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April 2, 2004

Joey Graham

John Lucas

Sean Sutton


JOHN GERDES: From Oklahoma State we are now joined by Joey Graham and John Lucas. Questions, please.

Q. John, as a Houston guy, talk about the source of pride having so many Houston kids in this thing. Is it the kind of talent that you knew something like this could happen?

JOHN LUCAS: Yeah, absolutely. You know, you always hear about East Coast basketball, West Coast basketball. We're from the south. We have a lot of hoopers in Houston, in the state of Texas. It just shows the opportunity to see of what kind of talent we do have down there with Emeka Okafor, Daniel Ewing, myself, Ivan McFarlin. You know, we playing in our home state. I think it's a good opportunity for us.

Q. John, for those of us who didn't cover Baylor last year, is it true you were benched briefly? Can you tell us about that?

JOHN LUCAS: Yeah, I was benched the last five games of my season at Baylor. I don't know why. Don't know what for. But, you know, just one of them things Coach decided to do. I think I averaged eight minutes my last four games at Baylor. I was leaving anyway (laughter).

Q. Most of your top players started their college career somewhere else. Could you both address why Oklahoma State has become such a good destination for players looking for another place to play?

JOEY GRAHAM: Well, I think Coach Sutton has built his program around transfer students. I think it started with his son transferring from Kentucky to Oklahoma State. He recruits hard-working individuals. I think that's what he's brought to the table with these transfers that he had, me, my brother, Daniel, John. We all just come in, we're hungry, want to play, want to compete. I think that's what kind athletes Coach Sutton brings to the table.

JOHN LUCAS: You know, Coach, he's a legend. He knows how to put stuff together. He know how to put the puzzle together. He done such a terrific job with us by bringing all the transfers in, making us bond as one, and quickly. Usually I think it take teams like one or two years to actually get their transfers to know the system and know what kind of plays, just to know what the coach want from you. It took us a matter of a couple of weeks and we bonded. And I think that's why, you know, we at where we at.

Q. Could you give us a little handicap, what you've seen of the Georgia Tech team, what kind of threats Georgia Tech poses to you?

JOEY GRAHAM: They're a pretty similar team to us. They like to get up and down the floor. But I think it's going to come down to a game of controlling the rebounds, controlling the tempo of the game. I think if we do that, we have a good chance on winning it.

JOHN LUCAS: Same thing what Joey was saying. I think we need to limit their shot selections, like if they miss the shot, make sure we get the rebound so we don't give them a second or third opportunity to score. It's going to come down to who can stop who, who can control the tempo of the game.

Q. How much confidence does it give you to have Coach Sutton on the sidelines? He's the guy that took a team to the Final Four before either one of you were born, brought another, as well. How does that play out to have him on the bench?

JOHN LUCAS: It plays out a lot. We know he always have to answer to everything. Whatever teams throw at us, we always have something to go right back at him. That just shows you how long he's been in the game, how much he knows about the game. Think that's why we're fortunate to have him as our coach.

JOEY GRAHAM: I don't know, I'm pretty sure y'all have seen that little scour that Coach Sutton does when he sticks out his bottom lip (laughter). It kind of lets us know he expects the best out of us and he wants us to play hard for him. When he does that, we try to step it up another notch for him and play as hard as we can for him.

Q. Extra excitement in a sense because not only is this your first Final Four, but so many Houston guys, almost a homecoming of sorts.

JOHN LUCAS: I already talked to Emeka Okafor and Daniel Ewing both, saying play your heart out. We're not playing for us, we're playing for the upcoming players in Houston. You know, just to show everybody we have talent in the City of Houston. You know, it's going to be big. I know I want to bring a championship home. That's just not to celebrate for myself, but to celebrate for my friends and family back in Houston that supported me, where I'm at today, I wouldn't have been there without them.

Q. Coach Sutton talked about '95 when he was in the Final Four, maybe gave too much leeway, guys had too good of a time, just happy to be there. Can you talk about the cell phones being turned off, talk about are you guys being let out of your rooms a bit?

JOHN LUCAS: Man, it's crazy (smiling). We haven't had our cell phones for like three days now. He took them before we even came here. You know, it's kind of funny because we joke about how we in jail. You get an hour to talk on the phone, then you get an hour of visiting time. Your parents and your family, they can't come to your room, you have to go to a ballroom and meet with your family. We just joke around, tell them that's our hour of daytime, just being in the yard (laughter).

Q. John, have you seen a lot of tapes of your father when he used to play? If so, does he remind you of the way you play? Has he talked to you much about the experience?

JOHN LUCAS: You know, I seen bits and pieces of his tape. Yeah, I think we do have similar games. I think I'm a better shooter than he is, though. On the court, we play with a lot of energy. He rubbed off on me with how much emotion is involved in the game, how much enthusiasm you have to have. Also I think he rubbed off for the love for the game, too. You just don't play because you want to be a star; you play because you love the game.

Q. A lot has been talked about the fact that Eddie is 68, this maybe his last shot at this. Has that been talked about among the players or with him?

JOEY GRAHAM: I heard a comment, something about Coach Sutton is like fine wine, he just gets better with age. I think that's true in this case. Coach Sutton, he's a tremendous coach, and I think he just gets better with time. I don't think he's ready to give anything up right now.

Q. John, one of the last memories of this tournament is you going into the stands to find your dad after the game. What did it mean, what did you say to him at that point?

JOHN LUCAS: Well, we really didn't say anything. You know, I think just our emotions expressed how we was feeling, you know. It was so loud in there, you really couldn't say anything. You know, the first person I had to find. I was really looking for my whole family. They all was down there, but people just captured me hugging onto my dad. My mom, little brother, sister was right there. It was a family thing. They helped me this summer just by lifting me up from the whole Baylor tragedy. I'm just paying my respects to them for helping me and keeping me positive.

Q. Funny you both are up there because you played the biggest role in the final play of the game against Saint Joseph's. If you could go over that. Joey said that wasn't a play that was set up for anybody. What was your recollection on that play?

JOHN LUCAS: You know, when they switched off, we ran just a pick-and-roll. My man switched off on Joe. What was it, Bailey?


JOHN LUCAS: I was like, that's a mismatch. If you see on the tape, I'm up here waving Joe down to go post-up, but he popped out. So I threw him the ball. Funny thing is, he fumbled it. I was like, no. Then he picked it up and my man dove. That's when I knew the game was over because, you know, he just left me open. I wasn't going to miss that shot because I had to make up for the first half.

Q. As two guys who came after this happened, can you talk about what impact the crash has on the consciousness of this team now with most of you not having been here when it happened?

JOEY GRAHAM: I knew about the crash, you know, when it went on. I think it was a tragedy. But I think that the team has regrouped from that. We still have a couple players on our team that were here when this situation went on. But I think the most important thing, when this thing happened, Coach Sutton, his whole demeanor, output changed. I've heard from the other players that used to play back in '95, '94, they said that he's changed completely. He's made a 360-degree turn. They say he was a hard coach. He was harder on them then than he is now. I think it made him into a better coach now because of this accident that happened.

JOHN LUCAS: I remember it because Ivan was a freshman that year, from Houston, growing up playing ball. I caught his AAU coach. I was like, "Was Ivan on that plane?" I didn't know he was a redshirt and redshirts couldn't fly then. When I found out he wasn't, I got kind of relieved, but I also felt sorry for the 10 that did pass away. With me dealing with the tragedy, Coach and them dealing with the tragedy, when I went to visit, he said if I needed anybody to lean on, he had his shoulder, because he'd been through something that I'd been through. That's what made me decide to come, you know, he was going to help me no matter what.

Q. Joey, Georgia Tech, right or wrong, is considered No. 4 in this four-team tournament, the underdog. Do you guys not give them respect of winning that game? How do you approach the fact they're the "No. 4 team"?

JOEY GRAHAM: We don't look beside any team. We give every team respect. If we come out and do the thing that's brought us to this point, I think it's going to be an interesting game for everyone to see.

Q. It seems like watching the games, sometimes Coach Sutton will be doing most of the play calling, making decisions, then sometimes Sean Sutton will get up. Do they divide that up during the game, somebody handles defense, somebody offense? I know Sean has been called a great offensive mind in the game.

JOHN LUCAS: You know, it's funny because all of our coaches, they're all different. Coach Sutton, he's the boss, he's the Godfather. Everybody look up to him. Coach Sean Sutton, he mostly call the offensive plays. Coach Sutton calls offensive plays. But our defense is really Coach Sutton and Coach Dickey and Coach Cyprien there to hype us up, give us offensive and defensive plays. I think Coach Sean and Coach Sutton, I don't know that they divided, but I know they always call the right play for us to get the bucket. As long as they keep doing that, I don't care who calls the plays.

JOHN GERDES: Thank you very much, gentlemen. We're now joined by Coach Sutton. Congratulations by reaching the Final Four. We ask that you make an opening statement, then we'll open it up to questions.

COACH SUTTON: First of all, we don't put those guys in jail. They painted a very bleak picture. It's not that bad (smiling). They probably thought putting them in jail was two hours of study hall last night in the hotel with the academic people. But we know from the past in '95 how much hoopla there is. You can get caught up in that. We have set aside times when they can see their parents, see their friends, see their girlfriends, that sort of thing. But then other than that, well, they're doing something getting ready for the basketball game, looking at film, things like that. It's always a thrill to get back to the Final Four. I've had so many great friends, great coaches through the years. I think of Jack Hartman, Norm Stewart, guys that are in the Big-12 country, even my assistant for a long time, Gene Keady, they never had a chance to get a team here. It's such a thrill to get here. To win it would be something special. But this group of young men probably have surpassed what I thought they were capable of doing when we started practice in October. Any coach, what he really wants at the end of the year is to see if his team has maximized their God-given talent. And this ballclub has gone far beyond that. So from a coaching standpoint, it's been a special year to have coached this group of young men. The game tomorrow I think the two teams are very evenly matched. The philosophy in both programs is pretty much the same. It should be a terrific, terrific ballgame.

JOHN GERDES: Questions.

Q. You've been recruiting Texas for a lot of years. With the four Houston kids here, is that sort of indication that the talent level is better in this state than it used to be or just more publicized now?

COACH SUTTON: No, there's no doubt that when the state association eased up on some of the rules that they had for years, you know, forever it seemed to me like when I was at Arkansas, the football that was king by leaps and bounds. I think basketball coaches, all they ever wanted was just to be a close second to football. I think that's happened. I think the pro teams have certainly helped the growth of basketball in Texas. But I think the high school coaches, for a long time, basketball coaches were football coaches, assistant football coaches. Well, those guys knew just enough to be dangerous. So now you've got basketball coaches coaching high school basketball, and there's no doubt Texas is a very fertile area for recruiting - not only for the Big-12 and other conferences that are nearby, but people come in from all over the country.

Q. Do you feel like you've changed since the crash in Colorado? Do you think you've changed as a coach, a person? You worked with Gene Keady closely for a couple years at Arkansas. Do you have any strong feelings regarding what he's going through right now at Purdue?

COACH SUTTON: Well, it's hard for me to even comprehend what those people at Purdue are thinking. I mean, here is a man that has given so much to that school. For them not to increase his contract, I mean, that's ridiculous. I guess that's what frustrates me sometimes with athletic directors and presidents, that they don't understand there is a word called "loyalty." For what he has given to that institution, there certainly should be no doubt, if he wanted to coach two or three more years, he should coach. The tragedy certainly did affect my life. It continues to be there. I've been asked this question. I don't believe there's such a thing as closure. I think if it is, it's when you die. But that crash was such a tragedy to all of us, and we still have two players, McFarlin and Crawford, that are with us. They have from time to time brought it up, say, "Boy, those guys, we beat Texas for the Big-12 championship. Man, those guys have got to be smiling down." It's been mentioned a couple other times since we continued to win. Day never passes that I don't think about it. We have a beautiful memorial there in the arena. When I walk to the academic center, which is located in the arena, I stop and see those guys. They were beautiful people. I change from the standpoint that I appreciate life so much more now. I tell our players, "You must understand the most important people in your life are your family. You need to call your mom and your dad a couple times a week and tell them you love them." I call my three sons every day. One lives in Fayetteville, one in Tulsa, and of course I have Sean, and tell them how much I care for them. You don't know, you could be gone tomorrow. I want to leave earth knowing that my family realizes the great love I have for my wife and my children. I've become a big hugger. If you watch this team, man, we hug a lot. You'll see me hug during the game, "Tony, give me a hug, I need one." I think they all realize how much our coaches care for them. I think they feel the same way about us. I think that's the great thing about coaching. It isn't the wins; it's the relationships and knowing that in some small way you may help a young man with your program to mature and be prepared to go out into the real world.

Q. John Lucas has probably gone through more good and bad in 20 years than a lot of us in our whole life. How would you characterize his personality and his maturity level?

COACH SUTTON: He's very mature, but he's very tough. I think anybody that goes through some of the things that he's had to go through, you become tougher. I know some of my experiences have made me a tougher person. I don't know if all of you are familiar with John's father, when he was having problems, and how little John helped him. For a child that young, the fact that I'm a recovering alcoholic, I know the damage that I did to my family. There's no one that is close to someone who is an addict in some way that it doesn't affect them. So I have such utmost respect for John because, having gone through that, then having gone through what he had to endure down at Baylor. So he's very mature, very tough, and he is just a fierce competitor. As a player, no one works harder. You know, we'll finish practice, since we got in the NCAA tournament, and he's back over there on the court shooting about 500 shots every night. There's not very many young men that after a grueling practice in the afternoon, fulfilling your academic responsibility, that will come back over there. Too many guys would rather go hold hands with Jane or Susie Q.

Q. Talking about Joey Graham, kind of the role he's played on the team this year, I know at one point, I think I remember hearing in the game against Saint Joseph's you leaned over and said, "If you don't turn this around, we're not going to win this game." He's been his best in the big games, but sometimes fades in the background sometimes. Does that tell you about the kind of guy he is?

COACH SUTTON: He's an outstanding basketball player. He's probably made more progress from the beginning of the season to where we are now than any of the other players. Not that all of them haven't grown some as a basketball player. It's hard to say. You know, for instance, in the game with Memphis, I think he gets 20 points in the first half and only gets one. Sometimes that hurts you. Sometimes he starts out slow. You know, there's some guys you have to stroke to get them going, sometimes you have to shake them up, give them a "do-better" talk. I guess you must have heard my do-better talk.

Q. You have forehand knowledge of Phog Allen, Mr. Iba, Wilt Chamberlain. You had the glory and horror at Kentucky. You've had tragedy with the plane crash. What does this weekend mean when you line it up against all that?

COACH SUTTON: Well, I think this team probably is one that I am the proudest of. To win here would be such a great thing for so many people, for our school. You know, I'd probably be like Al McGwire, if we happen to run it Monday night, I'll probably run to the dressing room and shed a few tears before I come back on the court. I can never forget when Al did that. I've been blessed through the years. I had the opportunity to meet all those great older coaches, I call them. When I was in high school, Tex winter, who is one of the great coaches, Ralph Miller was at Wichita, Phog Allen, Mr. Iba, they all recruited me. Mr. Iba allowed me even as a high school coach to go to the NABC hospitality suite. I remember Adolph Rupp and Mr. Iba down on their hands and knees about 3:00 in the morning. Mr. Iba had the Coca-Cola bottles, six-ounce bottles, Mr. Rupp had the Seven-Up bottles. Both of them I think had had a little Jack Daniels or something. They were down there arguing about running plays with these bottles. I'll never forget Mr. Rupp said, "Henry, that won't work." Mr. Iba, that deep voice, "The hell it won't, Adolph." Those are memories I have. Then to have the opportunity to coach as long as I have, all the great coaches we have today. So I've had a lifetime full of wonderful memories. There's been some turnovers along the way. But I think every time that has happened, I probably have become a better person.

Q. I wanted to ask your view of this proposal the NCAA is going to vote on later this week about the so-called incentives and disincentives. First your general feeling about the fairness or wisdom of penalizing programs for not hitting a certain graduation rate through scholarships, maybe not even playing in the tournament, and then if they ask you what is a minimally acceptable graduation rate, to pick a number, in today's game, what is a reasonable number in your mind for those penalties to kick in?

COACH SUTTON: Well, I really haven't studied the proposals that closely. I think what's happened, I don't know why the NCAA all of a sudden is really honing in on men's basketball. I think one thing people don't realize, coaches very seldom run a player off, very seldom. Most players transfer because they're not playing, and they want to drop down to another level. Occasionally you might run a player off because he violates a team rule. But the problem in those stats, a lot of people don't understand, we take a lot of transfers. There have been a couple of kids that have left us. They all graduate. We've had all our transfers that have come in for the most part graduate, and yet nobody gets credit. You don't get credit for graduating them. Illinois didn't get credit for graduating Robisch. We lost the young Robisch, he goes to another school, he graduates, we get penalized for that. So the statistics don't tell the whole story. I don't think there's very many coaches that don't want all of their athletes to graduate, at least the older coaches. I think most older coaches have been in it long enough, they want their student athletes to graduate. You try to give them all the tools academically with tutors that will allow them to do that. Some of them won't. The thing that a lot of people don't understand, I've had players at Arkansas in particular that when they got there, all of a sudden we realize that maybe they couldn't graduate. But, you know what, they were better people for having been in our program for three or four years. They learned some social graces. They learned things that certainly allowed them to go out and be more successful than they would have been if they never had that opportunity of a college experience. I hate to see them penalize people, take away scholarships. We only have 13 scholarships. We don't have 15. I've never quite understood that. This event pays for about 90% of the NCAA bills, and yet we only have 13. What is a minimum number? I don't know. I think when you have 13 players, I think probably our percentage is a lot higher than this, but I would think in the 60s. I think at our school, there's only about 51%, and I think that's probably a pretty good figure just for the general student body. Maybe not. I don't know what it is. But, you know, that's a thing that's crazy, in my opinion, that they would take away scholarships just because they don't graduate. But, I mean, they're running the show.

Q. What was it like playing for Henry Iba? Did that affect your decision to make coaching your life, your career?

COACH SUTTON: No, I had made up my mind I wanted to be a coach. I could have gone to any of the four schools, it would all been great. But Mr. Iba was a special man. Just the fact that all his former players call him Mr. Iba, I think that was out of respect. He was a great role model. Very tough. Very tough. They called him the Iron Duke. I'll tell you one story. Thank goodness, I'm not sure Mr. Iba could have coached today because of the 20-hour limit. I think that would have killed him. Holidays, we practiced three times. We'd go 9 in the morning till noon, 2 to 5, then come back at night and practice till he got tired. New Year's Eve, I was dating Patsy at the time. That morning we had a good practice. Just before he dismissed us, he said, "Boys, if you come back this afternoon and have a great practice, I'm going to let you off tonight. It's New Year's Eve. But I want you to behave yourselves. You must be in by midnight." Boy, that afternoon, I have never seen a team play with such intensity. Guys were taking charges, diving the bleachers after loose balls. Comes 5:00, and all of a sudden the team walks into the arena. You could tell, it was a basketball team. I see them discussing over there. Mr. Iba comes over and said, "One of us, one of my boys, has brought his team in here from East Texas State. They're going to Omaha to play in a tournament. They need a little scrimmage." We looked at each other. He said, "You boys be back at 7:30. I walked out of the arena at 10 after 12. I saw the New Year's in. He was tough but fair. He certainly taught us a lot of valuable lessons that have allowed most of his boys to go on and do well in the real world.

JOHN GERDES: Thank you, coach.

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