular gave me some very sound advice about how to approach this. The one thing I didn't want to do is lose sight of the fact these are college kids who should enjoy this moment. I didn't want to sequester them away, but also have them realize they have a task at hand. Coach Raveling and Coach Smith have been very helpful to me.
Q. I know you're concentrating on your game here. What sense is there, if any, of maybe rooting for Duke in the other game because of the ACC connection?
COACH HEWITT: Of course, I'm going to. I have a bias to the ACC. I said at the start of the tournament I thought they had the best chance to get to the finals and win it. You know, that league has really prepared my players for this run that we had in the NCAA tournament. The ACC is clearly the best league in the country, in my opinion. Look at this year, over the last five, ten years. If nothing else, you want to see this league continue to thrive and continue to win the biggest games on the biggest stage because it will help all of us in the league from a recruiting standpoint in a lot of different areas.
Q. The experiences you've had in this tournament, your team specifically. You mentioned how you've had some tough games and yet when you came out of Milwaukee, you were the highest remaining seed in that region. How do you think that those tough games you played prepared this team for this experience? How is BJ's ankle?
COACH HEWITT: BJ instructed me to tell everybody his ankle is fine, they don't have to ask about it anymore. That's what he said to me this morning (laughter). I think the NCAA tournament really was a carry-over from the ACC tournament -- ACC season. We played so many tough, close games, learned so many valuable lessons, that I think especially when you look at the game at Duke, the Carolina game, then the game against Duke in the ACC tournament, our guys learned some valuable lessons going into the NCAA about, again, just concentrating on each possession that's going on right now, don't worry about the last possession, don't worry about the next offensive possession, just win every possession, that's something that we talk about these guys frequently. Again, I really have to credit the rugged ACC schedule for preparing us for this NCAA tournament.
Q. You've played Connecticut and Duke. You watched Oklahoma State on tape. You've probably seen your team a time or two. Could you pick a Final Four favorite?
COACH HEWITT: Well, I like my team right now. At the start of it, I liked Duke. But I like my team right now because I think we have enough depth to overcome more things. I think we have, whether it's on the defensive or offensive end, enough pieces and we're versatile enough that we can overcome as many obstacles that we have to overcome. Luck plays a part in it. It's got to be your day, so to speak. But I like our ballclub a lot.
Q. Could you talk about the specific challenge of going against Coach Sutton, a veteran who has been here several times before?
COACH HEWITT: You know his team is going to be very well-prepared. This is his third trip. He's been at it so long. As I said, you hear so much about his ability to coach defense, all of a sudden you start watching tapes, you look at the stats, this team is shooting 51% from the floor. That's remarkable, absolutely remarkable. They do it by taking good shots, setting good screens, execute their plays extremely well. It's one of those things that when we got in, I was like, if you get a chance to play against a guy like Eddie Sutton, you certainly can learn from it. Then you start watching tape and say, "Boy, I wish he wasn't there." You've obviously got to rely on your players, players have to make plays. But as a coach, you definitely feel a little more pressure when you play against a guy like that to have your team ready. It's a fine line. You can't show him everything. You have to pick the ones that you want to show. You have to pick the sets, pick the situations so they can go out and play a with clear mind, make the plays they need to make.
Q. A lot of people are talking about the perimeter match-ups. I was hoping you could look inside a little and talk about that match-up. I think in the past you said Luke might be one of the most improved players in the country this year.
COACH HEWITT: He has played very well. There have been games where Luke has not scored, but his defensive presence has been enormous. Against Craig Smith of Boston College, he only scored two points, but his presence, along with our helping, held Craig Smith to two points, as well. They are very athletic. The young man that people don't talk about as much or enough, in my opinion, is Joey Graham. He's as versatile an offensive player as there is left in the tournament. Watching their four tournament games, he's been the X factor, as far as I'm concerned. He's been the guy tough to match up with. It wasn't a coincidence at the sent of the Saint Joseph's game, the ball found its way into his hands, he was trying to make a move. Obviously, he slipped. But he's the guy that can really, really be a problem inside. With Luke's size, if we do a good job of finding him in the posts, we feel good about what he's going to do when he gets the basketball, whether he scores, hits somebody on the cut or kick-out for 3.
Q. Can you address the conversation you had with George Raveling before the Kansas game? What could you take away from that soon before the game? Will you try something similar Saturday?
COACH HEWITT: He's probably going to be in the stands so I won't be able to reach him (laughter). The kids went out with 25 minutes on the game clock. I said to one of my assistants, I said, "Call Rav, see what he thinks." He said, "I'll tell you one thing, you have to make Wayne Simeon guard somebody, so you got to give Luke the ball." We scripted a couple plays before we went out. I changed the first play. I changed the first half-court set. If you remember correctly, we got a steal, Jarrett got the 3-point play. First time we came down halfcourt, set to give Luke the ball, Luke got fouled right away, from there established an inside presence. Luke ended up with 15 points, the Jarrett and the rest of the guys took the ball to the basket. Forced their big guys to guard and got to the foul line quite a bit in that game.
Q. When Clarence Moore left the team, how confident were you that he would return? How different is he here for the experience?
COACH HEWITT: I wasn't sure he was going to return. I did know if he decided to come back, because of the type of person he is, how hard he works, the respect he has in our locker room, he'd be easily accepted. I thought if he was with our basketball team last year, we could have gone a very long way. As a matter of fact, when the Syracuse/Kanasas game came on, he came by my office, I was working late, I told him, "If you were on our team, we could have been there." I think he adds a lot of confidence, toughness, versatility that this team lacked last year. There are a lot of reasons why we're here, but he's one of the top reasons why we're in the Final Four.
JOHN GERDES: Thank you very much, coach. Good luck. We have our student athletes. Direct a question to a specific athlete, if you would. We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Jarrett, I know Chris Duhon said he called you to congratulate you on getting to the Final Four. Are you guys rooting for Duke because of the conference connection?
JARRETT JACK: No (smiling). I was kind of surprised that I got the phone call. When he called me, we was on our way to practice. He told me congratulations, hope we take care of busy, hopefully he'll meet us in the final Monday.
Q. Marvin, Coach Hewitt said one of your keys would be when you run through the lane, get bumped by a physical Oklahoma State team, to not let that distract you. Has there been anyone else you played this year who that reminds you of, against whom that also has been a key?
MARVIN LEWIS: I think, you know, teams like Clemson, Florida State, Texas Tech, those guys are real big down low, real aggressive, they play real strong. I think we just going to have to fight back just the same.
Q. Luke, any of your family going to make it here? Do they understand the Final Four? Do you have anything to do with those T-shirts of you? Do you have one yourself?
LUKE SCHENSCHER: Well, the first question, no, no one of my family's going to be here for it. They couldn't come out for it. But they do realize how big a deal it is. My older sister, who hates sports, she's all into it. She actually stayed home the other day to watch the Duke/Xavier game, which I couldn't believe. What was the latest question?
LUKE SCHENSCHER: I do have one of those. I'm sending it back home to my mom so hopefully she can sport it back home in Australia. But, yeah, they're great. Lot of people have them around. Pretty big thing back on campus . I'm pretty happy about it.
Q. Can you talk about the way you guys have won, a lot of different people stepping up, scoring for you guys, winning close games in the tournament. What has that done for your confidence coming into the game tomorrow?
MARVIN LEWIS: I think it does a lot for our confidence just because, you know, mentally we know we haven't played our best offensive games yet. Without BJ, we know our defense has gotten us this far. If we continue to play defense, our offense will come.
JARRETT JACK: Throughout this tournament, our defense has definitely been our best offense. I think it's been great for us, you know, mentally. It's kind of easy when a thing isn't going for you on the offensive end, you kind of relax on the defensive end, try to play catch-up the whole game. I think it takes a mentally tough team to be able to bear down on defense when things aren't going right on offense.
Q. Jarrett, could you talk about your play in St. Louis, how offensively you may have more confidence now than you've ever had in your life?
JARRETT JACK: I just try to be aggressive. I try to attack the defense and see what my options are, go with them. My first option is definitely to get the ball to guys like Marvin, BJ, pound it to Luke to establish a presence inside. If all else fails, I try to go to the basket, try to shoot from the outside, get my offense going.
Q. Jarrett, Luke is a big man in the middle on a team that's guard-oriented. How does his presence work into the overall theme of your team?
JARRETT JACK: Luke is a guy we definitely try to get the ball to early, trying to establish him, trying to get some easy baskets, get the big guys in foul trouble. I think that will help us with our transition offense and defense.
Q. Following up on the defense, the individual defensive effort of this team. Your four opponents in the tournament, you have held each top scorer individually under 25% shooting. Talk about your individual defensive effort as it fits into the team defense.
LUKE SCHENSCHER: Well, as I was saying, Marvin and Jack were saying, we've taken great pride in our defense. At the start of every game, you know, Coach Hewitt stresses defense more than anything else. Then he'll just go around and individually tell each person how to match up against their players. Coach Reese, he helps me with the big guys, tells me how I should be playing them. So personally, you know, I just listen to Coach Reese and Coach Hewitt. There's always different tendencies for each player. For me, with the big guys, I think the biggest thing is the guards coming down to help me out. They're always doing a good job of digging down, getting into the big guys' heads. That helps me out a lot because the big guy doesn't know where they're coming from.
JOHN GERDES: Marvin, your role on defense.
MARVIN LEWIS: Overall, everybody just tries to be accountable for their man. I think Coach always emphasizing helping the helper. I think more than anything, it's not individual defense that's made us so successful, it's the team. Everybody's working together to stop. Not only the star player, but just try to defend as best we can.
JARRETT JACK: Like Marvin said, the overall team concept we have on defense. We try to exert that same effort from one through five. Somebody gets hung up on the screen, falls down, we're right there to help him. I think that's the type of philosophy you have to live by in this type of tournament.
Q. Marvin, can you talk about in this tournament run what maybe you've learned about the whole tournament experience that maybe you didn't know two weeks ago?
MARVIN LEWIS: Just the focus and the mental intensity that each team has. Regardless of who you're playing, everybody is playing like it's their last game. The fact that every possession, you got to value. Every possession that you have, you got to try to make the best of it. I think that's the biggest thing I've learned.
Q. Jarrett, when a player like BJ goes down at such a critical time of the year, how does that bring the team together? What was your role in helping with that?
JARRETT JACK: You know, our seniors, guys like Marvin, Clarence Moore, they really came together. We knew we all were going to have to step our game up another level. With BJ being our leading scorer, he brings so much to the table offensively. Our bench does a great job of filling that void, guys like Will Bynum, Clarence Moore, Isma'il Muhammad, Theodis Tarvis. They come in with a lot of energy; they create a lot of energy, a lot of offensive put-backs, a lot of things that really help us in the offense.
Q. Could you tell us about Oklahoma State, what you've seen of that team so far on the tape?
LUKE SCHENSCHER: Yeah, they just seem like a real tough team, they play great defense. They're real physical, so it's going to be a real physical game.
Q. Jarrett, you watch a lot of ball. Coach Hewitt said of the four teams in the Final Four, he liked you guys best. Is that just him being a coach or do you think you're the favorite here?
JARRETT JACK: I hope he would like us best (smiling). No, I just think he has a great deal of confidence in us. We know a lot of people are basically saying this is a three-team Final Four. We don't. We don't have a lot of pressure on our shoulders. If we go out there pressure free, let it all hang out on the court, he knows we can pull this thing out.
Q. Oklahoma State had a practice this year where they wore football helmets and shoulder pads to toughen up their rebounding. What's the craziest thing you did in practice this year?
JARRETT JACK: I remember one day in practice, we did the same similar drills, but we didn't have on football pads. We did it without any protection. Basically coach was saying, "Run everybody over." I guess that was kind of trying to put a tough charge in everybody. I think that was probably the craziest thing.
JOHN GERDES: Marvin, do you recall anything crazier than that?
MARVIN LEWIS: Other than we have a drill called war rebounding, where it's like three or four guys in the lane. Coach throws the ball up. Anything goes. You can punch, you can push, you can do whatever. Just get the rebound and try to put it back in.
Q. Marvin, you've seen Coach Hewitt now through four years. How has he evolved as a coach in a big-time league? Do you think there's some personal vindication for him getting to the Final Four here this year?
MARVIN LEWIS: I think, you know, he's gotten better at the fact that he's learned how to coach us, reading the personnel, knowing what is going to make us successful, certain plays, certain situations, who to get the ball to, things like that. I think he's learned a great deal. Him being cool, calm and collected, like we always talk about, being a leader such as that, I think it helps us, it helps us relax, helps us have that confidence.
Q. Could you talk about the idea you're coming in here basically with nothing to lose, nobody's expecting you to win this game tomorrow.
JARRETT JACK: I think it just helps us a lot. We come in here without the pressure of trying to perform such a high level. I think we'll come out here loose, ready to play.
MARVIN LEWIS: Same thing Jarrett said. When you take a chip off your shoulder, say let's go out there and have fun. We belong here, we've played well to get here. We should go out there and do it again.
LUKE SCHENSCHER: Yeah, I mean, if you look at the start of the season, we were picked to finish seventh in the ACC, so we've had it all year. We've been the underdogs the whole year, people didn't expect us to do anything. It's no different than what we've had all year.
JOHN GERDES: Thank you very much, gentlemen.
End of FastScripts...